Do you believe in demons? One Indiana police captain said he didn’t until he started investigating a bizarre case in 2012.
Charles Austin, a 36-year-old veteran of the Gary police department, said he initially thought Latoya Ammons had made up the strange tale involving the demonic possession of her children and supernatural occurrences as a scheme to make money.
But after visiting the family’s rental home and speaking to others who had been there, Austin changed his mind.
“I am a believer,” he said.
The Indianapolis Star examined medical, psychological and other official records handed over by Ammons, who agreed to speak about the case as long as her three children were not interviewed or identified.
Ammons told the paper that she moved in November 2011 with her children and mother, Rosa Campbell, into a rental home on Carolina Street in the gritty industrial city.
Horseflies, unexplained footsteps and levitation
Within weeks, the family noticed swarms of horseflies on their screened-in porch, which they thought was unusual for December, and they sometimes heard heavy footsteps clumping up the basement stairs and the creak of the basement door opening – but no one was there.
Campbell said she awoke one night to find the shadowy figure of a man pacing her living room, and she found large, wet boot prints on the floor after leaping out of bed to investigate.
In March 2012, while the family stayed up past 2 a.m. mourning the death of a loved one with friends and relatives, Ammons said her 12-year-old daughter levitated, unconscious, over a bed where she had been lying with a friend.
The group surrounded the girl, praying until she eventually descended back into bed. The family’s guests refused to return to the home, and the family began seeking help from local churches.
They cleaned the home with bleach and ammonia, drew crosses on doors and anointed themselves with olive oil and built a makeshift altar in the basement.
A clairvoyant they called told the family the home was possessed by more than 200 demonic spirits and urged them to move, but Ammons said they didn’t have enough money to break their lease.
Ammons and her mother said the three children – ages 7, 9 and 12 at the time – began showing signs of demonic possession, and she said their eyes bulged, evil grins crossed their faces and their voices deepened each time.
Boy walks backward up a wall
The family contacted their physician in April 2012 to seek help, and he noted in medical reports shared by Ammons that he believed they suffered from delusions of ghosts and hallucinations.
Then both boys began cursing the doctor in demonic voices, according to reports prepared by the Department of Child Services, and one medical staffer said the youngest boy was “lifted and thrown into the wall with nobody touching him.”
Both boys then passed out and were hospitalized, and DCS opened its investigation.
Ammons and her children were examined and found to have no marks or bruising to indicate abuse, and authorities said they appeared to be of sound mind.
But during an interview with a DCS case manager and a registered nurse, the 7-year-old began growling and then tried to choke his brother.
Then something really strange happened.
The case manager noted in her report – and the registered nurse corroborated to police and the newspaper – 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.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” said the nurse, Willie Lee Walker. “That was crazy. I was like, ‘Everybody gotta go.’”
DCS took protective custody of the children without a court order as an emergency measure, and a hospital chaplain called a priest to ask him to perform an exorcism on the older boy.
The Rev. Michael Maginot visited the family’s home to begin ruling out natural causes for the disturbances, and he noticed flickering lights in the bathroom and Venetian blinds swaying without the aid of a breeze.
He blessed the house, which he came to believe was home to demonic and other spirit presences, and told Ammons and her mother to leave.
Police report strange sights and sounds at the house
The women returned about a week later with the DCS case manager and police officers, including Capt. Austin, who said strange things happened to him there and after he returned home.
Austin said officers’ audio recorders malfunctioned and captured a voice whispering, “Hey,” although the room was otherwise unoccupied. He said photos they took there revealed a cloudy white image near the basement stairs that resembled a face, along with a green image that looked like a woman.
Another image (above) appears to show someone standing at a window, although police said no one was inside the home at the time. The website Doubtful News reported that the photo appeared to have been created using an Android app that adds ghostly figures to images.
The police captain also said the driver’s seat of his personal car later began moving backward and forward inexplicably, and mechanics told him the malfunction could have caused a crash if he’d been driving.
Psychiatrists said they believed the children had been influenced to act possessed by their mother’s fears, and they asked her to stop discussing demons with the children and develop a disciplinary system that didn’t involve religion or supernatural events.
They also ordered Ammons to find a job and another home for the family.
A larger group of police officers, joined by the priest and another DCS case manager, returned in May 2012 to the home, where they dug up the basement floor near the steps and found a pink press-on fingernail, a pair of white panties, a political shirt pin, cooking pan lid, socks with the bottoms cut off at the ankles, candy wrappers and a heavy metal object that may have been a drapery cord weight.
The case manager said her finger suddenly began hurting as if it had been broken, she became short of breath and went outside to calm down.
The others saw an unexplained oily substance dripping from the blinds in a bedroom, and Maginot said he wrote to the bishop asking permission to perform an exorcism.
Beelzebub, lord of the flies
The priest said Bishop Dale Melczek had never authorized one in 21 years as head of the Diocese of Gary, and he initially denied Maginot’s request and asked him to contact other priests who had performed one.
However, he performed what he described as a minor exorcism on Ammons, and a DCS case manager who attended said she got chills during the two-hour rite and felt like something strange had happened.
The priest asked Ammons to look up the names of demons that were tormenting her so he could identify them during an exorcism, and she said the computer kept shutting down during her search.
But she eventually found some names – such as Beelzebub, the lord of the flies, and others that torment and hurt children – and Maginot received permission from the bishop to perform a sanctioned exorcism.
Maginot performed three such rituals on Ammons – two in English and one in Latin – in June at his church in Merrillville as police officers watched.
The priest said Ammons convulsed as the evil spirits left her body, and she said it felt like something inside of her was trying to hold on and also inflict pain as intense as childbearing.
“I was hurting all over from the inside out,” Ammons told the paper. “I’m trying to do my best and be strong.”
'No longer fixated solely on religion'
Ammons and her mother moved to Indianapolis and she eventually got custody of her children returned in November 2012, and she said they have lived without fear since the third exorcism.
The children left behind the demonic voices and fears that plagued them at their former home, Ammons said, and case workers who have visited the family agree.
"The family is no longer fixated solely on religion to explain or cope with the children's behavior issues," wrote a DCS case manager in January 2013 seeking to end DCS wardship of the children.
The owner of the Carolina Street home said the new tenants have not complained of any problems, but he called the Gary police department to ask curious officers to stop driving past the home and alarming the residents.
The landlord said he was skeptical of supernatural events, although the involvement of the Catholic Church made him less so.
Ammons remains convinced that God helped her overcome her problems, not psychologists who worked with the family.
“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.”
Watch this video report about the case posted online by the Indianapolis Star: