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Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  1,205 Ratings  ·  163 Reviews
One On One With Satan

A chilling and highly convincing account of possession and exorcism in modern America, hailed by NBC Radio as "one of the most stirring books on the contemporary scene."
Paperback, 477 pages
Published January 6th 1999 by HarperOne (first published 1976)
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1984 by George OrwellThe Road by Cormac McCarthyLord of the Flies by William GoldingAmerican Psycho by Bret Easton EllisA Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Darkest Books Of All Time
187th out of 888 books — 1,132 voters
Hostage to the Devil by Malachi MartinInterview with an Exorcist by José Antonio ForteaThe Rite by Matt BaglioThe Day Satan Called by Bill ScottI Am Not Afraid by Robert H. Bennett
Exorcism in Christianity
1st out of 8 books — 5 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Mike (the Paladin)
Jan 08, 2013 Mike (the Paladin) rated it it was ok
Okay, my reasons for the low rating here may not be all that important to some. I may also be in the minority today in that I believe in evil (and yes an actual Satan). C.S.Lewis once observed (as have others) that the fact that no one believes in him is Satan's greatest advantage. Martin agrees with this and also says it.

I find I disagree with certain things said in the book about the nature of possession, the relief of it (exorcism if you will)and certain other details.

I have no problem with
J.S. Bailey
Jan 19, 2012 J.S. Bailey rated it it was amazing
There are two books I have read in my brief life that truly frightened me. One is The Tailypo: A Ghost Story by Joanna C. Galdone, which I read in the third grade (scared the absolute crud out of eight-year-old Me, and even still makes me uneasy when I think about that evil little creature watching that man from the foot of his bed in the dark). The other is Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans by Malachi Martin.

Whether or not you are a skeptic in demo
Jul 28, 2011 Brian rated it it was amazing
I have done quite a bit of research on possession for a story, and I can honestly say that this book actually scared me. I can list on one hand the amount of things in the world that scare me and this book easily made the list. My sister was so creeped out that she wouldn't even finish the book. Dr. Martin delivers on his harrowing tales of true demonic possession. He tackles the book objectively from both sides (much like a reporter) and lets the reader come to their own conclusions. Although p ...more
Mar 31, 2013 Shawn rated it it was amazing
This is a shocking account of possession, deviant psychology, and most importantly: the religious approach to combating it. I found this book in the footnotes to "People of the Lie" and found it to be another intriguing page-turner, but clearly something that I would not recommend just anyone to read. Some of the accounts are so diabolical that they descend into a depth of evil most of us would never even conceive of; and, quite frankly, are better off not even being exposed to, even in a book. ...more
Jul 01, 2010 Sistermagpie rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book really surprised me. I grabbed it from my boss's office to have something to read on the train--tales of five "true" American possessions? I was expecting something a lot less interesting than what I got.

I believe the book dates from the 70s. It's interesting to see how the attitudes of that time period clearly inform all the possessions. This being a book about exorcisms the book obviously takes the possession that Christianity is real and everyone really needs to rely on Jesus for to
Jul 24, 2010 Rhonda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
Malachi Martin was an exceptional writer and a highly gifted and blessed Catholic theologian. His premature death was a great loss to a world desperately set on detroying itself. As a word of caution, this is not the book on which to start reading Martin. It is better to have an understanding of general spiritual warfare which is going on in the world today, perhaps better illustrated by his novels having to do with John Paul II and his efforts as pope.
With that being said, this book is an asto
Anna Janelle
Feb 17, 2013 Anna Janelle rated it it was ok

Here I was thinking that I was comfortable in my retreat from childhood Catholicism into guilt-free adult agnosticism. Silly me. Then, I read this book and literally scared myself so much I was terrified to be in the house alone. Not that being in the same room as someone helped too much. I'm pretty much uncomfortable and filled with terror all the time now. Thanks Malachi Martin. I appreciate that.


Five accounts of real Catholic exorcisms that occurred in the United States as late as the ninetee
Nathan Brown
Nov 19, 2010 Nathan Brown rated it liked it
I would like to start off by saying that this book is VERY well written, and that I found Martin's narrative style an excellent fit for this kind of creative nonfiction. HOWEVER, I also felt that a lot of the stories he tells, along with how he tells them, are too heavily influenced/biased by Catholic politics & dogma ...which kind of bugged me through my reading of the book.
Oct 03, 2014 joel rated it it was ok
(** 2.5 stars downgraded to 2 because, well, I can't actually give it a 2.5-star review and I was instructed once to always round down.)

So, here's the deal.

I've two points of critique with this one. The first pertains to the actual writing of the book. Too often, Martin seems overly interested in amping up the drama of what can only be described as an already-dramatic situation [the possessions & exorcisms of the book's five subjects]. He takes three or four paragraphs to describe what he co
Mar 17, 2014 Kimberly rated it it was amazing
Malachi martin, before going into further detail on the cases, gives very useful information that enlightens the reader. The information he gave educated you to understand possession and exorcism. For example, he specifically details the understanding of demonic possession in the beginning of the book in a section called “A Brief Handbook of Exorcism.” He states, “The truth is that all three- the possessed, the possessing spirit, and the exorcist- bear a close relation to the reality of life an ...more
Bev Walton-Porter
Never thought I'd ever say I found a book on demons and exorcism boring, but I have. You have to work hard at making stories of supposed real-life possessions and church-sanctioned exorcism mind-numbingly tedious, but Malachi Martin's "Hostage to the Devil" succeeded.

