My My Favorite JW Superstitions

When I was a child living in rural Ohio I was often sent out in field service with my older siblings while Dad worked and Mom stayed home with this year's baby. I usually ended up in a car group with several sisters and one elderly 'anointed' brother, all of whom loved to build one another's faith by vying to tell the scariest 'true' story of demonic pestering of Jehovah's chosen people. Nothing like a rousing retelling of some hair-raising encounter with pure evil, thwarted by brandishing the name of Jehovah like a combination sword-and-shield, to fortify our belief that we are somehow superior to other religions!

These are some of my favorites of the stories I heard growing up a JW. I was earnestly assured that every one of them is absolutely true. Many of them were allegedly recounted to the person telling the tale by the actual victim, one or two I was told by the alleged victim, but it matters little how many times removed the hearsay is, many JWs hang lovingly on every word and exclaim over the awful demon attacks on God's people. I cheerfully offer them all, as they were offered to me as a child and throughout my association with JWs, without proof or disclaimer.

Secondhand Trouble

Used merchandise can be dangerous, according to JW lore.You may get a real bargain but it might have a demon in it and then look out!

One sister came to my house and asked where I got my bed and several other pieces of furniture (as a young single mother on Welfare my house was pretty bare and I had been sleeping on a pallet on the floor). I told her I had been to the thrift stores in Phoenix and found bargains galore. She proceeded to tell me about becoming physically ill to the brink of death, being removed as a pioneer and finally choked in her bed by demons that came into her home in a sofa and chair she bought used! She said that all her problems ended the minute she had them hauled off, and that she was soon pioneering again. She insisted I throw away every used item in my house (baby cribs, baby clothes, all my dishes, all my furniture.). I declined, and she never spoke to me again.

A young brother bought a used Polaroid camera at a pawn shop. He had a friend take a photo of him, his pretty wife, and their baby-in-arms. When the picture developed, both man and wife were dressed in late-19th century popular garb, and there was NO BABY! When they destroyed the camera, it screamed.

A sister bought dozens of canning jars at a garage sale, many of them full. She stored them in the cellar, meaning to empty and scrub them next canning season. Soon the family heard people running up and down the old cellar stairs and the sound of loud vomiting. All disturbance stopped when the jars were destroyed.

A brother heard a loud noise in his yard, and when he went out to investigate a bright light filled the sky over his barn and a loud voice laughed horribly. Turns out his wife had bought a dozen folding chairs for the Tuesday book study group at an auction. Upon checking, they learned to their horror that the chairs had once been used in a spiritualist seance room! When they burned the chairs, they had to chop them up small and use gallons of gasoline to keep them burning.

Two motherless boys were visiting a young JW farming family for a week. Their belongings were packed in the family's only suitcase, an old hardsided case given them by an eccentric landlady. They returned home with their clothes in paper bags. The young JW mom insisted that she had heard someone running in the upstairs hall when no one was up there. She heard male laughter and stomping. She immediately suspected the suitcase and hauled it out to her trash barrel. She had to chop it up and use a whole can of charcoal starter to make it burn at all, and it screamed as it burned.

A sister phoned me and said she needed help. She had been having so many problems that an elder told her she probably had demon influences keeping her from joyful service to Jehovah. She was getting rid of everything from her marriage to her bad worldly ex-husband, and she would need dishes, linens, and clothes. I immediately went through my own meager possessions and took her as many household things as I could find, and shared my clothing quite generously.

A week later she moved all her old things back into her house from storage and said that the other elders had told her not to be hasty, and besides, my things were as bad as hers! She never gave anything back, either...

Angels, Devils in Disguise, and Miss Jehovah

Jehovah's chosen people don't have miracles or gifts of the spirit to identify them, but they do have an active mythology of angelic intervention on their behalf. My favorite such tale is the one about the pioneer working alone in urban territory who was approached by several police officers while finishing a block of houses. "Lady," they said, "Did you go to that house down at the cul-de-sac?"

"Of course," she replied, "I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses and we try to call on everyone."

"Lady, did you talk to a man there?"

"Yes," she said.

"It's a miracle you're still alive! He is insane, and just killed his wife and the Avon lady. We are here to take him out of there."

When the policemen carted him off they asked him why he had left the lone sister unmolested.

"She had a great big fella with her, I wasn't going to tangle with no big guy, I may be crazy but I'm not stupid!"

It was an angel, protecting her. Naturally.

Angels always seem to be big powerful guys, but demons have infinite disguises and guises:

A sister whose (worldly) husband had just died returned from his funeral to find his pipe, filled, burning in the ashtray. The phone rang and it was him, professing his eternal love. She screamed out Jehovah's name and the pipe broke into pieces.

And of course, Jehovah will not be mocked:

A beautiful but haughty woman hated Jehovah's Witnesses and determined to publicly humiliate them by entering a beauty pageant as Miss Jehovah. She put on the name sash and stepped onto the runway, and as soon as she stepped before the audience she was instantly struck dead.

I have heard literally hundreds of these incredible stories in my thirty-plus years associated with Jehovah's Witnesses. They are always told in hushed breathless tones, each creepy detail lovingly added, and the teller wears the same expression you see on the face of a Campfire Girl telling ghost stories by a crackling fire.

This obsession with demons is ingrained into the JW mindset. I remember a Kingdom Ministry that offered an outline of how to approach inactive Witnesses (by inactive they mean one who no longer reports time spent in preaching their doctrines). It told the good Witnesses to remind the dropout that the world is 'a demon-filled void'. They are convinced that demons are everywhere, seeking to enter their homes and minds, and they use Jehovah's name like superstitious peasants used garlic and banes against werefolk and vampires.

One of the very last times I went out preaching as a JW I was buttonholed by two pioneers who spent over an hour talking about this subject, repeating several hoary demon tales and slandering some fellow Witnesses who shopped garage sales (out of economic necessity, not spite) and predicting 'demon troubles' for same. I kept quiet for a long time but at last my composure broke. I asked these women why they were so afraid of demons if they claimed the protection of Almighty God himself? I said that I was certain God could protect me from anything as petty as puking noises and the sound of running or laughter, and that I refused to believe that He would allow demons to harrass and torment His people just because they could not afford to always buy new things! I said that I felt that people who claimed to be under God's wing shouldn't constantly chatter about demon mischief, as it is demeaning to their protector to display such superstitious fear. I was quite unpopular the rest of my time in that congregation, and I left the religion soon thereafter, prompted by my dislike of this superstition and fear as much as any other factor.

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