A Battle Of Wills: The Reality Of Demonic Possession And Exorcisms

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
September 5, 2023
Estimated Reading Time
22 min read
Posted in
Supernatural, Ghosts & Hauntings

While many of us might think of exorcisms as a thing for the movies, the fact is that many more real-life casting out of demons take place than we might think. Even the most well-known of such movies, The Exorcist, was inspired by real-life events. And what’s more, the background to these real-life encounters with demonic entities from other realms and their attempts to take over the bodies of others, is that they all differ greatly, both in circumstance and location.

What is particularly interesting about many of these alleged cases of demonic possession that have led to attempts to perform exorcisms, is that many of them have further-reaching and often tragic consequences. Indeed, if we believe that part of possession is for a spirit to have a person do their bidding against the will and, at times, according to testimony, their knowledge, then many of the cases here could very well be argued to be demonic possession.

However, there is also a fine line to tread. A line between recognizing mental illness and the medical treatment that could confront it, and entertaining the possibility that something more unexplained and even otherworldly might be behind some of these fascinating, if grim cases.

While we clearly can’t examine each and every case of apparent demonic possession that resulted in exorcisms here, we can look at some of the most intriguing, as well as accounts that had very real consequences, either for the person possessed, or those around them.

The Most Well-Known Exorcism Movie Inspired By True Events

Perhaps the best place to start would be with the real-life events that inspired arguably the most famous film portraying possession and exorcism, The Exorcist. [1] The movie was based on the book of the same name by William Peter Blatty, and his inspiration came from two very real cases of demonic possession.

It is claimed that one of the encounters occurred in 1949 in Cottage City, Maryland. Several newspaper articles appeared telling of the apparent demonic possession of a young boy, most often referred to as “Robbie” in most articles. Not only had Robbie become possessed, but he eventually underwent an exorcism thanks to a Jesuit priest.

According to most accounts, Robbie was from a German Lutheran family and had been introduced to spiritual interests through his Aunt Harriet, including the use of a Ouija board. However, following the death of his aunt, the entire family, including Robbie, began to experience terrifying encounters and a surge of strange, paranormal activity.

Objects would suddenly lift into the air as if by a pair of invisible hands, and strange noises could often be heard in the property. Furniture would also move across the floor completely under its own volition. Even more alarming were the episodes of levitation, where the young boy would float in the air unaided.

It is thought by some researchers that the newspapers’ source of information was the family’s own pastor, Luther Miles Schulze. [2] Indeed, it was Schulze who the family turned to when the strange events began happening.

The Strange Events Follow Robbie From Home

One researcher and author who has extensively investigated the case is Thomas B. Allen, who would detail his findings in the book Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism, and it is his research that provides much of what we know of the case today.

Following the start of these unsettling events, the family reported them to their pastor, Luther Miles Schulze, and asked him for his help. He agreed and arranged to have Robbie stay at his home for the night so he could observe him. This also gave Schulze the chance to see if the strange activity followed the young boy to his house (this would, in part, eliminate the possibility that events had been orchestrated by the boy or the family).

It was reported that Schulze did indeed witness strange activity on the night Robbie spent at the house. He claimed to have seen furniture and ornaments and other household items moving by themselves, as well as strange, unnerving noises. Ultimately, he advised the family that they should contact a Catholic priest and seek them to perform an exorcism.

It is here, where the story becomes a little murky.

According to most accounts, several exorcisms were attempted over the following days and weeks, with most sources stating that at least one of these was performed by a Catholic priest, Edward Hughes. The exorcism was said to have taken place at the Jesuit Georgetown University Hospital.

It is said that during the evening, Robbie – who was restrained for his own safety and everyone else’s – freed himself and broke a bedspring from the mattress before proceeding to use it to slash Hughes’ arm. Following the attack, the exorcism was immediately brought to a close.

Following this first exorcism attempt, the family decided to take matters more into their own hands.

Exorcism In St. Louis

They took Robbie with them to St. Louis to visit relatives, and to consult with a priest and professor at St. Louis University. After learning of the case, it was brought to the attention of Jesuit priest, William Bowdern, who made arrangements to visit the family while they were in St. Louis. They too would claim to have witnessed many strange events while in the house, including objects being thrown through the air and the bed shaking furiously of its own accord. Perhaps most disturbing, however, was the times the young boy would speak in a strange language in a voice that sounded unlike his own.

