Beginning with James Baldwin’s critique of The Exorcist in The Devil Finds Work (1976) and ending with campy allusions to the film in the works of three contemporary black gay authors, this article argues that the aesthetics of possession helps articulate queer forms of desire that blur the lines between agency and passivity. Deploying José Esteban Muñoz’s theory of disidentification, it shows how black and queer subjects disruptively locate themselves in the horror genre by drawing on their racial affinities with the genre. The first section proposes that the most prevalent claim in black horror studies today—that black life is more frightening than the supernatural—actually originates with Baldwin’s 1976 rebuke of the film. By disidentifying with horror, Baldwin shifts attention away from paranormal evils and onto a more horrifying normative world. Sketching enthusiastic alternatives to Baldwin, the latter half of this article examines idiosyncratic attachments to the film that are routed through the demonic. By disidentifying with the possessed child, the narrators of Larry Duplechan’s Eight Days a Week (1985) and Blackbird (1986), James Earl Hardy’s B-Boy Blues (1994), and G. Winston James’s Shaming the Devil (2009) all articulate fraught performances of desire.

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