Another Catholic
Church cover-up

New Netflix movie distorts truth of famous Mary apparitions in Fatima 1917

I was 26 years old when I started hearing voices. Rapid onset of mental illness was like rapid onset of cancer. Horrifying and unforeseen and life-changing, life-ruining. No life but the illness.

The voices said religious things to me. Chilling. They criticized me expertly. Deeply hurtful. They had witty commentaries. Literally they made me LOL, so that I’d burst into out of the blue laughter, like “a crazy person.”

Voice-hearing, after a lifetime of not hearing, was piss-your-pants scary. But the overnight alcoholism, and the stigma of lunacy disabled me so thoroughly I couldn’t even seek help, because I felt seeking help, in this condition, might land me in a rowed bed (bed, bed, bed, bed, bed) at a psychiatric ward for the rest of my life.

Ultimately I was found by relatives in a stupor and was placed on a 5150 hold at a nearby hospital.

“Pheeww,” the doctor in her lab coat whistled when her body passed mine. “I can smell the booze from here.”

At the hospital, they confiscated my clothes and my shoes and my phone and my bag. The nurse gave me a unisize sea-green hospital robe.

My school uniform was back. I was identical to all the other costumed weirdos again.

The doorman mimicked a prison guard. Sea-green too, he smacked gum, ordered me about, lift your arms, pat pat pat, spread your legs, pat pat pat.

When he opened the door to the ward the lighting changed. High-wattage neon, designed for surveillance. A ludicrous brightness. Lighting blamed for the induction of migraines. The kind of lighting women hate in dressing rooms, for its exaggeration of every blemish and wrinkle, which was similar to what happens in psychiatric care facilities—flaws get magnified for scrutiny. Everyone has sizable flaws (guarded usually as sizable secrets) but a circus spotlight was being cast down on our flaws alone, contributing to the isolation of “the freak;” all of whom were now formally sidelined in an easy-to-spot stream of bright light.

By the entrance were a cluster of zombie patients walking in an aimless idiot daze, because there was so little room to walk and it was clear they were trying to move their bodies, to exercise (or exorcise) them somehow. One patient was doing knee raises in the corner.

I joined the huddle in my medical nightgown, my bare legs shivering.

“HELP!” a voice screamed, a real one I think, and this scream was followed by a great ruckus. A green man was bolting for the exit door, slipping all over the shiny white hospital floor as he ran.

Quickly he was wrestled to the floor by a stampede of white nurses with white hooves. He was screaming back into their chaos “…My lawyer! (muffled) I want my lawyer!” (one look at him and we knew he didn’t have a lawyer) until he was dragged kicking and screaming into a private side room, which my captor informed me is the place unruly patients go to have their arms and legs strapped down with restraints.

“But not if you’re good,” she said, escorting me past several rows of gurneys. “That’s only for those who are non-compliant.”

For the next several hours the other patients would float around in their gowns, talking to one another, or screaming at doctors. But I wasn’t trying to make friends or enemies. I was going to sit statuesque on my gurney, and fake polite to the doctors, and fake reformed to my ability, and get the heck out of here.

But it was so hard. I could still hear the voices nipping at me in the black psychic background and now even my whereabouts were confusing. Nothing existed inside this surreal arctic closet. No cell phones were allowed, no computers, no pens and paper, no blankets or pillows for the flat hard gurneys, no trees, no birds, no sky. It was a prison in every way, a peculiar white prison, white walls and white floors and white ceilings and white air, and no windows whatsoever, so you couldn’t see anything besides the white. “For every action is an opposite and equal reaction,” and just so, my black out had immediately resulted in a snowed-in blizzard-like white out.

Time for bed, they said, they who could decide. They gave me a non-negotiable paper Dixie cup of pills to sleep, just like in the movies; finally I slept.

Night felt the same as day though because blank white walls and blank white neon don’t change in appearance, which gave the hospital an eerie timeless condition; a whitehole of time and space, an infinity backdrop. The time was always white o’clock. Nothing o’clock. And then it dawned on me—this was an actual physical representation of Purgatory. That is, it was a shocking emptiness-filled waiting area, to be waited in while superior beings decided what they would do to you for your “sins.”

Like Purgatory you might be able to convince your Superiors through good behavior not to hurt you—not to send you to a darker more permanent living facility—but the odds were against you, since your behavior had already landed you in this terrible waiting area.

One nurse told me offhandedly, in a don’t worry manner, that the absolute maximum they could keep anybody for was two years.

“Two years?” I yelled. (I had become a yeller just like the patients I had criticized yesterday for their poor strategy.) “Is that really possible? I didn’t commit any crime! I just drank too much!”

She replied, casually, not to worry, that I’d be assigned a public defender if it came to “all that.”

But just picturing two years inside that alabaster box I felt a new previously-untouched branch of my brain snap off and for one second I entered a new type of insanity, where I wanted to get down on all fours and mew like a cat and suck my thumb and flap my wings and perform a rain dance.


There are precursors to mental illness. With a piñata it’s never the final crack though it appears that way.

Red children were running around on a hot asphalt schoolyard. Two hundred kids in identical repeating red crewneck sweaters. Red, Red, Red, Red, Red. Like Santa’s helpers, short and red and everywhere.

“Mom, where are the slides and the swings?” I was also wearing a red plaid jumper with a matching red sweater.