After having witnessed the strange events, Bowdern arranged for another exorcism to be performed, this time at the Alexian Brothers Hospital in St. Louis. Incidentally, one of the last surviving people who witnessed the events was Jesuit priest, Walter Halloran. He was called in to assist Bowdern with the exorcism.

Remarkably, he would later attest to seeing such words as “evil” and “hell” appear on the young boy’s body during the exorcism. There were, he would further claim, many other scratches and markings that appeared on his body as if out of nowhere. Those present also witnessed the mattress of the bed shaking uncontrollably. At one point, Robbie lashed out and broke Holloran’s nose. [3]

The exorcism appeared to have worked, however, and according to the account, Robbie blended back into anonymity and was never bothered, at least to the best of public knowledge, by such paranormal phenomena again.

Speaking decades later before his death, though, Halloran stated that although he was there and that the events did happen, he could not go on the record to state that the boy was “definitely possessed” because he didn’t feel he was qualified to do so. To some people, this was a discreet sign of skepticism on Halloran’s part. [4] Whether that is the case or not is not fully known. The case, though, is hard to pin down as completely factually accurate. And it is to those areas of concern where we will turn our attention to next.

Unconsciously Exaggerated?

Perhaps the best place to start when examining the validity of such claims is with the family’s pastor, Luther Miles Schulze, and the fact that he had an intense interest in parapsychology. While this isn’t necessarily proof that he might have gone into the case with a biased mind, and, intentionally or not, reported on things that were proof of strange phenomena, it is certainly a charge that has been leveled by skeptics, not least in light of the refusal by Halloran to confirm, on record, that the young boy was possessed by an evil spirit.

It is perhaps worth noting that parapsychologist, J.B. Rhine was also at least partially skeptical of the events reported by Schulze, specifically, those at his home, stating that it was possible that he “unconsciously exaggerated” some of the events that evening. We should also note, however, that strange, paranormal happenings were witnessed by many people, with around 40 people being present for the eventual exorcism alone.

One researcher who took an interest in the case and was, ultimately, very skeptical of the claims was Mark Opsasnick. He would highlight that Halloran, despite what had been reported, had not heard the boy’s voice change to one that was not his own. And that Opsasnick suspected that the Latin phrases and words he used were likely ones he had heard from the priests themselves. He essentially believed that Robbie was merely an attention-seeking prankster who had orchestrated the events.

Opsasnick would even highlight the words and scratches that suddenly “appeared” on the young boy’s body. He noted how none of those present – including Halloran – checked Robbie’s fingernails to see if he had, in fact, made the scratches himself.

That something happened would appear to be not in doubt. Whether those events were of a true paranormal nature is perhaps open to debate. True or not, though, the reports of the events still served to inspire the movie, The Exorcist.

Further Inspiration For The Exorcist From The Loudun Possession Encounters

Truly unsettling events from 1634 in Loudun also served to inspire Blatty. According to most accounts, several nuns claimed they were possessed by evil spirits following persistent “illicit dreams” they had had concerning a particular priest named Urbain Grandier.

It is claimed that during the exorcism of these nuns, they made many blasphemous statements, and even made “sexual motions” toward the priests themselves. These actions sound almost identical to some of the scenes in the movie and were undoubtedly responsible for influencing them.

Perhaps of even more concern, Grandier was eventually arrested and accused of wrongdoing himself, being subject to various torture methods of the Church.

We will turn our attention next to another famous and questionable case, and one that is altogether a lot more harrowing.

The Truly Horrific Exorcism Case Of Anneliese Michel

The apparent possession and exorcism of Anneliese Michel in Bavaria, West Germany in 1975 and 1976 also inspired several movies, perhaps the most well-known being The Exorcism of Emily Rose in 2005, almost three decades after the ultimately tragic events unfolded. [5] Michel grew up in a Catholic family, who were particularly strict in their beliefs, but largely had a normal upbringing. Then, for no reason that could be determined, when she was 16 years old, she suddenly blacked out at school. Following this episode, she appeared to be in a permanent daze or trance. When she finally returned to normal, she claimed to have no recollection that anything strange had happened.

Anneliese Michel

Anneliese Michel

The incident was largely forgotten about until a year later when she again awoke in a strange trance-like state, this time convulsing and even wetting the bed. Once more, she recalled no memory of the episode when she came to, but her family now looked to seek medical help. She was ultimately diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy. This condition causes blackouts, seizures, and, on occasion, hallucinations.

