You all know I love the paranormal, and some of you know I’ve had enough personal experience to be a believer. But what about demons? If you believe in ghosts, does that mean you accept the idea of demons? After all, they are an entirely different phenomenon. And yet, if we believe in God, doesn’t that mean we must believe in the devil and by extent, demons? I don’t have the answer. But I do know there have been fascinating cases of so-called possession. Here is one of them.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose, starring Jennifer Carpenter, is based on Anneliese’s frightening story.
Born in Germany on September 21, 1952, Anneliese grew up in a devout Catholic family. Four years earlier, her mother had given birth to an illegitimate daughter, and this was a source of extreme shame for the family. The girl died when Anneliese was four, but many said Anneliese felt she had to repent for her mother’s sin and spent a good deal of time doing penance.
In 1968, at the age of sixteen, Anneliese started suffering convulsions. In 1969, a neurologist diagnosed her with Grand Mal epilepsy. Medication was prescribed, and Anneliese went on to finish high school and then to college to become a teacher. Her seizures grew worse over the years. They soon developed into hallucinations, and she began hearing voices. These voices told Anneliese she was damned.
Anneliese was first labeled possessed by an elderly woman who accompanied her on a pilgrimage. Claiming Anneliese smelled “hellishly bad,” the woman noted Anneliese avoided walking past an image of Christ, and said the girl also refused to drink from a holy spring. While one priest insisted Anneliese see a doctor, an exorcist concluded she was demonically possessed, and the right was eventually granted by the Bishop.
Anneliese became convinced of the diagnosis and soon stated she was possessed by several demons: Lucifer, Judas, Hitler, and Fleischman, a Frankish Priest who had fallen from grace in the sixteenth century.
Over the course of ten months, two priests performed sixty-seven exorcisms on the girl, every one approved by Anneliese. Ill from the seizures (or effect of the demons?), Anneliese performed hundreds of genuflections (the act of bending the knee or touching one knee to the floor or ground, as in worship), growing so weak her parents had to hold her up. Some claimed the demons caused her to speak several languages during the exorcism. Anneliese also stopped eating before she died, believing it would lessen evil’s control over her.
Other allegations include frequently urinating and defecating on the floor, licking her own urine, eating insects, sitting under the kitchen table and barking for two days, and growling at religious objects. Her family couldn’t get past their fears to help her.
On June 30th, 1976, Anneliese was emaciated, running a high fever, and suffering from pneumonia. Her last words to her mother were, “Mother, I’m afraid.” She died the next day. She weighed sixty-eight pounds.
Her parents and the two priests were charged with negligent homicide, and the evidence of exorcism was a double-edged sword for the defense. Forty-two of the sessions were recorded, and the defense had pictures of an emaciated Anneliese. While the tapes are frightening, most concluded the only real knowledge that came from them was that Anneliese was terribly ill and needed help.
Psychiatrists testified that the priests provided Anneliese with the contents of her psychotic behavior and believed she accepted her behavior as demonic possession. They also felt her epilepsy had influenced her actions.
The defendants were found guilty of manslaughter resulting from negligence and sentenced to six months in jail and probation. In the years following her death medical experts stated Anneliese’s symptoms were consistent with schizophrenia, and that she could have been treated.
The truth will never be known. Her body has been exhumed on more than one occasion, as proponents of her exorcism believed it would show little or no deterioration. Official reports state the body showed consistent deterioration.
If you have the time, watch the video. Anneliese’s words are certainly chilling, and I wonder how any human being could make such noises. And yet, mental illness is hard to understand. There’s no telling what the human brain is capable of. The only thing I know for certain is that poor Anneliese should have never been left to the care of her priests and well-meaning but poorly equipped parents.
What do you think? Is this a real possession or a case of the mind being destroyed by outside influences?