Johanna Michaelsen - The Beautiful Side of Evil Reviews

Johanna Michaelsen - The Beautiful Side of Evil

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Bless Me Father, For I Have Stretched

May 9, 2013 (Updated May 13, 2013)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Interesting human story

Cons:Um... hard to tip-toe around all these elephants in the room...

The Bottom Line: Proported story of one woman's escape from the occult into Christianity.  Not one of the more lurid of the bunch; nevertheless to be taken with a grain of salt.


I stumbled across this book buried deep in my closet during my recent move. In all honestly, I don’t recall how it came into my possession. The pages are yellowed and it’s dated 1982. It’s conceivable it was sitting there quietly gathering dust for 30 years.

Author Johanna Michaelsen’s sister Kim was once married to Hal Lindsey, author of The Late Great Planet Earth and presently host of some TV news commentary show aimed at convincing Christians that the end of the world is about to come--even if it hasn’t come just yet. Lindsey wrote a forward to the present book. Johanna and Kim are also great grand-nieces of one Dixie Jarratt Haygood, who performed amazing feats of apparent strength and later as a medium under the stage name Annie Abbot, “The Little Georgia Magnet” in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Michaelsen sees her ancestor’s antics not as parlor tricks but as manifestations of demonic power and herself as the heir to her great-great aunt’s “gifts.”

Michaelsen’s story makes for a good narrative. On one level, the reader gets a tale about a lonely young girl, entering adulthood, to whom an air of “weirdness” rightly or wrongly is attached. She has difficulty making friends. One can’t help but feel for her as she tries to make her way in the world.

On another level, get you hip waders on, ‘cause it’s gonna get mighty deep. I’m not speaking so much of the religion and the demonic forces she writes of but the fear mongering that grows from--or drives--the narrative. There are some moments of comic relief--such as when the “psychic surgeon” Michaelsen works with after college calls her father by the wrong name during a procedure and her father corrects her--but overall, she spends her life running in fear from the demonic. It begins the night an entity moves into the house while she and her sister are home alone. The entity torments her for no apparent reason, manifesting itself to her in gory visions and taunting laughter no one else notices. Housemaids won’t stay.

In college (where, in the spirit of the times, she smokes marijuana and ingests mescaline), she walks in the woods with silent “little people.” Hostile spirits haunt the auditorium late at night where the theater group she’s involved in works.

The psychic surgeon known as Pachita was a real person who was studied by third parties. At least in Michaelsen’s documentation, no one caught her committing fraud. Michaelsen maintains that a spirit performed miracles through her though not all patients were healed. The problem for her was that the spirit was demonic and Pachita’s miracles were therefore evil. The elephant in the room is that there is no corroborating evidence that Michaelsen ever worked with Pachita. At the same time I must add that to the best of my knowledge--and I did look--it does not appear that her family has ever called her out on any of the tales told in the book.

For an author who has such a simplistic world view, the writing is surprisingly good. No one will confuse it with great literature, but it is quite readable even for a non-believer until she gets to preaching. At that point, it becomes--well, insufferable.

One of the things that Michaelsen claims is a vehicle for the devil is yoga. I confess I stretched a bit back in the day (or stretched my back a bit. It wouldn’t go any farther). Whatever demon was supposed to pounce on me must have been asleep at the switch. Or busy corrupting a more likely prospect at a game of Dungeons and Dragons. But I digress…

It’s difficult for me to recommend this book, interesting human story notwithstanding. Not that I don’t have sympathy for Michaelsen. Again with memoirs, where does the truth end and the tale-telling begin? (My guess is, in this case, the former ends soon and the latter starts early and often, but I’m biased.) Nevertheless, the deal breaker is the open, naked fear-mongering she preaches.



*****Many thanks once again to Patsy (pestyside) for adding another book to the database for me.*****


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