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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,664 ratings  ·  215 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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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  1,664 ratings  ·  215 reviews

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T.D. Whittle
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
I am not entirely sure what to make of this book, but it's not a cheap-thrills read. It's meticulous, intelligently written, and compassionate towards those who seem to be afflicted by evil. Martin seeks neither to mock nor to exploit the suffering, and seems to be a sincere and likable fellow.

Having said that, I doubted the professional decisions made in many of the case studies in this book, and felt bewildered that these possessed folks were declared mentally stable by psychiatris
J.S. Bailey
Dec 22, 2011 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 demoni
Mike (the Paladin)
Dec 07, 2010 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 p
Jul 28, 2011 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 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
Tobin Elliott
Jun 09, 2015 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
Jun 16, 2010 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
Feb 10, 2014 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
Anna Janelle
Jan 02, 2013 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.

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 nineteen sixties - exorcisms not officially sanctioned by the church but exorcisms that were performed in the church's name. In writing this review, I ... can't even force myself to relive these horrifying ordeals. If it matters, I think the first exorcism was the worst in terms of profanity and general terror. Think Linda Blair. Think real life. *shudder*


At times, however, Martin managed to bore the pants off of me while simultaneously scaring the bejesus out of me. He's an authority on the Catholic church, and he lays on the Catholic philosophy and belief system (complete with the ever popular helping of guilt) fairly thick in between the actual accounts of exorcisms. This bore-factor combined with the Catholic guilt combined with the fear of becoming possessed at all times has lead me to give this book a paltry two stars despite some really great moments.

Will I be revisiting this book in the future? Hell no. I cannot wait to get it out of my house and back to the library. Was it terrible? Again, hell no but it managed to inspire a fear that I never knew I harbored. Will I be Googling "real exorcisms" anytime soon or watching any scary movies anytime soon? For the third time, HELL NO. Serious. I'm still scared. I'm not sure if I'll be the same ever again.


Jul 24, 2010 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
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
Jan 30, 2012 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....
Troy Stephen Sanders
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Not an easy book to get through, but perhaps one of the best reads on demonic possession I have ever experienced. Other books just seem to say the same things, almost like the authors have not done any research. This author was an exorcist and that alone sold me. If you have any interest at all in this subject this is one book you can not afford to miss. Buy it!
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
My first Malachi Martin book/experience ... it' is exactly how I pictured it.
Wilfredo Rodríguez Dotti
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is basically a treatise on exorcism practiced by the Catholic Church, consisting of five cases of demonic possession in which each case of possession is ordered by the personal history of the possessed and the exorcist, as well as the details of the exorcisms in themselves, allowing the reader to have a good perspective of each case.

Regardless of whether one is a believer or not, it's a book that is well written and the details are well described, to such an extent that it'
Jun 16, 2014 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 paragraph
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 thoughts . . . and
Nov 01, 2012 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
Annie Raaen
Oct 30, 2008 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
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
Dan Beck
Jun 02, 2007 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
Nathan Brown
Nov 19, 2010 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.
Nov 12, 2013 added it
This book is so terrifying I had to buy it twice, throwing it away at first attempt, and picking another up years later. I never did read it all, and have no care to. Take it from one who has had first-hand experience with Evil, this is a true life horror, not to be taken lightly! NOT recommended for mere curiosity sake.
Jan 13, 2009 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.
Giovanni Calabro
Aug 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Adults
It really doesn't matter if you are Catholic or not...this book will make your skin crawl. Malachi Martin, a Jesuit priest, writes about 5 cases of exorcism in more of a psychiatric tone than religious. It is absolutely rivetting and really scary.
Edwina Callan
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library-book, 2013
Very slow paced. I kept nodding off while reading this.
Nov 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
The first story was pretty good. After that, I found myself skipping ahead and skimming because the story was slow and just wasn't doing anything for me.
Carlos Abrille
Apr 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
The first hundred page was exciting and interesting because the pace was fast. When he began talking about Marianne, that's when the story lost inertia and dragged, which seemed like forever to the point I completely lost interest. On page 171 had to toss the book to pickup another book. I hate when authors do that, when they have a story tell which can be told in 25 pages? The flat line to Marianne's story was becoming like a 500 page ordeal of intolerable boredom. I had hopes of reading this b ...more
Jason Golomb
Oct 28, 2014 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"
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I didn't buy the stories 2 10 Jan 07, 2018 11:08AM  
Scary non fiction recommendations 1 6 Mar 12, 2017 05:45AM  
Most Disturbing Books 2 18 Feb 19, 2015 04:06AM  
Is this a true depiction of exorcism? 1 12 Apr 12, 2013 06:36AM  

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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.” 9 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.” 4 likes
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