Real-life Demon Possession

DemonThe Exorcist, The Last Exorcism, Paranormal Activity and many more movies claim to be based on real life cases of demon possesion.

Added to that list is The Devil Inside, released on March 16th. It’s a documentary-style, found footage film about a woman who becomes involved in a series of exorcisms during her quest to determine what happened to her mother. Possession is the source of so many supernatural spookers that we decided to take a look at some real life cases of possession from across history that have inspired some classic horror movies.

1/ Roland Doe
The most famous exorcism movie ever was based on the real life case of Roland Doe (later changed by author Thomas B. Allen to Robbie Mannheim)> His name is the is the pseudonym assigned to the anonymous American boy exorcised boy by the Catholic Church during the late 1940’s. According to the many books on the subject, Roland’s aunt was a spiritualist and introduced the young boy to the Ouija board at an early age. When he was 13 his aunt died and several books on Roland’s possession suppose that the teenager tried to contact her via the Ouija board. It was after this time supernatural activity began with strange noises, the sound of squeaky and marching feet and moving furniture including a vase which allegedly levitated.

Ronald was examined by both medical and psychiatric doctors who could offer no explanation for the disturbing events taking place, so Reverend Schulze, a friend of the frightened family, arranged for the boy to spend the night of February 17 in his home in order to observe him. The boy slept near the Reverend in a twin bed and the minister reported that in the dark he heard vibrating sounds from the bed and scratching sounds on the wall. During the rest of the night he allegedly witnessed some strange events: a heavy armchair in which the boy sat seemingly tilted on its own and tipped over and a pallet of blankets on which the sleeping boy lay inexplicably moved around the room and slapped people in the face.
Schulze concluded that there was evil at work in Roland and a Lutheran rite exorcism would be performed.

During the exorcism, the boy inflicted a wound upon the pastor that required stitches. As a result, the exorcism ritual was stopped and the boy went home to be with his family, where strange welts on the boy’s body led to desperation.
The family then proceeded to take the train to St. Louis. While they were in the city, Roland’s cousin contacted one of his professors at St. Louis University, Rev. Raymond J. Bishop, SJ, who in turn spoke to Rev. William S. Bowdern, an associate of College Church. Together, both vicars visited Roland in his relatives’ home, where they noticed his aversion to anything sacred, a shaking bed, flying objects, and Roland speaking in a guttural voice.
Rev. Bowdern sought permission from the archbishop to have the plaguing demons cast out from the boy. Permission for Bowdern to perform the exorcism in secret was granted by archbishop, with the requirement that a detailed diary be kept.

Before the exorcism ritual began, Rev. Walter Halloran was called to the psychiatric wing of the hospital, where he was asked to assist Rev. Bowdern. Rev. William Van Roo, a third Jesuit priest, was also there to assist. Rev. Halloran stated that during this scene words such as “evil” and “hell”, along with other various marks, appeared on the teenager’s body. Moreover, Roland broke Rev. Halloran’s nose during the process. The exorcism ritual was performed thirty times over several weeks. When the final exorcism was complete witnesses reported loud noise going off throughout the hospital.

After the exorcism was over, the family was no longer troubled, and moved back to their home. The boy went on to become a successful, happily married man, a father and grandfather. But his sinister story inspired the 1971 novel The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty and most importantly the 1973 film The Exorcist one of the most famous horror movies ever made. The case also inspired the 2000 movie Possessed, and a documentary titled In the Grip of Evil.

2/ George Lukins
The Rev. Joseph Easterbrook, the Anglican vicar of Temple Church, was summoned on Saturday, 31 May 1778 by Mrs. Sarah Barber, a woman who was travelling in the village of Mendip, Yatton, in the county of Somerset.
The woman told the pastor that she came across a man by the name of George Lukins, a tailor and common carrier by profession, who had a strange malady “in which he sang and screamed in various sounds, some of which did not resemble a human voice; and declared, doctors could do him no service.”
George Lukins was consequently taken under the care of Dr. Smith, an eminent surgeon of Wrington, among many other physicians, who in vain, tried to help.
After his twenty week stay at St. George’s Hospital the medical community there pronounced him incurable. At this point Mr. Lukins declared that he himself was possessed by seven demons that could only be driven out by seven clergymen.

An account of the exorcism was published in the Bristol Gazette. The newspaper reported that George Lukins, during his alleged possession, claimed that he was the devil, made barking noises, sung an inverted Te Deum, and was very violent. In light of these claims, on Friday, 13 June 1778, seven clergymen, including Rev. Joseph Easterbrook, accompanied George Lukins to the vestry at Temple Church, where they performed an exorcism on the man, which included hymn singing and prayer.
The deliverance concluded when the demons were allegedly cast out using the Trinitarian formula; the clergymen commanded the demons to return to hell and George Lukins then exclaimed “Blessed Jesus!”, praised God, recited the Lord’s Prayer, and then thanked the Methodist and Anglican clergymen.
Following this case, several pieces of literature were printed on George Lukins, thus popularising his alleged case of diabolical possession and deliverance despite the original design to keep the case a secret.

3/ Michael Taylor
Christine Taylor, wife of Michael Taylor, expressed to the Christian Fellowship Group, of which Michael was a part, that his relationship with the lay leader of the group, Marie Robinson, was more carnal than it at first seemed.
Michael Taylor admitted that he felt evil within him and eventually attacked Robinson verbally, who screamed back at him.

