Wednesday, February 7, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 91



A dance with the devil himself

Wendy M. Miller

"Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?"

-- Jack Nicholson, Batman

What would someone do to see his or her greatest wish come true? To what depths would they sink if their deepest, darkest desire could become a reality? Would an ordinary person be capable of making a deal with the devil?

Stephen Vincent Benet's 1937 short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster" tells of a 19th century farmer who sells his soul to the devil, also called Mr. Scratch, in exchange for gold, and later reneges on the contract. Statesman Daniel Webster defends the farmer to the devil.

But the notion of pacts with Lucifer is not a novelty. It's an idea that predates the Christian era -- certainly not an antiquated one.

There were events in the 20th century so horrific they were almost unbelievable. The news seemed unreal, like a gruesome tale spun by Stephen King: the Holocaust, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Colorado school shooting. 

The reality of evil makes me believe that somewhere, somehow, Satan instigates matters. It's likely that in my lifetime Beelzebub will collect on deals struck with now-famous people. 

The underworld could have dibs on the souls of numerous candidates. Due to the brevity of this column, politicians will be omitted. There are deals made in the halls of Congress on a daily basis that must add to the population of hell.

In June 2000, murder and assault charges against Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis were dropped. Lewis did plead guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice charges as part of a plea bargain (which offered zero jail time). 

There is a temptation to add Lewis to the list of pact potentials, but his having been rejected by Wheaties after the Super Bowl changed that verdict. Surely a deal with the devil would have included a cereal box cover.

A 20-something, bleached bombshell with silicon implants from a small town marries an 80-year-old billionaire who dies shortly thereafter. It sounds like a plot to a B movie, right? Nope. It is a role that Anna Nicole Smith has played as Anna Nicole Smith. Even though her "overnight success" makes me wary, I recently ruled out Smith as a pact candidate. With the acquisition of a soul promise, the trade should have included skipping the years of court dates that it will take to acquire one penny of her husband's money.

Starting with the obviously Hades-bound, O.J. Simpson needs no explanation. When that much smoke billows from an investigation, there has to be an inferno burning somewhere. 

My guess is that the deal went down on a California freeway in a white Bronco.

Madonna probably sold her soul for a "lucky star" years ago. She has entertained the masses for nearly two decades. 

Shocking performances are her forte, but I believe that motherhood may have tamed the "material girl." My guess is that there will be some poetic justice when the toddler "material girl" hits 15.

Rap master Sean "Puffy" Combs added former O.J. Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran to his legal team when he was recently indicted on gun possession charges. MTV news reported that outside the courtroom, Cochran told local TV outlet New York 1 that Combs was "confident he'll be vindicated of all charges." Cochran is probably right.

If Cochran were a character in Benet's short story, would he be Daniel Webster or Mr. Scratch?

Miller, a senior philosophy major, can 
be reached at

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