“It’s a school,” she said.

“But Patrick’s school has swings and slides.”

“It’s not that kind of school.”

After Halloween came All Saints Day, and the annual Saints and angels parade. Because they were a different species, being an angel on campus was much more popular than being a Saint.

Some boys bore on their backs monstrous masculine contraptions; one boy had wings with wooden shafts that he complained were heavy. “LIKE CHRIST’S CROSS, HMMM?” said Sister Eldona with a smile. “LET’S NOT COMPLAIN THEN, HMMM?” Another's dad had deconstructed cardboard boxes to erect a pointy pair of Seraphim wings which stretched out broadly like airplane arms; the boy going through doors sideways because otherwise he would be denied entrance by his own piousness.

Saints wore Toga-wrapped bed sheets or terrycloth bathrobes. Unsure parents didn’t know how to properly outfit a “Saint” so paper plate halos were bobbypinned to the backs of orbited heads.

I had a last-minute makeshift costume: a violet lace dress meant for a taller child, purchased for 80 cents at our church’s last rummage sale, which my dirty sneakers kept tripping on, with tall spears of gladioli flowers tucked into the sash of it. The flowers, gathered two days earlier, were dying on that pageantry sash.

“Saint Bernadette!” I announced into the playground microphone, swinging my brown Easter basket. “I’m supposed to be Saint Bernadette.”

My pretty mom, with her movie star looks and her cherry ice lipstick, was in the audience clapping her hands while the children marched to the big band jingle “Oh When the Saints Go Marching In!”

It was she who made me pick Saint Bernadette, as she was in love with Saint Bernadette, owned the VHS video about her life, and wore a silver Saint Bernadette medal around her neck which had Bernadette on one side and a floating Mary on the other side.

I knew lots about Saint Bernadette too, how the ghost of “The Virgin Mary” appeared to her in a grotto cave, floating in mid air, and forced her to drink some water which was “more like mud” and eat foul-tasting grass in penance1, and to “kiss the ground in humility for (other people’s) pride.”2 She had recently been featured in one of Sister Eldona’s Saint outlines.

Every Friday was “Saint Outline Day."

Sister Eldona had an old-fashioned teaching style. Instead of passing out Xeroxes of the biographies, which would be more time efficient, we were supposed to copy their histories by oral dictation, and this lengthy process always took a whole class period.

Oddly enough, we were then sent home to re-copy what we had already copied, in better less-hurried handwriting.


By the end of the semester each student had their own 3-ring binder of Monk-like hand-copied Saint biographies with colored-penciled illustrations. Most had gory deaths:

St. Joan of Ark—burned at stake

St. Humphrey—hanged

St. Arcadius—butchered, limb by limb, starting with his toes

St. Ignatious of Antioch—devoured alive by lions

St. Catherine of Alexandria—scourged, imprisoned, then beheaded; died a virgin!

St. Agatha of Sicily—breasts cut off.

St. Thomas Moore—sentenced to be hanged and quartered; later reduced to decapitation (though he himself “approved of burning” heretics to death.4)

St. Denis—beheaded for God.

“SUCH BEAUTY!” Sister Eldona would always exclaim, for she glamorized all of the Saints and the Martyrs, the way heartsick tweens glorify their Bieber magazines. “SO GREAT WAS THEIR LOVE FOR GOD THAT TORTURE AND DEATH COULD NOT SWAY THEIR DUTY TO HIM!”

And maybe for some people there was beauty in dying for God. But what about dying for a God who keeps changing? Like how many Catholics during King Henry VIII’s reign died for the sole purpose of protecting marriage from divorce because they were convinced God—the Catholic God—despised divorce so much that he wanted His followers to die protesting it (which now is a thing almost nobody believes is true about God.)

I worried, for it seemed the logical sequence, that someday I would have to burn on a stake like Joan of Arc to prove my love for a God of the moment.

And I dreaded when the “Dancing Sun” miracle would be read to the class. I knew about the dancing sun because Mom had begun hosting Catholic parties ... On the surface they were regular happy parties, with stereo love songs and Nintendo for the kids. Our family didn’t have a lot of money to accommodate guests. Mom would do things like chop up a hot dog and fry the slices in BBQ sauce with hors d'oeuvre toothpicks. My mom—a big lover of hot dogs—believed this to be a bright creative dish, and proudly peacocked around the house shouting “It’s appetizer time!” She loved to volunteer the 2-ingredient recipe with cook time and temperature instructions.

Kids would drink sparkling cider, the grown-ups glass after glass of cheap pink wine; the kind sold economically in jugs. Pink Chablis.

Sometimes someone would borrow a five-foot-tall religious effigy from the Church and place it in the center of our dining room. A ceramic pale blue statue of the Virgin Mary—bigger than me—appeared to be drinking wine with the crowd, her body frozen in the center.

The statue was intimidating. It seemed somewhat alive. Like maybe invisible Mary was inhabiting the statue.

“Why are you scared of it?” said one of the many strange daughters of the church, who came to these parties often, and who I was forced to befriend. Her eyes turned accusatory: “Don’t you love Mother Mary?”

“It’s just so big,” I said.

“But it’s Mary.”

“It’s not the actual Mary. It’s just a creepy statue.”

“I bet that’s a sin,” she said.

“What’s a sin?”

