The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The True Story

I loved the movie of THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE even though it deviated from the facts of the case somewhat.  Nonetheless the relevant facts of the case were well done in the movie.

The important facts --- she was possessed, God allowed it, Psychiatry cannot understand Possession, Civil Governments have no right to judge the supernatural, the Virgin Mary appeared to the possessed person and asked her to remain possessed to teach the world about demons, she died in the grace of God, and maybe, just maybe, she will someday be called a saint. 

What was not according to the facts of the case are the following --- her name was not Emily Rose, but Anneliese Michel, she did not live in America but in Germany, what was not brought out in the movie was that she predicted the time of her own death and that before her death she would be free of the demons and in the state of grace.  

What is still unconfirmed by my own investigation is the claim that she has an uncorrupt body.  There are two sides to the story of her body and I am not inclined to believe that she has an uncorrupt body.

Nonetheless, I think someday she will be canonized.

The True Story

Anneliese Michel was born in Leiblfing, Bavaria, Germany on September 21, 1952, and was raised in the small Bavarian town of Klingenberg am Main, where her father operated a saw-mill. Her parents were devout Catholics and she grew into a deeply religious person. She did much penance in response to the post-Vatican II changes that the Church implemented.

At the age of 17 in 1969, Anneliese began suffering from unusual seizures happening during the night, which involved her body suddenly becoming rigid, the sensation of an enormous weight on her chest, paralysis, and inability to speak.

She was diagnosed as epileptic at the Psychiatric Clinic in Würzburg, although an autopsy after her death, including microscopic study of the brain, did not show any changes or damage that could be responsible for the alleged epilepsy. She was then sent to a psychiatric hospital in Mittleberg where she remained for about one year, and she suddenly began seeing demonic faces during her daily prayers.

Suffering from what seemed to doctors to be major seizures, Anneliese returned to secondary school in the autumn of 1970, and in 1973 attended the University of Würzburg where she studied elementary education. The stay at the psychiatric hospital did not improve Anneliese’s health. Moreover, she began to suffer from depression.

Basing her life on deep faith, Anneliese began to attribute her condition to demonic possession. She grew increasingly frustrated with medical intervention as it did not affect what she perceived as her real problems. Long-term medical treatment proved unsuccessful; her condition, including her depression, worsened with time.

Continuously haunted by demonic images, and increasingly intolerant of sacred places and objects, she came to feel certain that demons had possessed her.

It is important to note that throughout the course of the Exorcism rites Anneliese underwent, she took powerful psychotropic drugs prescribed to her by doctors. It is believed today that these drugs prevented the mental concentration she needed for the Exorcism to work.

Below is the timetable of her medical treatment based on information from F. Goodman’s research.

After the third seizure in June 1970, during her stay at the psychiatric hospital, she was prescribed with an unknown anticonvulsant. The medicine did not cure her of seizures; she also continued to see what she described as “devil faces” at different moments throughout the day. The medicine also causes brain cells to lose sodium; this might have been the cause of Anneliese's absenteeism.

Around the same time, Anneliese became convinced that conventional medicine was of no help, as it did not make her better in the least. Growing increasingly adamant that her illness was of a spiritual kind, she asked the Church to perform exorcism on her. At that time, however, she was denied help of this kind. The same month she was prescribed another anticonvulsant, Aolept (periciazine), which raises the convulsion threshold of the nervous system.

November 1973 – Anneliese started her treatment with Tegretol (carbamazepine), which, according to Physicians Desk Reference, should not be prescribed to women of childbearing age due to its dangerous effect on red blood cells. Anneliese took this medicine frequently, until shortly before her death, when she was unable to swallow anything.

September 1975 – Anneliese was finally allowed exorcism by the Church; weekly exorcism sessions began using the full Rituale Romanum.

The Exorcisms

Voices also began following her, saying Anneliese will "stew in hell". She mentioned the "demons" to the doctors only once, explaining that they have started to give her orders.

After 5 years, her parents visited different pastors to request an exorcism. Their requests were rejected and they were given recommendations that the now 20 year old Anneliese should continue with medication and treatment. It was explained that the process by which the Church proves a possession (Infestatio) is strictly defined, and until all the criteria are met, a Bishop can not approve an exorcism. The requirements, to name a few, include an aversion to religious objects, speaking in a language the person has never learned, and supernatural powers.

In 1974, after supervising Anneliese for some time, Pastor Ernst Alt requested a permit to perform the exorcism from the Bishop of Wurzburg. The request was rejected, and a recommendation soon followed saying that Anneliese should live even more of a religious lifestyle in order to find peace.

The attacks did not diminish, and her behavior become more erratic. At her parents' house in Klingenberg, she insulted, beat, and began biting the other members of her family. She refused to eat because the demons would not allow it. Anneliese slept on the stone floor, ate spiders, flies, and coal, and even began drinking her own urine. She could be heard screaming throughout the house for hours while breaking crucifixes, destroying paintings of Jesus, and pulling apart rosaries. Anneliese began committing acts of self-mutilation at this time, and the act of tearing off her clothes and urinating on the floor became commonplace.

