A woman in Arizona who was under the care of psychiatrists was labeled by a nonreligious group as a “real” case of demonic possession when she allegedly levitated during a therapy session and began displaying an array of paranormal phenomena around her. Some of the symptoms described by Dr. Richard E. Gallagher seemed to be merely a dissociative disorder that could have had a natural explanation, but the rest of it was beyond rational and moving into territory that was unfamiliar for Dr. Gallagher.
The woman was under observation in New York Medical College when several doctors called in religious officials including priests, deacons, and nuns in order to help treat the woman. As she levitated with her feet dangling half a foot off the ground objects around the room began spontaneously flying off shelves and smashing against the wall. The event came after the woman announced that she had been involved with several Satanic cults for years leading up to her seeking help from her tormentors. But the creature the team faced as she began babbling in various languages was nothing like the girl asking for help mere hours prior. The event was only one of several while Julia, the woman in question, whose name will be omitted to protect her privacy was under the care of Dr. Gallagher.
An article later appearing in the New Oxford Review would document the case, quoting some of the macabre things the possessed woman screamed in various languages while being treated such as, ‘She’s ours,’ and ‘Leave her alone you imbecile priest.’ The woman furthermore was demonstrated to show incredible strength during the exorcism, and even changed the sound of her voice to sound like a number of things including a deep voiced man. She actively, during this time rebelled against any imagery that was interpreted as religious or good natured.
For centuries the concept of a person who has entirely lost their will to a malevolent entity has terrified us. And when a licensed psychiatrist stakes his career and his reputation on a claim such as this, it clearly demonstrates that the events transpiring before them are extreme enough to warrant a separation from years of dedication to scientific study. One can only imagine how shocking and terrifying something must be to change the opinion of an individual on a topic so integral and terrifying. And yet this seems to be more the rule than the exception in the case of demonic possession. It’s clear that most people who witness these events are terrified by them. How does someone who is at the cutting edge of psychiatric understanding deal with something so strange and deviant from what they are prepared to accept as real? And what does that mean for the real victims of these stories; the patients who desperately need help? As for Mr. Gallagher, whether there was indeed something of religious significance happening in his presence or not, the presence of the priests and the exorcism ritual itself did provide a great deal of help to Julia.