1st Edition

Demons in the USA From the Anti-Spiritualists to QAnon

By Michael E. Heyes Copyright 2025
    272 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Demons in the USA argues that the discourse on the demonic that developed in the nineteenth century continues to exert a powerful hold over the American spiritual imagination.

    The book begins by tracing the conservative Christian encounter with Spiritualism in the nineteenth century and the mode of thinking about the demonic which developed. As Spiritualism’s core principles reappeared in the New Age, Christian interlocutors once more drew on this "Anti-Spiritualist" paradigm to condemn the movement. This condemnation is absorbed by and amplified through the film The Exorcist. The author considers how the success of the film disseminates the anti-Spiritualist paradigm in surprising ways, entangling it with entertainment, science, and politics such that it influences psychology, the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, and the contemporary QAnon movement. This entanglement points to the broader argument of the work: While we may wish to think of a film as "entertainment" (and thus, having no bearing on "reality") or demonic material as "religious" (and thus exempt from categories like "politics" or "science"), the truth is that categories are not so easily separated. The author contends that the need to enforce the boundaries of such categories (and the failure to do so) is a hallmark of the intellectual construct of modernity, and that those who believe in demons in the contemporary United States are surprisingly modern in their views. The book grounds the importance of media to the twentieth- and twenty-first-century religious experience, arguing that the US of today would not be possible without The Exorcist and its products.

    Demons in the USA will be of particular interest to scholars dealing with religion in America, those with a focus on religion and film, or those involved with contemporary demonology.

    Introduction: Entanglements

    1 A Spirited Debate: The Witch of Endor, Spiritualists, and American Demonology

    2 House with Demons: The Exorcist as Medical Drama

    3 The Will of the Kingdom: The Politics of Malachi Martin

    4 Show Me on the Doll Where It Possessed You: Exorcism, Anti-Spiritualism, and Psychology

    5 Deliver Us unto Evil: Politics, Satanists, and the Making of the Modern Saint

    6 Praying on Fear: The Anti-Spiritualist Paradigm and the Political Demons of the 21st Century

    Conclusion: America’s Demons


    Michael E. Heyes is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion at Lycoming College, USA. He has published within the field of monster studies, film, and medieval studies and is a general editor of The Journal of Gods and Monsters. His books include Margaret’s Monsters: Women, Identity and the Life of St. Margaret in Medieval England (Routledge, 2020).