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Anneliese Michel died of starvation and inability to eat at the age of 23 after being subjected to 67 exorcisms in just ten months. Anneliese was possessed by six evil spirits who vanquished her own spirit and killed her.

Anneliese Michel was born a normal girl, and the story had little to do with her from the start. Everything began when Annelise was sixteen, and then the real story of Emily Rose’s exorcism. It’s one of the few documented cases of demonic possession that has gone to trial.

Early Life of Anneliese Michel

Anneliese Michel was born in 1952 in the small German town of Klingenberg and was described as bright and likable.

Anneliese Michel Childhood
Anneliese Michel Childhood

Anneliese had her first episode of losing consciousness when she was 16 years old, when she felt something pressing down on her chest and pinning her to her bed.

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In August 1969, Anneliese had a similar incident, but this time her mother took her to the family doctor. Dr. Vogt and Dr. Luthy examined her and even performed an electroencephalogram (EEG) and a brain scan, but found no problems. They speculated that it could be a seizure of some sort.

Anneliese Michel had two more similar episodes over the next three years, for which she was prescribed two medications: an anticonvulsant and an anti-seizure medication called Dilantin.

Anneliese Michel During Her Exorcism
Anneliese Michel During Her Exorcism Anneliese Michel/ Facebook

An EEG came back normal on both occasions, with some minor irregular patterns but nothing that could definitively explain her symptoms.

Things began to take a strange turn for Anneliese in 1973, when she began to hear knocking sounds in her bedroom, which her sister also heard. Anneliese would also hear a voice condemning her to hell, which was even more terrifying.

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Anneliese’s Eyes Turning Black

Anneliese’s mother was alarmed when she saw her daughter furiously staring at a statue of the Virgin Mary with “eyes turned black, jet black, and her hands seemed to turn into thick paws with claws.”

Anneliese being held by her mother during her exorcism
Anneliese being held by her mother during her exorcism

When Dr. Luthy came to see her in September 1973, she described horrific visions of demonic faces tormenting her and claimed that “the Devil was inside her.” Anneliese’s mother became concerned when she smelled burnt feces, which many people around her later smelled; seeing this, Anneliese’s mother was advised to consult a Jesuit (religious official).

Anneliese began to see the devil’s face everywhere she went and claimed to hear demons whispering in her ears. When she overheard demons telling her she was “damned” and would “rot in hell” while praying, she concluded that the devil was possessing her.

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Were There Demons Involved?

Anneliese met with a Freudian psychiatrist in November 1973, who diagnosed her with neuritis with possible epilepsy. Another neurologist discovered she had “Epileptic Patterns” and switched her from Dilantin to Tegretol, a much stronger medication.

Annelise sought the assistance of a priest because her delusions had become extreme. Believing that she was possessed, she ripped her clothes off and began performing up to 400 squats per day.

Anneliese continuing to genuflect despite her broken knees.
Anneliese continuing to genuflect despite her broken knees.

For days, Annelise would crawl under the table and bark like a dog. She also began eating spiders and flies, biting the head of a dead bird, and licking her own urine from the floor.

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She began to exhibit strength that her parents described as “close to superhuman” as she threw her sister “as if she were a rag doll” during the time she barely slept and prayed fervently all night.

Anneliese and her mother eventually found a priest, Ernst Alt, who was convinced she was possessed. In court documents, he later stated that “she didn’t look like an epileptic.”

Alt petitioned the local bishop, Bishop Josef Stangl, who approved the request and gave permission to a local priest, Arnold Renz, to perform an exorcism, but the Bishop ordered that it be done in complete secrecy.

“I am nothing, everything about me is vanity, what should I do, I have to improve, you pray for me,” Anneliese wrote to Alt, and she once told him, “I want to suffer for other people…but this is so cruel.”

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Exorcism of Anneliese Michel

The first exorcism rite was performed on September 24, 1975. Father Renz allowed some of the exorcism sessions to be recorded, and 42 audio recordings were made in total.

