When the words “demonic” and “exorcism” are mentioned, there's sure to be a reaction. Whether it's fear or skepticism, paranormal in relation to evil is provocative. Hollywood exemplifies our curiosity about the evil supernatural. “The Exorcist” (1973), for example, seemed to spark a flame of fear around the paranormal. Churches were filled to capacity for months following the movie's release, as people came to terms with the darker side of the unknown.
From a Christian perspective, demons are typically depicted as fallen angels, aligned with the devil. Their goal is to bring about discord to and, eventually, the downfall of mankind (depending on who you ask). By this interpretation, a demon also has the ability to possess living beings - a situation which is typically resolved via an exorcism carried out by a religious leader. The most familiar practice in this realm is the Catholic Rite of Exorcism - probably thanks to “The Exorcist” and countless later movies on the same topic.
Thousands of books have been written on the subject. Some religions believe that even ghosts are demons in disguise, and therefore must be exorcised. If a home is plagued by paranormal activity, a religious clergyman may come in and perform a blessing or a deliverance. Of course, when there is a reported encounter with something apparently evil or demonic, it's a sensationalist story that often garners media attention. Even more so, when these attempted exorcisms lead to accidental deaths.
Here, we've compiled the top ten cases of exorcisms and deliverances that made the biggest splashes in the news, in chronological order. Get your crucifix and holy water ready as we go on a journey through time and learn how these hauntings and evil encounters gained the attention of the world.
10 Edwin and Marsha Becker – 1971
In a Chicago suburb in 1971, Edwin and Marsha Becker were a young couple with a baby on the way, buying their first home. Upon moving in to their new place, things rapidly took a dark turn. Being a stay at home mother, during the long periods of time when Marsha was alone in the house she began to experience activity such as things moving around, doors opening and closing, animals - seemingly unprovoked - growling and reacting to invisible presences. Being in a bind and unable to move, the Beckers were forced to deal with the haunting for several years before getting in touch with a psychic by the name of Joe DeLuise, who said that he would bring an exorcist with him. Then, NBC caught wind of the story and wanted to film it. On the day of the exorcism, crosses were passed out, and DeLuise channeled the presence. This would become the first televised exorcism. The exorcism didn’t work, and the Beckers left the house. Edwin Becker wrote a book about his experience called True Haunting, and the couple was also featured in the SyFy series, “Paranormal Witness”, in the episode called “The Tenants”.
9 Amityville Horror – 1975/1976
In November of 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. shot and killed all six members of his family in their home at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York. Thirteen months later, George Lutz and his wife Kathy moved into the home with Kathy’s children from another marriage. They would only stay in the home for 28 days before fleeing the house for good.
They experienced all the ingredients that experts would declare as an evil haunting including unusual volumes of flies, objects moving on their own, inexplicable cold spots, electronics turning off an on, all escalating to the point where the Lutz’s were basically being attacked. A few years later, Jay Anson would write a book, The Amityville Horror, that would put the Lutz family on the map. It inspired hit movies by the same name. Of course, with so much media attention, George and Kathy were interviewed several times throughout the years until they finally passed. Now people’s focus have turned to how Kathy’s children have dealt with the aftermath. In 2012, the documentary “My Amityville Horror” (directed by Eric Walter) would shed some light by interviewing Daniel Lutz and seeing how he’s grown up since the haunting that changed his life forever.
8 Anneliese Michel – 1976
The story of Anneliese Michel led to her untimely death at the age of 23. This particular story caught so much media attention because her parents - and her exorcists - were arrested and tried for her murder. At the age of sixteen, she was diagnosed with epilepsy and sent to a psychiatric ward for depression. When she was 20, she began to show signs of what the Catholic church would consider to be demonic possession. Two priests obtained permission from the local bishop to secretly conduct an exorcism on Michel, which lasted for about 10 months before she died. Her parents and the priests were found guilty of negligent homicide and sentenced to 6 months in jail, which was reduced to 3 years of probation. The disturbing tapes of her exorcism can still be listened to online. Anneliese Michel’s story became the inspiration for the 2005 “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”.
7 Impromptu Exorcism By the Pope – 2000
In case you didn’t know, Pope John Paul II was an exorcist, and actually performed three exorcisms during his 22-year papacy. So when he performed an impromptu exorcism on a teenage girl who fell into an apparently possessed fit in the Vatican City in front of an audience, you can bet that it made the news. According to the Catholic Church’s chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, the Pope prayed over the 19-year old girl for well over a half an hour before stopping. Unfortunately, he was unable to cure her.
6 Maricica Irina Cornici – 2005
The story of Maricica Irina Cornici took the world by storm because, not only was she a young girl, but she was also a nun in an Orthodox church in Romania. Cornici thought that she was hearing the devil talking to her, telling her that she was sinful. She was treated for schizophrenia, but after treatment failed to work, her fellow nuns and a monk decided to go about the route of exorcism. She was tied up, gagged, and left in a dark room for several days, where she died of suffocation and dehydration.
5 Janet Moses – 2007
Another case which led to tragedy was that of New Zealand native, Janet Moses. She was a 22 year old mother of two at the time when she was considered to have been cursed and possessed due to strange behavior. She was undergoing a cleansing ceremony in the tradition of a Maori exorcism that involved water continuously being poured down her throat for a period of three days. Moses eventually drowned from the procedure, being conducted by six men and three women.
4 Meghan Lippiatt – 2004/2011
In 2004, Pennsylvania native Meghan Lippiatt killed her sons (one by suffocation and the other one in the bathtub) because she thought they were possessed by the devil and killing them was the only way to save her children. In 2007, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity. But in 2011, Lippiatt’s body was found in a canyon in Arizona in her white Volkswagen minivan, where it was believed that she committed suicide at the age of thirty-five.
3 Zakieya Avery & Monifa Sanford – 2014
This year, two Maryland women by the names of Zakieya Avery and Monifa Sanford were indicted for the stabbings of Avery’s four children - the women believed this was the process for exorcism. Avery’s 18-month old son and 2-year old daughter died from their wounds and her 5-year old daughter and 8-year old son survived their attack. Both women were charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. The women tragically chose to stab all the children because they believed that the demons moved between their bodies.
2 Indiana Demon House – 2014
The story of the Indiana Demon House swept took the paranormal community by storm, with claims that were even (allegedly) backed by authorities and medical personnel that the house was a portal to hell. Latoya Ammons witnessed her daughter levitate off of the bed and her son walking up the walls with no effort. Exorcisms were performed on the reported 200 + demons that occupied the house. The story became such a sensation that Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” star Zak Bagans bought the house for $35,000, and will be releasing a documentary about the house very soon.
1 Ouija Board Incident – 2014
This is the latest story to have swept the news. On June 23rd, Alexandra Huerta, Surgió Huerta, and Fernando Cuevas were rushed to the hospital after using a Ouija board. Just minutes after using the board to contact deceased family, the three began to act strangely, seen to be thrashing, growling, and self-harming. The local priest refused to conduct an exorcism and medical professionals used various treatments to calm the group down. A video was captured that has caught the attention of the media, and the case is currently being investigated for its legitimacy.