With regular medication, her condition could be controlled, and she continued her education at the University of Wurzburg. However, as her first year unfolded in 1973, the drugs began to fail increasingly, and she became more and more withdrawn. Even worse, she was beginning to hallucinate strange “devil faces” watching her, as well as hearing voices telling her she was “damned”.

It was during this time that Anneliese began to increasingly believe that a demonic entity had possessed her – one that was becoming more and more powerful as the days and weeks went on. And what’s more, she believed it was a problem that medication couldn’t help with.

An Aversion To Christian Buildings And Symbols

It was noted by those around her that Anneliese was increasingly unable to enter Christian buildings or even be near Christian symbols, such as a Crucifix. In part, due to her own rantings, as well as the observations of friends and family, others began to consider that she might, in fact, be possessed by some evil force.

Both Anneliese and several family members approached multiple priests to examine the case and perform an exorcism. However, all would decline, stating that it was in her best interests to continue with medical treatment and that she should return to the doctor to alter her medication.

Anneliese during her alleged possession

Perhaps because of this refusal, or perhaps because whatever entity had taken control of her (of indeed that was the case), her mental state and overall condition began to deteriorate rapidly and she would act in the most extreme way.

She would, for example, tear her clothes from her body at random moments, or carry out hundreds of squats without stopping. On other occasions she would hide under the table or behind furniture, often making animal noises. One particularly grim incident saw her bite the head off a dead bird.

As a result of this continuing and escalating behavior, the family sought the help of another priest. Only this time, the priest in question, Ernst Alt, agreed that she was possessed by an evil spirit, and claimed that an exorcism was warranted.

It would be a claim that would be examined years later in a court of law.

Repeated Exorcisms And Continual Decline

Ernst Alt would seek permission from his local Bishop, Josef Stangl to perform an exorcism on Anneliese. His request was granted. It was to be performed by another priest, Arnold Renz, and most importantly, it was to be carried out in absolute secrecy.

What followed was a 10-month period during which dozens of exorcisms were performed, with some of these lasting upwards of four hours at a time. Some of the revelations of these exorcisms were as bizarre as they were thought-provoking. Not least the assertion put forward by Anneliese herself that she was possessed by no less than six demons – each of which she named, Lucifer, Cain, Judas Iscariot, Adolf Hitler, Nero, and a disgraced priest named, Fleischmann. She further claimed that these entities were “jostling” between themselves to fully take over her body.

As intriguing an idea as it might be that such specific historical figures might be behind attempts to possess a person, it may be a red flag that Anneliese’s problems were more mental than paranormal, or at least her perception of them. This is something we will return to shortly.

Perhaps most unnerving, though, was the repeated idea from Anneliese that she should die to “atone for the wayward youth of the day and the apostate priests of the modern church”.

As the exorcisms went on, Anneliese’s condition continued to decline. She would eat less and less, eventually stopping altogether. She had to be restrained, physically so, for most of the exorcisms and she even broke the bones in her knees from the vast number of hours she spent knelt praying.

In total, 67 separate exorcisms were carried out on Anneliese before her death on 1st July 1976. It was determined that she had died from dehydration and malnutrition – essentially, intentionally or not, she had been starved to death.

And a little over 18 months after her tragic demise, the circumstances around her death, and more specifically, those who were around in her final months, would find themselves at the center of a legal court trial.

Before we move on to look at the very gritty end to the case of Anneliese Michel in the years after her death, the video below features audio of one of the exorcisms.

Charges Of Negligent Homicide

Following the investigation into her death, her parents, as well as the two priests, Ernst Alt, and Arnold Renz were arrested and charged with negligent homicide. In short, their actions and failure to intervene and seek medical assistance, particularly when the young woman stopped eating, had directly resulted in her death.

The case came to trial in March 1978, and had captured the interest of the entire country. And the picture painted by the prosecution was not a pretty one. They claimed that it was clear that Anneliese was not possessed and that her belief that she was came from a combination of her temporal lobe epilepsy (which, remember, she had been diagnosed with) and her upbringing in such a strict, unforgiving religious environment.

While the defense argued that the exorcisms had been legal and protected under the country’s rights to religious beliefs, even the bishop who had authorized the exorcisms to go ahead distanced himself from them, stating that had he been aware of Anneliese’s medical diagnosis he wouldn’t have given permission for them to go ahead.

