IT’S not often that true events are more unsettling than the horror films they inspire… but that can’t be said for the case of Anneliese Michel.
The 23-year-old German girl died shortly after being exorcised, with her upsetting life story being retold in 2005 movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
But it turns out that her actual life was far more disturbing than what cinema goers saw.
Anneliese was born in 1952 in to a strict Catholic family. Her mum had already lost a child, Martha, who died aged just 8.
Martha’s death meant Anneliese’s mum put even more pressure on her remaining daughter to lead a pious life, demanding that she attended mass twice a week and keeping a very close eye on her.
Later Anneliese would develop neuroses related to religious iconography as a result of the punishments inflicted on her by her zealot parents.
Anneliese enjoyed school and was described as happy and well-liked by her teachers, and excelled at languages.
But when she was 16 she blacked out in class and according to friends seemed to go in to a trance-like state for a few minutes.
That night she woke up in the night with a ‘heavy feeling on her body’ and wet the bed.
She didn’t go to school the next day but her family decided she was fine and there were no further incidents.
A whole year later, something similar did happen, and Anneliese was taken to a doctor.
He found there to be nothing wrong with her, as did a neurologist, but she was hospitalised in February 1970 with tuberculosis.
It was while she was in hospital – where a third incident saw her ridiculed by other patients for soiling herself – that things started to get weird.
Anneliese claimed that she began to see colours, heard sounds and experience euphoria while saying a rosary and was diagnosed with epilepsy.
She returned to school that same year, but was withdrawn and depressed.
Her seizures continued, with the medication prescribed to her making no difference.
Still Anneliese did her best to soldier on, graduating school and heading to college to become a teacher.
In 1973 she began suffering hallucinations while praying and became convinced that she was damned and the Devil was inside of her.
Now as well as begging doctors for help, she also turned to priests – but her behaviour was more than either seemed able to handle.
Anneliese is said to have licked her own urine from the floor, eaten coal, stripped naked and eaten insects.
As she began avoiding religious items like crosses and holy water, priests realised she was showing signs of demonic possession.
After months of pleading from her parents, the church agreed to perform an exorcism.
Fathers Arnold Renz and Ernst Alt, two priests from the local parish, were given the job of performing a ‘secret’ exorcism.
Anneliese stopped taking her medication on the priests’ orders – they were convinced this was not a medical situation.
Over the next ten months, Anneliese underwent 67 one-hour exorcism sessions – and the clergymen noted at least SIX demons inside of her – each of them more evil than the last.
They claimed Lucifer, Judas Iscariot, Nero, Cain, Hitler, and Fleischmann, a disgraced Priest from the 16th century were all using her body as a vessel.
As the exorcisms went on, Anneliese lost a lot of weight and became increasingly frail.
But she still had to be held down and even chained up while the Priests tried to force the demons out of her.
When she died in 1976, her autopsy revealed she had fractured teeth, bruised limbs and black eyes – but before she died the Priests claimed to have seen stigmata on her hands and feet.
They took these marks – said to represent where Jesus was nailed to the cross – as a symbol that her soul had been freed.
However, the Priests and Anneliese’s parents were found guilty of negligent homicide in 1978, and all received fines and jail time.