Movies such as The Exorcist have popularized the notion of paranormal phenomena surrounding an episode of demonic possession. And after reading of someone's personal experiences with Catholic exorcists, I can't help but feel even more interested in this subject matter. Are there any documented cases of paranormal phenomena taking place prior to and/or during an exorcism? Answers need not be restricted to the Catholic Church, any documented instance of demonic deliverance performed by any denomination where paranormal phenomena was reported is fine.
Are there any documented cases of paranormal activity preceding or during an exorcism?
Generally speaking such questions are more interesting for those who are somewhat curious in such matters than more so on an academic level. At least this is my own take on it.
That said, it is not in the interest of those who have suffered directly from the hands of the Demon through what we call a demonic possession. Victims of such events have the right to live normal lives. Some information about their past is truly no one’s business.
Only in very rare cases does the Catholic Church reveal information about what has transpired just before or during an official exorcism.
A few of the cases that may be permitted are historically known as such:
- Exorcists are allowed explain the details to the bishop of the local diocese.
- Exorcists may divulge what has happened during exorcisms during the process of beatification or canonization of a particular individual.
- Exorcists May be required by law to give testimony in civil court during legal proceedings.
- Other cases may exist.
The local Ordinary (bishop) is the only person that may accord permission to a priest of his diocese to perform an exorcism. As such an exorcist is answerable to the bishop of that diocese and no one else.
Can. 1172 §1. No one can perform exorcisms legitimately upon the possessed unless he has obtained special and express permission from the local ordinary.
§2. The local ordinary is to give this permission only to a presbyter who has piety, knowledge, prudence, and integrity of life.
However it does happen that Exorcists Priests are required to shed light on such proceedings in court, as in the case of Anneliese Michel. Sadly not all exorcisms are successful as this one points out.
Anna Elisabeth "Anneliese" Michel (21 September 1952 – 1 July 1976) was a German woman who underwent 67 Catholic exorcism rites during the year before her death. She died of malnutrition, for which her parents and priest were convicted of negligent homicide. She was diagnosed with epileptic psychosis (temporal lobe epilepsy) and had a history of psychiatric treatment, which was overall not effective.
When Michel was 16, she experienced a seizure and was diagnosed with psychosis caused by temporal lobe epilepsy. Shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with depression and was treated by a psychiatric hospital. By the time she was 20, she had become intolerant of various religious objects and began to hear voices. Her condition worsened despite medication, and she became suicidal, also displaying other symptoms, for which she took medication as well. After taking psychiatric medications for five years failed to improve her symptoms, Michel and her family became convinced she was possessed by a demon. As a result, her family appealed to the Catholic Church for an exorcism. While rejected at first, after much hesitation, two priests got permission from the local bishop in 1975.3 The priests began conducting exorcism sessions and the parents stopped consulting doctors. Anneliese Michel stopped eating food and died due to malnourishment and dehydration after 67 exorcism sessions. Michel's parents and the two Roman Catholic priests were found guilty of negligent homicide and were sentenced to six months in jail (reduced to three years of probation), as well as a fine.
The priest Ernst Alt, whom they met, on seeing her declared that "she didn't look like an epileptic" and that he did not see her having seizures. Alt believed she was suffering from demonic possession and urged the local bishop to allow an exorcism. In a letter to Alt in 1975, Michel wrote, "I am nothing; everything about me is vanity. What should I do? I have to improve. You pray for me" and also once told him, "I want to suffer for other people...but this is so cruel". In September of the same year, Bishop Josef Stangl granted the priest Arnold Renz permission to exorcise according to the Rituale Romanum of 1614, but ordered total secrecy. Renz performed the first session on 24 September. Michel began talking increasingly about "dying to atone for the wayward youth of the day and the apostate priests of the modern church", and she refused to eat towards the end. At this point, her parents stopped consulting doctors on her request and relied solely on the exorcism rites. 67 exorcism sessions; one or two each week, lasting up to four hours, were performed over about ten months in 1975–1976.
After an investigation, the state prosecutor maintained that Michel's death could have been prevented even one week before she died.
In 1976, the state charged Michel's parents and priests Ernst Alt and Arnold Renz with negligent homicide. The parents were defended by Erich Schmidt-Leichner; their lawyers were sponsored by the Church. The state recommended that no involved parties be jailed; instead, the recommended sentence for the priests was a fine, while the prosecution concluded that the parents should be exempt from punishment as they had "suffered enough", which is a criterion in German penal law, cf. § 60 StGB.
