Most people do not know what demonic possession is actually like. For the most part, the concept of possessions and exorcisms comes from what we see in movies and books. But for some people, possessions and exorcisms are frighteningly real.
Exorcisms came to everyone’s attention with the release of the 1973 film based on the book which drew from the real-life exorcism of Ronald Doe, “The Exorcist.” Exorcisms are recognized in most cultures and religions – it is even considered a valid practice by the Vatican. The purpose of an exorcism is to expel evil forces and demons that have hijacked the body of a living person.
From the chilling exorcism that inspired “The Exorcist” to the tragic real-life case of Emily Rose, here are 7 bone-chilling stories of real-life exorcisms.
The Exorcism of Roland Doe
The classic film “The Exorcist” is based on a real-life exorcism of a 13-year-old boy in Cottage City, Maryland in 1949. No one knows the boy’s true identity as his name was changed to protect his privacy, so he is referred to as Roland Doe.
Roland Doe’s possession began following the death of his aunt. He turned to an Ouija board to communicate with her, but he apparently invited something much more sinister in. Shortly after, he began hearing scratching noises inside his bedroom walls and his mattress started moving erratically on its own. As the possession worsened, Roland began demonstrating violent super-human strength.
Roland’s parents sought help from Father E. Albert Hughes, who requested permission from the Church to conduct an exorcism. The ritual became violent and Roland tore a spring off of his mattress and used it to slash Father Hughes across the shoulders.
The family then headed to St. Louis and saw three more priests who, with permission, carried out about 30 exorcisms on Roland. The priests reported that his outbursts only occurred at night, he had messages written on his skin, guttural voices and extreme strength. He would also become enraged at the sight of religious iconography and would make the items fly across the room. The exorcisms become worse and worse, with Roland wetting his bed and violently cursing at the priests.
But one final exorcism worked a miracle. The ritual took seven minutes and the priests observed Roland coming out of his trance-like state and simply stated: “He’s gone.”
Afterward, Roland Doe experienced a vision of St. Michael defeating the devil and never suffered from this possession again.
The Real Exorcism of Emily Rose (Anneliese Michel)
The exorcism of Anneliese Michel is so frightening that it inspired the 2005 film “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” Michel was a young German woman born in 1952. At 16, she blacked out during school and began to behave out of character. Within a year of her blackout, she started wetting her bed and having seizure-like convulsions. Doctors diagnosed her with epileptic psychosis as well as visual and auditory hallucinations, for which she was hospitalized.
Over time, her symptoms intensified and included an aversion toward religious iconography. Both Michel and her Catholic family attributed her condition to demonic possession. She began claiming that she could see the devil’s face and hear voices mocking her “damned” spirit.
Her family went to the Church for help, but most of the priests they spoke with urged Michel to see a doctor, explaining that a real-life exorcism required the authorization of a bishop. Then it got even worse. She began eating spiders, coal and even the head of a dead bird. She would also drink her own urine, bark like a rabid dog and perform hundreds of squats a day.
Finally, priest Ernst Alt received approval from a bishop to perform an exorcism. He spent 10 months with another priest, Arnold Renz performing 67 exorcisms on Michel. During the exorcisms, Michel claimed to be possessed by Adolf Hitler, Nero, Lucifer, Cain, Judas and a disgraced priest named Fleischmann. Her condition worsened and she broke bones in her knees from repeatedly kneeling for prayer.
Michel soon stopped eating food altogether and died of malnutrition and dehydration at the age of 23 in 1976. The priests and the family were investigated, charged with negligent homicide and found guilty of manslaughter.
The Methodist Exorcism of George Lukins
In 1769, Bristol, England tailor, George Lukins began behaving erratically. He was speaking in strange voices, making inhuman noises and singing hymns backward. Lukins was also a ventriloquist, singer and actor in the Christmas mummeries.
That Christmas, Lukins was in the middle of a run of performances when he felt what he reported as a “divine slap” bring him to the ground. When he awoke, he began suffering from seizures where he couldn’t speak and his right hand twitched as he barked like a dog.
His parish admitted him to a clinic where his condition worsened over 20 weeks. Convinced he was bewitched, he sought out magic practitioners and attacked an older woman to try to drink her blood. Lukins claimed the devil had possessed him.
Reverend Joseph Easterbrook visited Lukins and determined that an exorcism was necessary. However, his petition to the Church was rejected. He went ahead with the exorcism in secret anyway with the help of six other Methodist priests and six Wesleyan ministers.
The priests and ministers reported that Lukins responded to the exorcism with violent curses in a “deep, hoarse, hollow tone” and sang and laughed and claimed to be the devil. He also exhibited so much strength that it was difficult to hold him down. Lukins also mocked the men by singing the Te Deum hymn but replacing “God” with “devil.”