After making an exact verification of the possession in September 1975, the Bishop of Wurzburg, Josef Stangl ordered the Exorcism.  He assigned Father Arnold Renz and Pastor Ernst Alt with the order to perform "The Great Exorcism" on Anneliese Michel. The basis for this ritual was the "Rituale Romanum", which was still, at the time, a valid Cannon Law from the 17th century.

It was determined that Anneliese must be saved from the possession by several demons, including Lucifer, Judas Iscariot, Nero, Cain, Hitler, and Fleischmann, a disgraced Frankish Priest from the 16th century, and some other damned souls which had manifested through her.

From September '75 until July '76, one or two exorcism sessions were held each week. Anneliese's attacks were sometimes so strong that she would have to be held down by 3 men, or even chained up. During this time, Anneliese found her life somewhat return to normal as she could again go to school, take final examinations at the Pedagogic Academy in Wurzburg, and go to church.

The attacks, however, did not stop. In fact, she would more often find herself paralyzed and falling unconscious than before. The exorcism continued over many months, always with the same prayers and incantations. Sometimes family members and visitors, like one married couple that claims to have "discovered" Anneliese, would be present during the rituals. For several weeks, Anneliese denied all food. Her knees ruptured due to the 600 genuflections she performed obsessively during the daily exorcism. Over 40 audio tapes recorded the process, in order to preserve the details.

The last day of the Exorcism Rite was on June 30th, 1976, and Anneliese was suffering at this point from Pneumonia. She was also totally emaciated, and running a high fever. Exhausted and unable to physically perform the genuflections herself, her parents stood in and helped carry her through the motions. "Beg for Absolution" is the last statement Anneliese made to the exorcists. To her mother, she said, "Mother, I'm afraid." Anna Michel recorded the death of her daughter on the following day, July 1st, 1976, and at noon, Pastor Ernst Alt informed the authorities in Aschaffenburg.

Letter written by Anneliese

Anneliese gave a hand written letter to the Exorcist not long before her death, saying that she no longer wanted any more Exorcisms.  Without her approval the Exorcists could not continue.  In the letter she said that the Virgin Mary had appeared to her giving her two choices: 1. To be freed from the demons immediately, or 2. To remain possessed for a time longer to show the entire world the dangers and power of demons, which would save souls.  Anneliese chose to remain possessed and stopped the Exorcisms.  She also was told by Our Lady that she would be freed from the demons before her death and die in the state of grace.  Shortly before her death she predicted the time of her death.

On July 1, 1976, the day that Anneliese had predicted as the day of her liberation, she died in her sleep. At midnight when, according to what she said, the demons had to leave her, she stopped raging. Exhausted but peaceful, she finally went to sleep and never woke up.

Today, Anneliese's grave in Klingenberg am Main, remains a place of pilgrimage for many Christians who consider Anneliese Michel a devout believer, who experienced extreme sufferings to deliver many people from Hell. 

Her corpse was exhumed eleven and a half years after her burial, only to confirm that it had decayed as would have been expected under normal circumstances. Today, her grave remains a place of pilgrimage for rosary-praying and for those who believe that Anneliese Michel bravely fought the devil. 

The Court Case

After an investigation, the state prosecutor said Anneliese’s death could have been prevented even one week before she died. He charged all four defendants — Pastor Ernst Alt and Father Arnold Renz as well as the parents — with negligent homicide for failing to call a medical doctor.

The trial started on March 30, 1978 in the district court and drew intense interest. Before the court, the doctors claimed the woman was not possessed, although Dr. Richard Roth, who was asked for medical help by Father Alt, allegedly said after the exorcism he witnessed on May 30, 1976 that "there is no injection against the devil." The only doctor present believed her possessed.

The priests were defended by church-paid lawyers. The parents' defense claimed that the exorcism was legal and that the German constitution protected citizens in the unrestricted exercise of their religious beliefs.

The defense played the tapes from different sessions, sometimes featuring the demons arguing, to prove that Anneliese was indeed possessed. Both priests presented deep conviction that she was possessed, and that she was finally freed by exorcisms just before she died.

Ultimately, the accused were found guilty of manslaughter resulting from negligence and were sentenced to six months probation. It was a far more severe sentence than most people anticipated. Also, it was higher than the demand of the prosecution, which had asked that the priests be fined and that the parents be found guilty but not punished.

Before the trials, the parents asked authorities for permission to exhume the remains of Anneliese. They did so as a result of a message received from a Carmelite nun from the district of Allgäu in southern Bavaria. The nun had told the parents that she had a vision that their daughter's body was still intact, and that was proof of the supernatural character of her case. The official reason given by her parents to authorities was that Anneliese had been buried in a great hurry in a cheap coffin. Almost two years after the burial, on February 25, 1978, her remains were moved into a new oak-coffin lined with tin.

