The idea for this investigation came quite unexpectedly. On a Halloween night, my daughter convinced me and her mother of going to an annual event at the Palace of the Dukes, in Guimarães. There, a troupe had transformed the place into a haunted house full of monsters, ghosts, and spooks. It was the end of the show, however, that most captured my attention. It was the staging of an exorcism allegedly ministered to a duchess who lived there.
When I got home, I did some research and found that not only was it based on historical facts, but that it was also rumored that strange events kept occurring in the palace even after the exorcism.
My previous encounters with witches had revealed a clear relationship between them and demons, so I had to investigate this alleged possession in the hope of finally finding the Night Witches.
One weeknight in November, I told my wife I was going to work late and headed to Guimarães and the Palace of the Dukes. Of course, the monument was closed, and there was no one around. I parked and started looking for a way in.
As you would expect, in addition to the guards inside, the place was protected by an alarm system. One of my comrades in Braga’s urban exploration group that called himself “the greatest urban explorer,” as he liked to visit not only abandoned buildings but also some in use and even inhabited, taught me a few ways to get around alarms. I only hoped that my meager knowledge was enough to do it.
However, I ended up not having to use it. Turning the corner to the back of the palace, hidden by trees and greenery, I found that someone had beaten me to it.
A woman who wasn’t more than thirty years old had disabled the alarm and now reached towards a small window almost two meters above the ground. Realizing her difficulty, I approached and said, with a smile:
“Need a hand?”
She looked at me with a mixture of surprise and fear. She was relatively short, just over a meter and a half, and lean. She wore black metal glasses, and her hair was tied in a ponytail.
For a moment, her eyes darted in all directions. Finally, realizing that I wasn’t a policeman or a security guard, she decided not to run away and asked:
“Who are you?”
“I should be the one asking that. Who are you? Why are you trying to break into a national monument? Give me a reason why I shouldn’t call the police.”
“I could give you a reason, but then you wouldn’t sleep soundly ever again. There is more here than what a normal person can imagine.”
She stared at me, surprised. That told me that she knew what I was talking about and that, probably, was there for the same reason as I.
After a few moments, she asked:
“Tell me what you know.”
I told her all about the diary, my previous explorations, the Witches of the Night and what took me there.
“One day, I’d like to see this diary “ she said when I finished. “I’ve heard of these creatures that you call Witches of the Night, but I usually focus on demons, and they don’t seem to use them as other witches do. From what you say, maybe I should start taking an interest in them too. It’s my responsibility.”
“Your responsibility? Why?”
“I’m part of an ancient tradition that protects people from demons and their agents. My master and I were responsible for all of northern Portugal.” She looked sadly at the ground “But he passed away, and now I’m alone.”
“Can’t you get help from the Organization?” I asked, for it seemed to me that they had common goals.
“This Organization you speak about only appeared in the last century. Moreover, they are more concerned with hiding the truth than helping people. They have nothing in common with us.” After a short pause, she continued “If we are here for the same reason, maybe you could help me. I’ve opened the window and confirmed that I turned off the alarm. Now I have to start bringing my equipment inside, and I could use a hand.”
I accepted immediately, and she took me to the front of the monument and toward the nearby street. Halfway, after some short introductions, it occurred me to ask:
“How did you learn about this demon? Did you also come here on Halloween?”
“No, I didn’t even know about the event until you told me about it. I have a small cluster that uses data mining techniques to find patterns in the news and other databases that I have access to that might indicate the presence of demons. I found that many of those who visited this palace were then involved in violent crimes. That’s a clear sign of demonic influence.”
We continued walking until she stopped behind a white Ford transit from the late 90s. It had seen better days, since, at various places, the paint had given way to rust, and the lock on the back door was gone and had been replaced by a simple padlock and chain.
The demonologist ran one of the side doors, revealing a cargo space containing an odd mixture of ancient and modern items. Several wooden shelves lined the walls, containing clearly ancient books, religious artifacts of various religions and electronic machines with their components exposed, clearly improvised from various sources. On the floor, there were some larger objects such as a rug with a mandala, a huge menorah and what appeared to be one or more computers connected to a battery.
The demonologist gave me two tall, slim speakers, while she picked up a flat screen and a small tablet that, if my scarce knowledge of electronics doesn’t deceive me, had been built from a raspberry pi.
Once we returned to the rear of the palace, I helped her up the window. Then I gave her all the equipment and finally entered the palace.
As I expected given the small size of the window, we were inside a small room. At the moment, it was empty, but in the past, it was probably used as a cupboard, because there was no room for anything else.
Cautiously, Susana, the demonologist, put her ear to the single door, making sure that there were no guards on the other side. When she was satisfied, she opened it.
The huge room we encountered beyond looked familiar to me. It was there that during the Halloween show, the possessed Countess laid in her bed and where a priest executed the exorcism.
Once I told her that, the demonologist began to inspect every centimeter of the room, using her tablet and an instrument that she took from one of the bags on her waist. It was a lengthy process during which I kept nervously vigilant to avoid being discovered. Once Susana finished, she shook her head, and we decided to proceed.
Thanks to my last visit, I knew that the only other door opened into the central courtyard, where we would be easily seen by the guards, so we decided to go to the upper floor.
Through a narrow staircase with two flights, we reached a corridor with some doors on the right and a room on the other end. Behind the first door, was a collection of assembled armor, while the others housed other medieval artifacts such as books, furniture, and figurines. The demonologist inspected each room but again found nothing.
The same can’t be said of the room at the end of the corridor, however. As soon as we entered, LEDs in Susana’s electronic instrument lit up.
“That’s more like it” she said.
