Book Review: Sister of Darkness

Rachel Stavis calls herself the “only non-denominational exorcist” working today. I’ve also recently learned that she’s apparently known as an exorcist to the stars, working as a screenwriter in Los Angeles and exorcising entities from actors and anyone else who needs it as a side gig (but a pay-what-you-want side gig). To be clear, this book is not marketed as a work of fiction. She really does these activities irl and you can follow her on Instagram if you’re into a mixture of inspirational quotes and goth-girl selfies accompanied by long paragraphs about authenticity and self-love.

That’s one of the secondary points of interest about this book. Whereas you see “exorcist” and think of the Catholic rite or maybe Matisyahu and the dybbuk box, Rachel’s exorcisms look a lot more like new age chakra cleansing or energy healing. They’ve just got a lot more ghosties in them. Rachel’s world has a range of entities at varying levels of dangerousness. From troublesome “Clives” that are almost like the deer ticks of the spirit world to sinister “realm walkers” that can envelope entire cities, Rachel claims that entities attach to people and feed off their life forces. “Trickster” entities appear in the form of imaginary friends and strike Faustian bargains with their hosts. “Wraiths” attach themselves to people who have experienced personal traumas. “Collectors” inhabit places where bad things have happened and trap the souls of people who die there inside–pretty much like in every haunted house movie ever.

While this is partly a memoir, Rachel spends a lot of time explaining how to “raise your vibration” to avoid having spirits attach to you. She also talks about the gods, goddesses, ancestors, and guides who assist her in her exorcisms and all the different tools and rules she uses. In this way, it reads a lot like a prescriptive new age or wellness book, such as Unmedicated, rather than an occult memoir. You can almost hear the editor’s comments as you read, prompting every claim the author makes with a “yes, but how do you explain…” Then again, Rachel is a screenwriter and works with Hollywood people every day, so a lot of the world building is likely something that comes naturaly.

The more dangerous entities that look the most like movie demons are discussed in the final third of the book. She talks about her experience exorcising a “collector” from the warehouse where the Soska Sisters film their horror game show “Hellevator.” This exorcism involves the weeping ghost of a 1930s mobster and a mooing cloud of ghost cows. The scariest entity (and most awesome to hear about for horror fans) called the “realm walker” is described as inhabiting Los Angeles’s Cecil Hotel, where Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker, lived during his reign of terror and Elisa Lam mysteriously met her end in a water tank (CW: Seriously creepy surveillance video when you click that link).

Rachel informs the reader that she’ll soon be performing an exorcism of this dangerous entity at the Cecil Hotel and that the Soska Sisters will be making a documentary of the whole experience. She talks about how dangerous it will be, and how ever since they agreed to do it, dead doves have been dropping out of the sky and landing at her feet and random people have been coming up to her on the street and telling her to stay away from the Cecil. To that film I say: shut up and take my money. Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

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