“Saying that stuff about Mary.” Before skipping off to find her father, she spun her head round her shoulder and said, uncertainly, “I might tell on you.”

But after the levity of food and games and plastic cup mingling, the parties would get darker. The lamps would switch off and the kids would be plopped in front of the blue flashlight beam of the television for a Bible cartoon or a new wave “documentary cartoon” portraying the alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mother in remote parts of the world.

“These are true stories,” the adults would say to us, urging us to pay attention.

But these cartoon stories were horrifying—heaven forbid they were true! One cartoon—entitled The Day the Sun Danced—portrayed the Ghost of the Virgin Mary appearing as a luminous figure in the sky to three small children in Fatima, Portugal.

Recently this cartoon was remade with human actors and is now streaming on Netflix.

The year was 1917.

Lucia Santos was the eldest and tallest of the three children, a plump 10-year-old shepherdess with long dark hair covered partially by a peasant scarf. In old black and white photographs she is sad to the point of looking disturbed. On top of the apparitions she is being abused at home by a violent mother who beats her with a broom stick.

Her younger cousins are always by her side, gentle quiet 8-year-old Francisco Marto who plays the flute and rescues birds from bullies, and 6-year-old Jacinta Marto, a tiny and vivacious girl with fiery eyes who loves to dance and twirl.

A photo of the Fatima children.

The children are out tending sheep in the Cova da Iria when they are visited by a nationalist angel who announces his patrol territory: “I am the Angel of Portugal.”

They describe him as a “transparent man” and this cellophane being shows them how to pray more deeply by touching their heads to the ground. The children spend “hours and hours” prostrated and face-planted.4

The next apparition is Mary herself, standing on top of a “wretched little oak tree.”5

Standing on top of a tree is maybe even spookier than floating in mid-air. The tree is described as being only the size of a bush, and Mary resides on it like a Christmas ornament sprung to life. Just like Sister Eldona, she wears a Nun’s habit and gown and has a serious unsmiling face.

From her treetop perch, Mary makes a shocking prediction—two of the children, the smaller ones, will die soon.

Mary disappears but tells the kids she will reappear on the 13th of every month, and each month she has the same message: that everyone in the world must pray the entire 55 prayers of the rosary every single day of their lives, and also make extreme sacrifices. She shows the psychic kids a vivid firepit of hell, burning up barbequed humans, and she threatens them that the people they love will go to the fire pit if they don’t comply with daily rosaries said in her honor.6 (No wonder the statue in our living room made me uncomfortable. Turns out that awful statue did come to life for bad little children!)

The three shepherds are so afraid that they stop abbreviating their prayers, which was sometimes how they sped up the tiresome rosary, saying only the first couple of words: (“Hail Mary. Hail Mary. Hail Mary. Hail Mary. Hail Mary.”)

In their interviews the children described Mary as a vague outline “brighter than the sun” and hard to look at like the sun. She is described as a “crystal cup filled with sparkling water and lit with burning sunlight”7 “blinds my eyes” who is “always serious” when she appears,8 “a statue made of snow”9 “whiter than snow”10 “she was blinding, sometimes I had to rub my eyes”11 they say Mary “looks disapprovingly” on the boy child.12 “I can look (at her) but only a little because of the light.”13 “Because she sometimes blinds me.”14 The youngest child testifies that Mary wears white stockings, then wonders if her legs are really just that white.15

This haunted house Mary bore no resemblance to the Jewish hostess mom from the Bible who persuaded Christ to turn water into wine to keep her party guests merry drunk. Who, in fact, overturned Christ, when he told her no the first time.

“But she’s scaring me,” I wanted to say to the adults. Frequently I did say it and would rush into my mother’s arms for protection from Christ’s mother.

I had no reason to question the material being fed to me. Kids are very trusting people. Adults are always chastising us for tall tales; we can’t fathom a world where the adults lie. Whatever information they had about Heaven and Hell was obviously the truth, or else why would they be saying it?

Even though Lucia Santos wouldn’t begin her beatification process until 2008, Fatima was such a famous Catholic miracle (as it had added a prayer to the official rosary) that we were made to study her too, just as I feared, during Mary Month where we studied all the different collectible Burger King Mary’s, or “Marian Apparitions” as Sister Eldona liked to phrase it.

Turns out Ghost Marys were popping up all over the world, but each time the Ghost was a different race and called herself a different title. There was "Our Lady of Guadalupe" for the Mexican kids and "Our Lady of Lourdes" for the French ones and "Our Lady of Fatima" for the steely kids and "Our Lady of Medjugorje" which was happening right now and "Our Lady of Many Sorrows" and I didn't know which Mary that was but I hated it that I might have to (sorrowfully) study her.



(Looking up from her book, a sidenote: HMMM, WASN’T THAT MERFICUL OF OUR MOTHER IN HEAVEN? Eyes back down at her book: YES, RESUME YOUR PEN!")

So I wrote it down.

the child saints — said lots of rosaries everyday

the child saints — whipped themselves for God

It's a shocking memory—Mother Mary commanding children to self-harm. Shocking especially when you compare her pain and dehydration demands to Matthew 10:42 where Christ said:

If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is my disciple, truly I tell you, he will never lose his reward.

And Matthew 9:13:

I desire mercy, not sacrifice.

