In A Nutshell
If there’s a demon in your neighborhood, who ya’ gonna’ call? Kobus Jonker! Between 1991 and 2001, this South African detective led a special police unit dedicated to fighting the forces of evil. As you might expect, things sometimes got a little weird . . . according to Jonker anyway.
The Whole Bushel
From Twin Peaks to True Detective, TV is packed with paranormal plots and supernatural psychos. Even Scully and Mulder battled their fair share of spirits when they weren’t investigating UFOs. But these demon-hunting detectives are far from fictional. Believe it or not, between 1991 and 2001, South Africa had its very own Carl Kolchak. His name was Kobus Jonker, and while other cops were chasing run-of-the-mill crooks, he was doing battle with the devil.
Known as “The Hound of God,” Jonker’s obsession with the occult started in 1981. He was an experienced detective and recent Christian convert when he stumbled across an incredibly surreal suicide. The victim was a woman with three strange tattoos. On the sole of one foot was the word “Jesus,” on the other was “Christ,” and “666” was scrawled across her arm. According to Jonker, she was a witch who’d tattooed her feet so she could walk on Jesus’ name . . . before throwing herself in front of a car as a sacrifice to Satan.
This incident had a big impact on the detective. How could he investigate everyday crimes when the devil was on the prowl? It was one of those life-changing moments, and Jonker dedicated himself to fighting the forces of darkness.
At first, his superiors were less than thrilled. However, they changed their tune in ’91 when Jonker discovered the site of a grisly killing. There was a Bible wrapped in chains, blood all over the place, and a woman’s decapitated head. Suddenly convinced they were at war with the legions of hell, South African officials created the Occult-Related Crimes Unit (ORCU) with Jonker in charge.
The ORCU was made up entirely of Christians, and they operated under the Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957. Passed in the glory days of apartheid, this bizarre piece of legislation essentially outlawed magic. Anyone with “a knowledge of witchcraft” could wind up in jail. On the flip side, it forbade people from accusing others of practicing the dark arts. It even condemned violence against witches. Basically, it was a law meant to squelch belief in indigenous African practices, and as a result, wasn’t popular with witches or witch-haters.
But it was perfect for Kobus Jonker. For 10 years, the ORCU investigated all sorts of paranormal phenomena, from your typical Regan MacNeil possessions to really nasty Charles Manson murders. They went after baloyi, medicine men who used human body parts in theirmuti (“spells”), and Jonker had a particular axe to grind against Satanists. According to the detective, South African Satanists are far more violent than their more laid-back American and British counterparts.
Whether or not that’s true, Jonker says he’s seen some pretty weird stuff in his day. When a Satanic assassin crept into his office, he allegedly stopped her from pulling the trigger with the power of prayer. While exorcising an 11-year-old girl, he claimed a tortoise crawled out of her belly button. In one of his most dramatic cases, Jonker showed up in a town plagued by a tokoloshe, a mini-demon who threw rocks at police, scared away all the animals, and repeatedly raped a young girl. Going into full-Constantine mode, Jonker prayed over the girl until he saw a mysterious dwarf scamper out of her house.
The rapes stopped, and the animals came back. Supposedly.
But while Jonker’s stories sound zany, he’s surprisingly rational about the whole thing. For example, in 1995, a rapist named Frans du Toit claimed a demon ordered him to attack attractive women. But Jonker didn’t buy his story. According to the detective, demons aren’t choosy when it comes to violence so it didn’t make sense that a spirit would order du Toit to only rape beautiful women. He was also disturbed by du Toit’s lack of guilt as possessed criminals almost always feel regret for their crimes.
Similarly, when Morne Haarmse said a demon forced him to don a Slipknot mask, buy a katana, and attack his high school, Jonker wasn’t convinced. Sure, the kid listened to heavy metal, but that didn’t mean the devil was in the details. “I’ve also listened to heavy metal in the past,” he told Vice. “I don’t go and kill people if I listen to metal.” He also believed Haarmse was just too clever and calculating. The kid meticulously plotted the whole assault, and according to Jonker, demons are way too impulsive to make plans.
Eventually, “God’s Detective” was forced to step down as head of the ORCU after he suffered a heart attack in 2001. The unit didn’t last much longer as the government decided a group of cops focusing on particular religious groups probably wasn’t all that constitutional. As for Jonker, these days he works as a pastoral psychologist, helping people with a mixture of psychology and Biblical principles. But when he’s not counseling patients, he’s giving authorities professional advice on occult-related crimes.
While some might think he’s a religious nut, Jonker couldn’t disagree more. According to the detective, witchcraft is a “reality.” “It does exist.” Or in the words of Shakespeare, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Show Me The Proof
VICE: Dr. Kobus Jonker: God’s Detective
Financial Times: Possession and the law
iol news: Sword killer ‘tried’ witchcraft—expert
Crime Library: The Ripper Rapists
SAPRA: Review of Witchcraft Suppression Act update
The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, by Brian P. Levack