All of those accused were found guilty of the charges. What’s more, although they were each given suspended prison sentences. What is interesting about this, especially as the case had sparked intense debate in the West German media about the Church’s outdated attitude to what was, essentially, mental illness, is that these sentences were much more than what the prosecution had asked for (which was merely a fine and a guilty verdict). It showed how seriously the authorities were looking at such attitudes from the Catholic Church, and, almost certainly as a result, the number of exorcisms authorized in the country dropped dramatically.

Ultimately, whether Anneliese was possessed or not (and it was the prosecution’s assertion that she wasn’t) there were ample occasions where intervention from either her parents or either of the priests could have saved her life, even in the final days.

In a strange twist of sorts, though, decades after the case, on 6th June 2013, the house in which Anneliese lived – and where she endured the months of tortuous exorcisms – suffered a significant fire. And while the damage was repairable and judged to be a case of arson, many rumors began to swirl that the flames were caused by her spirit and must still reside within the walls of the building.

The short video below examines this tragic case a little further.

The Harrowing Case Of The Ossett “Exorcist” Murderer

Around the same time as the Anneliese Michel case, across the English Channel in Ossett in West Yorkshire in England, another similarly disturbing encounter unfolded. [6] The incident involved a butcher, Michael Taylor, who had been displaying questionable behavior throughout much of 1974.

Although most knew him as a kind married man and the father of five children, he also suffered from bouts of depression, in part due to persistent back trouble. Although the Taylors were not particularly religious, many of the local town were, and a friend of the family suggested they join them at a church group meeting (the Christian Fellowship Group) in an effort to help Michael’s depression.

Much to his wife, Christine’s surprise, Michael appeared to take to the group, attending regularly and being an active contributor. He particularly struck up a relationship with the group’s 21-year-old pastor, Marie Robinson, who was 10 years his junior. In fact, he spent so much time with Marie that his wife would eventually confide in other members of the group that she believed he had desires of having an affair with her.

When it came to light that he and Marie had engaged in several private rituals involving only the two of them, Christine only became all the more concerned. Even more so when she learned these rituals only took place when there was a full moon.

As Michael spent less and less time at home and an increasing amount of time with Marie, Christine, feeling more and more desperate, put her concerns to Michael at one of the group meetings, in front of all those present. It is at this point when the tale really takes a dramatic turn.

Michael would claim that an “evil influence (had) cast a shadow over him” before going on to launch a volatile verbal assault on Marie. At one point, he went to physically attack her and had to be restrained by other members of the group. For her part, Marie would say that saw “his whole features change” right before her eyes, and that he had become “almost bestial” with a “really wild look in his eyes”.

Perhaps amazingly, Michael would later claim to have no memory of the incident. Ultimately, the group forgave him for the outburst, and the matter was, officially, at least, put to bed. However, the worst was still to come.

“It Is The Blood Of Satan!”

Despite their efforts to forget about the bizarre episodes, it quickly became apparent to all of those in the group that there was something wrong with Michael. What’s more, rather than getting better, or even stabilizing, he was clearly becoming worse. When local ministers were asked to overlook the situation, the genuine question of whether he might indeed be possessed by a demonic entity was discussed, and ultimately, it was decided that an exorcism would be in his best interests.

Two of the ministers themselves would perform the exorcism, Peter Vincent and Raymond Smith, which took place just short of midnight on 5th October 1974 at St. Thames Church in Barnsley. Throughout the exorcism, Michael would react violently – convulsing, spitting, and screaming obscenities. The exorcism lasted right into the next morning, during which time, some questionable activities were carried out – such as pushing a crucifix forcibly into his mouth and drenching him repeatedly with holy water.

After several hours of this, Michael had become almost animalistic, lashing out and even growling at anyone who approached him. Several members of the group were present and later attested to such events.

They claimed there were over 40 spiritual entities inside Michael, and that while they had managed to cast out most of them, several remained. After eight hours of the session, the two priests had to halt the proceedings due to exhaustion. They suggested that both Michael and Christine should rest and they would begin the exorcism again the following day. It was an exorcism that never happened.