This is allegedly a nonfiction book, so recount the facts and quit the purple prose and repetitive elaboration about things that drag the stories down. I understood what you meant the first time; no need to repeat it ten different
Jason Golomb
Oct 28, 2014 Jason Golomb rated it really liked it

On the other side of the coin— Lucifer’s side— the belief that he does not exist at all is an enormous advantage that he has never enjoyed to such a great degree. It is the ultimate camouflage. Not to believe in evil is not to be armed against it. To disbelieve is to be disarmed. If your will does not accept the existence of evil, you are rendered incapable of resisting evil. Those with no capacity of resistance become prime targets for Possession.
- from Malachi Martin's "Hostage to the Devil"

Oct 07, 2012 Laura added it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Well, the fascination ended. I got stuck around page 250 and found myself picking up other books instead. After months of it sitting on my bedside table, untouched, I think it's time to throw in the towel. It really grabbed me at first, but I just ran out of steam on it. I'm still fascinated by the strong belief people have in demonic possession; if only I didn't have so many other good-looking books on my shelf waiting to be read....
Tobin Elliott
Jun 17, 2015 Tobin Elliott rated it it was ok
To be fair, I had to stop about halfway through this book. I simply couldn't read it anymore. It had come highly recommended, and I understand why (the subject matter), but the author's hamfisted narrative style, along with the insanely judgemental attitude (unless you are straight, god-fearing, and do nothing but missionary sex, then praise Jesus afterward, you are a ripe candidate for possession by the devil), I couldn't hack the endless pages of history of how each person fell slowly under th ...more
Aug 22, 2016 Melissa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
Puff! por dónde empiezo? ésta ha sido la lectura más difícil que he tenido. Tuve que tomarme ciertas pausas para poder digerirlo. Me llamó la atención que fuera tan descriptivo y completo. El libro se divide en 4 partes: Introducción breve al tema, casos de exorcismo empezando con una breve biografía de la víctima y del eclesíastico, proceso de posesión y finalmente el exorcismo, conclusiones y comentarios finales y explicación del Manual Romano.
La Posesión es un ataque a la voluntad y el libre
Sashank Poduval
Jan 22, 2014 Sashank Poduval rated it liked it
I do have to say the I thoroughly enjoyed Martin's narrative style and the 5 case studies which include peeps into the exorcee's past that ultimately lead to a possession.

But for me there was too much emphasis on an intensely Christian(Catholic) faith.This work bordered to the point of being irrelevant to people like me from another culture/faith.

The last case on Parapsychology and the power of Tortoise's illusions on Carl's mind was literally the tipping point. I couldn't help but relate the e
This observation refers to the original purchased and read in 1976. I obtained this book after having read The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty William Peter Blatty William Peter Blatty

I believe I remember seeing Malichi Martin on the tonight show where he was discussing the release of his book. It's been awhile ago but I believe he brought a audio tape of an actual exorcism as well. And that was definitely enough to raise the hackles on the back of my neck.

It was enough to bring the possibility of EVIL existing as a separate entity into my thought
Mar 05, 2013 Rebecca rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished
I had never heard of Malachi Martin until I read M. Scott Peck's excellent Glimpses of the Devil. He talked about Father Martin as his mentor and teacher, and so when I saw this at a book sale I picked it up.

