PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — For Chris DeFlorio, dealing with demons isn’t something from a horror movie. It’s terrifyingly real.
When an Aroostook County resident contacted him to report suffering from a witchcraft curse, the demonologist did what years of police training and spiritual study ingrained in him: he jumped in to help.
A former paramedic and a 20-year veteran of the New York City police, DeFlorio and his wife, Harmony, became devoted to serving others through their church. He said he came face-to-face with the devil while teaching in Africa. Since then his mission has been to visit people who claim to be afflicted by witchcraft, hauntings and possession. His tools: prayer and the Bible. His message: Demonic terror is happening and may be closer than you think.
“This is not entertainment but people’s lives are literally at stake,” DeFlorio said. “What I can tell you about this case is that witchcraft is very real and may be happening to you at this very moment.”
DeFlorio will travel to The County soon. He did not reveal details to protect the victim, but said the person provided evidence of witchcraft being used against them, describing lights going on and off, doors slamming and damage to the home, which began after an altercation with an aggressive person, he said.
The DeFlorios operate the nonprofit New York Demonic Investigation LLC through which people contact them. They do not solicit cases, he said. Just last fall, they came to Maine to assist a doctor who claimed he was being physically pushed around in his home by a spirit.
DeFlorio studies biblical demonology to combat what he called humanity’s greatest enemies: the devil and fallen angels.
DeFlorio approaches his cases with methodical investigation, combined with the Catholic knowledge he has gained over the past 13 years, he said. He assembles a case file and interviews witnesses, gathers evidence and seeks reports from people who may have witnessed what happened, much like he would do in police work.
The Roman Catholic Church believes Satan is a fallen angel who, through the fall of Adam and Eve, acquired influence over humanity, Pope John Paul II said in a discussion about the devil. He said Satan tries to tempt people to embrace evil and turn away from God.
The pope said it’s possible for people to be possessed by Satan, though the church hesitates to attribute many things to the devil.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which contains the church’s teachings for the faithful, speaks of minor and major exorcisms. Minor versions occur at baptism and renewal of baptismal promises to reject Satan. But major exorcisms can only be performed by a priest with permission of a bishop.
“Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church,” the Catechism says.
But priests must ascertain they are dealing with an actual presence of evil and not illness, including psychological illness, before they perform the ritual.
Three years ago, a Houlton family called in help to rid their home of evil spirits. Kim Maguire and her family said they were hearing voices and slamming doors, as well as seeing apparitions. They reached out to the Rev. Terrence McGillicuddy of Medway, Massachusetts, a spiritual therapist and Houlton native who founded a Christian counseling practice called Anam Cara Community.
At the Houlton home, McGilllicuddy read exorcism prayers from the Roman Missal and blessed each room in the house with holy water. After that, the family said the phenomena ceased.
Witchcraft has been in Maine since colonial times, but has seen a surge recently, perhaps owing to people seeking connection to nature throughout the pandemic. Practices vary, but releasing negative energies and finding spiritual healing in nature are themes.
Practitioners of witchcraft may encounter curses as well, said Patti Wigington of Learn Religions, a website that aims to help people of all practices understand their own and their neighbors’ religions.
If someone is sure they are troubled by a curse or hex, various methods may help, including mirrors to reflect the evil back to the sender, or folk magic with herbs and talismans — or even reciting Psalm 37, Wigington said.
DeFlorio employs Catholic prayers and rituals to clear demons. He has always felt compelled to aid human suffering in some way, he said. He served as a medic and then joined the New York City police force in 2003, according to NYPD rosters.
Harmony DeFlorio worked on a New York City ambulance crew for many years. Her experience in the environment combined with strong faith make her the perfect partner, DeFlorio said.
DeFlorio retired from the New York Police Department’s 32nd Precinct in August — one year early — due to the high volume of demonic case calls he receives. He has heard from many victims who tell him churches have declined to help.
He’s heard the detractors.
“When people first hear that I work in the field of demonology, the default thinking is that I’m some weird, crazy guy who plays with demons and ‘likes’ that stuff, but that could not be farther from the truth,” DeFlorio said. “I like to think of myself as a soldier for God.”
He and his wife don’t charge for their work, though sometimes they receive donations or compensation for travel expenses.
DeFlorio’s most frightening case occurred last year in Connecticut, where he said demons infested a house and affected a 4-year-old girl. He and his wife were in the attic, reading Catholic prayers. Heat and a horrible smell gagged him, and they heard growls and roars echoing throughout the house.
But the little girl was safe outside with her grandmother, and the case ended with the disappearance of the demons, he said.
DeFlorio is undeterred by those who ridicule him. He’s heard worse as a New York cop. He finds the greatest reward in seeing people set free and families restored.
“Until my last breath, I will do my best to help anyone that calls with this issue,” DeFlorio said.