At just before 10 am on 7th October, PC Ian Walker was driving his patrol car down the street upon which the Taylors lived. To his shock, there in the middle of the road, naked, looking confused, and covered in blood, was Michael Taylor. As Walker stopped the car and cautiously approached Taylor, he lay on the ground and curled up. Walker recalled he was saying, repeatedly, “It is the blood of Satan”.

A Scene Like Nothing Witnessed Before

By the time Walker had taken in more of the activity on the street, he noticed another police car already parked outside the property. He learned that neighbors had called the police due to a disturbance coming from the Taylor house. When the policeman walked toward the property, he suddenly saw his inspector rush out of the front door. He stood there a moment, and then doubled over and vomited. He would offer to Walker that he “didn’t want to see this one”, continuing that he had never “seen nothing like it before”. He would further elaborate that whatever Taylor had done, he had “ripped at her” and that there was “not much of her left”.

When Walker stepped inside despite his inspector’s warning, he realized that the “her” in question was Christine Taylor, Michael’s wife. The living was a scene of absolute chaos and destruction, with blood splattered and washed upon almost every wall and surface. There was also what appeared to be brain matter on the floor. Close by was the body of Christine Taylor and the family dog – each of them was barely recognizable.

It would later come to light that around 9:30 am – only minutes before the arrival of the police car and then PC Walker, Michael Taylor had strangled his wife before tearing and clawing at her face, almost tearing it off completely. Both of her eyes were completely gouged out, and her tongue was ripped from her jaw. Parts of the bone of the face were clearly visible from what must have been a frenzied attack. Their unfortunate pet dog had seemingly suffered a similar brutal attack, with damage to all four of its limbs.

Needless to say, Michael was arrested and taken into custody. Once there, he would begin to reveal just what had happened, and why.

“Compelled By A Force Within Me To Destroy Everything Living Within The House!”

When they asked Michael to tell them what had happened, he began by telling them of the exorcism the previous day. According to police records of his statement, he would state that those who had performed the exorcism had “danced around him” and kept him in the church all the way through the night. Then, he would state the power was in him, and that he “couldn’t get rid of it, and neither could they”. It was perhaps the last part of that initial response that was most chilling. He would offer to the officers that it was “too late”, and that he was “compelled by a force within me to destroy everything living within the house”.

During the course of the questioning, he would claim that he loved his wife deeply, and could remember nothing whatsoever about the attack. However, when he was asked how felt right then at that moment, he would reply, perhaps ominously, that he felt “released” and that “the evil in her has been destroyed”.

He was swiftly charged with Christine’s murder and remanded in custody to await trial. The crime quickly drew national attention from the newspapers. And, given the background to the case combined with the recently released film The Exorcist, many people took an intense interest in the upcoming trial.

The trial itself began in March 1975 and Michael again, testifying in his defense, claimed that he had no memory of killing his wife and that he was under the influence of dark, evil forces. He further offered, whether sincere or not, that his wife – whom he claimed to have loved dearly – was also possessed by an evil entity.

The Christian Fellowship Prayer Group

His defense also turned their attention to the Christian Fellowship Prayer Group, who they essentially likened to a cult, and went further claiming that the group had lit the fuse of the eventual horrific murder with their “warped religious ideals”.

Defense lawyer, Mr. Ognall, would be particularly blunt when he stated that:

We submit that Taylor is a mere cipher. The real guilt lies elsewhere. Religion is the key. Those who have been referred to in evidence, and those clerics in particular, should be with him in spirit now in this building and each day he is incarcerated in Broadmoor, and not least on the day he must endure the bitter reunion with his five motherless children.

Powerful words, no doubt. Might they be accurate? Might the private rituals between Marie Robinson have been a catalyst of sorts that resulted in murder? Just what were these rituals and why did they take place? And what of the eager nature with which the local ministers went ahead with an exorcism – an exorcism that appears to be more in line with the methods of the Inquisition of the Dark Ages?

What the case, Michael Taylor was ultimately found not guilty of murder due to “reason of insanity”. He was sentenced to two years in Broadmoor Secure Hospital, legally declared insane by the state. After these two years, he was transferred to Bradford Royal Infirmary and was ultimately released back into the public in the early 1980s.