I know that nonfiction writers who are dealing with sensational topics try to tone things down, but this was boring...or, really, banal. I couldn't even finish it. It just went on and on and on, without really going anywhere. The whole work is so intensely Catholic that it's irrelevant to an
Anita Dalton
You know, had this book been written by anyone but the late Malachi Martin, I would think it just a cheesy look at bizarre belief. But for some reasons, I like Martin and considered him a sincere believer who may have been a good showman but at least backed his show with some actual insider information and genuine belief. He was also a pretty good writer. I am not a believer in demonic possession but Martin was able to write in such a gripping manner that I was able to suspend disbelief and just ...more
Sep 11, 2013 Todd rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A disappointing book. I had heard good things about Malachi Martin's reliability as a reporter on issues related to the Catholic Church, but I can't believe it to be true. His views are highly skewed, not allowing for a moment's disbelief. I suppose I should have expected that from a book written by a priest. However, his focus was clearly on the struggle of the priests performing the exorcisms and not so much on those who were supposedly possessed by demons. It seemed tragic that the possessed ...more
Annie Raaen
May 26, 2010 Annie Raaen rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Currently reading the last case, I've definately learned a lot about exorcism if what Martin wrote is true. I'm slightly irked by the way he chose to write these cases as, in some instances, it's extremely hard for me to wrap my mind around what is going on. Most of the action is internal, spiritual and emotional warfare with the priests and, to a lesser degree, the posessed.
It's a highly disturbing book...dark and brooding. Martin did a great job of pulling me into the middle of these cases, a
Jul 30, 2015 Ryan rated it really liked it
This is not a book for children or the faint of heart. But I can tell you, after knowing and working with a number of Protestant ministers as a Protestant seminarian and intern, Martin has helped me appreciate my return to the Catholic Church. When I'm in a particularly sadistic and self-loathing mood I'll go back and read some of the mega-pastors I used to follow as a protestant preacher in training. I recently laughed out loud as I thought of ANY of them standing for 21 hours straight eyeball ...more
Dan Beck
Jun 02, 2007 Dan Beck rated it it was amazing
I have some weird fascinations-- for instance, I am fascinated by possession and exorcism, and I have no idea why. Actually, that's not true. I think it's because I believe in the concept of "evil" being some sort of entity that exists in the universe (in the form of the devil and his demons) and I guess I believe that given the right person and the right circumstances, this evil can possess people. This idea, to me, is far scarier than zombies or vampires or werewolves. I've read a bunch of boo ...more
Utterly Undead Reads
Mar 25, 2014 Utterly Undead Reads rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
Snoozefest-too bogged down with unnecessary details about nothing important- did not finish

I was excited to read this, as I find the concepts of possession and exorcism fascinating. This was a sorely disappointing read that I returned to the library unfinished.

I made it about half way into the second case, but I stopped there because I was bored to tears. I understand the importance of knowing pertinent bits of the exorcist's background, but it seems as though more page space is given to inane f
Giovanna Barreto
Mar 18, 2014 Giovanna Barreto rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. I wouldn't recommend it to people that get scared easily. I also wouldn't recommend it to people that don't like suspense. This book keeps me really entertained. I honestly wasn't bored at all, I always wanted to know more. I didn't know how exorcisms worked and it really surprised me to find out how they feel. Malachi Martin, in the book, talks about a brief handbook of exorcism. In it he describes what happens and how it feels. I was really surprised but yet entertain ...more
Jan 13, 2015 a-maze rated it liked it
Recommends it for: psychological/spiritual side of posession
I have to be honest...I expected much more from this book after reading many reviews... but it end up being a bit dense for my taste. I found it hard to finish it, cause in some parts it got a bit boring and not creepy.

Dont get me wrong, its well written, it has some religious information about demons and possession, but I prefer creepier stories, with darker description of things.
This is like a "surgical/forensic" way of describing each possession. He focus on 5 different cases. In each one you
Jan 11, 2016 George rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, horror, 2016
One of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. According to the author, Say-tan (one of this book’s many gems is learning the correct way to say the Devil’s name in case you’re ever at a Black Mass) has been a busy boy. Among other things, the author believes that the Satanic Panic of the early 80’s really happened; one of the many signs that far from writing a serious religious treatise, he has penned a crackpot New Age book. There is quite a bit of material about the Satanic Scare of the ...more
Jacob Aitken
May 25, 2015 Jacob Aitken rated it it was amazing
I do not accept everything Martin says. However, as factual renditions I think this work can be trusted. (The interpretation Martin gives of the scenarios is an entirely different matter)

Ontology of Spirit

When demonic presences “Make” sounds, the sounds do not come from anyone direction. Perhaps this is what Dallas Willard called “the unside.”

Helpful points

(1) Martin doesn’t call explicit attention to it, but 2 Cor. 10:3-5 speaks of intellectual warfare against strongholds, which refer, as many
Jan 15, 2009 Nathan rated it it was ok
The fact that Martin himself is a Catholic theologian sheds a little doubt on what are extremely extraordinary accounts, and the embellished prose likewise detracts from a factual tone. Yet, taken at its word, this book forms a downright disturbing record of modern demonic possession and exorcism. Skeptics will probably not be convinced, but believers will be intrigued and, at points, terrified.
Thomas Kolodziejczak
This was a very long book. I skipped or heavily skimmed all the parts of the book that didn't highlight the cases of possession. If you're going to read this book, I recommend doing the same.

The cases themselves were really fascinating for the most part. They're presented objectively without too much of the Malachi Martin's opinions thrown in, so I didn't feel like I was being preached to. It's very interesting seeing how these people went from normal to possessed. The worst part of these chapt
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“Reality' would not only be boring without spirit; it would have no meaning whatsoever. No horror film can begin to capture the horror of such a vision: a world without spirit.” 7 likes
“You are never quite at home in this human world ever again after an exorcism,” he said slowly. He sat down again and explained. After an exorcism the exorcist hears and sees and thinks and talks as he always did. But now he perceives on two planes. Spirit is everywhere. Flesh and matter is only “our picture” of what’s there. And it’s not all good. There’s evil and good hidden in that “picture.” After an exorcism you always know, if you didn’t know it before. You are now walking with double vision, a second sight, as the old people used to say.” 3 likes
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