The trial started on 30 March 1978 in the district court and drew intense interest. Before the court, doctors testified that Michel was not possessed, stating that this was a psychological effect because of her strict religious upbringing and her epilepsy, but the doctor Richard Roth, who was asked for medical help by Alt, allegedly told her during the exorcism, that "there is no injection against the devil, Anneliese". Schmidt-Leichner said that the exorcism was legal and that the German constitution protected citizens in the unrestricted exercise of their religious beliefs. The defense played tapes recorded at the exorcism sessions, sometimes featuring what was claimed to be "demons arguing", to assert their claim that Michel was possessed. Both priests said the demons identified themselves as Lucifer, Cain, Judas Iscariot, Belial, Legion, Hitler and Nero among others; they further said that she was finally freed because of the exorcism just before her death.
The bishop said that he was not aware of her alarming health condition when he approved of the exorcism and did not testify. The accused were found guilty of manslaughter resulting from negligence and were sentenced to six months in jail (which was later suspended) and three years of probation. It was a far lighter sentence than anticipated,7 but it was more than requested by the defense, who had asked that the priests only be fined and that the parents be found guilty but not punished. The Church approving such an old fashioned exorcism rite drew public and media attention. According to John M. Duffey, the case was a misidentification of mental illness.
If one desires document cases of paranormal activity, allow my to suggest three sources. One is of demonic activity, one is in the case of an exorcism and one is about thee most famous exorcist known. All three are saints.
Pope Gregory the Great (540-March 12, 604) reveals an interest story in his Dialogues about demonic manifestations. The Dialogues are a collection of four books of miracles, signs, wonders, and healings done by the holy men, mostly monastic, of sixth-century Italy, with the second book entirely devoted to a popular life of Saint Benedict.
Strictly speaking this example is not of an exorcism, but given as an historical note.
But as I am thus busied in telling the acts of holy men, there cometh to my mind what God of his great mercy did for Andrew, Bishop of the city of Funda: which notable story I wish all so to read, that they which have dedicated themselves to continency, presume not in any wise to dwell amongst women: lest in time of temptation their soul perish the sooner, by having that at hand which is unlawfully desired. |114 Neither is the story which I report either doubtful or uncertain: for so many witnesses to justify the truth thereof may be produced, as there be almost inhabitants in that city. When, therefore, this venerable man Andrew lived virtuously, and with diligent care, answerable to his priestly function, led a continent and chaste life: he kept in his house a certain Nun, which also had remained with him before he was preferred to that dignity; for assuring himself of his own continency, and nothing doubting of hers, content he was to let her remain still in his house: which thing the devil took as an occasion to assault him with temptation: and so he began to present before the eyes of his mind the form of that woman, that by such allurements he might have his heart wholly possessed with ungodly thoughts. In the meantime it so fell out, that a Jew was travelling from Campania to Rome, who drawing nigh to the city of Funda, was so overtaken with night, that he knew not where to lodge, and therefore, not finding any better commodity, he retired himself into a temple of the god Apollo, which was not far off, meaning there to repose himself: but much afraid he was, to lie in so wicked and sacrilegious a place: for which cause, though he believed not what we teach of the cross, yet he thought good to arm himself with that sign. About midnight, as he lay waking for very fear of that forlorn and desert temple, and looked suddenly about him, he espied a troop of wicked spirits walking before another of greater authority: who coming in took up his place, and sat down in the body of the temple: where he began diligently to inquire of those his servants, how they had bestowed their time, and what villany they had done in the world. And when each one told what he had done against God's servants, out stepped a companion, and made solemn relation, with a notable temptation of carnality he had put into the mind of |115 Bishop Andrew, concerning that Nun which he kept in his palace: whereunto whiles the master devil gave attentive ear, considering with himself what a notable gain it would be, to undo the soul of so holy a man; the former devil went on with his tale, and said that the very evening before he assaulted him so mightily, that he drew him so far forth, that he did merrily strike the said Nun upon the back. The wicked serpent and old enemy of mankind hearing this joyful news, exhorted his agent with very fair words, diligently to labour about the effecting of that thing which he had already so well begun, that for so notable a piece of service, as the contriving the spiritual ruin of that virtuous Prelate, he might have a singular reward above all his fellows. The Jew who all this while lay waking, and heard all that which they said, was