Despite perpetual skepticism, the ritualistic practice of ridding a person’s soul of demons continues to occur all around the world. While many of these instances have been sanctioned by the Vatican and have been performed behind closed doors, there are a couple of cases of demonic possession that have become infamous in modern history.
One such case is that of Robbie Mannheim in 1949—a young teen who inspired William Peter Blatty’s novel, The Exorcist. After extensive medical testing and several visits to psychiatrists, Robbie’s parents sought the help of their pastor, Reverend Schulze. Once a seemingly normal young man, Robbie began to show bizarre and extreme behavioral differences and alleged telekinetic power after the death of his Aunt Harriet.
Robbie underwent several exorcisms by multiple priests, some of them Jesuits. During his final exorcism, priests claimed that the boy’s bed violently shook, and words such as “evil” and “hell” appeared on his body. After the ritual was performed, it is reported that Robbie went on to live a life free from religious strife.
In 1974, Christine Taylor began to express concern about the sudden shift in behavior she witnessed in her husband, Michael Taylor. After Michael admitted to feeling an unknown force of evil dwelling inside of him, the church’s vicar requested that priests perform an exorcism to rid Michael of his demons.
Two priests performed the ritual for many hours and believed they had properly dispelled forty demons from Michael. Despite believing that three demons, those of insanity, murder, and violence, still resided in him, they allowed Michael to go home.
When he arrived, Michael attacked his wife, and murdered her by tearing out her eyes, tongue, and parts of her face. Michael was found by police wandering outside of his house, naked and covered in his wife’s blood.
At his trial, Michael was acquitted and declared insane. He was sent to a psychiatric hospital for four years.
A devout Catholic, Anna was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy when she sixteen years old. By June of 1970, Anna had suffered multiple seizures, despite being in a psychiatric hospital where she was given anti-convulsion medication. Anna began to tell her doctors that she was seeing devil faces at random.
By 1973, Anna was severely depressed and began to see hallucinations while praying. She also stated that she heard voices in her head, telling her she was damned. When long term treatments did nothing to help her, Anna began to believe she was possessed by demons.
Anna rapidly declined. She became intolerant of holy objects, grew aggressive and was seen drinking her own urine and consuming insects.
In September, 1975, Anna underwent her first exorcism. A total of sixty-seven exorcisms were performed over a ten month period, but nothing seemed to help. At the end, Anna believe she was destined to die for the sins of youth, and stopped eating. Anna died on July 1, 1976. Her parents, along with the two priests who performed the exorcisms were charged with negligent homicide, but were not charged with time in prison as they had “suffered enough.”