(Mercy, defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “kind, gentle, or compassionate treatment, especially to someone who is undeserving of it.”)

But forgoing mercy in favor of the apparition, our Nuns and Priests had advised us, between the lines (don't scare the parents), to whip ourselves for God.

This is what our Nuns were teaching 10-year-old children, via Saint Outlines of “better children” we should aim to impersonate.

As if it would please God to watch you punch yourself in the face all day long, to literally swing your own balled-up fist into your jaw. Or more comical even: to walk towards a staircase and intentionally hurl yourself down three flights, emerging smiling with broken front teeth like Jim Carrey; God only mildly satisfied, deciding reluctantly to spare another sinner’s life because of your slapstick sacrifice.

I raised my hand.

“Can we meet Lucia Santos someday” I asked.

The two other children had died—just as Mary predicted they would—and Lucia Santos was now the only living witness.

Sister Eldona nodded with her pursed lips and said, “WHAT A SPLENDID DREAM TO HAVE, NATALIE.”

It wasn’t to butter her up either. Sincerely I wanted to meet Lucia Santos and ask her about the apparition of Mary she saw, because 1) how radical to see a floating spirit and 2) I wanted to meet the mother of Christ too.

Sort of.

“KEEP HAVING THAT DREAM,” Sister Eldona nodded happily.

But it was confusing, too, because this weird pain-desiring “Mary” had lots of questionable quotes such as:

“Pray the rosary every day in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary…because only she can help you”17

It’s hard to believe any subordinate to a monotheistic God would ever make such a bigheaded statement. Even Christ said “Only the Father” knows certain things and can alleviate certain things. But this Mary apparition was alleging, in her own words, that only she could alleviate certain things with no mention of God whatsoever.

Even more suspicious, this vision of Mary falsely predicted the end of the war (“It will happen today” October 13, 1917.)

The Netflix movie has omitted the “today” part of that quote, since it pointedly did not come true and unsuccessful predictions cheapen the authenticity of “holy” apparitions.

However, when Lucia Santos was interrogated, she repeated verbatim what the Mary vision had told her:

“The war will end today. You can expect the soldiers very shortly.”18

But World War 1, as everyone knows, did not end in October 1917, because the war didn’t end for more than a year after “Mary’s” prediction that it had already ended.

This alarmed even the interrogating Priest, Dr. Manuel Formigao, whose records of the children were preserved:

“But listen, Lucia” he said on record. “The war is still going on. The papers give news of battles after the 13th. How can you explain that if our Lady said the war would end that day?”

Little Lucia replied: “I don’t know; I only know that I heard her say that the war would end on that day…I said exactly what our Lady had said.”19

Jacinta, the youngest child, was interrogated separately and she said the same thing:

“(Mary) said that we were to say the Rosary every day and that the war would end today.”20

The Catholic Church continues to revere the Fatima Mary by including her prayer in every rosary. But since when does such a “holy” figure make the splashy bellyflops of false predictions? I thought that was the job of The National Enquirer.

Also omitted from the children’s testimonies was that some of these apparitions were not very visible with the eye, nor were they very attractive. An early quote of Lucia’s was: “It looked like a person shrouded by a sheet.”21 (Odd, that sounds very much like the children at my Catholic School pretending in their parents’ bedding to be Saints.) And in addition to it being only 3’6” in height, Lucia said of one of the apparitions: “It did not have any eyes or hands.”22

That tidbit is never reported either, nor is it shown in the many media depictions of the Fatima apparitions, probably because a tiny levitating ghost with its eyes ripped out immediately evokes a disturbing image, something that sounds more ghoulish and grotesque to the ordinary person than heavenly.

As humorously noted in Celestial Secrets: The Hidden History of the Fatima Incident: “This angelic being keeps getting more and more bizarre. It doesn’t have any hands, or eyes, or feet—and ends up not even having a head!”23

Egad! Looking back, I had been duped by a magician’s prestidigitation trick of distraction, where I am trained to look hard at his left hand so that the right hand can impress me (a metaphorical hand, in this case, since apparently the greatest magicians make even their hands disappear in the act!)

In any case, the real story is a lot stranger than the truncated (more convincing) one the Church tells us in the pews.

In fact Lucia herself had suspicions that the “Mary” appearing to her was actually “The Devil” all along. In her own words: “I began then to have doubts as to whether these manifestations might be from the devil…truly, ever since I had started seeing these things, our home was no longer the same, for joy and peace had fled. What anguish I felt!’24

The young girl even suffered a dream during this time period wherein “the devil was laughing at having deceived me.”25

And Lucia once told her cousin, “If (Mary) asks for me, Jacinta, you tell her why I’m not there. Because I am afraid it is the Devil who sends her to us!”26

Interestingly, the devil was, at the very least, embedded into Lucia’s name. That is, I learned one day, by sheer accident, while looking at her name and scrambling some of the letters, that LUCIA SANTOS is a perfect anagram for SATANIC SOUL.

Though she is sometimes mistakenly referred to by the name Dos Santos, one of her father’s names, in her memoirs she states her full baptism name to be “Lucia (Rosa de Jesus) Santos.”27 Her main biographer, John DeMarchi, who became good friends with her, calls her Lucia Santos28 in his “authoritative” book on her life because she went by Lucia Santos in daily life. In both the 1980s cartoon, and in the film playing on Netflix, she is also referred to as Lucia Santos.