wonderfully afraid: at length the master devil sent some of his followers to see who he was, and how he durst presume to lodge in their temple. When they were come, and had narrowly viewed him, they found that he was marked with the mystical sign of the cross: whereat they marvelled and said: "Alas, alas, here is an empty vessel, but yet it is signed": which news the rest of those hell-hounds hearing, suddenly vanished away. The Jew, who had seen all that which then passed among them, presently rose up, and in all haste sped himself to the Bishop, whom he found in the church: and taking him aside, he demanded with what temptation he was troubled: but shame so prevailed, that by no means he would confess the truth. Then the Jew replied and told him, that he had cast his eyes wickedly upon such a one of God's servants; but the Bishop would not acknowledge that there was any such thing. "Why do you deny it," quoth the Jew, "for is it not so true that yesternight you were brought so far by sinful temptation, that you did strike her on the back?" When the Bishop, by these particulars, |116 perceived that the matter was broken forth, he humbly confessed what before he obstinately denied. Then the Jew, moved with compassion to his soul, and tendering his credit, told him by what means he came to the knowledge thereof, and what he heard of him in that assembly of wicked spirits. The Bishop, hearing this, fell prostrate upon the earth, and betook himself to his prayers: and straight after he discharged out of his house, not only that Nun, but all other women that attended upon her. And not long after, he converted the temple of Apollo into an oratory of the blessed Apostle, St. Andrew: and never after was he troubled with that carnal temptation: and the Jew, by whose means he was so mercifully preserved, he brought to everlasting salvation: for he baptized him, and made him a member of holy Church, And thus, by God's providence, the Jew having care of the spiritual health of another, attained also himself the singular benefit of the same: and almighty God by the same means brought one to embrace piety and virtue, by which he preserved another in an holy and godly life.
- PETER. This history which I have heard worketh in me fear, and yet withal giveth me cause of hope.
GREGORY. That is not amiss, Peter, for necessary it is that we should both trust upon the mercy of God, and yet, considering our own frailty, be afraid: for we have now heard how one of the cedars of Paradise was shaken, and yet not blown down, to the end that, knowing our own infirmity, we should both tremble at his shaking, and yet conceive hope, in that he was not overthrown, but kept his standing still.
The next example, is I will bring up is about St. Mary of Jesus Crucified. This saint was canonized on May 17, 2017 and was actually possessed by the demon on two separate occasions. The last one was for forty days.
Amongst the phenomenon that that exorcists (2) noted down in her process of canonization was that the day she was freed from the Demon was the the body of the saint seemed to be all burnt up and smelled like burned sulphur. She eventually came out of the successful exorcisms with no injuries whatsoever.
This can be read in the French edition on the life of Mary of Jesus Crucified (Vie de Soeur Marie de Jesus Crucifie (1846-1878) by P. Estrange). Of interest is chapter VII (pages 105-123). Not sure a full edition exists in English. An abridged edition will lack the details of the original works.
In conversion between the exorcist(s) and the Demons, the Devils refused to use the names of Jesus or Mary. The referenced the pope an and bishops as the ”White Robe” and “Purple Robes”. Jesus was often referred to as ”The Chief”. Mary was referred to as ”The Blue Robe”. (These are the polite phrases employed by the Grappin!
Because of the sanctity of this saint, Our Lord did not allow the Demons to use the body of St. Mary of Jesus to make sexually suggestive acts because she had never sinned in this domain.
The final example concerns the Cure d’Ars also known as St. John Vianney. St. John Vianney is thee most famous Catholic Exorcist that the Church has ever seen.
Monsignor François Trochu, the postulated of the cause of beatification and canonization of Jean Vianney dedicates a whole chaper (XI) to The Curé of Ars and the Devil (pages 222- 243) mentions numerous things the Demons’ paranormal activity.
They include that following:
- Excrement smeared on religious paintings.
- Noises of various forms and types.
- Sensations of mice or rats running over one’s body.
- Satan’s manifesto to the saint: ”Magister Caput” (The Master or The Chief)
- Devil refuses to call Jesus by his name or use the name of Mary or acknowledge the authority of a bishop. Thus stated, the Evil One employs phrases like The Boss for Jesus; The Blue Robe for Mary, the Mother of Jesus; The Purple Robe for the bishop! St. John Vianney referred to the Devil as the Grappin! The Devil not wanting to be made fun of, called the Cure d’Ars the *Potato Eater because of his continuous fasting and eating only a potato only, every 3 or 4 days.
The Cure d’Ars was so well known in this subject of expertise that he was allowed for life to perform exorcisms at Ars, with the bishops permission at his own discretion.
At one point the Devil burned John Vianney’s bed. The Story of the Cure of Ars How the Devil hates the conversion of sinners and the Cure of Ars knew this.