If you are a fan of the horror movies, you probably agree that the absolute scariest ones are those that start with the phrase “This film is based on a true story”. Those are the ones that really make you lock your door twice and check for the monsters under your bed.
One of those movies is The Exorcism of Emily Rose released in 2005. It is a story about a young woman who died of self-inflicted wounds and malnutrition. However, there is a big twist to her story. Emily’s parents, together with the local priests, were sure that she was possessed by a demon. The truly upsetting part about this movie is the fact that it was based on the real story of Anneliese Michel – a young German woman who died at the age of 23 after numerous exorcism rites performed on her. Her death caused speculations all around the world. Some people believe she really was possessed by one or more demons, while the others blame her parents for her death. Both of her parents, as well as priests Ernst Alt and Arnold Renz, were convicted of negligent homicide.
You will have to decide for yourself what you choose to believe in. Here are 15 facts and photos that inspired The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
15. Early Life Of Anneliese Michel
Anneliese Michel was born on September 21st, 1952 in Leiblfing, Germany. She was raised a devoted Catholic by their extremely religious parents. At the age 16, she suffered her first seizure and was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy that resulted in psychosis. She claimed that she felt something holding her down, pressing her to the floor. After her third seizure at the psychiatric hospital where she was being treated, she talked about devil faces appearing in front of her on multiple occasions. She was prescribed drugs for schizophrenia and delusions, but the treatment didn’t help her and she continued to suffer from serious depression and hallucinations. She often experienced hallucinations while praying where she heard voices telling her that she was damned. Being a strict Catholic, the only explanation acceptable to her was the demonic possession.
14. Anneliese’s Catholic Background
Anna Michel, Anneliese’s mother, gave birth to another girl four years before Anneliese was born. It was an illegitimate child which was a terrible source of shame for a highly religious, Catholic mother. The girl died at the age of 8 and young Anneliese had to atone for her mother’s sins ever since. She spent a big part of her childhood doing penance for bad priests, as well as for her mother’s sinful youth. According to doctors who treated Anneliese, this was the reason behind her developing neuroses related to Catholic symbols, prayers, and all of the religious iconography. At first, she saw unnatural colors and shapes, which escalated to her seeing demons’ faces and hearing their voices. As the time went on, she became obsessed with the idea of one or more demons living inside of her.
13. Black Eyes Staring At The Virgin Mary
Young Anneliese wasn’t the only one who was obsessed with the idea of demos inside and around her. Her mother also thought that was the reason behind Annaliese’s seizures. On one occasion, she claimed that she caught Annaliese staring at the Virgin Mary statue with “jet black” eyes and she didn’t seem as herself at all. In 1973, Annaliese reported hearing strange sounds and knocking in her bedroom at night and her sisters claimed that had heard it as well. The things with Anneliese became weirder and creepier day by day. Annaliese visited a couple of doctors; a family doctor Dr. Volt, as well as a neurologist Dr. Luthy. When they weren’t able to help her, her mother took her to a priest Father Alt in September 1973, hoping that he will know what to do.
12. Crazy Behavior And Superhuman Strength
Anneliese’s behavior became crazier as the time went on. In 1973, she started doing some really creepy stuff, for example, she used to eat flies, spiders, and other bugs, as well as coal, she licked her urine off the floor, ripped her clothes, and she began to act even more extreme while she was close to religious symbols and items, such as holy water, crucifixes, Virgin Mary statues etc. The symptoms were consistent with what Church would call a demonic possession. When the family asked a local priest, Father Alt, for help, he told them that the medical treatment wasn’t enough to “cure” Annaliese and that they should try more drastic measures in the form of the exorcism rites. After that, Annaliese stopped taking her medication and decided to focus on treating her condition like a demonic possession instead of epilepsy and schizophrenia.
11. Secret Exorcisms
When the parents consulted different priests, all of them recommended the medical treatment instead of exorcism sessions. The first one to confirm that this was actually a case of demonic possession, not a case of mental illness, was the priest Ernst Alt. However, in order for an exorcism rite to be performed, a strict set of criteria needs to be met first. Father Alt believed Anneliese met all of them and he urged the bishop to give his approval for this kind of religious intervention. At this picture, we can see the bishop Josef Stangl who gave the permission for performing the exorcism on Anneliese Michel but it had to be done in an absolute secrecy and in accordance with the Rituale Romanum of 1614 – a book describing the services allowed to be performed by priests.
10. 67 Exorcisms
After the exorcism of Anneliese Michel was allowed by the bishop, it was important to find the right priest who would agree on performing such an intervention. The first session was performed on September 24, 1975, by a priest Arnold Renz. At that moment, the medical treatment was completely stopped because Father Renz, Father Alt, Annaliese’s parents, and Annaliese herself were absolutely sure that she was possessed. Over the next 10 months, once or twice a week, exorcism sessions were performed that were meant to help Annaliese get rid of the demons possessing her. Some of those sessions were over four hours long and 42 of them have been recorded. Altogether, 67 exorcisms were performed by Father Renz and Father Alt and every one of them was condoned by the tormented girl.
9. Audio Recordings Of Exorcism
Some of Annaliese’s sessions were recorded and the recordings are truly disturbing. Her voice is almost completely unrecognizable and while she spoke mostly in German, other, unknown languages have been reported to appear on the tapes as well. There have been speculations about those languages being the ones used by the demons possessing Anneliese. One scary detail has been singled out from those recordings and it was the moment where we can clearly hear Annaliese saying (in a deep, scary voice that doesn’t sound like her at all) “I have the right to be in this woman.” There have been other recordings capturing what could be described as “demons arguing” during those sessions. Some of those tapes have been used later in the court by the defense in the cases against the priests and Anneliese’s parents.
