February 17, 2021

ZoZo the Demon in Massachusetts: Ouija Boards, UFOs, and Led Zeppelin

On September 1, 1994, Mona Kempka woke up in her bedroom in Framingham, Massachusetts. It was 3:15 a.m. She had been sound asleep but felt someone pressing on her hands. Kempka was quite surprised when she opened her eyes. 

A reptilian entity was materializing in her bedroom. It was large and covered in scales. And did I mention it was large?

Its torso put the most proficient bodybuilder to shame, its legs were like giant frog's legs only more developed muscularly, there was mist covering its face so she could not see it...

The creature had large claws on its hands. As it appeared the entire room was lit with a strange pinkish light, and the creature told Kempka repeatedly its name was "ZoZo." It didn't speak but communicated with her telepathically. And then the creature disappeared.

From the 1977 movie SPECTRE.

This terrifying encounter was not the first time Kempka had heard the name "ZoZo." She had been using a Ouija board earlier and contacted an entity that said its name was ZoZo. She had also encountered a gray alien around this time as well.

I found this story in Albert Rosales's book Humanoid Encounters: 1990 - 1994, The Others Among Us. The Humanoid Encounters series is a great source of strange stories and I highly recommend them. Rosales doesn't give a lot of context, though, so I did a little digging to learn more about ZoZo. Some of you may already know about him but he was a relatively new demon to me. 

ZoZo seems to have entered America's cultural consciousness around 2009, when an Oklahoma man named Darren Evans posted about his Ouija board experiences in an online forum called True Ghost Tales. Evans said he had contacted a demonic being named ZoZo, who liked to swear at him through the Ouija board and threatened to take Evans's girlfriends off to Hell. Evans thought it was all talk, until one night his young daughter nearly drowned in the bathtub after ZoZo threatened her during a Ouija session. She also suffered from a nearly fatal infection shortly afterwards.

From that point on, Evans's house was plagued with strange phenomena. Objects moved on their own, voices were heard in empty rooms, and lights turned themselves on and off. Evans eventually moved to Michigan, but the weird occurrences started in his new home as soon as he started to use a Ouija board again. And the board spelled out ZoZo...

In 2016, Evans wrote The Zozo Phenomena with Rosemary Ellen Guiley, and has also appeared on Ghost Adventures and other paranormal TV shows. The book's name is accurate: ZoZo did become a phenomena, and there are now thousands of videos on YouTube of people trying to contact the demon. There have also been several horror films made about him as well. Many other people on the True Ghost Tales forum have confirmed Evans's experiences and said they too have encountered ZoZo.

I am a little late to the ZoZo party, but as soon as I saw the name I immediately thought of Led Zeppelin. I grew up in the 1970s, when Led Zeppelin was one of the biggest bands in the world. They had a reputation for dabbling in the occult, and children were warned that demonic messages would be revealed if they played Led Zeppelin albums backwards. The band's fourth album, Led Zeppelin IV, featured four occult symbols on the record sleeve, one for each band member. 

Guitarist Jimmy Page's symbol was the following:

There is some truth behind the band's occult reputation. Jimmy Page became fascinated by the occult after reading Aleister Crowley's Magick in Theory and Practice when he was a teen, and he later bought Crowley's former home Boleskine House (located on the shores of Loch Ness!) with part of his Led Zeppelin fortune. He also briefly owned an occult bookstore and publishing company in London. 

Led Zeppelin fans have argued for years about the meaning of the Zoso symbol. It seems it originated in an Italian Renaissance alchemical grimoire, and probably refers to Saturn, the planetary ruler of Capricorn, Page's zodiac birth sign. It doesn't refer to a demon, and probably isn't even meant to be pronounced at all. It's simply a symbol.

Darren Evans is aware of the Led Zeppelin symbol, but he claims ZoZo has much older roots. For example, a demon named ZoZo is mentioned in 1818 French book called Le Dictionaire Infernal, and was mentioned in some other French texts in the 19th century. But some scholars claim that ZoZo is described as part of a fake possession case in Le Ditcionnaire Infernal and is not meant to be taken seriously. The name ZoZo has appeared in a few other places, including John Waters's 2000 movie Cecil B. Demented, where a character played by Maggie Gyllenhall says her father is "Zo-Zo, the three headed guard dog at the gate to hell."

The Ouija board has its origins in the 19th century, when spiritualism was sweeping across the country and Americans were eager to contact their dead loved ones, particularly those who died in the Civil War. For many years Ouija boards (also called spirit boards or talking boards) were mostly seen as a form of wholesome entertainment and a party game. For example, the couple in this Norman Rockwell painting don't seem too concerned about demons as they play with their board:

Ouija boards got a more sinister reputation in 1973, when the movie The Exorcist was released. In it, a young girl contacts a spirit named Captain Howdy using a spirit board. Although at first he seems harmless, it soon turns out that Captain Howdy is actually a Babylonian demon named Pazuzu. Oops! Ouija boards became a horror movie staple after that, and as the Satanic panic swept the country in the 1980s concerned parents warned their children against using them. This of course only made kids want them even more, and today Ouija boards are more popular than ever.

ZoZo. Zoso. Pazuzu. Led Zeppelin. The Satanic Panic. Linda Blair and Ouija boards. It's a potent mix of pop culture, the occult, and forgotten religious tidbits. You can see how the idea of a Ouija demon named ZoZo would take shape from all these different pieces, and why it would resonate. I'm not going to judge the truth or falsehood of Evans's claims, and I do think we can have powerful spiritual experiences even of things that have fairly recent origins. 

Now, back to Mona Kempka and her ZoZo sighting in Framingham, Massachusetts. Kempka said she saw the reptilian creature in 1994, years before Darren Evans had his experiences with ZoZo. Kempka discussed her sighting on a 2005 episode of World's Strangest UFO Stories, which was also several years before Evans shared his experiences. 

However, you've probably noticed she appeared on a UFO show, not a show about demons. I watched the episode, and she doesn't say the reptilian creature was a demon or that it was named ZoZo. She simply says it appeared and then disappeared, and that David Icke's theory that reptoid aliens are taking over the planet may be right. (I don't share her opinion on that.) The creature was only in her room for six seconds. She seems like a UFO believer, not someone involved in the occult. 

My guess is that Kempka's story probably changed a little over time. Rosales's Humanoid Encounters: 1990 - 1994 was not published until 2016, many years after Kempka's initial encounter with the creature and more than 10 years after she appeared on TV. She probably reevaluated her experience in light of new information, including the stories about ZoZo. I don't think she identified the musclebound reptoid as ZoZo until after Darren Evans' book came out. Does this mean she lied? 

Not necessarily. People around the world have experienced strange nighttime phenomena for millennia. If Mona Kempka lived in 17th century Massachusetts, she probably would have blamed this strange visitation on a witch. Explaining the creature as an alien visitor made sense in the late 20th century, but with our culture's current occult resurgence maybe a demonic explanation came to seem more meaningful. Maybe the concept of ZoZo made more sense to her than the concept of aliens. A skeptic might say she was just experiencing sleep paralysis or night terrors. Explanations come and go, but the experiences remain the same. 

One final note. Sadly, Mona Kempka passed away in 2015, so we'll never know more about her encounter that night in 1994. I'm glad she shared her stories. 

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