The phenomenon of demonic possession has persisted since the rise of modern Christianity. Sometimes passed off as mental or physical illness, the recognized traits of demonic possession include bizarre movements, changing voices, violent out bursts, speaking in tongues and others. When one is possessed by a demon it’s believed that the only way to remove the evil spirit is through the Catholic rites of exorcism. Below are three notable cases of demonic possession.
1. Anneliese Michel
She soon had her suspicions confirmed when voices told her she was damned. The voices were paired with hallucinations during prayer. Though originally marked up to her epilepsy her behavior became increasingly bizarre; the young began eating coal, spiders, and licking up her own urine. While the 1970s aren’t exactly the bastion of the medical age it’s safe to assume that this stopped being epilepsy after the second spider-urine smoothie.
After journeying on a pilgrimage with another woman, it was determined that Anneliese was possessed when she was unable to pass by an icon of Christ. An exorcist was granted permission to attempt to exorcise the demon believed to posses her. This continued for almost a year in tandem with psychiatric treatments. Eventually Anneliese chose to rely strictly on the the exorcism sessions over any other medical treatments. These sessions proved to do very little, and on July 1st, 1976, Anneliese died in her sleep. An autopsy proved the cause of death to be starvation; during the exorcisms Anneliese refused to eat, choosing to die as a means to atone for the wayward youth.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is based on the event.
2. Michael Taylor
Residing in the small British town of Ossett, Michael Taylor got the short end of the demonic possession stick. By the accounts of the priest who performed the rites of exorcism, he was possessed by over forty demons. Forty. That’s a football team, people.
It was suspected by his wife that Taylor was perhaps having an affair with the leader of the church. Whether or not that proved to be true he eventually had a series of violent outbursts with the minister, prompting an investigation into the man. By his own account he felt a presence of evil inside of him. Taking his word for it, a series of ministers from around the country were brought in to collectively cast out the demons. Over the course of over two days in early October 1974 forty demons were cast out of Taylor. Despite this, something was still wrong.
The priests were exhausted by the two day ritual and permitted Taylor to return home so they could rest. They warned him, however, that he was still possessed by several demons, one of which was a demon of murder. Though not recorded in history, Taylor’s response was probably something like “Say what?? followed by scoffing, high-fives and a long walk home. Once he got there he murdered his wife and family dog. Police found the man standing in the streets nude and covered in blood. He was eventually found guilty of murder as well as being insane.
3. Robbie Mannheim
Born into a family with no brothers or sisters, Robbie Mannheim relied on the companionship of his Aunt Harriet as opposed to other kids. Harriet was a Spiritualist and a practicing Christian who must have read the Bible with her eyes closed: one of her favorite activities with her nephew was contacting spirits with a Ouija board. This can’t possibly go well.
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Robbie eventually made a hobby out of the board and after the death of his aunt he attempted to contact her with game, triggering a series of supernatural events wherever he went. Objects began moving or levitating, unheard voices were heard, scratches were present on doorways and words began appearing scratched into his flesh. An examination by medical experts proved inconclusive. As the media began picking up the story the word “possession? was thrown around. An exorcism was started but stopped after Robbie injured a priest severely enough that he needed stitches. Upon returning home he and his family discovered that the name “St. Louis? was inexplicably carved in his chest. That just happened to be the city where his aunt died. Naturally, a road trip was in order.
Upon arriving in St. Louis a second exorcism with three priests was arranged. During the ritual Robbie fought the priests physically while poltergeist activity took place throughout the room. One of the demons answered that they would only leave Robbie after he spoke the right words. After thirty sessions Robbie spoke “Christus, Domini? and, after a loud sound, was found to be functioning normally. This event would later be fictionalized as The Exorcist.