8. Six Demons Possessed Anneliese
It was revealed that, reportedly, 6 different demons possessed Anneliese during the 10-month period of her exorcism. Priests performing those sessions talked to Lucifer, Hitler, Nero, Cain, Judas Iscariot, and Fleischmann. Both priests were particularly surprised by the last one. Valentin Fleischmann was a disgraced priest known for his bad behavior that led to him being excommunicated from the Catholic Church. The weird thing about him “appearing” during those sessions was that there was no way Annaliese could know all the little details about his life that she supposedly provided at certain moments. However, due to Annaliese’s obsession with Christian history, some people believe that she chose those people to be her “demons” intentionally, especially after hearing in one of the recordings Judas explaining through Anneliese how Hitler is not really liked in Hell because he brags too much.
7. Attacking Family Members And Being Restrained
After the first couple of sessions, it really seemed like Anneliese was doing much better. She was able to go to the Church again and she even returned to school. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. During the spring of 1976, Anneliese’s condition worsened dramatically. She was a danger to herself and to everybody around her. She attacked her family members, especially her sisters, and she used to bite and scratch them. If she couldn’t reach anybody else, she would beat herself. She had to be restrained during the exorcism sessions although she grew weaker and weaker every day. This struggle led to her having bruises all over her body, as well as fractured teeth and damaged knees. She would collapse to the floor and then get up dozens of times a day, which resulted in severe damage to her kneecaps.
6. Refusing Food And Starving
In this picture, you can see how Annaliese used to look before her battle with her demons started, and how she used to look shortly before she died. Her body deteriorated severely because she refused to eat. At first, she explained that the demons won’t allow her to consume food, that she wasn’t permitted to eat. However, even though she weighed only around 80 pounds at that time, she exhibited a really surprising amount of strength. She refused medical treatment and her parents supported her in that decisions because they believed that only the Church could help her at that point. She continued to starve herself but, as the time went by, she claimed that at that point it was by her own will, not by the choice of the demons possessing her.
5. The Stigmata On Anneliese’s body
Shortly before Anneliese’s death, her mother as well as the priest Ernst Alt reportedly saw the stigmata on her body. If you are not familiar with the term, “stigmata“ refers to the wounds, body marks, or even pain located at feet, hands, and wrists, resembling the wounds inflicted to Jesus Christ during his crucifixion. There wasn’t any real proof of the stigmata appearing on Anneliese’s body but Father Alt was sure that he saw the wounds caused by this religious phenomenon. He also stated that this wasn’t the first time that he saw something like this appearing on Anneliese’s body and he claimed it was proof that Annaliese was the one to atone for the sins of others. He also stated that the exorcism was successful at the end although it didn’t stop Anneliese from dying.
4. The Death Of Anneliese Michel
On July 1st, 1976, Anneliese Michel died of dehydration and malnutrition at the age of 23. At the time of her death, she weighed only 68 pounds since she insisted on starving herself and refused medical help. She believed that refusing food would lessen the demonic control over her body. Unfortunately, it had weakened her to the point where her body wasn’t able to function properly anymore and, eventually, it shut down completely. She died at her home after 67 exorcisms had been performed on her. She spent almost a year in semi-starvation and, at the end, she wasn’t able to move without someone’s assistance. On top of that, she contracted pneumonia and refused to ask for medical help. Her last exorcism was performed on June 30, 1976, and she died two days later.
3. Prosecution And Trial
After Annaliese Michel’s death, an investigation showed that it could easily be prevented and, as a result, Annaliese’s parents and both priests involved in the exorcisms (Ernst Alt and Arnold Renz) were charged with negligent homicide. A couple of doctors were invited to testify at the trial and they’ve come to the conclusion that the death was a combination of mental disorders, epilepsy, starvation, and an extremely religious environment. The priests didn’t agree with the doctors and they claimed that Anneliese’s death was a result of demonic possession. The parents agreed with the priests completely. The defense was built upon the fact that the German constitution allows everybody to behave in accordance with their religion and exorcism is legal. All four accused people were found guilty and jailed for 6 months.
2. Speculation And Public Debate
The case of Anneliese Michel started a wave of new speculation on the subject of exorcism. Doctors and scientists around the world mostly agree that every recorded case of so-called demonic possession is nothing but mental illness. There are various types of psychosis that have the same symptoms as those used to describe a person possessed by a demon. In the case of Anneliese Michel, some people came to the conclusion that her behavior was influenced by the movie The Exorcist released in 1974. After the film was released in Germany, numerous psychiatrists reported that it had dramatically increased obsessive ideas among their patients. Michel’s behavior, specifically the things recorded during the exorcism sessions, were suspiciously similar to the things we have seen and heard in the film.
1. The Movies Inspired By Anneliese Michel
We need to take the time to talk about the movies that were inspired by this case.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose was the first movie that was inspired by the tragic story of Anneliese Michel. It was released in 2005 and it follows the trial of the priest performing the exorcism rites. However, it is not completely accurate and the story of Anneliese Michel was used merely as inspiration. On one hand, it captures the things that happened to her and her family, but some of the details were either left out or altered a bit in order to make the movie more interesting and watchable.
One year later, another movie based on Michel’s story was released, called Requiem. It is much more of a drama than a scary horror film and it really sticks to the facts of Anneliese’s struggle. It is a Greman movie written by Bernd Lange and directed by Hans-Christian Schmid.
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