And Lucia Santos is a strangely perfect anagram for Satanic Soul.

The religious are always looking for signs from God. Couldn’t that just as easily be a sign from God too? Just as big a sign as a spectral image in the sky? A sign that perhaps this “Saint” fell under the influence of darkness—either a dark spirit if you believe in those things or a dark illness like schizophrenia if you believe in this world only; the biggest word for darkness in our lexicon being “Satan”?

Yes, anagrams are silly. But it seems reasonable to examine all pieces of evidence, no matter how ludicrous, if what we’re studying in the first place is ludicrous phenomenon!

Astrophysics genius Stephen Hawking predicted that the Earth will inevitably be threatened by an advanced alien species.

Conceivably, i.e. not so ludicrously according to science geniuses—what those children saw was perhaps the hoax of an alien. And perhaps Christ always meant “mean alien” when he said “demon.” And “nice alien” when he said “angel.” To be generous to sufferers of strange phenomenon, it’s a possibility.

Maybe Christ, another inspired mind of his time, was trying to educate the world about alien species in a time before people could comprehend they were only, what Hawking called, “just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star.”

Because if the Catholic Church won’t consider the possibility of mental illness, then perhaps they should consider alien forces. It’s just as believable as holy ghosts—particularly when the ghosts in question don’t act particularly holy.

But saying that this spirit/hallucination who commanded little children to self-mutilate was the real Mary, mother of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, was character assassination of the worst kind.

It had no Biblical or evidential basis. Its roots were all in trippy psychic ghost phenomenon. And yet Pope Francis and his Catholic Church were promoting it, and the Catholic parishioners were all buying into it—without investigation just buying, and now even Netflix is streaming movies about the Fatima apparitions tagged with the words “inspiring” and “feel good.”

Which begs the question: how did three children from the year 1917 single-handedly reinvent Mary as Marilyn Manson? She’s gothic, she’s S&M, she loves stage, adulation, torture, corsets, blood. She encourages the children to not drink water, and yet the obvious irony is that the Biblical Mary was obsessed with providing beverages to people—not even ordinary water, but the best wine.

Unfortunately, Fatima had a kind of unstoppable cachet, mostly because the apparition had added a prayer to the rosary, and the rosary was central to Catholicism.

Funnily enough, the rosary doesn’t even exist in the Bible.

I had been forced to say rosaries in the low thousands in my youth. As a little girl I would even fall asleep with the plastic glow-in-the-dark beads in my hands. So it was maddening to discover that my “holy” necklace was more similar to a lucky rabbit’s foot in its folklore (and in that it required the demise of an unlucky rabbit.) The history of the rosary is elusive and murky, no one is sure where it originated. Some have traced its invention back to "Saint Dominic," a man from the 12th century who also experienced Marian apparitions (almost 1200 years after Christ.) Other historians believe the prayer beads were ripped off from one of many obscure "pagan" religions, possibly one from ancient India.

In fact, right smack dab in the Bible, the words of Christ are:

But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the pagans do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

It seemed Christ was making a little winking wisecrack at the nervous Nuns of his own day. Humorously, dryly, tongue in cheek, he was saying that babbling the same appeal 50 or 100 times doesn’t increase one’s favor with God.

Why were so many Catholics twisting Christ’s actual words?

Don’t repeat your prayers means don’t repeat your prayers.

It’s simple.

It’s not complex.

Only a spin doctor would argue that “Don’t repeat your prayers” somehow didn’t apply to the repetitive prayers of the redundant rosary.

Actually the rosary seemed in direct defiance of Christ’s message. Not only because of its inherent “vain repetitions,” but because it required its user to say a whopping 53 times “Holy Mary Mother Of God…” Whereas Christ said not even to call him good:

“A certain ruler asked ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus replied. ‘No one is good—except God alone.’”

The rosary prayer contains the line: “Blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.” But in the New Testament a woman in the crowd actually shouts out to Jesus “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed!” and Jesus corrects her as well:

On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

And when family friends searched for Jesus to relay the message “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see you,” Christ said to them dismissively:

“My mother and my brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”

He then proceeded to ignore Mary entirely.

When Priests are approached with these Bible passages, they typically have a muddy response. “Well the rosary is honorary. And it’s meditative. Helps you meditate.” (Uhhh, if the rosary is an elongated voluntary meditation: no thanks then.)


Religious paranormal activity is scoffed at by all, for different reasons; to nonbelievers it is comedy or illness, and to believers it is sacrilege to call it illness, and also sacrilege to call it paranormal.

But when millions of people have been converted to various religions because of apparitions, then discussion becomes necessary.

Writer Jack Kerouac drank himself to death and died from the hemorrhaging. Similar to those Fatima kids, as a 6-year-old child Kerouac swore many times that he heard “God’s voice” inform him that he would someday die “in pain and horror,” and so he spent his whole life drinking and drugging in order to come to grips with his terrible fate, only for his fate to become a self-fulfilling prophecy because he only died “in pain and horror” because of his religious-fueled drunkenness. Chicken or the egg.

Charles Dickens heard voices. So did writer Virginia Woolf (killed herself because of them.) Composer Schuman heard them. One of of the Beach Boys. And it wasn’t just “creative” people. Wise humanitarian leaders also experienced the frequency: Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi. Renowned mathematicians such as John Nash. Doctors were not exempt: Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung. Neither were the golden philosophers from long ago: Socrates, Plato, Christ.

