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Sculpture depicting the temptation of Jesus from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke

SEATTLE – When the sensational claims of a haunted house, demonic possession and exorcism in Gary Ind., reported by the Indianapolis Star began to spread, a self-described news-monitoring site for “skeptics” rebuked the paper and other news outlets for giving the story credence.

Doubtful News blogger Sharon Hill charged that “putting out these stories as ‘REAL’ accounts perpetuates a dangerous and backwards belief in the supernatural, distracting from actual problems that can be occurring.”

“I’m not buying it. Show me proof. Your story is NOT enough to make me believe in demons,” Hill wrote.

What made accounts of a 12-year-old girl levitating over her bed, a 9-year-old boy walking backward on a hospital ceiling and a host of other manifestations compelling to news outlets such as the Star and the New York Daily News was that some of the claims were affirmed by credible witnesses, including medical personnel and the Gary chief of police.

Karl Payne, a Seattle-area evangelical pastor who says he has ministered for more than three decades to people oppressed by demons, told WND he is in no position to evaluate whether or not the reported claims of Latoya Ammons are valid.

Karl Payne

The author of “Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization, and Deliverance,” Payne said he has never witnessed levitation or wall-walking, but he has no doubt that demons exist and that “they can oppress humans and haunt houses.”

It’s also no surprise to him that “people or groups sharing different worldviews come to different conclusions.”

“That there are things I do and do not understand regarding demonic conflict is not a surprise, because there is so much to learn,” said Payne, who has a doctorate in ministry from Western Seminary in Portland, Ore.

Karl Payne’s “Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization, and Deliverance” is available at the WND Superstore

Payne, the pastor of discipleship at Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, Wash., which was founded by the late Ken Hutcherson, is the chaplain for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. He’s with the team in New York City as it prepares for the Super Bowl this Sunday.

“If somebody asks me, have I dealt with people who were living in houses where demonic activity was going on … and demons were made to leave, the answer is yes. There is nothing spooky or spectacular about that,” he said.

Payne emphasized he has no way of knowing whether or not the claims that the daughter levitated and the boy walked up the wall are true.

“But the suggestion that it must have been faked isn’t necessarily true,” he said.

The Department of Child Services case manager assigned to the Ammons children noted in a report – which was corroborated to police by a registered nurse – that a “weird grin” crossed the 9-year-old’s face and he “glided backward on the floor, wall and ceiling” and then flipped over onto his feet, the Indianapolis Star reported.

Payne said that in his ministry, he typically doesn’t see spectacular manifestations.

“I lay it down in such a way that if there are demons involved, they’re told to shut up, be still and obey. And they do,” he said.

He said that, by and large, people who “allow the circus to go on” do it by choice or ignorance.

“I have certainly seen people whose eyes roll up in their head,” he told WND. “I have certainly seen people with saliva and bodies contorting. I’ve seen where people say, I can’t breathe; they feel like they are being choked. I have had numerous times where people will say there are things in my room.”

He added: “I’ve been aware of things in my room – that I know are real. I couldn’t explain it, and it was evil.”

Ammons said that when her children began showing signs of demonic possession, their eyes bulged, evil grins crossed their faces and their voices deepened.

The Bible describes demons as evil spirits under the authority of Satan. The Gospels provide numerous accounts of Jesus encountering demons and casting them out of oppressed people. Jesus gave authority to his disciples to do the same, the Bible says, though Christian traditions differ widely in their approach to demonization.

Worldview matters

Payne said that while he can’t specifically assess the validity of the Gary, Ind., claims, he acknowledged that the worldview of officials, health professionals, investigators and others involved in such cases impacts the way they are handled.

Latoya Ammons' mother, Rosa Campbell, claims, along with other witnesses, she saw her granddaughter levitate. (IndyStar.com)

In Gary, psychiatrists reportedly concluded the manifestations in Latoya Ammons’ three children were a result of religiously influenced fears that she planted in them. The psychiatrists urged her to stop talking about demons and develop an approach to helping them that was not based on religion.

The family’s physician, the first contact for help in April 2012 when the manifestations began, said in medical reports that he believed the children suffered from delusions of ghosts and hallucinations.

A Department of Child Services case worker, arguing in January 2013 for return of the children to the mother, wrote that the family “is no longer fixated solely on religion to explain or cope with the children’s behavior issues.”

However, Ammons, the Indianapolis paper reported, remained convinced that God helped her overcome her problems, not psychologists.

“When you hear something like this, don’t assume it’s not real because I’ve lived it,” she said. “I know it’s real.”

The Star reported a Roman Catholic priest performed exorcism rituals on Ammons at his church as police officers watched.

The priest told the paper Ammons convulsed as the evil spirits left her body. She said it felt like something inside of her was trying to hold on and also inflict pain as intense as childbearing.

The Star noted Gary Police Chief Charles Austin, a 36-year-old veteran of the department, said he initially thought Ammons was making up stories in a scheme to make money.

Now, he says, however, “I am a believer.”

Watch the sermon Karl Payne preached after the death of Antioch Senior Pastor Ken Hutcherson

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