James Vivian puts on scrubs as if he's preparing for surgery. He wraps a silver cross on a chain around his wrist. Next to the leather recliner, he sets a plastic bucket lined with a fresh trash bag, in case his visitor vomits.
The sun is setting on a mid-March day, and the man Vivian is expecting is almost 20 minutes late. Vivian wonders whether he's coming at all.
"A lot of people don't want to know what they have inside them," Vivian says.
But the man does come. We'll call him Max because he doesn't know that the witness on the living room sofa is a reporter. Max appears to be in his late 30s, and he's tall and well-built, dressed in a polo shirt and slacks. He's been depressed lately, prone to panic attacks, and he's been having trouble sleeping. He told some friends about his troubles, and they gave him Vivian's phone number.
Vivian welcomes Max and directs him to the recliner. Vivian puts a folding chair before him and sits down.
"Now, the first thing we have to do is have you fill out this history," he says, handing Max a few stapled papers. "This is just to let me know what I might be dealing with."
Normally, Vivian, who is 6 feet tall and weighs more than 300 pounds, has a second man to help him in case anything goes wrong. But tonight's job was on short notice.
The first sheet of questions might come from a job application, except for a few odd questions — What was your relationship with your parents? Do you have any special training I should be aware of? The second sheet has more than 50 boxes to check — a list of possible sins a subject may have committed. There's a box for cocaine and a box for homosexuality, one for yoga and one for incest and one for depression. The subject can specify whether this behavior was in the past or is ongoing.
The answers will presumably show Vivian where the doorway is — the unconscious invitation that allows a demon to enter.
Vivian excuses himself to prepare. "Just be honest about everything so I don't have any surprises," he tells Max. "It's completely confidential. No one's ever going to see it but me. And don't worry about being judged, because everybody's got something in their life."
Max flips through the sheets. He looks up at a painting of Jesus on the cross, mounted on a small shelf between a copy of the Torah and a bottle of frankincense oil. "My friends told me some great things about him," Max says of Vivian. "I know there's a lot of people that have come to him. I guess everybody's looking for answers."
Max is still going over the questions when Vivian returns. Vivian goes to the front window and looks outside. He lives in a three-bedroom home on Olive Street across from a playground. Sometimes he thinks the playground is used for drug deals, and he doesn't trust the neighborhood. Bars cover his ground-level windows. The streets are empty, but he closes the blinds anyway.
Vivian claims to have performed more than 500 exorcisms.
People find him through referrals, as Max did, or through Bob Larsons Spiritual Freedom Church", which is based in Denver.
Larson claims to have done more than 6,000 exorcisms — so many that on March 19, the U.K. channel Virgin1 started broadcasting a reality show about him. On The Real Exorcist, Larson stalks demons across Great Britain. Shortly before his show first aired, he was quoted in European papers suggesting an exorcism could help singer Amy Winehouse conquer her drug addiction.