Anneliese Michel’s disturbing death after undergoing 67 exorcisms really was the stuff of horror films, and provided the source material for 2005 film The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
Tragic, German-born Anneliese was just 23-years-old when she died back in 1976. She had begun to exhibit signs of unusual behaviour at the age of 16, falling into trances and wetting the bed. However, doctors couldn’t find anything medically wrong with her.
Things started to escalate when she was hospitalised with tubercolosis. It was at this point she began hearing things nobody else could, voices which told her she would ‘stew in hell’.
She also started suffering from epileptic seizures, which could not be controlled through regular medication.
Much like Emily Rose, Anneliese did well at school and went on to attend teacher training college. However, in 1973 things took a turn for the worse as her vividly terrifying hallucinations began, which included seeing ‘devil faces’
Catholic raised Anneliese became convinced the devil had taken possession over her body, and had the strong feeling of being ‘damned’.
Her strange behaviour became notably more extreme. Witnesses reported how she would lick urine from the floor like a dog, devour spiders, and strip off all her clothes.
Troubled Anneliese had been raised within an intensely Catholic family, and had always been pressured to live a deeply religious life. However, her fears over having the devil in her led to Anneliese avoiding objects related to religion, such as crucifixes.
Her parents believed there was something sinister and otherworldly about their daughter’s behaviour, and enlisted the help of priests who believed Anneliese was under the control of six demonic entities.
Speaking with The Telegraph back in 2005, Anneliese’s mother Anna talked about how there was ‘no other way’ to help her daughter:
Anneliese was a kind, loving, sweet and obedient girl. But when she was possessed, it was something unnatural, something that you can’t explain.
Over a ten month period, the clergymen performed a shocking 67 exorcisms on the young woman. It is believed she was chained up throughout these ordeals, and an autopsy report showed she had endured broken teeth and knees, bruising and black eyes.
Throughout this traumatic time, she starved herself and her weight dropped to just 68lb. She believed depriving herself of food would help weaken Satan’s influence over her. She eventually died of malnutrition, emaciation and starvation.
Check out the film based on Anneliese’s frightening life:
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In 1978, her parents and the priests involved were charged with negligent homicide, with the prosecutor claiming death could have been prevented if proper intervention had taken place even just a week before she died.
Today, Anneliese’s sad tale is usually attributed to mental illness which went improperly treated. However, her grave in Klingenberg am Main, Bavaria has become a place of pilgrimage for those who believe she died to atone for the sins of others.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.