The horror genre is dominated by a handful of familiar tropes, and one of the old favorites is this: One or more idiots (usually teens) attracts the forces of darkness by doing something very, very stupid.
Popular options include playing with a cursed ouija board, moving into a haunted house, or reading out loud from a mysterious book you found in a cabin in the woods. And this Halloween, you can join all those doomed horror movie souls by tempting fate yourself.
Yes, it’s demon summoning time.
How to summon a demon
1) The Midnight Man
Creepypasta is the internet generation’s answer to sleepover horror stories like Bloody Mary. You can find a long list of creepypasta-inspired “games” at the paranormal horror blog Sixpencee, but we selected the Midnight Man ritual due to its simplicity. You can play it alone or with friends, and it involves scaring the crap out of yourself in the dark, at midnight, and potentially inspiring hallucinations of your greatest fear.
2) Pazuzu and/or Lamashtu
You may recognize the name Pazuzu from The Exorcist, which reinvented the Babylonian spirit as a demon that responds to Christian ritual exorcisms. Basically, Pazuzu suffers from inaccurate brand recognition because a lot of people have heard of him, but if you try to summon him, you won’t necessarily get the fearsome creature you’re looking for.
In pop culture, demons are typically portrayed as supernatural monsters that possess the body of a living human. But in Babylonian mythology, demons could be good, evil, or neutral. Pazuzu was originally depicted as a supernatural avatar of the Southwest Wind, linking him to dangers like famine and drought. However, people might also call on him for help, as a protective measure against his enemy Lamashtu, an evil demonic goddess who specialized in terrorizing pregnant women and new mothers. The reason why people had Pazuzu statues like the one in The Exorcist was because they were using them as amulets against Lamashtu.
There’s no way to put this delicately: Belphegor is a poop demon. Just check out his illustration from the 1863 Dictionaire Infernal.
He’s your classic biblical demon, one of the seven princes of Hell. He evolved from an earlier character from Assyrian mythology, Baal-Peor, and he’s famous enough on the Christian/Satanic demon circuit that he inspired a German goth band and an Austrian death metal band. But the most important detail here is that you can summon him with an offering of your own (or someone else’s) excrement, an efficient method for any amateur demonologists who don’t have candles lying around the house.
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Caim is a pretty chill demon, one of the many figures who appeared alongside Belphegor in the beautifully illustrated Dictionnaire Infernal. We picked him out because instead of offering blatantly dangerous gifts like power or vengeance, he has a weird and specific skillset: animal languages. Sometimes depicted as a cool bird dude, he can give you the ability to communicate with birds and animals—for a price.
The corpse-eating Jikinki are a variation on the theme of the “hungry ghosts” found in Chinese Buddhist traditions. They’re one of two hungry ghost creatures found in Japanese Buddhism, with the Jikinki representing the spirits of people who were too greedy during life. They’re pretty grotesque, and have a lot in common with modern zombie horror stories, feasting on human corpses. A Japanese scroll from the late 12th century shows one of these hungry ghosts as a skeletal figure, crouching on the ground and presumably gnawing on some human flesh.
The internet is awash with advice on how to summon demons, from the dubiously reliable Wikihow and Yahoo! Answers (seriously) to dedicated paranormal websites. Before you go any further, though, you should probably check by one of Reddit’s threads about demon-summoning experiences that went horribly wrong. Just so you know what you’re getting into.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.