The list is surprising and varied. So many otherwise intelligent level people befuddled or afflicted or railroaded by apparitions and voice-hearing.

Why sufferers believe isn't hard to understand.

But what makes people who don’t hear voices believe vicariously?

Fatima devotees get their conviction because Mary correctly predicted the deaths of the two younger children.

During the visions, she told Francisco and Jacinta Marto that soon they would die, which was widely reported while they were both alive, and it is inarguable that those children did die.

And yet the apparitions seemed to faciliate their deaths, not merely predict them.

Both children were victims of the sweeping 1917 Spanish Flu; however all flus can be exasperated by poor health choices. And both children, in observance of the lady’s message, had been engaged in torture rituals like refusing water and food and also by wearing their aforementioned “penitance cords” so tightly around their waists that the ropes had blood stains.

In Lucia’s memoirs, she discusses the origin of the dreadful cord punishment:

“I found a piece of rope that had fallen off a cart. I picked it up and, just for fun, I tied it round my arm. Before long I noticed that the rope was hurting me. ‘Look, this hurts!’ I said to my cousins. ‘We could tie it round our waists and offer this sacrifice to God.’ The poor children promptly fell in with my suggestion…Either because of the thickness or roughness of the rope, or because we sometimes tied it too tightly, this instrument of penance often caused us terrible suffering. Now and then, Jacinta could not keep back her tears, so great was the discomfort this caused her. Whenever I urged her to remove it, she replied ‘No! I want to offer this sacrifice to Our Lord in reparation, and for the conversion of sinners.’”29

It is here where the Netflix movie, entitled Fatima, tells a bold audience-pleasing lie by ascribing a phony never-happened quotation to Mary: “Do not hurt yourselves with ropes.”

In truth, Lucia noted Mary’s approving reaction to the cords:

God is pleased with your sacrifices, but He does not want you to sleep with the rope on; only wear it during the day.”30

By saying this to the children, Mary condemned them to wear these circulation-cutting ropes at any hour they were not sleeping.

Even on her literal deathbed, Jacinta, now 9 years old, was documented as still wearing it. On one of her final days alive Lucia describes how she was summoned to the little girl’s bed and given the rope:

“Keep it for me; I’m afraid my mother may see it. If I get better, I want it back again!" This cord had three knots, and was somewhat stained with blood,” Lucia notes.31

10-year-old Francisco has a near identitcal dialgoue with Lucia on his own deathbed. He says to his older cousin:

“I wish I could suffer even more, Lucia, but honestly I can’t. Is the door closed tight?”

Lucia looked around and assured him it was. He searched then feebly but effectively among the bed-clothes until he was able to draw forth the penitential cord he had been wearing for these many, many months.

“I can’t manage it any more, Lucia. Please take it from me before my mother finds out.” He passed the coarse length of rope to his cousin who folded it and carefully kept from the chance view of anyone entering the room.32

For two full years, the kids had been refusing food and water to please the Mary vision, but when they did drink water, they made sure it was dirty water. From Lucia’s memoirs:

“As we were returning, one day, from the Cova de Iria where we had been praying our Rosary, we came to a pond beside the road, and Jacinta said to me:

“Oh I’m so thirsty, and my head aches so! I’m going to drink a little drop of this water.”

“Not that water,” I answered. “My mother doesn’t want us to drink it, because it’s not good for us.

“No! I don’t want good water. I’d rather drink this, because instead of offering Our Lord our thirst, I should offer Him the sacrifice of drinking this dirty water.”

As a matter of fact, this water was filthy. People washed their clothes in it, and the animals came there to drink and waded right into it. That was why my mother warned her children not to drink this water.”33

Eventually the children stopped drinking altogether. Their biographer reported they would go 30 day spells without taking so much as a sip, even as the scorching sun beat down on them in the fields.34 Only at night would they drink, in limited amounts.

Lucia describes their thirst as so punishing one day that she breaks down and approaches a random person’s cottage to beg for water. When she returns with it, Francisco, who died first, refuses even a drop.

“I don’t want it,” Fransciso said firmly. “I want to offer my thirst for sinners.”36

And as she is dying, shortly after her brother, Jacinta tells her cousin:

“I was thirsty, Lucia, and I didn’t drink, and so I offered it to Jesus for sinners. In the night I had pains and I offered Our Lord the sacrifice of not turning over in bed, and for that reason I didn’t sleep at all.”37

Likewise the children starved themselves to please Mary. "Lucia tells of Jacinta accepting grapes and figs from her mother, concealing, rather than consuming them."38 As Jacinta begins to die, the same Priest, Doctor Formiago, visits her once more and he writes afterwards: “Jacinta is like a skeleton and her arms are shockingly thin. Since she left the hospital where she underwearnt two months’ useless treatment, the fever has never left her. She looks pathetic.”39

A photo of Jacinta in her coffin.

In the end, Mary’s crystal ball prophesy that the kids would die didn’t seem so spectacular, given that they were essentially ordered to commit suicide.

And how about Saint Bernadette, the other impoverished child Saint we studied in school, who saw an apparition of another strictly-Catholic Mary in a grotto? Her “Mary” told her to say some more rosaries (of course) and to build a chapel in her honor; in return Mary would help Bernadette find a miraculous spring of water with magical healing powers.

