Firmly entrenched in music history, English singer-songwriter and actor David Bowie, born David Robert Jones, was one of the most beloved rock icons of all-time, as well as one of the best-selling, and he is considered to be a legendary figure in the music world. While he is rather well known for his strange and flamboyant theatrical shows and his surreal alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, many people may not realize that David Bowie was even stranger than they might had imagined, being very into UFOs, the paranormal, and the occult. Among the many stories pertaining to David Bowie’s dabbling in the occult and studies into the paranormal there are a few that really stand out as rather particularly odd, and one of these is certainly the time he had his demon-infested swimming pool exorcised with the help of a witch.
Back in the 1970s Bowie’s obsession with spirituality and the occult was in full swing, often being featured prominently in his music, in songs such as the 1971 Quicksand, which heavily mentions the infamous English occultist and ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and the 1976 song Station to Station, in which he explores inter-dimensional doorways and portals, among others. During this period of his life Bowie was known to surround himself with arcane imagery to protect himself from black magic, was very into psychic self-defense, and these antics were well-documented when he was living with his manager Michael Lippman and his wife, a time when Bowie was very paranoid about being targeted by dark rituals. He would chant, draw occult symbols on the walls, and save his fingernail clippings in order to keep them from black magicians, and he became increasingly obsessed with Aleister Crowley, all while he was snorting prodigious mountains of cocaine. Glenn Hughes, the bassist for the band Deep Purple, would say of Bowie at this stage in his life:
He felt inclined to go on very bizarre tangents about Aleister Crowley or the Nazis or numerals a lot. He was completely wired. Maniacally wired. I could not keep up with him. He was on the edge all the time of paranoia, and also going on about things I had no friggin’ idea of what he was talking about. He’d go into a rap on it and I wouldn’t know what he was talking about.
Another author by the name of Marc Spitz wrote Bowie: A Biography, and similarly illustrates the artist’s devolution into madness and the paranormal, painting a picture of a Bowie increasingly viewing reality through a fractured lens. Spitz writes:
Bowie would sit in the house with a pile of the drug atop the glass table, a sketch pad and a stack of books. ‘Psychic Self Defense,’ by Dion Fortune, was his favorite. Its author describes the book as a ‘safeguard for protecting yourself against paranormal malevolence.’ Using this and more arcane books on witchcraft, white magic and its malevolent counterpart, black magic, as rough guides to his own rapidly fragmenting psyche, Bowie began drawing protective pentagrams on every surface.
This was a time of great paranoia for Bowie, as he thought people were psychically attacking him and that alien entities were following him around out to get him. During one concert in September of 1974, Bowie became convinced that aliens were out in the crowd watching his show and checking him out for inscrutable purposes. Jeremy Reed would write of the incident in his book Diamond Nebula, in which he says:
Extraterrestrials had been in the audience during his concerts at the Los Angeles Amphitheatre [in September 1974]. People had mistaken them for the Bowie clones he attracted. The silver pentagrams marked on their foreheads had been interpreted as attempts to imitate his own facial decoration. But he had distinguished his own. They were there and their eyes never left him. He had counted twenty. He was terrified they would come backstage. The time wasn’t right. His act had still to be perfected, enhanced, taken to ultimate extremes. He had become an automatized mutant, a rock android. People paid to see him with the expectation he would die on-stage.
It was during this strange era when Bowie would have a very profoundly weird experience as he was living in Beverley Hills with his wife at the time, Angie Bowie. In her book Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side with David Bowie, she would write about how Bowie was convinced that their indoor swimming pool was actually cursed, and that the Devil himself was using it as a portal to our dimension. In fact, he would claim to have seen the Devil emerge from the pool on at least one occasion, and Angie Bowie would write of the pool and all of this bizarreness:
It was a white cube surrounding an indoor swimming pool. David liked the place, but I thought it was too small to meet our needs for very long, and I wasn’t crazy about the pool. In my experience, indoor pools are always a problem. This one was no exception, albeit not in any of the usual ways. Its drawback was one I hadn’t encountered before and haven’t seen or heard of since: Satan lived in it. With his own eyes, David said, he’d seen HIM rising up out of the water one night.
