The Catholic Church has revealed how growing interest in satanism and the occult has led to a rise in exorcisms across Queensland. One priest, who asked not to be named for fear of "reprisals", said he was carrying out at least one exorcism a fortnight.
More requests for exorcisms came from the Gold Coast than anywhere else.
An exorcism involves holy water, sacrament and Bible reading and can go on for many hours, the priest said. Linda Blair made the subject famous in the 1973 film, The Exorcist.
"Being possessed by a demon is terrifying in one's mental and emotional life," he said. "Some of these manifestations are extremely powerful, causing people to be plagued by disturbances. They hear voices and see hideous creatures in their sleep.
"There has been a recruitment of pagan practices, and it's sheer poison.
"The Gold Coast is not good at all. I do far more exorcisms there than Brisbane."
The Catholic Church has vowed to "fight the devil head-on" by training hundreds of priests as exorcists. Bishop Brian Finnigan, acting head of the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane, said it was important for the church to carry out exorcisms.
"People need to be freed of that burden," he said.
Father Gabriele Amorth, 82, the Pope's Exorcist-in-Chief, announced the initiative recently amid church concerns about an increase in people dabbling in the occult. Under plans being considered, each bishop would have a group of priests in his diocese who were specially trained in exorcism.
Father Amorth said: "Too many bishops are not taking this seriously and are not delegating their priests in the fight against the devil. You have to hunt high and low for a proper, trained exorcist."
Queensland Catholic priests can carry out exorcisms only if they have been authorised by an archbishop.
The priest source, who is based in Brisbane, is the only one permitted to do exorcisms in the state. He said he had travelled to Rockhampton, Cairns, Townsville and Toowoomba to save people.
"We are not very plentiful and certainly need more of us to cope with the big occult following that is emerging today," he said.
"It's frightening what can happen when you invite entities into your life which are not meant to be part of God's world."
He said one woman he had met had been plagued by demonic manifestations since taking part in a playground witch game as a child.