Dennis Wheatley: The Haunting of Toby Jugg

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Dennis Wheatley The Haunting of Toby Jugg
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How is it that during the past hundred years so little interest has been taken in the Devil's activities? The Haunting of Toby Jugg suggests an answer. Woven into a tale of modern love and courage, of intrigue, hypnotism and Satan-worship, it propounds a theory that under a new disguise the Devil is still intensely active–that through his chosen emissaries he is nearer than ever before to achieving victory in his age-old struggle to become, in fact, as well as in name, the Prince of this World.

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Dennis Wheatley

The Haunting of Toby Jugg

Monday, 4th May

    I feel that the time has come when I must endeavour to face facts. These past few nights I have been frightened scared stiff really terrified. Ten months ago I was a sane, strong, healthy man; now I am weak, irresolute and, I fear, on the verge of going mad.

    Perhaps I am only imagining things. But if I set down all that is happening here or rather, that which I believe to be happening when I look at what I have written again next day, I shall at least know that I haven't dreamed the whole horrible business overnight.

    That is why I have decided to start keeping a journal. In it I intend not only to give an account of these strange experiences of which I have recently been the victim, but also make an attempt to rationalise them. If I can somehow argue matters out with myself until I reach a logical conclusion as to what lies at the bottom of my fears, I shall, perhaps, be able to face them better and save my sanity.

    I used to enjoy writing essays, and the work involved in setting down my thoughts coherently should help a lot to keep my mind free from aimless, agonising dread of the night to come. I shall not write in the evenings, though, as the accursed shadows in this big room are apt to make me jumpy near sundown, and might lead me to exaggerate the facts. I'll work on it in the mornings, or afternoons, when the good, clean daylight, streaming in through the broad windows, makes me feel more like the man I used to be.

    It is not so long ago since my friends nicknamed me "The Viking', partly, of course, on account of my appearance, but also because I was credited with having a kind of 'devil-may-care' courage with which everyone is not blessed. I wonder what they would think if they had seen me as I was last night a gibbering nervous wreck frantic with fear of some ghastly thing that was hidden from me only by the blackout

    Still, fear of physical danger and of this sort of thing are entirely different matters. Some of my brother officers who were hard put to it to prevent themselves showing how badly they had the jitters would probably laugh at me now; while others braver than myself, and there were plenty of them, might be every bit as scared as I am. It would depend on their individual degree of susceptibility to the supernatural.

    If anyone had suggested to me a few months ago that I was a psychic type myself, I should certainly have denied it. But I must admit to being so now, as the only alternative is that I really am going nutty. Rightly or wrongly I believe that I am being haunted by some form of devil and I don't mean the sort that comes from knocking back too much Scotch. I mean one of those forces of Evil that are said to have been let loose in the world after Satan and his host were defeated by the Archangel Michael and cast down out of Heaven.

    That sounds old-fashioned stuff, I know; but either something of that kind did actually happen when the world was young, or it didn't. There is no middle way about it. And, if it did, there has been no revelation since to the effect that these age long enemies of man have been withdrawn to another sphere, or that their infernal Master has ceased from his efforts to corrupt and destroy the seed of Adam.

    Satan has become rather a figure of fun these days, or, at worst, a bogyman with whom wicked old women sometimes frighten children; but, all the same, he still remains our ultimate expression for the most concentrated form of Evil, and everything else that is evil must in a greater or lesser degree partake of his attributes. Therefore, in endeavouring to get to grips with my own problem, it may be worth speculating on him a little, and on the reasons for the apparent decline in his powers.

    In this year of Grace save the mark; I should have said this year of worldwide death and destruction, 1942 how many people, I wonder, believe in the Devil? I mean as a definite personality with hoofs and horns and a barbed tail, waving a pitchfork and breathing brimstone over everything? I suppose a few very religious rather backward people do; lonely, timid spinsters living in remote country districts, particularly in Scotland and down here in Wales, and the older generation of peasants in Central and Southern Europe.

    I can't myself. I think that all those accounts of monks and other characters coming face to face with the Devil in the Middle Ages were, as old Gibbon put it: 'The product of an empty stomach on an empty brain'; or else deliberate lying. In those days religion played such a large part in everybody's life that people thought of Heaven and Hell as only just round the corner; so the easiest way to obtain a little cheap notoriety was to come down one morning with your shirt on inside out, and declare to a wide-eyed audience that the Devil had visited you in the middle of the night with some tempting proposition.

    On the other hand one can never be certain absolutely certain that all such records are the ravings of unbalanced minds or pure invention. After all, why do we disbelieve them? Mainly, I think, because it seems improbable that such a V.I.P. as the Prince of Evil could be bothered to torment, or accept the homage of, quiet ordinary people.

    But his demons were said to be legion, and it may be that they sometimes assumed their master's form when appearing to the Godly, or attending a witches' sabbath as the guest of honour. That may be the explanation; for, while it must remain an open question whether any human being has even seen the Devil, it seems impossible to doubt the existence of demons. Cases of demonic possession still occur from time to time, as any Roman Catholic priest will testify; and during the Middle Ages such happenings were regarded as almost everyday affairs.

    The reason for their much greater frequency in the past is not far to seek. Life was so very different then, and everyone was so much more concerned with the things of the spirit. Whether they were in a state of grace or not was of vital importance to people, because they were daily reminded at morning prayers and evening Bible readings as well as during the whole of every Sunday that, should they meet with a sudden death, they would get no second chance, but have to give an account of their acts to date when hauled naked and trembling before their Creator.

    Such constant preoccupation with thoughts of miracles and martyrs, angels and demons, must have made their minds much more open to supernatural influences than ours are today. It is, therefore, one thing to be a bit sceptical about the accounts of Old Nick putting in a personal appearance and quite another to brush aside as trash the whole vast literature dealing with Christian mysticism.

    There are innumerable accounts of people who became so obsessed with the question of the Life to Come that they gave themselves up to a special devotion to their favourite Saints, and as a result of their wholehearted fervour developed miraculous powers of their own. And of others, the bad hats and natural rebels, who dabbled in witchcraft, Satanism and alchemy. It is certainly incontestable that there was hardly a village in Europe where someone or other was not credited with the power to cast spells and bring calamity on their enemies by ill wishing them. The bulk of testimony to such happenings is overwhelming, and it simply is not credible that for hundreds of generations the whole population of Christendom was fooled by a succession of liars and lunatics.

    Of course, in these days, there are plenty of sceptics who regard all accounts of occult phenomena as bunkum; and due either to people imagining things when in an abnormal condition, or to the machinations of rogues and charlatans who make a dubious living out of tricking the credulous.

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