Bowie was so upset by the alleged demonic forces gravitating towards this pool that he allegedly went about getting an exorcism done on it, but he didn’t want just any old priest, he wanted someone he could trust. He would call upon a woman by the name of Walli Elmlark, a journalist best known for writing for the English publications Melody Maker and Circus, but also known for her connections to the occult and practice of witchcraft, and thus she was sometimes known as the “White Witch” and the “Rock n’ Roll Witch.” Author Timothy Green Beckley would write of Walli and her connection to Bowie in his book David Bowie – UFOs – Witchcraft – Cocaine – and Paranoia, The Occult Saga of Wall Elmlark, The ‘Rock n’ Roll’ Witch of New York, and he says of it:
Walli had been raised in a Jewish family but had found the tenets of witchcraft more to her liking. She had become a member of the Wiccan faith, a form of paganism going far back into antiquity and predating Christianity by God knows how long. Walli was quick to point out that she was NOT a Satanist, nor did she wish harm onto others. She was a good witch, or ‘white witch,’ casting beneficial spells and using candles and gemstones for ‘self-empowerment.’
Walli Elmlark knew David Bowie. He had been to her apartment. They were striking up a friendship, getting some sort of bond going. True, she wrote a very prestigious column for ‘Circus Magazine,’ but beyond the attention she could give the newly-arrived pop singer from Britain, whose career was just blossoming in the U.S., they seemed to have a lot in common on a personal level. Bowie was really interested in the same things Walli was. Witchcraft! Magick! UFOs!
Walli was called in to help with the exorcism of Bowie’s pool, and she provided the couple with spells, incantations, and all manner of talismans and occult items for their mission. They then gathered around the pool and went to work. Angie at this point still did not really truly believe in any of this stuff, but according to her some very strange this would happen during the ritual, and she writes of it all:
So there we stood, with just Walli’s instructions and a few hundred dollars’ worth of books, talismans, and assorted items from Hollywood’s comprehensive selection of fine occult emporia. There he [David Bowie] was, then, primed and ready. The proper books and doodads were arranged on a big old-fashioned lectern. The incantation began, and although I had no idea what was being said or what language it was being said in, I couldn’t stop a weird cold feeling rising up in me as David droned on and on. There’s no easy or elegant way to say this, so I’ll just say it straight. At a certain point in the ritual, the pool began to bubble. It bubbled vigorously (perhaps ‘thrashed’ is a better term) in a manner inconsistent with any explanation involving air filters or the like.
As David watched this happening in absolute terror, I tried to be flippant – ‘Well, dear, aren’t you clever? It seems to be working. Something’s making a move, don’t you think?’ – but I couldn’t keep it up. It was very, very strange… I was having trouble accepting what my eyes were seeing. We both left the pool in a hurry and David told me to check up on the pool from time to time. I kept my eye on it for the next forty minutes of so, and nothing unusual happened, and so with my heart in my mouth, I slid one of the glass doors open and, ignoring David’s panicked screams, went to the edge and looked in.
I saw what I saw. Nothing can change that. On the bottom of the pool was a large shadow, or stain, which had not been there before the ritual began. It was in the shape of a beast of the underworld; it reminded me of those twisted, tormented gargoyles screaming silently from the spires of medieval cathedrals. It was ugly, shocking, malevolent; it frightened me. I still don’t know what to think about that night. It runs directly counter to my pragmatism and my everyday faith in the integrity of the ‘normal’ world, and it confuses me greatly. What troubles me the most is that if you were to call that stain the mark of Satan, I don’t see how I could argue with you.
Bowie and his wife would move from the accursed residence after that, but it seems that whatever they tried didn’t work, as subsequent owners would also apparently have problems at the home. Angie would say of this:
David, of course, insisted that we move from the house as quickly as possible, and we did that, but I’ve heard… that subsequent tenants haven’t been able to remove the shadow. Even though the pool has been painted over a number of times, the shadow has always come back.
This is all interesting, because as his wife also saw the phenomenon it is hard to just chalk this up to Bowie’s drug fueled lifestyle at the time. What in the world was going on here with that pool? Is there anything to this all or was this just two people tripping balls? It is well-documented that Bowie had a severe cocaine problem at the time, putting away whole snowdrifts of the stuff at a sitting, so was this all drug-induced delusions that were somehow transferred over to his wife and helped along by the White Witch Walli Elmlark? It is hard to tell, and even Bowie himself would later say that this was a point in his life where he had reached rock bottom, saying:
My other fascination was with the Nazis and their search for the Holy Grail. I paid with the worst manic depression of my life. My psyche went through the roof, it just fractured into pieces. I was hallucinating twenty- four hours a day. I felt like I’d fallen into the bowels of the earth.
It certainly seems that the great David Bowie was at an odd point in his life, draw to beliefs and obsessed with drugs and things that could very well have warped his sense of reality. Yet, how does that explain the other witnesses present? Could this have all been a simple group hallucination, or was David Bowie’s swimming pool truly possessed by the Devil? Whatever the case may be, it is an interesting, bizarre, and little known chapter in the life of one of the greatest music icons the world as ever seen, as well as a strange oddity in the history of music.