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February 1975

"El Duende" and Other IncubiSuggestive Interactions Between Culture, the Devil, and the Brain

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Universidad del Valle Medical School, Cali, Colombia, South America.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1975;32(2):155-162. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1975.01760200019001

The belief in persecution or possession by evil spirits is still popular in Latin American countries. Observations were made on 12 Colombian families who were haunted by "el duende" (a special kind of imp, goblin, or poltergeist) and other spirits. Interviews elicited a detailed account of events, a demographic and socioeconomic description of the families, exploration of the pscyhosocial antecedents, and a psychiatric evaluation of individual members of the group regarded as key persons.

Possible psychodynamic mechanisms are involved in the production of the phenomenon and factors in the successful "therapeutic" interventions of spiritualist rather than psychiatric or religious healers. The interaction of culture, folk belief, and the brain impaired by lesion or faulty learning appears as the important accountable dimension.