We found ourselves in an empty room with a fireplace built-in on one wall. It could be the real quarters of the Countess.
The demonologist followed the demon’s trail to a second door.
Always following the makeshift instrument indications, we crossed bedrooms, foyers, hallways and even a huge dining room. Finally, when we reached the palace chapel, Susana said, pointing with her chin towards the fully lit LEDs on the machine in her hand and a graphic in the tablet screen:
“It’s here. We have to install the speakers.”
“The guards won’t hear it when we turn it on?” I asked.
“Almost certainly, but we don’t have a choice. We have to cast this demon from here.”
We positioned the columns between the chapel’s benches, facing the altar. Due to an demonologist adaptation, they were powered by batteries, so all it took was one press of a button on her tablet for a cacophony of voices and languages to invade the room.
“It’s a mixture of various Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Taoist prayers used to exorcise demons” explained Susana.
For long moments we stayed there, hoping that the demon would be cast out before one of the guards heard us.
Despite my nervousness, I couldn’t help but admire the chapel. The Halloween show hadn’t included it, so I didn’t get a chance to visit it. Varnished wooden beams held the roof, and huge stained-glass windows filled almost the entire wall behind the small altar. But what impressed me most were the two side podiums, as their distinctly medieval look made me travel back in time.
Suddenly they began to tremble, as did the altar and the seats around me. Seconds later, from the ground, emerged a creature almost as big as me with red skin, two horns, and a sharp nose and chin.
Almost simultaneously, the door behind us opened, giving way to a guard holding a flashlight. The sight of the creature, however, maybe combined with the cacophony coming from the speakers, were too much for him, and the man collapsed onto the last row of seats.
Unlike me, Susana had paid no attention to the guard and advanced toward the demon with the tablet screen turned towards it. At a glance, I saw several images passing through: various religious symbols, excerpts of sacred texts, images of saints and gods. The creature stopped and started screaming.
Slowly the demonologist side-stepped, trying to put the tablet between the demon and the door while taking something from her backpack. However, before she could do it, the creature gave a fearsome roar and jumped through the benches almost to the door. Instinctively, I tried to bar its passage, but it threw me to the ground like I was nothing and left.
“He’s stronger than I was hoping” Susana said, helping me up ”Let’s go.”
We ran out of the chapel and down the stairs to the palace cloister, and from there, we followed the demon outside. We passed several guards along the way, but them, stunned by the sight of the devil or our presence there, didn’t react.
We pursued the creature up the hill on top of which stood the Guimarães Castle. However, midway, next to a small chapel built there, Susana grabbed me by the arm.
“Wait. This demon is very strong. Usually, they can’t escape like it did. I’ll get some stuff from the van and prepare to ambush and trap it in this chapel. Take my tablet, go after him and try to drive it here.”
Before I could answer, she put the tablet in my hands and turned around. On the screen, still passed all kinds of religious images.
Taking a deep breath, I started running through the dirt road leading to the top of the hill and the ruins of the castle, where the demon had entered.
Being the most famous fortress in Portugal, I had already visited it more than once, so I knew it well and could concentrate on finding the creature. The keep, which had been restored, was the only building still standing, but it was closed, so there weren’t many places where the demon could hide. Unless it had some tricks I didn’t know about, of course.
Trying to hold at the same time my pocket flashlight and tablet in front of me, I started looking into every corner, from behind the rubble mounds to the fireplaces and the broken chimneys that went up from them.
After a few moments, I saw something move through the corner of my eye. But when I pointed the light there, I found nothing. It could have been just a cat, but for some reason, I sensed it was something more, so I chased it.
Finally, when I came to a dead end, I saw the demon and held the tablet in its direction. Since I blocked the only escape route, a narrow passage between the wall and the keep, the creature tried in desperation to use its claws to climb the wall. But, realizing that it couldn’t, it charged me, screaming with a mixture of pain and hatred. Again, I was unable to stop it, and he passed me, throwing me to the ground. Fortunately, I recovered quickly and pursued it.
Running as fast as I could, I tried to keep close to it and, with the tablet, lead him to where Susana was waiting. Although it deviated once or twice from the most direct path, I was able to lead it to the small chapel.
Next to the building’s door, waited the demonologist holding another tablet and, who, in the meantime, had built a passage delimited by speakers emitting her prayers mix and a huge monitor that led into the interior.
Realizing her intention, I tried to drive the demon into the trap. It tried to escape, but with the demonologist’s help, I was able to take it to the passage and into the chapel.
As soon as the creature passed the door, Susana sealed it with the huge monitor which showed images similar to the ones on the tablet. Then, she activated the speakers she had placed inside the sacred building. The demon started to scream. First, it threw itself against the walls, as if trying to smash through them then charged toward the door.
Behind the screen, the demonologist took from her backpack a curious object that looked like a water gun, like the ones used by kids, but painted silver and covered with sacred symbols. When the being got within reach, she fired the gun. Various jets of liquid flew toward the demon.
As soon as they hit it, it began to scream even more violently. Susana, however, kept shooting. I noticed then that the creature started melting, as if it had been hit with acid. It gradually disappeared, until all that was left of it was a red puddle on the floor, most of which seeped through the cracks between the funerary slabs that covered the chapel’s floor.
“What do you have in that gun?” I asked, surprised and curious.
“Holy water, anointing oil, water from sacred rivers, water from the Zamzam well, things like that” she explained. “Now we better get out of here before the palace guards recover and come after us.”
And that’s what we did. I helped her carry her stuff to the van and got back to my car, but not before she gave me her contact. This investigation might not have given me new information about the Witches of the Night, but it brought me a new ally in my mission to find and stop them.