Gothic Bite Magazine is diving into the demonic possession world of Catholicism and Christianity. We are studying the cases in history and this is what Kendra Hale found…
A Demon Possession
Everyone in some way shape or form has an image of what a demon or possession is. Whether through movies or TV, books or podcasts; they can be found in a variety of mediums.
Maybe your knowledge of demons and possession are more faith based, whispers in the church or just in passing conversations. Whatever the case may be, one truth is this. Possessions are not new discussions and have been around far longer than they have been documented.
One of the ones that caught my attention and has been made into a major motion picture is the tale of one Anneliese Michel. This isn’t one of the older cases in terms of history, our time frame is 1952-1976. But it is fascinating and extensive.
Anneliese Michel was born in the small town of Klingenberg, Bavaria, in Western Germany in 1952. Born into an extremely devoted religious family, she learned the scope of her religion early on. It was said that she would serve penance that was self imposed, such as sleeping on the floor of her room to show comradery with those with no homes.
It wasn’t until she was sixteen that Anneliese began to experience blackouts. She would also walk as if in a trance, unaware of what she was doing or of her surroundings. Also there were instances of her wetting the bed. This was only the beginning of the terrors that would plague her.
Soon enough poor Anneliese was experiencing convulsions and seizures. Her family, naturally, grew concerned and took her to a neurologist.
The neurologist diagnosed her with temporal lobe epilepsy, which can cause seizures, memory loss, and hallucinations. She began taking medication for epilepsy and all seeming taken care of, would enroll in school.
However, even with the medication her condition took a turn for the worse. This caused Michel to become depressed, even considering suicide. Worse she began hearing voices all around her.
Voices telling her she was a lost soul and damned. The face of the devil began appearing everywhere she would look. Anneliese was convinced at this point she was possessed by a demon.
Convincing The Clergy
Not to put it lightly, but while those around her believed Anneliese it wasn’t so easy to just have their local priest come in and perform an exorcism. As a colleague of mine will later detail, there is a process for an exorcism to not only be approved but performed. Her family was denied twice by their local priest.
Her Mother said the actions of Michel started to worsen from not being able to be in the presence of effigies of Christ or hearing voice. Michel would be seen doing anywhere from four hundred to six hundred squats or taking a knee daily. So much so that she tore the ligaments in her knees.
Not just that but eating the head off a bird, eating spiders or coal, barking like a dog on all fours. Her behaviors grew and got worse. The screaming could go on for hours.
Her parents tried to get her further medical treatment, knowing that what was happening was not normal. But Anneliese refused, begging them to instead seek help from the church. Finally after getting support from a priest, the Bishop granted her third request for an exorcism, as long as done in secret.
The Demons Inside
With these names came personality and even vocal shifting. Characteristics associated with the individuals that could be verified. The demons, like Judas and Hitler would be heard arguing against each other.
Over the course of around nine months, Michel was put through sixty-seven exorcisms. Sixty-seven. A staggering amount by any tally. And as these were performed her body wasted away.
Though it was stated that she still exhibited acts of superhuman strength, her body was deteriorating from the stress, lack of eating, and the toll that the exorcisms would take. At one horrific point, all the bones and tendons in her knees were broken and torn from all the kneeling.
Anneliese’s cause of death may come as a shock to you, however given the records and character witnesses of her…it may not.
From September of 1975 to the Spring of 1976 these exorcisms took place and Anneliese got to the point where she not only refused medical help, stopped taking the medications she was on for her epilepsy, but also stopped eating entirely.
Her body was ill equipped to battle the pneumonia that wracked her body. On July 1, 1976 Michel passed away with her cause of death being cited as dehydration and starvation. At age twenty-three she weighed only sixty-eight pounds.
The After Effects
With the death of their child, Michel’s parents and the priests who had performed the exorcisms were put on trial. The tapes of the exorcisms were played before the court and the parents stood by the fact that they had pursued every possible avenue to get their daughter treatment. The courts sentenced them to six months of jail time that was suspended with three years of probation.
The case shook the world and while there have been songs and TV episodes that touch on the case, the movie story is the one more well known. In 2005 The Exorcism of Emily Rose told a loose version of the events with Jennifer Carpenter playing the role of Emily Rose/ Anneliese Michel. Regardless of the fanfare for the film it is clear that the case of Anneliese Michel is still very relevant today.
The case of Anneliese Michel is heartbreaking, terrifying, and tragic. The images and audio captured paint real fear. I will include a link to one of the audio files, of which there are forty known, if you choose to listen.
But whether you believe in possession, exorcisms, and the existence of demons… is up to you.