Movies featuring exorcisms like The Exorcist (1971) and The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) have thrilled audiences around the world, but do demonic possessions actually happen in real life? That's proven to be a very difficult question to answer; the usual indicators of demonic possession are often explained away by skeptics as being attributable to natural phenomena. Beast-like voices from the allegedly possessed are said to be the result of an unusual utilization of the vocal cords, unnatural displays of strength are explained as bursts of energy due to adrenaline, and odd scratches and bite marks are often suspected to be self-inflicted - all signs of fraud or psychological disorders.
However, there are other documented manifestations of demonic possession that are not so easy to dismiss. These include those that involve multiple credible eyewitnesses reporting alleged possession victims displaying inexplicable behavior, such as levitating in the air, speaking languages they have never been exposed to, and revealing information that they could not have possibly been aware of.
Here are six well-documented cases of alleged possession that would make most people think twice before dismissing demons as fictional creations:
6 The Case of Latoya Ammon's Children
As recentlyas January of 2014, the Indianapolis Star reported that Police Captain Charles Austin has subscribed to the the story of demonic possession told by Latoya Ammons, a mother of three children from Indiana. According to her, dark entities caused her three children - then aged 7, 9, and 12 - to be observed with bulging eyes, evil smiles, and strangely deep voices. Close to 800 pages of official records document the case.
At first, Captain Austin was skeptical about the strange story told by Ammons, but home visits and interviews he and his team conducted have convinced him that something supernatural took place in the home. It began in November of 2011 when Ammons reported that in the middle of winter, a swarm of flies gathered by their porch window. That was followed by strange sounds and shadowy figures leaving wet bootprints on their floors. The incidents escalated when in March of 2012, Ammons allegedly saw her 12-year-old daughter levitating over her bed, the girl only descending after being prayed over by family members and friends but being unable to remember floating. Later, a headboard smacked into her head, causing a wound requiring stitches, and Ammon's 7-year-old son flew out of a bathroom as if thrown. Ammon's 9-year-old son, meanwhile, was seen by a nurse walking backwards up a wall onto to the ceiling.
Eventually, the children were taken away from Latoya because of suspected abuse, but a photo of the Ammons' home that an officer took with his iPhone seemed to lend credibility to the troubled mother's story. A white human-like silhouette is clearly visible in one of the windows.
5 The Successful "Exorcism" of Roland Doe / Robbie Mannheim
It's often mentioned that the real-life possession on whom the 1974 film The Exorcist is based actually happened to a male, rather than a female. Well, the pseudonyms "Roland Doe" and "Robbie Mannheim" refer to that boy, who experienced possession-like symptoms at Cottage City, Maryland in the late 1940s.
If documented accounts are to be believed, 'Robbie's' Aunt Harriet, who was the boy's main playmate, introduced him to the Ouija board, and upon her death, the strange occurrences began. These included the sound of squeaking and marching feet filling the family home, and furniture being moved around without anyone touching them. In fact, a vase was reported to have levitated, a vessel of holy water was said to have smashed itself on the ground, and a picture of Jesus supposedly shook as though something was thumping on it from behind. Doctors, both psychiatric and medical, could not explain the events.
Eventually, an exorcism was attempted by Rev. Edward Hughes, a Catholic priest, but a wound requiring stitches was inflicted upon the pastor, stopping the rite. A later exorcism was attempted by three Jesuits, one of them reporting that the words "hell" and "evil" appeared as wounds on the boy's body. All in all, the exorcism ritual was attempted thirty times before achieving its goal, Robbie going on to live a normal life afterwards.
4 Clara Germana Cele and Her Pact with Satan
In 1906, Clara Germana Cele was an ordinary, although whimsical, sixteen-year-old from Natal, South Africa before she began displaying some very strange and frightening behavior. She was recorded as being able to understand German, French, and Polish, despite the fact that she had never been exposed to those languages. Even more strangely, Clara could somehow reveal intimate secrets of people whom she had never had contact with, levitate up to five feet both horizontally and vertically, and display unusual strength by hurling people about. Allegedly she could not stand to be in the vicinity of blessed objects, and her voice was said to sound like "a veritable herd of wild beasts orchestrated by Satan".
