Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Dancing Devil

There is a story told in South Texas about a mysterious figure known as the Dancing Devil who was seen in a small San Antonio nightclub called El Camaroncito back in the 70's. Now please understand that this is not an old wives' tale or an urban myth. This is a story that is documented with a police report, several eyewitnesses, and an article in the San Antonio Express News.

According to the tale, it was a typical October evening at the club with the regulars coming in to mingle, to dance, to drink, and hopefully find a partner for the evening. The music being played was typical for a Hispanic bar, the strains of fast cumbias and and slow boleros filling the air. The men, more often then not, were dressed in their best blue jeans, button down shirts, and cowboy boots, which is why when the stranger walked in, he turned more than a few heads.

Dressed in a black suit and carrying a dark wood cane, the unknown man swept through he small bar, talking to people here, smiling at others there. Though you would think that a man carrying a cane in the 79's would have looked odd, the self assurance and poise he had made the stick seem perfectly normal.

As the night wore on, the very handsome man danced with partner after partner, every woman in the bar mysteriously drawn to his presence and hoping to catch his attention. The truth was that even the men were captivated by him, each longing to be more like him, to have a bit of the stranger's charisma for themselves.

At midnight, though, everything changed. The band was playing a slow song, and the lady the stranger was dancing with on the floor had her head on his shoulder and her arms around his waist. At first everything appeared normal until a woman's shriek cut the air.
"His feet!" a woman screamed, "He has chicken feet!"

As the crowd stopped dancing and everyone began to look around, the lady dancing with the stranger looked down at the floor. The black clad stranger was no longer wearing shoes, but rather had the three-toed feet of a rooster sticking out from his pants' legs. Adding her screams to those of the other women, the horrified lady pushed the stranger away from her and scrambled away from him.

Everyone could see now that the man did indeed have chicken feet, a sign of the devil. Some people started to pray loudly asking for God's assistance in protecting them from evil. Others just shouted in horror.

Standing in the circle of shocked and disbelieving faces, the stranger merely looked at each and everyone of the patron in turn and then casually walked into the men's room. After a moment of stunned paralysis, a group of men charged into the restroom as well to confront what they thought was Satan himself, only to find the room empty. There was no other exit, no open windows, and no black clad stranger. Only the smell of sulphur lingered in the air, a well known sign of the devil.

Now, I always treated this story with a bit of skepticism. A dancing devil? Really? And though the incident was on the news and was written up in the papers, I just couldn't bring myself to accept it as fact. That is, until I myself had a run in with something similar.

I was visiting my friends in Austin, and we had decided to meet up at a well known bar and grill. I was sitting outside on the patio waiting for my habitually late friends to arrive when I saw an older looking gentleman sitting alone in a corner. He was dressed in a well made charcoal grey suit and hand a cane propped against his left leg. Though his hair was as grey as his suit, his face was unlined and youthful looking.

At first I paid him no attention. Though he was attractive, he wasn't my type, and I thought staring at him would send the wrong signals. For some reason, though, I found that my eyes kept going back to him as if there was just something fascinating that I couldn't consciously grasp. And then I noticed something odd. There was no food on the table before him. No water, no beverage of any sort, nothing. The waitresses themselves passed by the table without looking at him, almost as if they didn't see him sitting there.

In fact, I'm not sure that anyone else there could see him either. I noticed that the old man would stare intently at a pretty woman and grin to himself while the woman herself would seem uncomfortable. The woman would look around as if she could feel someone staring, but I could see that her eyes would slide over the table where the man sat. I began to feel a bit of a chill crawl up my spine.

I took out my cellphone to take the man's picture, not really sure what I would do with it other than assure myself that he was actually there. When I activated the camera, though, and pointed it at the man, all I saw were his black eyes staring right at me. He knew I was pointing my phone at him and was letting me know that he knew.

I quickly put my phone down and glanced back up. The old man had a smile on his face, a smile made doubly chilling by the fact that his teeth were pointed and his eyes flat and dead looking. Just then, my friends arrived in a bustle of noise, and in the ensuing scramble for them to be seated, I lost sight of him for just a moment. Once everyone was seated, I saw that the man was gone. The people seated around his table, though, all gave a snort and waved their hands in front on their faces. calling over their waiters and waitresses, I heard them complaining of a foul smell in the air.



It is clear to me that the devil is still lurking around, hunting if you will, for people. For some reason, I was able to see him while others could not. Was there a reason for that? I certainly don't know. But I am certain of one thing.

There is evil in the world, be it in the shape of war, plague, famine, a person. Evil is real and it is stalking each and every one of us each and every day. It is our responsibility to recognize it for what it is so that we can defend ourselves and those we love against it.

It is also true that no man is an island unto himself. Each of us needs help to do so. I cannot tell you where to find your strength or tell you where to seek shelter. I know where my strength comes from and in who's shadow I find comfort and relief. But each of us has to discover that on our own.

All I can say is that the plagues and the hate and evil will continue to grow. Don't believe me? Really? Have you looked at the newspapers lately? Do you actually turn on the tv to watch the news? War is everywhere. Hate is everywhere. People commit murder against others who are different from them, who belong to a different ethnicity, who's sexualities are different. Are the news stories dwindling? Are people becoming accepting of others, or are the old biases becoming more ingrained? Do we see war torn areas finding peace, or is chaos and death spreading?

Evil exists and it stalks us. We need to gather ourselves against it. The bright in this is that if evil does exist and is visible to those who know how to look, so does good. I believe that for every devil hidden in the crowd, there is an angel ready to defend us from it. And I'm not talking about organized religion. I'm talking about the real message that has become garbled along the way. I try to love God and love everyone around me. That's it. Simple and uncomplicated and yet profound and far-reaching.

Again, I can't tell you what path to choose, but choose you must. There is no place to be neutral here. Choose your side carefully.