To this day the spring water exists and pilgrims journey from far and wide to see if it works on their blindness, their leukemia, their crippled legs. Most of the time it doesn’t. Even The Catholic News Agency estimates that a mere 7000 people out of tens of millions who visit the water have claimed to be cured, of which only 70 cases the Catholic Church acknowledges as miraculous.40 Compared to modern medicine, compared to aspirin even, this “miraculous” water from heaven has a pitiful success rate.

For the rare Super Lotto winner who does see an improvement in their symptoms: maybe it’s not the spring water that cured them at all, but rather their faith. Christ did say to the sick “Your faith has healed you” crediting the belief of the individual, rather than anything external like magic water.

Maybe the seldom cured are tapping into that mind over matter energy that Christ and many other gurus throughout the ages have preached ad nauseum.

Maybe the existence of a physical prop—like spring water—made them believe harder than ever, like the placebo effect which scientists study.

But that doesn’t mean the water itself was holy.

Their positive belief in good health and happier days, perhaps, was holy.

(Interestingly—because it’s never reported—Saint Bernadette heard other voices shouting at her in the grotto: “Save yourself, get out of here!” But Bernadette interpreted those conflicting messages to be evil, since Mary was quote: “frown(ing) at where the voices were.”41 Which certainly bears the hallmark tug-of-war stamp of schizophrenia.)

Maybe the word “miracle” needs to be redefined. Because for centuries all kinds of churches have been running around proclaiming everything supernatural to be a miracle. But just because something is unexplainable, just because it boggles the miniscule human brain, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good or Good.

We know this from the fish.

Fish live in a world beneath ours.

Anyone on land can shine a powerful flashlight on their water ceiling and mimic the sun.

Anyone looking into an aquarium holds the prophecy of knowing the orange fish is about to bump into the blue fish on the other side of the coral, much to the surprise of both fishes.

Once in awhile people get out their fishing poles and float food over their heads.

To the fish it’s a miracle.

To the fish it’s serendipitous manna raining down from the Heavens.

But it’s a trick. We are tricking the fish. Beneath the food that might seem miraculous is a sharp lethal fish hook.

We’re not ghosts.

We’re not devils.

We’re not God.

But to the fish we might as well be.

We’re mysterious beings from a smarter blurry dimension “above” them—who will hurt them if they take the bait. Although fish might think highly of themselves, they actually have enemies (and also some vegan environmentalist friends) they cannot even comprehend.

One final Mary began appearing in 1981 in Bosnia. This is the modern day “Our Lady of Medjugorje.” Her apperances are very similar to all the other Mary’s except they spanned longer—she is still appearing in Bosnia right now, in 2022.

In the 1980s, when she first premiered, my church encouraged everyone to call a free telephone hotline every month to hear the long-distance “Mary’s Message.” Black and white newsletters spread throughout our parish containing the photographs of the young Yugoslavian seers. My Mom was very excited because this particular Mary had told the children her birthday: August 5th. Mom loved having that extra knowledge. “Mary’s a Leo!” Mom exclaimed. “Like my sister in Oregon!” Many years passed with my Mom calling the hotline every month to receive Mary’s transcribed messages, and she would hold the rotary phone to my little ear so I could also hear the recording of a solemn female voice actor, impersonating Mary, say to the callers: “Dear children…” Usually the dot dot dot was an instruction to pray more so that God didn’t lose His crazy temper and end the world. Just the standard 'pray more or else we will kill you' lecture.

Then, in 2017, the Pope did something crazy for the Pope—he denounced this one particular Medjugorje Mary as a fraud, but none of the others. He said Mary isn’t so chatty. He even compared this Mary to a post office, with all the messages she kept sending! I see. The Church liked the other Marys because they shut up eventually. This particular Mary was alarming to the Pope because she kept having more messages. There was no controlling her image. There was no guessing what she might say in the future if she kept appearing. What would she say next, that her favorite food was potato?

A photo of Saint Bernadette holding a Rosary. Pull-quote: Save yourself, get out of here!


Every three hours a troop of doctors would storm my gurney, and ask me a series of rapidfire questions.

“Your Mom in the waiting room said you heard voices in your head. Is that correct?”

“I don’t remember that,” I lied anxiously. “Apparently I hear things when I’m drunk,” I added, self-aware, trying to be in on the joke. So the doctor laughed. Together we laughed at alcoholism.

Every three hours the doctors would come back, clicking pen in hand, to check on my fluctuating sanity.

“What about that voice you heard?” they said again. It was the 5th time they asked about it.

“Your honor, I don’t remember hearing a thing.”

“Remember?” the doctor chuckled, giving me a bit of twinkling eye. “It says here on your file you hear voices.”

“But I was drunk then. I must have been really drunk, your honor, for I do not remember any such thing happening.”

One misinformed nurse tried to insist on me the wrong prescription, singing out, “It’s time for your diabetes medication!”

I screamed out, panic-stricken: “I don’t have diabetes!”

But immediately I regretted my loud defiance, fearing bad behavior or perceived bad behavior would keep me here longer, and I nearly almost changed my reply to: “Nevermind, give me the insulin, I’ll be good!”