During the next meeting, Michael Taylor received an absolution, but nevertheless, his behavior continued to become more erratic. As a result, the local vicar called in other ministers experienced in deliverance in preparation to cast out the demons residing within the man.
The exorcism, which occurred on 5–6 October 1974 at St. Thames Church in Barnsley was headed by Father Peter Vincent, an Anglican priest of St. Thomas’s in Gawber and was aided by a Methodist clergyman, Rev. Raymond Smith.

The exorcism rite, which lasted until 6 A.M. cast out forty spirits including those of incest, bestiality, blasphemy, and lewdness however three remained the demons of insanity, murder, and violence. Exhausted the priests allowed the Michael Taylor to return home cautioning him to beware of the remaining spirits.

While at home, Michael Taylor, brutally murdered his wife, Christine, and strangled their dog. He was found by a policeman, naked in the street and covered with blood.
At his trial in March, he was acquitted on the grounds of insanity. This case became highly popularised as the “Ossett murder case of 1974.”

4/ Anneliese Michel
Three motion pictures: The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Requiem, and the Asylum film Anneliese Michel: The Exorcist Tapes, are looselybased on Michel’s story.
Anneliese Michel was born on September 21, 1952 in Leiblfing, Bavaria, West Germany to a strict Catholic family. When she was sixteen, she suffered a severe convulsion and was diagnosed as having epilepsy. Soon, she began hallucinating while praying. In 1973, she suffered from depression and began to hear voices telling her that she was “damned” and would “rot in hell”.

Her treatment in an unnamed psychiatric hospital did not improve Michel’s health. In fact, her depression began to deepen.
A devout Catholic, Michel began to attribute her condition to demonic possession. Michel became intolerant of sacred places and objects, such as the crucifix, which she attributed to her own demonic possession.

Michel became convinced that conventional medicine was of no help. Growing increasingly adamant that her illness was of a spiritual kind, she appealed to the Catholic Church to perform an exorcism on her.

The priests declined, recommended the continuation of medical treatment, and informed the family that exorcisms required the bishop’s permission. Eventually, in a nearby town, they came across Vicar Ernst Alt, who, after seeing Anneliese, declared that she didn’t “look like an epileptic” and that he didn’t see her having seizures. He believed she was suffering from demonic possession. Alt urged the bishop to allow an exorcism. In September 1975, Bishop Josef Stangl granted Father Renz permission to exorcise according to the Rituale Romanum of 1614, but ordered total secrecy.

Once convinced of her possession, Anneliese, her parents, and the exorcists stopped seeking medical treatment, and put her fate solely into the hands of the exorcism rites. Sixty-seven exorcism sessions, one or two each week, lasting up to four hours, were performed over about ten months in 1975 and 1976.

On 1 July 1976, Anneliese died in her sleep. The autopsy report stated the cause of death as malnutrition and dehydration from almost a year of semi-starvation while the rites of exorcism were performed. She weighed only 68 pounds (30.91 kilograms).

The Devil Inside

5/ Louviers Possessions
The first 20–25 years of the 17th century were host to the peak of accusations in France’s witchcraft hunt. During this time the number of cases involving demonic possession, priests and nuns outnumber that of any other period including the famous Louviers possessions. Sister Madeleine Bavent was 18 years old in the year of 1625; the initial possession victim, she claimed to have been bewitched by Mathurin Picard, the nunnery’s director, and Father Thomas Boulle, the vicar at Louviers. Her confession to authorities claimed that the two men had abducted her and taken her to a witches’ sabbat. There, she was married to the Devil, whom she called Dagon, and committed sexual acts with him on the altar. Two men were allegedly crucified and disemboweled as these acts took place.

Madeleine’s confession prompted the investigation, which found that other nuns were also victims of Picard and Boulle; they, too, had been taken to secret sabbats where sexual intercourse with demons, particularly Dagon, took place. The confessions of these nuns were accompanied by what investigators believed were classic signs of demonic possession: contortions, unnatural body movements, speaking in tongues, obscene insults, blasphemies, and the appearance of unexplainable wounds that vanished without aid. Beyond mere symptoms of possession, the body of Sister Barbara of St. Michael was said to be possessed by a specific demon named Anciti.

As in the decade earlier case at Loudun, the exorcisms at Louviers were a public spectacle. Nearly every person present at the exorcisms was questioned by the inquisitors, and the entire town of Louviers began exhibiting symptoms of hysteria as the cries of the nuns undergoing exorcism rose with the screams of Father Boulle, who was tortured during the exorcisms. Mathurin Picard had died previous to the public display. As hysteria rose, it seemed inevitable that a trial would occur and Father Boulle’s fate would be sealed. During the exorcisms, though, parliament at Rouen passed sentence: Sister Madeleine Bavent would be imprisoned for life in the church dungeon, Father Thomas Boulle would be burnt alive, and the corpse of Mathurin Picard would be exhumed and burned.

After the nuns at Louviers were afflicted, authorities undertook the task of cataloguing the symptoms of demonic possession. The treatise they developed included fifteen indications of true possession including, leading a wicked life, living outside the rules of society, uttering obscenities and blasphemies, being uncontrollable and violent, making sounds and movements like an animal and to show fear of sacred relics and sacraments.

Luckily these rules have long been abandoned, as under these indications many people today may well be possessed!

The Devil Inside is out March 16th. In the meantime check out the trailer below:

Check out The Devil Inside reaction cam here: The Devil Inside reaction cam


Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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