The 2005 film The Exorcism of Emily Rose was loosely based on the real life exorcisms of Anneliese Michel.
Michel was a young German woman who underwent a series of Catholic exorcisms. Because of Hollywood, when most people think of the Catholic rite of exorcism they think of one event culminating with the expulsion of an evil spirit. This is not the case. Exorcism is usually a multiple series of rites.
Michel was born to a Catholic family in Leiblfing, Bavaria in West Germany. Her parents Josef and Anna also had 3 other daughters. Michel was known to be very religious, regularly attending mass. When Michel was 16 she had a convulsion and was soon after diagnosed with lobe epilepsy. She would suffer seizures and was eventually instituted in a psychiatric hospital.
While hospitalized, Michel was prescribed a series of medications including those to treat psychosis and schizophrenia, anti-seizure, mood stabilizers and anti-psychotic drugs. Michel complained about seeing devil-faces and hallucinated while praying. Her health continued to decline, and she became intolerant of religious objects, including crucifixes.
Michel went on a pilgrimage to a non-Catholic sanctioned holy site with a family friend to San Damiano. There she refused to walk past religious objects and drink the blessed water. It was at this time that her family concluded that her illness was actually demonic possession.
Father Ernst Alt was contacted by Michel’s family and upon inspecting her he claimed that he believed she was possessed. He petitioned his local bishop to allow an exorcism. In September of 1975, Bishop Josef Stangl gave permission for Ernst to proceed with the exorcism. Ernst enlisted the help of Father Arnold Renz.
Between 1975 and 1976 Ernst conducted 67 exorcisms on Michel, one to two exorcisms per week lasting hours. During this time her family had ceased all medical treatment. Michel talked about dying, and that her death would atone for wayward youth and apostate priests. She had also stopped eating and her knees had broken due to her continuous genuflections.
Michel died in her home on July 1, 1976. Her autopsy reported her death being due to malnutrition.
Michel’s parents, Renz and Ernst were charged with neglect. Their trial began in March 30, 1978 and drew considerable interest. Tapes of the exorcism were played in which the priests claimed were demonic voices coming from Michel identifying themselves as Lucifer, Cain, Judas, Iscariot, Hitler and Nero. The priests went on to say that they believed Michel’s soul was saved just before her death. They were found guilty of manslaughter and were sentenced to six months in jail, later suspended to three years’ probation.
Her parents later had her body exhumed, claiming that they wanted to rebury her in an oak coffin as the original one was made of cheap material. The priests were not allowed to see her body but a nun claimed to have a vision that Michel’s body was still intact. The body was reburied in an oak coffin lined with tin.
In 1984 a petition was submitted to the Vatican and the decision was made that Michel was not possessed but rather suffered from mental illness.
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES
The below video shows images of Anneliese Michel and includes audio recording of her voice before the exorcisms and during.