A trio of Christian homeschoolers from Scottsdale, Arizona, have taken up an unusual extracurricular activity on top of their academic studies – they perform exorcisms! Brynne Larson, 17, Tess Scherkenback, 17, and Savannah Scherkenback, 20, are all black belts in karate, fans of musical theater, and members of the Mars Hill Speech and Debate Club. These pretty, eloquent, and well-rounded young women enjoy hanging out with friends, riding horses, going to the mall, and styling their hair – that is, when they’re not busy chasing demons. “We’re just normal girls who do something extraordinary for God,” Brynne told an ABC reporter. “There is a war going on every day, being waged against us. Satan hates us. We know how the enemy is, we know what he’s attacking and we can fight back.”
“When a demon comes into someone,” explained Tess, “its desire is to steal, kill and destroy that person’s identity, that person’s life.” The Bible clearly affirms the reality of demon possession, and exorcism has been a legitimate practice throughout the history of the church. The Roman Catholic Church developed specific teachings for priests assigned to perform exorcisms. In Protestant practice the exorcist is often a member of the church, or an individual thought to be graced with special talents or skills. Although many people think the teens are too “unprepared” and “unqualified” to be performing exorcisms, there’s no real reason not to believe that these girls couldn’t be genuinely good at it. The three young women were mentored by Brynne’s father, Rev. Bob Larson of the Spiritual Freedom Church.
Rev. Larson is a self-taught expert on cults, the occult, and supernatural phenomena. He has also performed thousands of exorcisms during his career. After discovering that his own daughter Brynne (pictured on the far left) was a gifted exorcist, he went on to train the other teens, and believes them to be particularly effective at the art of overcoming demonic possession. But not everyone is suitable to become an exorcist. Rev Larson says that “you must have had a calling from God…. Once you have proved that becoming an exorcist is your God-given path, intensive training can take weeks and possibly months.” While there is a lot of skepticism about what the girls do, Brynne insists, “After seeing an actual exorcism in person, led by us, you will walk away with no doubt, whatsoever.”
There is no set protocol for performing an exorcism. The exorcist may use rituals, sacred objects, or prayer. The teen girls come armed with Bibles, crosses, and holy water. The exorcist often invokes the names of God, Jesus, a litany of saints, and/or several different angels and archangels while commanding a demon to depart. Brynne emphasizes, “It’s not us casting demons out, it’s God’s power working through us casting the demons out.” Tess says, “There are two parts to an exorcism. Firstly, you must deal with inner healing, to get rid of traumatic experiences from childhood and beyond, and secondly, deliverance from demons.” As for safety concerns, “We do this under Dad’s supervision,” Brynne adds. “We never do it alone. He’s been doing it for 30 years. He would know if something was going wrong.”
Rev. Larson carefully interviews each client and a 12-page psychological profile must be completed to determine that the nature of the affliction is not actually a mental or medical illness before proceeding with an exorcism. According to Rev. Larson, the telltale signs of demonic possession include an extreme aversion to anything having to do with God, Jesus, or the cross. He says that he can often tell just by looking into a person’s eyes – the mirror of the soul – and notes that possessed individuals will speak in a low growling voice when the demon inside them is confronted. Since a possessed person can also display superhuman strength and violent behavior, the girls need to be accompanied by strong men to hold the person down while they work on purging the demons.
Rev. Larson says he’s aware of the danger the girls are in by performing exorcisms, but says: “The Christian life is risky. Ministry is risky. Taking on the devil is risky. What’s riskier? Saying no to God.” On Inside Edition, Laura Larson described her daughter Brynne’s enthusiasm for learning how to perform exorcisms: “It was something that she really wanted to do. There was a natural interest in it. I love that it was something that she initiated. It was something that she believed and is committed to.” Jenny Scherkenback, the mother of Tess and Savannah, is also content with her daughters becoming exorcists. “I feel more at ease about where they are in their lives than ever before,” she told 3TV, “because they are doing God’s work and that’s a great place to be.”
Brynne Larson – Brynne, 17, is known by the other girls as the “enforcer” and is said to be the leader of the group. She is a homeschooled junior in high school and is planning to attend college. The redhead competes on the beauty pageant circuit, is active in speech and debate, takes a leadership class, and is president of the honor society. She also loves quiet leisure time activities like reading, studying and writing. Brynne is dedicated to serving God and one of her greatest joys is to tell others about Him. Brynne began to travel the world with her exorcist father when she was just a child. “We have travelled all over the world performing exorcisms. I have been to Africa, Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Latvia and even the Bahamas, saving souls along the way.” While her father is the family’s spiritual leader, Brynne’s mother believes that homeschooling is an essential part of her calling and commits a great quantity of time to its fulfillment. This includes daily homeschooling duties with her three children, and rushing from one activity to the next.
Savannah Scherkenback – Savannah, 20, a homeschool graduate and college student, is known as the “compassionate one.” Since she was very young, she has wanted to help people and to serve God as a missionary and evangelist. Her dream is to complete her college education and then travel the world sharing the truth of the gospel, encouraging and motivating other young women and men to take a stand and let God use them to change the world. Savannah doesn’t watch television and isn’t a big fan of popular culture, declaring “I think Harry Potter and the Twilight films are instigators of evil.” Savannah revealed that she herself underwent an exorcism at age 18 after suffering from extreme depression and sickness. When doctors couldn’t find anything medically wrong with her, Savannah’s parents took her to the local ministry. There, Savannah claims an evil spirit was cast from her. Savannah was so grateful and amazed that she signed up to become a trainee exorcist.
Tess Scherkenback – Tess, 17, is known as “the middle man” because the others say she can play both good cop and bad cop roles. A junior in high school, Tess is a lifelong homeschooler with a passionate heart for God. She reads classic literature such as the works of Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, and of course, the Bible. She and her friend Brooke Larson (Brynne’s sister) often work as a team in Homeschool Speech and Debate tournaments. Tess and her older sister Savannah are really close, too. They love to do everything together including spending time with their family, going hiking and running, and watching old movies (especially musicals). Tess also performs in local musical theater productions.
Brynne, Savannah, and Tess have been featured in national and international media including Inside Edition, ABC’s Nightline, Anderson Cooper, Good Morning America, National Geographic, Fuji TV (Japan), 60 Minutes (Australia), and Fabulous Magazine (England’s most-read magazine). There are also rumors of a reality show in development starring the three girls, tentatively called “All-American Girls Fighting Satan.” After taping the Anderson show, the teen exorcists had a lot more to say backstage about their work, how they’re helping others, as well as a special message for teens. (“When you limit God, nothing big happens … [but] … we want to empower teens to change the world.”) Take a look:
What do you think, is it appropriate for teen girls to be performing exorcisms? Are they qualified enough in your opinion? Why is their vocation so controversial? Please share your thoughts in the comments. (Comments are moderated so yours may not appear immediately.)