[adapted from Lying Wonders, Strangest Things]
For your discernment: The case of a boy named Cornelio Closa, Jr. You think the phenomena in The Exorcist were extraordinary?
Thirteen at the time, Cornelio was walking with a friend named Rudolfo Carmine across a large field on the way home from school in Manila in 1952 when he suddenly started to point toward a spot in front of a brick wall. Cornelio had stopped in his tracks.
His eyes were “almost bulging out of their sockets,” said the friend. He said he saw a girl in a long white dress, beckoning him. He said she was gorgeous. “I looked,” said Rudolfo. “I looked several times. As he approached the wall I saw him put out his hand and as he did I swear I saw Cornelio disappear from sight.”
That was a temporary disappearance, but immediately after, Cornelio became what can be most charitably called a problem child. Once amiable, he was now sullen, antagonistic, and angry, fighting with his parents, pushing away food, and snarling, said his father, “like an animal.”
With each passing day, young Cornelio became less manageable. “I was losing control,” his mother said. He sat in a corner of the room, brooding and staring into space. He refused to study.
His parents were at a complete loss. “I was getting used to this kind of behavior,” said his mother, “until one evening when he looked particularly flushed and sick and with the doors and windows in the house locked, he vanished into thin air in front of my eyes. I was horrified.” The boy kept appearing and disappearing. No one wanted to be near him. He hid objects from his parents and stole money from them. He leapt at his father in a wild, uncontrolled manner, smashing dishes. Doctors at a national mental center had no answers, and in desperation Cornelio Sr. brought his son to a juvenile correction facility—but so disruptive was the boy that he was tied to his bed and finally sent back home, where his parents resigned themselves to living with a “monster.” There were disturbances at school—including fisticuffs, which, again, were totally out of character.
He had been a “quiet boy,” said his teacher. Now he was such “a nuisance” that she wished he didn’t attend her class. He battled with others at the slightest provocation. “The strange thing about these fights was that Cornelio, as small as he was, would take on three or four boys larger than him and together the larger boys could not hold him down,” the teacher, a Mrs. Agospi, told a film crew. “He had superhuman strength.”
A few days after the fight—when the boy was called to the front of his class to give a presentation [left, re-enactment]—“he went to the blackboard,” testified his teacher, “stood there for a few moments, and then simply . . . evaporated.” He was there and then he was not—solid and then transparent and invisible. In front of an entire classroom. The teacher immediately resigned. The events caused Cornelio to “laugh and laugh,” she recalled, “a hideous kind of laughter.
It didn’t belong to a boy. In fact it didn’t belong to a human being.” Sleep became impossible. He said it felt as if his clothes were burning. When he opened his eyes, he would see the girl, enticing him to come. Touching her hand, he felt like he was floating in the air. “Many times [she and I] would go to the movies,” claimed the boy, “and I knew no one could see us. Other times we would go to a restaurant, and when the time came to pay, we would conveniently disappear.”
If it was just one witness, one would hurriedly brush it off—blame it on too much fiction (or too much something). But that wasn’t the case. “He was tormented by an alien entity for more than a year,” said a well-known evangelical missionary, Dr. Lester Sumrall, who personally talked to the teacher and visited Cornelio’s home. “This spirit would cause him to disappear from a classroom at school or from his home. Because of his disappearing from the classroom, the boy’s schoolteacher had a nervous breakdown and never recuperated sufficiently to teach again. Cornelio’s father would nail the doors and windows shut, but Cornelio did not need natural openings to get in and out of the house.
“The story of the invisible boy is true. It is a story to which I was intimately related. I hired people to check out the validity of this story, including policemen who took signed affidavits about it. We investigated the whole matter very carefully.
“We didn’t want the slightest possibility of falsehood or misrepresentation in it. It is surely one of the most well-documented cases in our files and interesting to note that a religious leader, Reverend H. A. Baker, traveled from the United States to the Philippines to verify the facts of this case. They were unbelievable to him. But after talking to all of those involved and establishing the facts, he wrote me and said: ‘Unbeknown to you, I visited the Philippines. I contacted Cornelio, the schoolteacher, the parents, and their neighbors. I discovered that it is absolutely true . . .’ “This went on for one entire year, with the situation becoming worse and worse,” Sumrall added.
Admittedly, it’s a book — Lying Wonders — full of what it says: strangeness. Amazements. Warnings. Wonders. It goes beyond the normal lockstep of religious media.
“The parents told me that the whole family would be in the front of their home and their children would be down on the floor playing. Suddenly, with everybody looking, Cornelio would just disappear. The other children would start coughing and vomiting because of the stench he would leave behind. When he disappeared, he might be gone for two days or more. Then he might just appear again in bed, asleep. He would come in the house without using windows or doors. He would just suddenly be there.” A Methodist preacher who tried to help told Sumrall that the child once “disappeared right out of my hands.” It is what is known in mysticism as the “cloak of invisibility.”
But prayed over by Sumrall at a service—“Lord Jesus, we plead Thy holy blood; be free in Jesus Christ’s Name!”— it came, we are told, to a screeching halt. Cornelio was set free. And when he looked next at the girl, the entity morphed into an angry, ugly being. No more missing Cornelio, ever again.
It was the beautiful “girl” who disappeared.