SK George L. Chapman, Jr., PFN passed away peacefully at his home in Laurel, MD, on Friday, January 9, 2009. With his passing I feel free to tell you an incredible story that many did not know about George. Back in the late 1940’s there was another boy, only thirteen years old, who had been introduced to the occult and who suffered a spiritual invasion through his aunt’s Ouija board. Seemingly on their own, objects moved around, furniture fell over, and “his desk at school moved about on the floor similar to the plate on an Ouija board.” This latter evidence of telekinesis forced the boy to quit school because of embarrassment. Things got even worse at home. Not yet Catholics, they called their Lutheran minister but he found the situation uncontrollable. Any chair in which they placed the boy tipped over. Resting him on a floor rug, it moved on the wood floor entirely on its own.
Having a relative married to a Catholic, the boy’s mother described the situation to him. His response was “If what you say is true, then you should consult a priest.” The family called the nearby parish, St. James Catholic Church. The boy’s father made an appointment to talk to one of the priests. The clergyman gave him various sacramentals: holy water, blessed candles, and some recommended prayers. “Once when the mother had sprinkled the holy water around the room, she placed the bottle on a dresser and it was picked up by the spirit and smashed. When one of the candles was lighted, the flame shot up to the ceiling, and the candle was extinguished for fear that the house might be set on fire.” The suggested prayers seemed to make the phenomena worse. Deciding to call back the priest, the clergyman heard a great crashing sound. The mother of the boy told him that the telephone table she was using had broken into a hundred pieces.
This anxious situation refused to end and matters grew tenser. The priest, Fr. E. Albert Hughes, went to the chancellor of the archdiocese. He was warned to move slowly and not to leap to rash judgments. The young priest explained that he had done as much. After a meeting with the archbishop, Most Reverend Patrick A. O’Boyle, he was authorized to initiate the exorcisms. Fr. Hughes resisted, hoping that an older and more experienced man might be chosen instead. He “understood that this should be done by a very holy man because the devil is wont to expose the sins of the priest; so the Father went to Baltimore and made a general confession. But the devil is the father of lies, and there is a theological opinion that he is unable to reveal sins that have been forgiven.”
The archbishop insisted. The young priest had to offer the ritual. It would prove a terrible miscalculation. Between February 27 and March 4, 1949, the boy was moved to Georgetown University Hospital. A young man and altar server (George L. Chapman, Jr.) who was known for his abilities in high school football was drafted by the priest to assist him. Side-by-side with his priest, George would look straight into the devil’s face! He told me that he had a terrible struggle to hold the possessed boy down; that he could spit across the room with deadly accuracy. Indeed, the spittle would fly around the book and still hit the priest in the face. The ritual book dissolved somewhat from the fluids expelled. At one point George lost his patience and even slugged the other boy to keep him under control. He saw himself as the popular priest’s body guard. The priest made him go to confession and pledged him not to tell his mother and friends at that time the details of the encounters. They tied the hands and feet of the boy to the bedposts. He reacted violently to the ritual. Loose items in the room crashed to the floor. The bed shook uncontrollably. Strenuously the large server sought to hold the bed down. The victim was a small boy and yet he possessed incredible strength. The priest warned his young assistant not to enter into dialogue with the boy, only to give the required responses to the ritual words of the priest. Strange words came forth from the restrained boy, supposedly Aramaic, a form of ancient Hebrew. Previously the boy had taunted the priest in Latin. Objects were thrown around the room. The boy growled like an inhuman animal. Then it happened. Somehow the boy had gotten a hand free of the restraints. He secretly tore through the heavy mattress and ripped out a metal spring. The server responded to the words uttered by Fr. Hughes in the ritual. At the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, the possessed boy attacked the priest and tore a gash into the cleric’s arm from his shoulder to his wrist. Blood exploded over everything! The ritual prayer book was caked in the priest’s blood! He screamed out! George tried to restrain the demoniac and was hit hard in the eye. The exorcism had ended in failure. The priest’s life was saved by the efforts of his server and the quick actions by the doctors; his arm ended up with a long track of a hundred plus stitches. He would have lingering problems with the arm and it would visibly drag at the consecration during Masses.
As an interesting aside, the young server in this episode having been struck in the eye by the afflicted boy, would develop a black eye and it was joked that maybe the priest had socked him. When the priest mysteriously left the parish, only he knew the true reason. The good priest would need to recuperate from his terrible encounter and injury. After this event, colleagues of the priest said that Fr. Hughes was never quite the same. He became quieter. He was intensely reserved about what had happened. One remarked that it was as if he was a haunted man. He died in 1980. Now his faithful server has joined him in eternity. Other exorcists would finish the exorcisms in St. Louis and the demoniac would eventually be freed of his infirmity.
A few days ago an obituary matter-of-factly announced the death of SK George L. Chapman, Jr., PFN. Many of our members are new Knights and would not know him. His death notice noted that he was “a devoted father of Brian (Karen) Chapman and Michael Chapman and is also survived by two grandchildren, Cody and Corine; brothers, Francis and Paul; sisters, Geraldine Daily, Eileen Issing, Regina Shouse, and Claire Rollins; and numerous nieces and nephews.” Yes, he was a good family man and like all the rest of us mortal. But, he was also a faithful Catholic who trusted the promises of Jesus his Savior. Working to the very end, he was serving as Lecturer this fraternal year for P.G. Council 2809.
I felt his passing very personally and lamented that I could not make his funeral. We lost a great Knight of Columbus, a Catholic gentleman who epitomized everything a Knight should be. George played a part in the degrees that first brought me into the Knights of Columbus over 20 years ago. I can recall his strong and dramatic voice and the way he moved in his ceremonial robes. The candidates were mesmerized by every word he spoke, not just memorized, but words that had melded as part of him. Over the years, I would repeatedly run into him at the various functions of our order. Always busy, he even acted as a host for informational video presentations sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. You may have seen some of them on cable. A few of them are available on YouTube. Just as his dear priest friend once used the words of the ritual against Satan, George never forgot the power of words and used his gifted voice to inspire faith and service in other Catholic men, particularly his beloved Knights of Columbus.
Rest in Peace!