Louis Melgoza believes in evil spirits, not because he’s read or heard about them, but because he’s heard them, seen them, felt them.
He’s fought them.
They are real, he says, and they’re all around us.
In my All Hallows Eve column, “Talking with the Dead,” I mentioned that a demonologist had told me ghosts were sometimes real, but usually what people believe are ghosts are actually evil spirits in disguise.
Melgoza was someone I knew in Bardstown as a guy who helped run a food pantry that delivered meals to hungry and homebound people through a partnership of churches and organizations.
I learned that, as a religious demonologist, he also did consulting, gave lectures, and had a radio program on how to protect against evil.
Melgoza is not an exorcist, because one must be a priest to be an exorcist. But, he told me, he has worked with exorcists to perform exorcisms and, with the church’s permission, he may “remediate anomalous phenomena” without a priest being present.
When I interviewed him in 2019 for The Kentucky Standard, the newspaper I was working for at the time, he said he had done about 50 of those.
Melgoza made money in real estate and business consulting, but he’s also among a small number of people in the United States who have been trained and certified by the Catholic Church in exorcism — freeing people and places from possession by evil spirits.
There isn’t always a natural explanation for our troubles, he told me. Sometimes the problem is supernatural.
“We all face spiritual warfare in our lives of some type, and we kind of need to understand what battle’s taking place,” he said.
Doorways to darkness
Melgoza, who is about 60, became interested in the demonic because of stories he heard growing up in Los Angeles. His parents, who were older than most when he was born, were from Mexico and were influenced by the Cristo Wars of the 1920s. That was a reign of terror when the country’s revolutionary government outlawed the Catholic Church.
“They killed hundreds of priests, and they turned churches into stables and brothels,” he said.
Afterward, there were many stories about the appearances of people who had died in the religious persecution.
Melgoza said ghosts are real, and sometimes they are allowed to return from purgatory to deliver messages or ask for prayers. But usually, when people encounter spirits, they are not ghosts, but demons.
He said he has seen them on multiple occasions.
Once, he said, a tenant of his in Louisville called to ask him, “What’s wrong with this house?”
Her children couldn’t sleep upstairs, he said, because they kept seeing someone there.
Melgoza went there, and as soon as he entered the room where the children slept, the door closed behind him, and he felt something strange. So he left the house, went to a nearby Catholic Church, got a bottle of holy water, and ripped a page from a booklet with the Prayer of St. Michael for protection against the Enemy.
When he returned, he said, he saw a “shadow person” moving in the room, and he sprinkled the holy water, recited the prayer, and “it vanished.”
He then confronted the tenant’s mother, who admitted she had been involved in witchcraft.
Witchcraft and the occult, he said, are gateways through which evil spirits can enter. So are other practices, such as illicit sex and use of mind-altering drugs, he said.
Exorcism in Rome
When he was taking a course in Rome, Melgoza said, he took part in an exorcism in which the victim was trembling, sweating, speaking in a guttural voice, and reacting violently — and six people were unable to hold her down.
That was until a priest prayed the Litany of St. Michael and the Holy Angels and asked angels to “bind her.” Then the woman’s arms and legs crossed and she became still and couldn’t move.
Melgoza said exorcists and demonologists must be skeptical about stories of demon possession. Before they will intervene, he said, the person who is believed to be possessed must undergo a medical and psychological evaluation to rule out other possibilities. They must also question the alleged victim’s family or the individual to find to what the person might have done to invite the spirit in and persuade them to close those portals.
What are demons? Melgoza says that, according to the Bible and Catholic teaching, Lucifer and demons were once heavenly creatures who rebelled against God.
“They’re fallen angels. That’s what demons are, and there’s a lot of them,” he said.
Sometimes in a ritual to expel an evil spirit, the priest can compel the devil to “speak the truth.” In one exorcism, he said, the devil was asked how many of them there were, and he answered: “If you could see us, we would blot out the sun.”
There is, however, a way to protect oneself against them, Melgoza said, and that is through “Jesus Christ and the sacraments and staying out of mortal sin.”
“If you’re in a state of grace, the devil can harass you, but he can’t harm you,” he said.
This story was adapted from a column Randy wrote for The Kentucky Standard in 2019.