In 2011, at an Easter Vigil in a simple parish church in New York State, a number of souls were received into the Catholic Church. As it does every year, the ceremony moved from the darkness surrounding the Paschal Fire through the many readings from the Old and New Testament to the proclamation of the triumph of the Resurrection – reminding all present that the long reign of Sin and Death has finally ended. On that night, those adults becoming Catholics made their baptismal promises. They accepted the Truths of the Faith. They rejected Satan and all his works and all his empty promises.
It is right and fitting that they did so, but for one among them it had an even greater significance than for the others present that night. Previously, he had been part of a witch’s coven. For many years, he had practiced its blasphemous rites, and seen things that he maintains could only have come from Hell as that is whence he had summoned them.
Of course, Fred Wolff had not always been a Satanist. In fact, he was born, in 1956, into a New York Jewish family. His family was not overtly religious. Nevertheless, the boy attended the local synagogue and Hebrew School, and then duly made his Bar Mitzvah. He left the practise of his faith when aged 16-year-old. A year later he had his first introduction to the Occult.
A friend brought him to meet his cousin. This cousin happened to run an Occult bookshop in Wolff’s hometown. There, the youth met men who were witches; soon he was happily being inducted into Wicca. Wicca pretends to be magic of the sort that harms no one. Looking back, Wolff sees it was harming him, and more worryingly opening the channel to another deeper, more dangerous, encounter with evil.
On one level, Wolff’s life appeared normal. In 1977, he joined the Air Force and was duly posted to different parts of the country. On another level, his life was anything but normal. In these different postings with the military, he would be connected to Occult groups that were present wherever he was stationed. In his own words, such covens are ‘widespread’ – true then, no doubt, even more so today.
One encounter proved too much, though, and showed where this was ultimately leading. Wolff was posted to California. A man approached him. As he did so, he noticed that the man carried a leather case with a Pentagram upon it. This symbol of devil worship proved to be portentous, for the man was a Satanist. He invited Wolff to his first Black Mass.
It took place in San Francisco and left the airman traumatised. He had never experienced anything like it before, despite the many Wicca ceremonies in which he had taken part. What he does remember of that ‘mass’ was that the chief ‘celebrant’ of its blasphemy was a defrocked Catholic priest.
Here is not the place to recount the vile things witnessed that night as the Holy Mass was perverted into a sacrilege. What Wolff remembers clearly is that he was aghast while attending it. But, no matter how frightened he felt of what was taking place before his eyes, there seemed to be another power, albeit an invisible one, holding him there, preventing his leaving.
After his discharge from the air force, in 1981, Wolff returned to civilian life. He also returned to the practise of his pagan ways. Soon he was the High Priest, so called, of his local coven on Long Island. And, so it remained, and would have done so, had not a figure from his past reappeared in the winter of 1982. That person was one of the people whom he had met at the Occult bookshop all those years previously, and who, subsequently, had introduced him to Wicca. He came with a curious request.
The man was convinced that he had found the ritual and invocations to conjure up a demon. He asked if Wolff wanted to participate in what he was about to attempt. More out of curiosity than anything, Wolff agreed; however, what was about to take place was to change both men’s lives.
A so-called ‘circle of protection’ was marked upon the floor. His friend told him that as long as they stayed within the circle’s confines they would be ‘safe’. The chanting of the long incantations began. Little did either of them know of the power of evil and that Satan and his demons have one goal: to destroy all those with whom they come into contact, ‘friend’ or foe. And yet, the ritual continued.
As it did so, from the corner of the darkened room, a figure began to appear. As it came into the light, Wolff remembers it was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, with a beauty that was captivating. She beckoned to him to leave the circle. Somehow, motivated by fear more than anything else, he managed not to move. It was just as well for within seconds the figure had changed from beautiful to that of a hideous shape. In fact, he was later to say that it was the most horrible thing he had ever set eyes on. But, by then, he says, the ‘real show’ had just begun.
The very walls around the two men appeared to melt. And with that, came the most suffocating and awful smell – a sulphuric smell. Today, Wolff realises that he was being given his very own glimpse of Hell. Now, he says that when he hears of people who say that Hell doesn’t exist, he knows they are wrong – he has seen it, smelt it even.
And, with the coming of Hell, so too arrived one of its occupants as the summoned demon now made an entry.
The reaction on seeing this shape was one of fear, a paralysing fear. The demon looked straight at the two men and then laughed at them, asking if they thought the circle would really keep them safe? Before any answer was uttered, Wolff’s companion was lifted from the floor and thrown against an adjacent wall approximately 15 feet away. At this, Wolff could take no more and fled horror-struck through the house before locking himself in a room.
How long he hid there, he still has no idea. What he does know, in retrospect, is that if the Hand of the Almighty had not sheltered him that night he is convinced that he would now be dead. Of this, he is certain.
His companion did not fare so well, however. When Wolff emerged and returned to the room where the ritual had taken place, he found him lying on the floor, foaming at the mouth. A police and ambulance were soon in attendance. The police did not believe Wolff’s story that he had just ‘happened by’ and found his friend in this state; but there was no overt evidence of violence or drug use and so the police let it go. Eventually, his friend was taken to a psychiatric institution on Long Island. He was to die there from self-inflicted wounds some years later.
Wolff had now seen too much. He wanted out. At last, he sensed the danger he was in. The next day, he told the other members of the coven of this desire to leave. They started to threaten him: no one was going anywhere; somehow, he managed to get away from them and ran to his car parked outside. But try as he might, the car wouldn’t start. And as he was sitting there, turning the ignition, suddenly, out of the building from which he had just fled, there appeared two witches. In the rear-view mirror, he could see that they had spotted his car. He watched as they seemed to cast a spell at Wolff and his vehicle. The next moment all he remembers was that the windows of his car blew out.
It was then the car started, and, seconds later, a dazed Wolff sped off into the night …
The following day when he went to get the glass repaired, the men doing so commended him for doing a ‘good job’. He did not understand what they meant. So they explained that obviously he had cleaned the inside of the car from all the broken glass. The only thing was, he hadn’t. To this day, Wolff is sure that something, or someone, had protected him from the force of the blast so as the shattering glass had been deflected away from him. He thinks this could only have occurred through the protection of his guardian angel.
At Wolff’s then work place, there was a Christian who had often tried to speak to him about Christianity. Wolff had never been interested. Now, when he met the man, he begged him to take him to church. Days later, at a Baptist church, watched by his surprised work colleague, Wolff accepted Our Lord as his Saviour. As he was to say later, after the night of that infernal ritual, he knew he needed a saviour; and, perhaps more importantly, he knew from what he was being saved.
The years that followed were far from easy. He got married, but the marriage broke down; he suffered from depression. His church attendance was sporadic. He had no firm adherence to any of the many Protestant groups he attended. There was a constant theme running through these groups though. It was a fear of Catholicism, often dressed up in arguments against or negative comments about the Church. Paradoxically, these polemics had the opposite effect on Wolff. He began to read books by authors such as Scott Hahn, Patrick Madrid and other Catholic apologists. The more he read, the more a shape formed in his consciousness, but one wholly unlike the hideous figure of that dreadful night many years ago. This was an altogether different one, and one whose beauty was true, for it was the Bride of Christ, His Church.
Now, at last, at that Easter Vigil in 2011, in a church dedicated to her who crushes the head of the serpent, Wolff attended a Holy Mass instead of the counterfeit he had witnessed in the past, and, having confessed all, received his Saviour in Holy Communion, and, with it, the peace and joy that casts out all fear.