Anna Elisabeth “Anneliese” Michel (21 September 1952 – 1 July 1976) was a German woman who underwent Catholic exorcism rites during the year before her death. She was diagnosed with epileptic psychosis (temporal lobe epilepsy) and had a history of psychiatric treatment, which was overall not effective.
However, for better understanding I should explain what epileptic disorder is.
(Psychosis (known to psychiatrists as psychotic disorder) is a severe mental disorder in which the person loses contact with reality. … In general, psychotic episodes in people with epilepsy tend to be less severe and respond better to therapy. Feeling that you are losing contact with reality is frightening.)
Though many may not know it, the horrifying events of the 2005 film The Exorcism of Emily Rose were not entirely fictional but rather were based on the actual experiences of a Anneliese.
Anna Elisabeth Michel, a very religious girl born in Bavaria, West Germany, in 1952. She was brought up in a strict Catholic family, her father, Josef was a trainee as priest and three of her aunts were nuns. She is well known for the Catholic exorcism process she went through. It was believed by the Church and her parents that she was possessed by demons.
In the 1960s, where she attended Mass twice a week. When Anneliese was sixteen, she suddenly blacked out at school and began walking around dazed. Though Anneliese did not remember the event, her friends and family said she was in a trance-like state.
A year later, Anneliese experienced a similar occurrence, where she woke up in a trance and wet her bed. Her body also went through a series of convulsions, causing her body to shake uncontrollably.
She began to see the face of the devil wherever she went and said she heard demons whispering in her ears. When she heard demons telling her she was “damned” and would “rot in hell” while she was praying, she concluded that the devil must be possessing her.
Anneliese Michel’s Diagnosis
After the second time, Anneliese visited a neurologist who diagnosed her with temporal lobe epilepsy, a disorder that causes seizures, loss of memory, and experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations.
Anneliese Michel during college.
After her diagnosis, Anneliese began taking medication for her epilepsy and started her education in the University of Würzburg in 1973. However, the drugs she was given failed to help her, and as the year progressed her condition began to get worse. Though she was still taking her medication, Anneliese began to believe that she was possessed by a demon and that she needed to find a solution outside of medicine.
Possessed By Demon
In July 1975, her condition got worse, she ripped the clothes off her body, compulsively performed up to 400 squats a day, crawled under a table and barked like a dog for two days. she barely slept, and she ate spiders, flies, and coal and even licked her own urine up from the floor. She destroyed crucifixes and holy pictures from the walls. She began showing abnormal behavior.
Anneliese also exhibited quote “Close to superhuman” and according to her sister, quote “As if she were a rag doll”. She was even seen squeezing an apple in one hand saying, quote “Fragments exploded throughout the room”.
An old woman who diagnosed Anneliese at first claimed that she is possessed, and to examine her she took her to a pilgrimage and she observed how Anneliese was refusing anything holy near her and she smelled “hellishly bad”. However, at first the church denied to help Anneliese but with the help of Pastor Alt who gave evidences of possession to Bishop Josef Stangl along with a letter written by Anneliese to the Bishop, explaining that she wanted to suffer for other people. Bishop Stangl approved of Catholic exorcism in accordance with the Rituale Romanun of 1614, led by priest named, Arnold Renz.
He stated that “she didn’t look like an epileptic” in later court documents.
On September 24, 1975 the first exorcism was performed. Father Renz and Father Alt allowed some of the exorcism treatments to be recorded. In the exorcism sessions they try to reveal the demons, those possessed Anneliese. In one session, Judas explained that Hitler is unlikable in hell since he has a habit of bragging. In total they recorded 42 audio recordings
Anneliese mentioned the names of demons, Judas, Nero, Cain, Hitler, Belial and Lucifer himself. She even mentioned another demon named; Valentin Fleischmann and she provided some accurate details about the real Fleischmann, who was an excommunicated priest, which was not known by the Church. She also mentioned many damned souls who had exhibited themselves through her. Although as a Catholic she knew
But Why An Exorcism?
Exorcisms have existed in various cultures and religions for millennia, but the practice became popular in the Catholic Church in the 1500s with priests who would use the Latin phrase “Vade retro satana” (“Go back, Satan”) to expel demons from their mortal hosts.
The practice of Catholic exorcism was codified in the Rituale Romanum, a book of Christian practices assembled in the 16th century.
By May 1976, Anneliese’s condition got worse and she even started biting herself, her family had to tie her up and more dangerously she refused to eat, and she described the condition, quote “Not being permitted to eat.” She weighed less than 80 lbs, still exhibited great strength.
By June 1976, Anneliese’s entire face sunken and she refused to visit doctor even though she had high fever.
On June 30, 1976 Anneliese had another exorcism, only saying, “Please…absolution.” Her last words to her mother, Anna were, “Mother, I’m afraid.”
The next morning she was found dead in her room. She died at the age of 23 after 67 exorcisms, which had ruptured the ligaments of her knees due to the 600 genuflections she had to go through on that physical state, within a period of 10 months. Reports said, the time she died, she weighed only 68 lbs, she was suffering from pneumonia and high fever and she died due to starvation, emaciation and malnutrition.
On 1978, Mr. and Mrs. Michel along with Father Renz and Father Alt were accused of being homicide, and the case went to trial.
As defence, they presented eye witnessed testimony, audio recordings of exorcism, and about the medical treatment, priests said it might have included electro-shock therapy, force-feeding and even tranquillizing, but “All against her will.” Autopsy revealed that Anneliese had a healthy brain and there is no such symptom that could cause an epileptic seizure, quote “Not even on a microscopic level.” Even after examination there was no sign of ulcers on her body which is frequently found in victims of starvation.
According to the prosecution, that the drugs prescribed by neurologists, had the side effect of depression and suicidal thoughts and due to several exorcism exercises, Anneliese started believing that she had demons inside her. Prosecution also claimed that if the suspects had force feed her, even a week before her death, then she would have survived.
At the end, court went on favour of the prosecution and sentenced Mr. and Mrs. Michel, Father Renz and Father Alt to 6 months prison, 3 years suspension (for the priest) and payment for all court costs. The court ruled that Anneliese was unable to make decisions for herself and should have been forced to submit to medical care.
On Februaury 25, 1978, after two years of the death of Anneliese Michel, her dead body was dug up and moved to a new casket lined up with tin. Reports said that a Carmelite nun had a vision that Anneliese’s body was still intact and hence, her parents moved her deceased body. After that, they weren’t allowed to go in front of the grave but it is stillvisible from the window of their house.
The Exorcism Of Emily Rose Movie
Decades after the trial, the famous horror movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose was released in 2005.
While reviews of The Exorcism of Emily Rose were decidedly mixed, the film did pick up a couple of awards, including an MTV Movie Award for “Best Frightened Performance” by Jennifer Carpenter, who played Emily Rose.