Demons and Angels: The spirit war around us

NEW ORLEANS – It happened one evening that I was in a slave quarters apartment in the Vieux Carre shopping for a place to live. I was new to the city and overcome by the crowds, the garish neon signs offering alcohol and sexual entertainment, and the damp, musty smell of centuries. I was following the landlord up the creaking stairs when I struck a physical barrier. I literally could not proceed. An ominous dark heat surrounded me, and I felt an evil presence that I’ve only felt a few times. Muttering my apologies, I descended back into the courtyard, where I felt the evil presence beneath my feet, oozing from the flagstones. Hurrying back out to the street, through the narrow walkway, I emerged onto Ursulines Street. The choking pressure eased, and I could gulp fresh air again.

It was not the last time or place I would feel this presence. I’ve always been sensitive to the spirit of places. From battlefields in Vicksburg and Normandy to a torture chamber in Salzburg, at specific tombs in the Cities of the Dead or ancient Anasazi ruins. I could feel pools of dark, oppressive presence, echoes of gruesome death, or evil deeds. I had no doubt that evening that I had experienced evil. I wasn’t sure what kind, but it was something special to stand out in the seething background of one of America’s most blood-stained cities.

Dante’s Crescent was born that evening, as I thought about the dark centuries of violence, slavery, occult practices, and outright murder and torture that had taken place here. Not that New Orleans is exceptional. Every city has its Bourbon Street, its dark history, or its opportunity to ensnare a lost soul. But I could tell this one’s story. I envisioned the Crescent City not as a circle of hell, as in Dante’s Inferno, but as Dante’s Crescent – a portal to hell where imperiled souls gathered and waited as prey for demonic forces working to lead them into perdition.

The North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain is a honey trap – baited by relatively good schools and comfortable incomes for New Orleans commuters. A safe place to raise their families away from the squalid dangers of Orleans Parish. But it is a place that can breed deadly violence for the bored teens of those commuters. Overdoses, traffic accidents, and drugs take a toll as inexorable as that of bullets and poverty in the Ninth Ward. Dante’s Crescent begins as a group of these bored, comfortable teens break into a little country chapel and perform a ceremony to summon a demon. Most think they are playing a game. All pay with their lives. And they set off a cycle of demonic violence that shatters not only their quiet town but also the big city glittering across the lake.But that’s not the end of the story. A scarred youth pastor who left a leg in Afghanistan agonizes over the kids’ deaths and heads to New Orleans to meet with his spiritual mentor. The youth pastor soon finds he has not left the battlefield behind. Instead, during a crisis of faith, he discovers unlikely allies: a goth stripper and her companion dog, who are more than what they seem.

Let the story begin.