The doctors with their pens and papers quizzed me on everything, to see if I had any sanity left at all: what was the month, what was the day, what is 12 minus 4, what is the name of your last employer so we can Google it and make sure you’ve been working. I became terrified that I’d trip up somewhere; that I’d forget in this timeless vacuum that Sunday had switched to Monday, and be proclaimed brain-dead on the spot.

Mental illness had prejudice, I realized. Because if illness was what we suffered, then why the dismal conditions?

Why were the doctors laughing and sneering at us, unlike other kinds of hospitals?

Also, since we weren’t hurting anybody else, why couldn’t hearing voices just be a symptom of human diversity, as sufferer John Nash once said? Just like how the Nuns believing they are married to God (a God who desires their sexual fidelity) is totally weird, probably delusional, but not completely improvable either; just making them and us another nonviolent minority of odd ducks in the world, a few out of many millions, who had a human American prerogative to be odd ducks if we wanted to be?

Inmates were shitting on the floor. One middle-aged drug addict had such bad diarrhea that the brown sludge was streaming down his legs onto the hospital tile, where everyone else walked barefoot.

I was mid-urination when the nurses stormed into the bathroom with him, insistent I get off the toilet so he could get on it. I yanked up my underwear so fast I didn’t even get to wipe.

The Nuns had warned us of darkness. I had found it. It was here. Like the pristine Saints, this deceptively bright formal room had so much darkness, because the jailers weren’t actually helping anyone—the idea was noble, to help, but the execution was cold, dogmatic, punishing, mocking, isolating, and ultimately harmful.

So harmful that after my release I resumed drinking immediately.

Running from my own shadow (because apparently the accidental onset of shadows was a crime punishable by imprisonment) I hid myself in Hollywood, in the photography studio my boyfriend managed. I was afraid to go home, paranoid the doctors would be waiting on my front step in their lab coats (You’re not well enough yet, there was a mistake, diabetes girl, we’re keeping you after all!)

The New York-style loft had a vintage elevator with manual doors, glossy wood floors, a ping pong table in the center of the room, and a bright red COKE machine. The big windows faced silhouetted palm trees and the urban moonlight of a neon yellow “Gold’s Gym” and I sat on those cityscape windowsills, guzzling vodka and reading my discharge papers from the hospital, my diagnosis: “alcoholic audio hallucinations” and prescription: “Attend AA Meetings.” Included in my discharge papers was a list of different Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in my neighborhood.

But when I researched AA, it was written that the creator of AA, Bill W., considered himself a “medium” and that’s where some of his famous theories came from—channeling some ghost from the 15th century named “Boniface.”42 Haha—haha were it not real!

Hi this is the Los Angeles County Hospital Mental Division. You’re very sick hearing voices in your head so you need to attend AA which was created by a guy who heard voices in his head,43,44 some “malign and mischievous,”45 others that misled him but appeared to be God initially,46 and still others that were seemingly friendly and helped him write his AA program!42

Ironically, the doctors who were so snooty about the voices were unknowingly redirecting all the schizophrenics right back to the voices.

First in my life was the ghost of the Virgin Mary, and then came the more Bonafide ghosts of Bloody Marys.

Both came with unbelievable hangovers.


1 Von Matt, Lenoard; Trochu, Francis. St. Bernadette: A Pictorial Biography. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1957. Pg 26. Print.

2,41 El-Fers, Mohamed. The Complete Guide to Lourdes. Morrisville: Lulu Enterprises, Inc, 2009. Pgs 77, 82, 94. Print.

3 Ackroyd, Peter. The Life of Thomas More. New York: Nan A. Talese, 1998. Pg. 303. Print.

4,5,6,7-15,18,19,20,26,28,32,34,36,37,38,39 De Marchi, Father John, I.M.C. The Immaculate Heart. New York: Farrar, Straus and Young. 1952. Pages 39-41. Page 118. Page 74-76. Page 46. Page 119. Page 61. Page 63. Page 153. Page 47. Page 129. Page 123. Page 164. Page 159. Page 159. Page 155. Page 71. Page 21. Page 192. Page 111. Page 80. Page 201. Page 112. Page 199. Print.

16,17,24,25,29,30,31,33 Santos, Lucia. Kondor, Louis Fr., Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words. (Memoirs 1-4) Fatima: Secretariado dos Pastorinhos. 10th Edition, 1998. Pg 80. Pg 170. Pg 71. Page 78. Page 80. Page 97. Page 90. Page 90. Print.

27 Santos, Lucia. Kondor, Louis Fr., Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words. (Memoirs 5-6) Fatima: Imprimatur. 6th Edition, 2017. Pg 68. Print.

21,22,23 Fernandes, Joaquim. D’armada, Fina. Celestial Secrets: The Hidden History of the Fatima Incident. Victoria: EccaNova Editions, 2006. Page 53. Page 57. Pg 148.

40 The Catholic News Agency.
Accessed 2021 April 10. Web.

42,44,46 Fitzgerald, Robert, S.J. The Soul of Sponsorship: The Friendship of Fr. Ed Dowling, S.J. and Bill Wilson in Letters. Hazeldon Publishing, 2011. Pg 58-59. Pg 77.

43,45 Alcoholics Anonymous. Pass It On: The Definitive Biography of A.A. Co-Founder Bill W., Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2016. Page 263-264. Pg 266