The extremely famous horror movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose, was, as many know, inspired loosely be real-life events. Specifically, these events centered around Anneliese Michel, a girl from Germany whose devout Catholic family enlisted the help of priests when she began to act strangely.
At the age of 16, Anneliese began to experience symptoms of epilepsy and hallucinations, including voices in her head telling her she was damned. She began to experience small black-outs that put her in a trance-like state, but could not remember them. That night after the black-out, she felt something very heavy crushing her and wet the bed in her fear.
In the following year, Anneliese had three more attacks like this, and in the year after that, she started feeling euphoric when reciting a rosary and had more hallucinations, from hearing noises to seeing colors. Medication from wide arrays of neurologists failed to work for her.
In the year 1973, Anneliese’s actions took a turn to the bizarre. She started eating bugs and charcoal, frequently tore her own clothes off her body, licked her urine from the floor, and reacted strongly negatively to religious items. This prompted her family to request an exorcism, which the church initially declined, but eventually agreed to.
Over the next 10 months, Fathers Arnold Renz and Ernst Alt carried out a total of 67 exorcisms on Annaliese. These were carried out secretly and in the privacy of the Michel home. During this time, the Fathers believed they came into contact with at least six different demons, including Hitler, Nero, Cain, Fleischmann, Judas Iscariot, and Lucifer. They made appearances through Anneliese, speaking in deep, gravelly, and terrifying voices that seemed out of place for any girl.
The exorcisms took a lot out of Anneliese and her body, and she slowly became weaker. No medical intervention was sought, and despite her weakening body and small frame, she continued to need to be heavily restrained, occasionally by chains, during the exorcisms. Sadly, injuries and repeated exorcisms took a toll on her, and she passed away in 1976.
Anneliese sustained multiple injuries on her body that the Fathers attempted to explain as due to Stigmata or religious phenomena. But in 1978, the two Fathers and Anneliese’s parents were tried for negligent homicide. Her parents received a six-month jail sentence that became three years probation and a fine. Meanwhile, the Catholic church changed their story and said Anneliese had not been possessed, but mentally ill.
Since then, Anneliese’s tragic case has become an example of misidentification of mental illness, abuse, and hysteria caused by religion.