We have to ask, if Michael Taylor was suffering from genuine insanity, was he really rehabilitated to a satisfactory degree in just four years? And, above all else, was he really possessed by an evil entity that temporarily took over his thoughts and actions for its own ends? Or were these blackouts genuine signs of mental illness on Taylor’s part? It is perhaps worth noting that Taylor was brought back before the court in 2005 on the charge of indecently touching a teenager, and was ultimately ordered back into psychiatric care once more. What is interesting about this grim affair, is Taylor had said to the police when he was arrested that it was “all his fault” and asked he was “going to Broadmoor for killing my wife”.

He had, by all accounts, continued to display odd behavior when he returned to live in Ossett following his release back into society. And he would seeming continue to suffer from depression, even attempting to commit suicide on at least four separate occasions.

Still Many Unanswered Questions

Was Michael Taylor mentally unwell, so much so, that at one stage he blacked out and brutally murdered his wife – a woman he maintained he deeply loved decades after her murder? Or was he really subjected to the powers of some dark force that overtook him completely, leaving him no memory of the attack his body had been used to carry out?

It is a case that continues to fascinate many in different fields, from those of psychiatry and criminology, and those who contemplate that the notion of demonic possession has more validity to it than many people would like to even consider.

Incidentally, the attempted exorcism of Michael Taylor was the last such ritual connected to the Anglican Church (at least officially), which came under quite an attack from commentators and the general public. And while they stand their ground as well as distancing themselves from the notion of exorcisms, there is little doubt that the entire episode reflected badly on them.

The short video below looks at this truly mystifying case a little further.

The Decades’ Long Encounters Of Anna Ecklund

Much earlier than the other exorcisms we have examined above so far, is another such casting out took place in 1912 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with the exorcism of Anna Ecklund. In truth, although the first exorcism took place in 1912, the bizarre events stretched back some years. [7] Perhaps the first rumblings that strange events were heading their way came as far back as the late 1890s when Anna was still a teenager.

During this time she would suddenly begin withdrawing from any religious symbols or books, and could not physically bring herself to even step into a church. Even worse, she would also begin to describe particularly detailed sexual acts and use foul language seemingly at random. Furthermore, she would often speak in languages that she didn’t know, including Latin and German.

A decade later, in 1908, and after a steady, continuous decline in her behavior, another apparent revelation swept through the Milwaukee community. According to this new information, the girl’s father and her aunt practiced witchcraft, and it was they who were responsible for her blasphemous behavior.

Ultimately, several medical professionals examined Anna but could find no physical or psychiatric reason for her displays. By 1912, with all other apparent avenues exhausted, the family and local community would turn to the Church for help. An exorcism was granted and was performed by Father Theophilus Riesinger. Initially, it appeared as though the exorcism had been a success. However, after several months, the strange happenings surrounding Anna returned. And they were even worse than before.

Local rumors swirled that Anna’s father and aunt were once again behind the strange encounters of the terrified young woman, claiming they had put some kind of spell or curse on her from afar. These bizarre experiences would go on for almost twenty years until, in 1928, Anna, desperate for help turned to Father Riesinger for help once more.

Hissing Noises And Climbing Up The Walls Like A Spider

Riesinger would agree to help Anna. He would also request several other priests adept in exorcism to help him in his attempts to cast out this evil presence once and for all. The exorcism would take place on 17th August 1928 in a Franciscan Sisters convent. And, according to the records of the event, the activity was immediate and intense.

Anna immediately reacted badly to the holy water used and recoiled away from crosses. Even more unsettling, she would often make hissing noises like a cat about to strike, and at one point was claimed to have walked “up the walls like a spider” before being forced down and restrained on the bed. Even once restrained, she still managed to levitate a considerable distance from the bed.

Throughout the exorcism, she would let out howls and screams, and she would vomit an ominous liquid. Even more alarming, though, were the physical changes to her appearance that were witnessed by those present. Her head and lips swelled noticeably while her eyes bulged in their sockets in an unnatural way. Some people reported that her entire body appeared to increase in size right before their eyes before returning to its normal dimensions. And this happened on several different occasions.

There were three separate exorcisms in total, which took place over a period of 23 days. During the course of those sessions, the priests believed that at least four different spirits were seeking to take possession of Anna’s body, with one of these claiming to be Beelzebub himself. However, it was two of the lesser-known spirits that were perhaps most revealing. It was believed that they were the spirits of her father and aunt, who had since passed away.

It would appear, despite the intense nature of the exorcisms that they were ultimately successful, and Anna suddenly sat up as if she had been snapped out of a trance. Her case is perhaps one of the most credible on record, and certainly one that warrants further study.

