Exorcisms, became more widely known at the latest with the release of the horror classic “The Exorcist” (1973). However, the religious practice has been around far longer and dates back to ancient times. The question of whether demons really exist and whether people can be “possessed” by them still divides humanity today. However, cases are repeatedly published in the media, which report allegedly real exorcisms. We take a look at six of these controversial stories, the authenticity of which everyone should judge for themselves.
Six Controversial Stories of Alleged Exorcisms
Exorcism is the practice of expelling evil spirits from a person or a place that is believed to be possessed. Exorcism has been part of many religions and cultures throughout history, and it has often been associated with horror stories and supernatural phenomena. Here are six real life exorcisms cases that really happened:
6. Real Life Exorcisms: Anneliese Michel
The most famous case of an alleged exorcism comes from Germany and was also the model for Scott Derickson’s horror thriller “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” The student Anneliese Michel from Franconia came from a strict Catholic home and was herself firmly convinced that demons possessed her. As was discovered after her death, the young woman actually suffered from epilepsy, which explained her delusion. In 1976, she died due to severe malnutrition after a priest had tried 67 times to cast out the devil from her.
5. Real Life Exorcisms: Anna Ecklund
The case of Anna Ecklund is still considered one of the most challenging cases of exorcism. At the age of 14, the US schoolgirl already developed an unusual aversion to religious objects. Moreover, the young girl could not enter a church, despite growing up in a religious household. When she began to hear voices in her head and inflict pain on herself, her family decided to perform an exorcism and ordered the German priest Theophilus Riesinger to do so. The latter is said to have later discovered that Anna’s father had an incestuous relationship with his sister, who also practiced black magic – allegedly the reason for Anna’s possession.
After Riesinger took the girl to a convent and isolated her from the outside world, he and a reverend from Iowa decided to perform three exorcisms. After each exorcism, her condition deteriorated dramatically; malnutrition resulted from her refusal to eat. The third and final exorcism reportedly even lasted over a week and required the assistance of three of the convent’s strongest sisters. Nevertheless, Ecklund was “cured” and lived a peaceful life until she died in 1933. Her true identity is kept secret to this day.
4. Real Life Exorcisms: Janet Hodgson
In 1977, a poltergeist is said to have haunted the Hodgson family from England. The case still divides the country today. The mother Peggy and her four children suddenly heard strange banging noises one day in their house in north London. The family was also very concerned about scratching noises and furniture that moved independently. When even the police could not help them, they asked ghost hunters and demonologists for help. They performed several exorcisms and confirmed that a poltergeist had possessed the family’s house. The exact cause of the unusual phenomena has not been determined, though skeptics claim that Janet actually suffered from schizophrenia and that the events largely stemmed from her delusions.
3. Real Life Exorcisms: Roland Doe
The case of Roland Doe served as the inspiration for the first-ever exorcism film. Doe came from a German family that lived in the U.S. state of Maryland. After his aunt, the then 14-year-old boy’s only caregiver died unexpectedly, he suddenly began exhibiting behavioral abnormalities that suggested possession. The boy’s strictly religious mother subsequently turned to the exorcist Father William S. Bowdern and his assistant. On March 16, 1949, the two clergymen began performing several exorcisms on the boy. These would continue until April 18, when Roland Doe was freed from his demon.
2. Real Life Exorcisms: Carolyn Perron and the Perron Family
Horror mastermind James Wan created a true creepy universe with 2013’s “The Conjuring“. In fact, the story deals with a true case of the two demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. Just like in the movie, ghosts terrorized the Perron family for years, which drove them to despair. Not long after the Perrons moved into their dream home in Harrisville, Rhode Island, unexplained occurrences began. From strange noises to family members being pulled from their beds at night, the family experienced a true nightmare. The ghost of a woman who hanged herself in the old farmhouse decades ago suddenly appeared on the property. This is said to have eventually even taken possession of Carolyn Perron. After several exorcisms by the two controversial audiologists, however, the desired success and healing failed to materialize until the Perrons finally decided to move out of the house and finally put the disturbing events behind them.
1. Real Life Exorcisms: Dr. Richard Gallagher and Julia
This exorcism case is the most recent in this list. In 2008, renowned psychiatrist and professor Dr. Richard Gallagher (Columbia University) claimed that one of his patients was possessed by a demon. The girl, named Julia, had been involved with Satanism and ritual violence from a young age. After becoming convinced herself that a demon-possessed her, she approached a local priest, who referred the young woman to Professor Dr. Gallagher. Dr. Gallagher, however, ruled out the possibility of a mental illness after witnessing unexplained phenomena while Julia was in his treatment room. In the end, they even performed an exorcism on her, during which she allegedly levitated, uttered death threats to those involved, and significantly changed the room’s temperature.