The official reports, which have, to date, not been disputed by any authority, state that the body had shown consistent deterioration. Photos made during the exhumation were never released. Some speculate the exhumers moved Aneliese's body from one coffin to the other holding her by her legs and hands, which some speculate means the body couldn't have decayed much.

The accused exorcists — Anneliese’s parents and the two priests — were discouraged from seeing the remnants of Anneliese. Also, Father Arnold Renz later claimed that he had even been prevented from entering the mortuary.

The demons that are said to have possessed Anneliese are Lucifer (the devil himself), Cain, Nero, Judas, Fleischmann (who might have been a disgraced priest in Franken, living in the 17th Century), and Hitler.

Bishop Josef Stangl, who approved the exorcism and was in contact a dozen times with the two priests through letters on the case, was also investigated by state authorities, but they decided not to indict him or ask him to appear at the trial due to his age and poor health. The bishop stated that his actions were all within the bounds of canon law.

Results of the Court Case

The courtroom case, called the Klingenberg Case, became the basis of Scott Derrickson's 2005 movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The film significantly deviates from the real-world events (for example, the film is set in the United States and Anneliese was renamed Emily Rose). An upcoming German-language film called Requiem by Hans-Christian Schmid has been announced, and the individuals involved promise it will be truer to real-life events.

A short time before these final events unfolded, William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" (1974) came to the cinemas in Germany, bringing with it a wave of paranormal hysteria that flooded the nation. Psychiatrists all over Europe reported an increase of obsessive ideas among their patients. Prosecutors took more than 2 years to take Annaliese's case to court, using that time to sort through the bizarre facts. Anneliese's parents and the two exorcists were accused of negligent homocide. The "Klingenberg Case" would be decided upon two questions: What caused the death of Anneliese Michel, and who was responsible?

According the forensic evidence, "Anneliese starved to death". Specialists claimed that if the accused would have begun with forced feeding one week before her death, Anneliese's life would have been saved. One sister told the court that Anneliese did not want to go to a mental home where she would be sedated and forced to eat.

The exorcists tried to prove the presence of the demons, playing taped recordings of strange dialogues like that of two demons arguing about which one of them would have to leave Anneliese's body first. One of the demons called himself Hitler, and spoke with a Frankish accent (Hitler was born in Austria). Not one of those present during the exorcism ever had a doubt about the authenticity of the presence of these demons.

The psychiatrists, who had been ordered to testify by the court, spoke about the "Doctrinaire Induction". They said that the priests had provided Anneliese with the contents of her psychotic behavior. Consequentially, they claimed, she later accepted her behavior as a form of demonic possession. They also offered that Anneliese's unsettled sexual development, along with her diagnosed Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, had influenced the psychosis.

The verdict was considered by many as not as harsh as they expected. Anneliese's parents, as well as the exorcists, were found guilty of manslaughter resulting from negligence and omitting first aid. They were sentenced to 6 months in jail and probation. The verdict included the opinion of the court that the accused should have helped by taking care of the medical treatment that the girl needed, but instead, their use of naive practices aggravated Anneliese's already poor constitution.

The German Bishops Back Down

A commission of the German Bishop-Conference later declared that Anneliese Michel was not possessed, however, this did not keep believers from supporting her struggles.  This is not surprising considering the history of German Bishops being on the very liberal side of theology and producing many heresies and being always the first to be disobedient to Rome.

Rome Changes Exorcism Rite 

In 1999, Cardinal Medina Estevez presented journalists in Vatican-City the new version of the "Rituale Romanum" that had been used by the Catholic Church since 1614. The updates came after more than 10 years of editing. It is called "De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam" otherwise known as "The exorcism for the upcoming millennium".

The Pope approbated the new Exorcism Rite, which is now allowed for worldwide use. This new form of exorcism came after the German Bishop-Conference demanded to ultimately abolish the "Rituale Romanum". It also came more than 20 years after Anneliese Michel had died.  The Rituale Romanum, is still used by many Exorcists and as far as the new Rite, I have great doubts as to its power.  Just as the Mass, maybe it is time to return to what we know works.

Answers to questions regarding this Newsletter.

1. "Anneliese's unsettled sexual development" is a reverence to the fact that she remained a virgin.

2. 80 to 90% of Possessions are because of some fault of the person but not all.  Some Possessions are caused by outside sources and allowed by God through no fault of the person.

3. After Possession a person can be in the state of grass, go to confession and communion and still remained possessed.

4. No one wants to remain possessed and they do not loose free will.

5. In all but first degree possessions (state of sin) a person cannot drive out demons on their own.

6. Except for the basic evil person, possession does not take over the soul.  Only the body.  Major sin takes over the soul but can be freed by a true act of contrition. 


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