The story of Anneliese Michel is a tragic one that might be a little too much for some readers. So I write this disclaimer now, there are many who are terrified of possession, and with good reason, but Anneliese’s story is probably one of the most powerful accounts you will read. Contained in this article are images of Anneliese that might be too graphic for some readers. So, if you are one of them, I urge you to minimize this page, turn on a Disney film, and try and get some sleep tonight.
Anneliese was born September 21, 1952 into a strict Catholic family living in Bavaria, and she was very devout. Her father, Josef had trained in the past for priesthood and her mother Anna encouraged her to atone of the sins of the illegitimate. However, her mother’s reasoning behind her daughter’s spirituality was more for selfish reasons. Several years before Anneliese was born she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Martha. After Martha’s death Anneliese’s determination to do penance for her mother was incredibly heightened.
Anneliese started to atone for wayward priests and drug addicts by sleeping on the cold wooden floor, uncovered, in the middle of winter. She also slept on stone floors to atone for the sins of those who she saw sleeping on the floors at train stations. At the University of Würzburg she hung photos of saints on the walls of her room, kept holy water near the door, and constantly prayed the rosary.
1969 is when Anneliese started convulsing. After several appointments with psychiatrists she was diagnosed with Grand Mal epilepsy and put on a prescription. However it wasn’t long after these convulsions started that Anneliese started to see demonic images moving on the walls, hidden in large crowds of people, and devilish hallucinations while praying. Voices spoke to her, telling her she was damned, driving her to depression and made her contemplate suicide. After a very brief stay in a mental institution, Anneliese became fed up with the lack of results the doctors were bringing her, so she resorted back to her faith. In 1975 she made a pilgrimage that would change her life.
An older woman accompanied her on this pilgrimage, and noticed that Anneliese would avoid certain religious icons, images of Jesus, wouldn’t drink water from a holy spring, and smelled terribly bad. The two ventured to a nearby town when the local exorcist diagnosed her as demoniacally possessed. After two failed requests, an exorcism was granted by a Vatican bishop under the guidelines of the Rituale Romanium of 1614.
Her parents were willing to try anything to save their daughter after modern medicine had failed them, and they, along with Anneliese, put their entire faith in the exorcism for healing. Two priests, Father Arnold Renez and Pastor Ernst Alt conducted sixty seven exorcisms over the course of ten months with two sessions per week, some of them lasting up to four hours.
During these sessions Anneliese would do incredibly disturbing things such as licking her own urine off of the floor, eating flies and spiders, eating coal, she bit the head off of a dead bird, once she crawled under a table and barked like a dog for two days, tearing off her clothes and urinating on the floor, and screaming through the night were very common as well. But her faith in the exorcisms was sound. She never contested to the exorcism sessions, and practiced double genuflection, an act of reverence consisting of falling onto one or both knees, through each session. Near the end, when she could no longer stand, her parents help her carry out this act. Several months before her death she stopped eating, claiming that fasting was part of her atonement. During one session she claimed to be possessed by several demons, some of whom were, Lucifer, Judas Iscariot, Nero, Cain, Hitler, and Fleischmann, a disgraced Frankish Priest from the 16th century. She also mentioned a few other damned souls who had manifested themselves through her.
When Anneliese died on the morning of July 1st, 1976, she weighed only 68lbs, all the ligaments in her knees were torn and broken. The day before she died she spoke her last words, she told her exorcists “Beg for absolution”, and then turned to her mother and said, “Mother, I’m scared”. She was buried next to her sister Martha in a simple coffin in a cemetery meant for illegitimates. Two years passed and her mother Anna received word from a woman who had a vision that Anneliese’s body was in perfect condition and untouched by death. Her body was exhumed and transferred to a more suitable coffin, however coroner’s reports claim that decay was very prominent, the photos have never been released.
After her death the two priests that preformed the exorcisms and both her mother and father went to prison for six months, then were put on probation for three years after for not helping Anneliese. Doctor’s findings concluded that had Annelise been fed force fed the last week of her life, she would still be alive today.
Her burial site is now a holy site that many religious people visit each year.
During the courtroom proceedings it was put on record that Anneliese was anti-convulsants, and pills prescribed to schizophrenics and disturbed individuals, along with an anti-epileptic drug. Many of these drug properties have side effects of hallucination and the court ruled that she was not possessed, but in fact a victim of multiple personality disorder. This brings to light the question, was all of her fasting and atonement merely a manifestation of her psychosis? Or was she put through such a torturous treatment because she was truly chosen to atone for sins? The answer depends on your faith and perception.
Two movies have been made about her life.