Possession movies, when done right, are some of the scariest ones to watch. The level of acting and grueling physical work makes for very intense entertainment. What adds to the spook factor is when the story is based on true events. Some that come to mind are “The Exorcist” and the movies in “The Conjuring” universe. Another that comes to mind is the 2005 flick, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” Today’s Nightmare Fuel looks at the story of the real Emily Rose… Anneliese Michel.
Anneliese Michel was born September 21, 1952, in Leiblfing, Bavaria, West Germany, and grew up in a devout Roman Catholic family. At age sixteen, she suffered a severe convulsion and was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy. Even with this, she managed to graduate and attended the University of Wurzburg. She had been prescribed anti-convulsion medications, such as Dilantin, but shortly after she started reporting seeing the faces of devils. She was then prescribed Aolept, a medication used to treat various psychoses including schizophrenia. It didn’t seem to help as she fell into depression and began hallucinating while praying. She’d also begin hearing voices telling her that she was damned and going to rot in hell. Around the same time, she began showing signs of intolerance to sacred Christian objects and places. It was on a pilgrimage to San Damiano that she was deemed possessed by her escort because of her inability to walk past a crucifix and not drinking from a holy spring. This was followed by the first requests for exorcism approval from the Catholic Church. The Church has fairly strict criteria that they follow before granting permission to perform an exorcism. They recommended that Anneliese continue her medical treatment.
By this point, Anneliese’s condition began showing further progression. She’d eat insects, drink her urine, act out aggressively, and injure herself on purpose. She was prescribed stronger medication, but it didn’t help. She eventually began reporting seeing demons, growling, and throwing things about. Throughout her life, Anneliese would do things that made her uncomfortable, thinking that it was her way to atone for the sins of other youth. This thought process only increased as her condition worsened, and she began seeing herself as dying to atone for the sins of all wayward youth and the apostate priests of the modern church. She refused to eat, and her parents became convinced that the medical community wasn’t helping their daughter. The Michel family turned exclusively to exorcism, thinking this was the only way to help her. Adding to this was Father Ernst Alt, a priest who also viewed Anneliese as possessed because he thought that she didn’t look like an epileptic or having seizures. Over ten months, sixty-seven exorcisms were performed.
Anneliese Michel died in 1976. Her official cause of death is listed as malnutrition and dehydration. When she died, she weighed only 68 pounds (30 kg). Her parents, Father Alt, and Father Arnold Renz, who performed the exorcisms, were all charged with negligent homicide. They were found guilty, and each sentenced to six months in prison, which was suspended for three years. Amongst the evidence provided in the trial were recordings said to be the demons possessing Anneliese: Lucifer, Cain, Judas Iscariot, Legion, Belial, Nero, and Hitler. While they argued during the possession, the demons said that they freed the young woman before her passing. Anneliese’s gravesite has since become a pilgrimage site for Christians.
I remember watching the movie in the theater and thinking of how terrifying it was. Perhaps it was the story, or perhaps watching it in a theater added to the terror. Upon leaving the theater, I heard some bigger and stronger guys saying how they didn’t think they were going to be sleeping well that night. It remains one of my favorite possession movies. Knowing the story behind the script only adds to the horror.
Until next time, Addicts.