We are all familiar with the movie, The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The movie, as scary as it was, was not entirely fiction. It was actually based on the true experiences of a German girl named Anneliese Michel. Anneliese Michel was exhibiting some undeniably bizarre and frightening behavior, so Mrs. Michel contacted the Catholic Church to exorcise her daughter. Since she was hearing voices and exhibiting violent reactions to religious objects, her parents were convinced she was possessed. Her story was portrayed through the movie, which was already horrifying for most of us. But the real story behind her behavior and her ultimate death is much more terrifying than anything Hollywood could create.
Anneliese Michel grew up devoutly Catholic in Bavaria, West Germany in the 1960’s.
Born in 1952 in a Bavarian family, Anneliese was brought up alongside her brother and sister. She grew up devoutly Catholic and attended Mass twice a week. Prior to Anneliese’s birth, her mother had a child who sadly died at the age of 8. This caused her to exert pressure on Anneliese, especially when it came to religion and prayer. The playful girl lived a happy life and was known as a social butterfly by her peers and parents.
When Anneliese turned sixteen, she suddenly blacked out at school and began walking around dazed. Although she was unable to remember the events that followed, her friends and family recall that she was in a trance-like state.
At the age of 16, she began to demonstrate symptoms of epilepsy and social stigma.
In 1968, while Anneliese was at school, she blacked out and was in a trance-like state; according to her friends. Although she didn’t remember anything from that day, the same night, she woke up to a heavy feeling on her body and then wet the bed. Her concerned parents kept her home from school the next day to observe her. Anneliese did not show any more signs, so the family thought she was fine.
In August 1969, she exhibited the same behavior, so her parents took her to a doctor in order to determine the cause. Her usual doctor, Dr. Vogt, referred her to a neurologist, Dr. Siegmund Luthy, for further examination. In February 1970, Anneliese was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was hospitalized. The other patients in the hospital often ridiculed her for wetting the bed, pushing her into a further depressive state.
After her diagnosis, Anneliese began taking medication for her epilepsy and enrolled in the University of Würzburg in 1973.
However, the medication failed to help her. As the year progressed, her condition began to deteriorate. Anneliese started seeing colors, hearing sounds and experienced feelings of euphoria while saying a rosary. Neurologist, Dr. von Haller took her in for further tests and examination. Anneliese soon began to believe that she was possessed by a demon and that she needed to find a solution outside of medicine.
She started seeing faces of the devil and said she heard demons whispering in her ears; thus making her believe that she was cursed/possessed.
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.
After concluding that she was possessed, Anneliese sought out priests for help. However, the clergies she approached rejected her requests since they required permission from the bishop. They then advised her to seek medical help. This drove her further into the conclusion that she was possessed by the devil, prompting her to turn violent. She would have extreme hallucinations, would rip the clothes off her body, performed about 400 squats a day, crawled under a table and would bark like a dog. She also had an appetite for spiders and coal and she once bit the head off a dead bird and licked her own urine from the floor.
Eventually, the church relented and granted Anneliese an exorcism to drive out any evil spirits within her. Priest Ernst Alt believed that Anneliese was possessed. He also stated that “she didn’t look like an epileptic” – according to court documents.