After two hours of exorcism, Lukins recited the Lord’s prayer, thanked the exorcists and never fell ill again.
The Exorcism of Clara Germana Cele
Clara Cele was a 16-year-old from South Africa. In 1906, nuns at the orphanage school she was at claimed that her behavior began to turn violent and that she was ripping at her clothes and growling, demanding to speak with Father Erasmus Horner. She told him that she had made a pact with the devil.
The nuns claimed her skin would burn when they poured holy water on it, that religious iconography would make her convulse, that she suddenly seemed to have the strength of an adult and could apparently speak various foreign languages that she had never learned.
Father Horner and Reverend Mansueti were granted permission to conduct an exorcism, which lasted two full days. They said that Cele had attempted to strangle one of the priests and knocked a Bible out of his hands as well as bit one of the women trying to help her.
After two days, the demon finally left Cele’s body and caused her to levitate. According to accounts, 170 people were present to witness her possession and exorcism.
Dr. Richard Gallagher and “Julia”
If you thought all exorcisms were a thing of the past, think again. In 2008, board-certified psychiatrist and teacher at Columbia University and New York Medical College, Dr. Richard Gallagher, declared that his patient, “Julia,” was possessed. She was the self-proclaimed High Priestess of a Satanic cult, dressing in flowing black robes and black eyeshadow that went back to her temples.
After feeling as if she was being attacked by a demon, Julia reached out to a local priest who reached out to Dr. Gallagher to put her through psychiatric treatment. However, Dr. Gallagher ruled out mental illness after seeing Julia speak in tongues, sharing details about his life that she couldn’t know, entering trance-like states and making items flying off the shelves in his office. When he met Julia, she immediately began to point out the secret weaknesses of everyone in the room. She also knew that his mother had passed away from ovarian cancer.
Julia went through eight exorcisms, during which she spewed threats, levitated, exhibited super strength and changed the temperature of the room. She taunted Dr. Gallagher’s team of priests and nurses in voices that didn’t belong to her and began to make guttural, animalistic noises.
According to Dr. Gallagher, he and his team of exorcists weren’t able to fully help Julia because she called off the exorcism, saying that she enjoyed the power she reeived when she channeled the demonic entity possessing her body. After calling off the exorcism, he said he only heard from Julia one more time and that she was dying of cancer.
The Case of Michael Taylor
In 1974, Christine Taylor, wife of Michael Taylor, accused him of adultery with their church group leader after he became increasingly erratic and socially distant. After the confrontation, Taylor physically attacked his wife. His terrifying behavior increased in frequency and intensity, so it was decided that he needed to be seen by priests and have an exorcism.
In October of 1972 two ministers performed an exorcism on Taylor. It was a full night of exhaustive exorcism sessions during which he had seizures, spit at and bit the exorcist and screamed in tongues. Following the sessions, the priests claimed they had pulled about fourty demons from Taylor but that several still remained inside of him when he went home.
Upon his return, he brutally and violently murdered his wife – tearing her eyes out with his bare hands – and strangled the family poodle to death. He was picked up by the police after wandering the neighborhood streets soaked in blood. He was not convicted, though, because of the defense’s argument that the exorcism made him insane.
The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund
In 2016, the movie “The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund,” based on a true story from the early 1900s, was released. At the age of fourteen, Ecklund started to display strange behaviors and would fall ill anytime she attended Church as well as vomited after taking communion. She could also suddenly speak and understand Latin, Hebrew, Italian and Polish languages.
Ecklund’s family sought help from their local Church, where they met Father Theophilus Riesinger, an expert in exorcism. Father Riesinger noticed how Ecklund reacted violently to holy waters, prayers, and religious iconography. To confirm the possession, Father Riesinger sprayed her with fake holy water, in which she did not react.
In 1912, when Ecklund was 30 years old, Father Riesinger performed an exorcism on her. She returned to her normal self and was said to be free of demonic possessions.
However, over the next few years, she claimed that she was being tormented by her dead father and aunt’s spirits. In 1928, she sought the help of Father Riesinger again. He recruited Father Joseph Steiger to help perform the exorcism at his parish in Iowa, which was secret and secluded.
During the exorcism, Ecklund dislodged herself from the bed, floated in the air and landed above the room’s door as she howled loudly. She also defecated and vomited violently, screamed, hissed and her skin burned and sizzled when holy water touched it. It was also reported that her face twisted, her eyes and lips swelled and her stomach became hard. During the exorcism, the demons in Ecklund threatened Gather Steiger and he crashed his car into the railing of a bridge the next day.
The third and last session of her exorcism was when the demons freed her. Ecklund recalled having visions of brutal battles between spirits during the exorcisms. After the three sessions, she was very weak and malnourished. She went on to live a quiet life and died in 1941.