If you love watching horror movies, chances are, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is something familiar to you. Although many may are not aware, the horrifying events of the 2005 film were not entirely fiction. They were based on the real-life experiences of a girl named Anneliese Michel from Germany.
Who is Anneliese Michel?
Anneliese Michel grew up in a devoutly Catholic family in Bavaria, West Germany in the 1960s. She attended mass twice a week, never missing a week in her life. However, when she turned 16, she suddenly blacked out at school. She began walking around dazed, surprising everyone. Although Anneliese did not remember the events, her friends and family members often tell her that she was in a trance-like state.
One year later, Anneliese experienced a similar occurrence where she woke up in a trance and noticed that she had wet his bed. Her body has also gone through a series of convulsions, causing her body to shake uncontrollably.
Diagnosis of the Neurologist
After suffering for the second time, Anneliese visited a neurologist who diagnosed her with temporal lobe epilepsy, a disorder that results in loss of memory, seizure and experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations.
This temporal lobe epilepsy can also cause Geschwind syndrome, a disorder that is marked by hyperreligiosity.
After the neurologist provided her diagnosis, Anneliese began taking medication for her epilepsy. She also enrolled in the University of Wurzburg in 1973.
However, the drugs administered to her failure to help her. As the year progressed, her condition also began to deteriorate. Although she was still taking her medication, Anneliese began to believe that she was possessed by a demon and she needs to find a solution other than taking her medication.
Began to Seeing the Face of the Devil
She began to admit that she sees the face of the devil wherever she went. She also said she heard demons whispering in her ears. She concluded that the devil must be possessing her when she heard demons telling her that she’s damned and she would rot in hell while she was praying.
Anneliese sought out priests to help her with her demonic possession. However, all the clergy she approached rejected her requests, saying that she should see medical help instead. They also needed the permission of the bishop, which is hard to acquire.
At this point, the delusions of Anneliese had become extreme and more dangerous. Believing that she was possessed, she started ripping her clothes off her body, compulsively performed up to 400 squats a day, barked like a dog, and crawled under the table for two days. She also began eating spiders and coal, bit the head of a dead bird, and licked her urine from the floor.
Found a Priest
Finally, she, along with her mother, found a priest, Ernst Alt, who believed in her demonic possessions. In later court documents, he stated that Anneliese Michel didn’t look like an epileptic.
I am nothing, everything about me is vanity, what should I do, I have to improve, you pray for me. I want to suffer for other people…but this is so cruel.
Alt petitioned the local bishop named Bishop Josef Stangl, who approved the request and granted a local priest named Arnold Renz the permission to perform an exorcism. However, he ordered that the exorcism should be carried out in total secret and nobody should be able to know.
Exorcism in the Past
Exorcism has existed in various religions and cultures, but the practice became popular in the Catholic Church in the 1500s, where experienced priests would use the Latin phrase “Vade retro Satana (Go back, Satan) to expel the demons out of their mortal hosts. This practice was codified in the Rituale Romanum, a book of Christian practices assembled in the 16th century.
Over the next ten months, following the approval for Anneliese’s exorcism, the two priests, Alt and Renz, conducted a total of 67 exorcisms, lasting up to four hours each, on the young woman. Throughout the sessions, Anneliese revealed that she believed she was possessed by five different demons: Lucifer, Cain, Judas Iscariot, Nero, and Hitler.
All these spirits would fight for power over Anneliese’s body. They would communicate from her mouth with a low growl. They also argued with each other, with Hitler saying:
People are stupid as pigs. They think it’s all over after death. It goes on.
Throughout the sessions, Anneliese would frequently talk about dying to atone for the wayward youth of the day and the apostate priests of the modern church. She also broke the bones and ripped the tendons in her knees from continuous kneeling in prayer during each session.
For the past 10 months, Anneliese was frequently restrained so that the priests could conduct exorcism rites. She eventually stopped eating and died of malnutrition and dehydration on July 1, 1976.
Became a National Sensation
After the death of Anneliese Michel, her story became a national sensation in Germany after her parents and the priests who conducted the exorcism rites were charged with negligent homicide. They came before the court and used the recording of the exorcism to justify their actions.
However, the two priests were found guilty of manslaughter resulting from negligence and were sentenced to six months in jail, which was later suspended, as well as three years of probation. Her parents were exempted from any punishments since according to the German law, they suffered enough.
After the trial, Anneliese became an icon for many Catholics who felt the modern and secular interpretations of the bible were distorting the ancient and supernatural truth that it contains. The grave of Anneliese Michel became the gathering point for religious outsiders. They wrote notes with requests and gratitude for her help and left them on her grave.
The story of Anneliese Michel is a story of people projecting their own beliefs, hopes, and faiths as well as the price that was paid for those beliefs.
How about you? What do you think is the reason why Anneliese is suffering from this?