When the girl's confessor, Father Hörner Erasmus, was called in, he revealed that Clara had earlier confessed to him that she had made a pact with Satan, thus giving the demon a chance to take over her body. Later, though, Erasmus and another priest reportedly drove out Satan from her body in a rite that lasted two days, despite the alleged demon's attempt to fight against them.
3 A Reputable Psychologist's Account of 'Julia'
The term "victim" might not be appropriate for a woman whom New York Medical College associate professor Dr. Richard E. Gallagher reported was taken over by an unknown force. That's because the female, given the pseudonym "Julia", resorted to Satanism and openly practiced her alleged occult powers despite being baptized a Catholic as a child.
According to Dr. Gallagher's report released in March of 2012, the Caucasian woman from the United States approached her local Church, who then called Gallagher for him to provide his psychiatric diagnosis. He made several observations about Julia that he found to be inexplicable. For example, she would enter trances and utter hateful phrases in voices entirely different from her own, but would afterwards claim no recollection of the events. Eerily, while Gallagher would consult with colleagues on the case, these same sinister-sounding voices would interrupt their phone conversations. Even more strangely, Julia began to display psychic abilities, including knowing personal details about members of the team. One incident had Julia inexplicably possessing knowledge of a violent cat fight in one of the psychiatric team members' homes. She commented a few hours after the incident, "So those cats really went berserk last night, didn't they?"
When the exorcism ritual was finally performed to relieve Julia, the room grew unbearably hot, and she began to speak recognizable Spanish and Latin although she apparently knew only English. Julia also screamed in pain when sprinkled with holy water, but remarkably would have no reaction when ordinary water was secretly used on her. It was also recorded that at one time, she levitated six inches in the air for approximately thirty minutes.
As of last reporting, Julia has not been successfully cleansed of the strange force.
2 The Unresolved Mystery of Pat Reading
The case of a mother from Litchfield, Connecticut, who, in the 80s, began showing signs of demonic possession, is particularly intriguing. Pat Reading had never previously been involved in any type of practice of the occult and had had no history of mental illness. For this reason, it was especially unsettling when she began hearing strange banging noises in her home, which shortly progressed to the overturning of furniture and violent attacks on her. Paranormal investigator John Zaffis, who recorded the events from the case, claims that hair was ripped right out of Pat's scalp, and bite marks inexplicably appeared on Pat's back.
A Catholic priest was called in to perform an exorcism, and all in all, sixteen were attempted, but to no avail. In fact, up until Reading died from colon cancer, she continued to suffer from the attacks. This has led Zaffis to conclude that Reading was a "soul victim" -- a purely innocent individual never previously exposed to paranormal activity who somehow fell victim to an evil supernatural force.
1 The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel
The 2005 horror flick The Exorcism of Emily Rose is scary enough, but that it was based loosely on a real-life alleged demonic possession makes it ever more disturbing.
The actual "Emily Rose" is Anneliese Michel, a German Catholic, who at sixteen years old, was diagnosed to be suffering from temporal lobe epilepsy. She took medication for her diagnosed condition, but did not show substantial improvement. In fact, Anneliese soon began complaining about seeing the faces of devils. Three years later, she went on to describe hearing voices saying that she would "rot in hell". That was followed by several episodes of Anneliese injuring herself, eating insects, and drinking her own urine - behavior that convinced Catholic Bishop Josef Stangl to allow the ritual of exorcism to be performed, although in total secrecy.
Anneliese died in her home due to dehydration and malnutrition on July 1, 1976. The priests who conducted the attempted exorcism, Fr. Arnold Renz and Fr. Ernst Alt, were tried and found guilty of manslaughter. They were sentenced to six months imprisonment and three years probation.