A Case Studied By A Scientist From The Mainstream – The Possession Of “Julia”

Without a doubt, one of the most intriguing cases of apparent demonic possession happened in more recent times in 2008, when a woman in New York – referred to in reports as Julia – approached her church claiming she was possessed by an unknown spirit. [8] Unable to help, the church would turn to psychiatrists for their opinion on the matter.

One such person who learned of the case was Dr. Richard Gallagher, the Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at New York Medical College. He would interview Julia and investigate the background to her claims. Amazingly, he began to suspect that Julia wasn’t making the whole thing up, nor could mental illness explain the bizarre happenings. For example, Julia would often respond to his questions in voices that were clearly not her own. She would also behave in drastically different ways to her usual demeanor. Strangest of all, any kind of religious artifact or symbol caused her to recoil.

Gallagher also noted that Julia would go into trance-like states, and it was often while in these states that vile language and threats were made, often in voices that were clearly not hers. He would elaborate that these voices were often “guttural and vaguely masculine”.

Perhaps most disturbing to Dr. Gallagher, though, was that during phone conversations he would have, these same strange voices would appear on the line out of nowhere and then disappear again.

Convinced more than ever that Julia was experiencing something of a paranormal nature, an exorcism was arranged, which Gallagher attended. What he witnessed that evening would turn his belief system on its head.

As the exorcism progressed, Gallagher witnessed Julia levitate while the room itself would become intensely hot. Items would also fly off shelves while Julia herself would speak in different languages and even demonstrate personal details of those in attendance. Even stranger, when normal water was sprinkled over her she was unconcerned but when the same thing was done with Holy (blessed) water – something she hadn’t known – she reacted violently.

Perhaps most remarkable, though, was that after the exorcism, she appeared to be free of whatever demon or spirit had taken hold of her. Although he couldn’t explain them, Dr. Gallagher – a man of mainstream science – was convinced that the encounter was something truly out of the ordinary and unexplainable.

A Subject To Be Studied, Not Dismissed

As we can see, then, while there are certainly some cases where possession may not have been the cause of some of the bizarre behavior we have examined, others can not be so easily dismissed. Of course, whether that means that the notion of a person being overtaken by an evil spirit or entity is accurate or whether it is the result of the complexities of the human mind remains open to debate. Perhaps the idea of demonic possession is so far removed from the twenty-first-century thought process that the notion is immediately dismissed without consideration.

Indeed, what was, and currently still is, at least to some, still regarded as essentially dark magic and occult powers will almost certainly one day be explained by science. Of course, whether that means our understanding of possession shifts or our understanding of possessions shifts our collective scientific perspective is perhaps yet to be determined.

The cold, hard fact of the matter is, that belief in demonic possession remains in place right across the world, if only to some people. And more often than not, many people who claim or are believed to be possessed are subjected to harsh, often unforgiving, and tragic rituals – rituals from which they most often don’t survive. In that sense, our collective understanding of possession – whether it be real or something just in one’s mind – could quite literally save lives.

The video below looks at some of the most intriguing and thought-provoking cases of demonic possession and exorcisms in history.


1 The real life exorcism that inspired The Exorcist, ATG Tickets https://www.atgtickets.com/blog/the-real-life-exorcism-that-inspired-the-exorcist/
2 The Haunted Boy of Cottage City, The Cold Hard Facts Behind the Story That Inspired The Exorcist, Strange Mag http://www.strangemag.com/exorcistpage1.html
3 Jesuit Priest Walter Halloran, Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18767-2005Mar8.html
4 Exorcism Of 1949 Continues To Fascinate St. Louis, Times Union https://www.timesunion.com/entertainment/article/Exorcism-of-1949-continues-to-fascinate-St-Louis-4939855.php
5 Anneliese Michel And The Shocking Images From The Exorcism Of The Real Emily Rose, All That’s Interesting https://allthatsinteresting.com/anneliese-michel-exorcism
6 The Ossett “Exorcist” Murder, True Crime Enthusiast https://truecrimeenthusiast.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/the-ossett-exorcist-murder/
7 Ghosts and Demons: The Lost Things, KyL Cobb, ISBN 9781329 156289
8 12 Mysterious Real Cases Of Demonic Possession, Brent Swancer, Mysterious Universe https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2016/12/mysterious-real-cases-of-demonic-possession/

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

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