In the recordings, Anneliese says she has six spirits inside her, which she names Lucifer, Cain, Judas Iscariot, and Hitler. Valentin Fleischmann, a priest in the 1500s who was kicked out of the church for bad behavior, is mentioned as one of her demons, and she gives accurate details about the real Fleischmann.

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Father Alt was taken aback when he heard the name Fleischmann because she couldn’t possibly know who he was. Fleischmann was a priest who was expelled from the church in the 1500s due to his inappropriate behavior.

The situation deteriorated over time, with her banging her head against the wall and biting herself and others to the point where her family had to tie her up to keep her from hurting herself.

Anneliese would frequently mention “dying to atone for the wayward youth of the day and the apostate priests of the modern church” during these sessions.

Despite weighing less than 80 pounds, Anneliese refused to eat during the time and stated that she was “not permitted to eat.” When people tried to restrain Anneliese, she overcame them with great strength.

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Death of Anneliese Michel

Anneliese’s face had sunken in by June, and she had refused a doctor’s visit despite having a high fever. Despite seeking medical attention early on, she refused to eat and visit doctors later on, as she and her family ultimately placed all of their faith in the exorcisms for recovery.

Anneliese had her final exorcism on June 30. During the exorcism, she only said, “please… absolution.” Her family went into her room the next morning and discovered her body.

Anneliese Michel died at the age of 23.
Anneliese Michel died at the age of 23.

Anneliese Michel died of starvation at the age of 23 after undergoing 67 exorcisms, weighing only 68 pounds at the time.

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Trial

Anneliese’s death became a national sensation in Germany after her parents and two priests, Father Renz and Father Alt, who performed the exorcism, were charged with negligent homicide when the case went to trial in 1978.

Ernst Alt, Arnold Renz, Anneliese’s mother Anna, Anneliese’s father Josef at the trial
At trial. From left to right: Ernst Alt, Arnold Renz, Anneliese’s mother Anna, Anneliese’s father Josef. Keystone Archive

The defense used eyewitness testimony and audio recordings as proof of possession, but the court never seemed to take it seriously.

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After the defense was chastised for not seeking medical help, Father Alt claimed that his friend Dr. Richard Roth came to see Anneliese out of scientific curiosity rather than as a doctor.

Dr. Roth claimed Anneliese Michel had no external injuries during his visit, but Father Renz noticed she had several bruises, a swollen cheek, and black eyes, which contradicts Dr. Roth’s claim.

Despite the demons’ and priests’ attacks, an autopsy revealed Anneliese had a healthy brain with no brain damage capable of causing epileptic seizures, “not even on a microscopic level.”

Many things about her stood out, including the fact that her pupils were unusually dilated and the lack of ulcers on her body, which are common in starvation victims.

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The position of the prosecution

The prosecution claimed that Anneliese suffered from epilepsy and psychosis, and that her parents and two priests were responsible for her death by failing to intervene. They questioned Father Alt’s credibility, based on the conclusion of two experts that he showed signs of.Schizophrenia.

The prosecution also claimed that the medications suppressed epilepsy-like seizures, and that this suppression progressed to “a delusional psychosis associated with epilepsy.”

It’s still unclear why she behaved normally in between exorcisms, implying that the seizures were suppressed by medication or if they simply stopped on their own, but Anneliese’s psychotic vision predates the alleged medical suppression.

In the end, the court sided with the prosecution and sentenced the four defendants (Mr. and Mrs. Michel, Father Renz, and Father Alt) to six months in prison (which was later suspended), a three-year suspension for the priests, and all court costs.

The parents were spared any punishment because they had “suffered enough,” as defined by German law.

The court ruled that: Anneliese was unable to make her own decisions and should have been forced to undergo medical treatment.

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Exorcism of Emily Rose

Since Anneliese Michel’s death, a number of films have been made based on her story, including the well-known horror film The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which was released in 2005 and is loosely based on the true story.

The plot revolves around a lawyer who is assigned to a negligent homicide case involving a priest accused of performing a lethal exorcism on a young woman.

While The Exorcism of Emily Rose received mixed reviews, it did win a few awards, including an MTV Movie Award for Jennifer Carpenter’s performance as Emily Rose, which won for “Best Frightened Performance.”

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