For he said unto him, Come out of
the man, thou unclean spirit.
And he asked him, What is thy name?
And he aswered, saying,
My name is Legion: for we are many.
For sixty days in 1949 a fourteen-year-old boy from Mount Rainier, Maryland, underwent a series of medieval church rituals called exorcisms. They were performed by a Jesuit priest in St. Louis, to whom the boy had been sent by the Georgetown University Hospital. The child was apparently, a victim of demonic possession, and the hospital staff had been quite unable to help him. He became possessed by an “invisible entity” after he and his “Aunt Tillie” began experimenting with a Ouija Board in January 1949.
The priest first submitted himself to a “black fast” of bread and water, and lost more than forty pounds. Then, twenty-two times, he repeated a ceremony laid down in the ancient Rituale Romanum, the procedure of exorcism frequently interrupted by violent-often terrifying reactions of the patient. After two months of effort the boy was saved. Fast forward several years later. Having no memory of the ordeal he married and became the father of several children, and otherwise led a normal life. The priest if he is still alive today would be in his nineties. For all of this time he has preserved his anonymity.
At the time of this occurance the episode rated only a small article in the back pages of a Washington, DC, newspaper. But a copy of the diary kept by the Jesuit priest fell into the hands of novelist William Peter Blatty. He wrote a fictionalized version of the affair, turning the boy into a girl, made her the daughter of a famous movie star, threw in other details that occured during other exorcisms, and invented a few eerily obscene touches of his own. The result was “The Exorcist”, a superseller that retailed more than nine million copies. The movie version, which appeared in theaters in 1973, had people standing in line for blocks and for hours, then fainting and vomiting by the score during the performance. The film became one of the most lucrative motion pictures of its time, surpassing both “Gone With The Wind” and “The Godfather”.
Few people were then aware that the story was based on actual case history, and even fewer realized that exorcisms were and are here and abroad so common. The fact is that neither the Catholic Church nor the several Protestant denominations have ever abandoned the practice altogether. They have merely become more selective in their subjects, and try to get the business done and over with as quickly and as quietly as possible. It seems the church does not want to make a big deal out of exorcism and they truly seem to feel a need to lay low on the subject, but why? Wouldn’t it be good for business to let the truth out?
Exorcism History And Curious Facts
The roots of exorcisms extend far past the founding of the church itself. The act of casting out demons was recorded in early Jewish literature as early as 5 BC and tales of demons or evil spirits controlling someone are found in Babylonian folklore.
Demons, in many cases, were believed to gain residence when the person ate them with food ingested without first purifying it with the appropriate sacraments and prayers. This is by the way the reason that you might pause to say “grace” before sitting down to eat a meal.
You do not choose to be an exorcist. You are chosen. When exorcists are chosen by the church, they have to remain secret and they do not go around and talk about it. It is understood that it would put them in personal danger. Why?
More than one exorcist has died during an exorcism, and many have even succumbed to possession by the very entity they are attempting to drive out while their defenses are at the lowest ebb.
In August, 2007 over 330 exorcists from 29 countries around the world traveled to Czestochowa Poland to attend a secret, behind-closed-doors meeting. No one knows why.
Many Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe in exorcism. In Latter Day Saint tradition, the act of casting out evil spirits is performed by a worthy male member of the church who holds the Priesthood though a Priesthood blessing, after a confirmation from the Holy Ghost.
Salvador Dali is reputed to have received an exorcism from Italian friar, Gabriele Maria Berardi, while he was in France in 1947. Dali created a sculpture of Christ on the cross which he gave the friar in thanks.
Anneliese Michel was a Catholic woman from Germany who was said to be possessed by six or more demons and subsequently underwent an exorcism in 1975. The film “Exorcism of Emily Rose” has been said to be loosely based on Anneliese’s story. After half a year and 67 rites of exorcism later, Anneliese Michel was dead at the age of 23.
Two years after Michel’s death, a German court found her parents and the two priests involved guilty of negligent manslaughter and sentenced them to six months in prison, suspended with three years’ probation. What shocked Germany most was the fact that it could happen in a country that prides itself on being highly rational and profoundly secular.