Longform

Pentecostal Preacher Sherman Allen Turns Out to Be Reverend Spanky

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Veronica noted something else that seemed highly unusual to her. She spent a lot of time at Allen's church—by this time, in the mid-1980s, renamed Shiloh Institutional Church of God in Christ, located on Rosedale Street—and throughout the week she would observe young women trooping in and out of Allen's private office for counseling. Afterward, she would often see the woman slumped at the altar in the sanctuary, crying out to God in a despairing voice.

Allen and Shiloh were fixated on demons and darkness, Veronica says. Allen was always casting out demons, and it seemed like everyone had them. Jesus cast out demons to set the captives free, Veronica says, but at Shiloh no one ever seemed to get free. One layer of demons would be peeled back to reveal another layer.

Elder Bill Thompson, a pastor who used to attend Shiloh in the mid-1980s, described an atmosphere of pandemonium during services, with Allen in hot pursuit of demons. "They'd just be up there dancing, dancing," Thompson says of Shiloh's congregation. "He's speaking in tongues and screaming out loud—he screams. Sometimes he would just literally stand there and scream. And scream. And scream. Then he'd take his glasses and throw 'em. He'd just throw 'em in the sanctuary. He finally stopped throwing his glasses when they started costing him more."

The demon expulsions often were accompanied by vomiting, Thompson says. "Some people just go crazy during the service. Convulsing. Headaches. I have literally seen people go through vomiting spells. Stuff you wouldn't believe. You'd have to look at Discovery Channel to find this stuff overseas somewhere."

The real demon, Veronica says, was Sherman Allen. One day she saw her pastor punch a female member in the face when she questioned him about something. The woman is still a member of Shiloh, Veronica says.

Today Veronica shakes her head when she thinks about why she stayed with Allen and his church for nine years. The truth about Allen is so "surreal," if she ever wrote about it, she says, she'd have to label it fiction because no one would believe her. "He is almost diabolical," Veronica says. "And people can't understand that, because at the same time he's a very likable person. He really is. If you sat down and talked with him, you'd probably be just as blind as everybody else.

"He had a huge percent of control over me," she admits. "He did. I don't even know how."

———

Joy sat in her pastor's office, surrounded by elderly "mothers" of the church, who'd console her when she broke down and quietly pass tissues from hand to thick hand. For the first time, Joy was telling her story publicly, and though the incidents she recounted took place 24 years earlier, the emotions and sensations seemed unbearably fresh.

Joy had contacted the lawyers when Davina Kelly's suit made the news. At times Joy's account was cut off by wailing: "Oh God, oh God, oh God..." she'd repeat.

A Fort Worth police report says Joy had run into Allen at the candle shop, where she'd consulted him about voodoo. Joy offers a different account: She'd asked him how to get saved because a friend of hers had gotten saved and had turned her life around. Allen said he'd explain everything to her in a private appointment at her home, but first she had to clean her floors in what her lawyers believe was some sort of ritual cleansing. Allen showed up at her door on May 25, 1983, wearing a black shirt with a white clerical collar and carrying a briefcase and two objects draped in a red towel, which he set down on the floor in her living room.

Joy immediately noticed something different about the friendly man she'd met at the candle shop. "His face changed," she says. "He had a different look."

A nasty stench hung around him too—like that of excrement splashed with the cheap perfume found in scented tampons. "The house smelled real foul," she says. He gave her a glass of water, she says, and the same odor wafted from it.

Then her eyes fixed on the covered objects. "I didn't know that it was a paddle," she says. "It was like a club. I was like, God, I knew I was a sinner, but I didn't know I was that bad." Joy, 21 at the time, admits she was naïve. "I didn't know how simple getting saved really was."

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Julie Lyons
Contact: Julie Lyons