The Exorcism of Emily Rose, directed by Scott Derrickson, is one film many horror fans have seen and know of, but not all know of the actual girl it’s based around.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose, is a story based on the life of Anneliese Michel, born September 13th, 1952 in Leiblfing, West Germany. Throughout her childhood, Anneliese was a regular Catholic girl who enjoyed the company of her peers. Her life changed one day in 1968 when she began shaking and found she was unable to control her body. She could not call out for her parents, Josef and Anna, or any of her 3 sisters. A neurologist at the Psychiatric Clinic Wurzburg diagnosed her with epilepsy and because of the strength of fits, and the severity of the depression that soon followed, Anneliese was admitted for treatment at the hospital.
Soon after the attacks started, Anneliese began seeing devilish grimaces during her daily praying. Voices also began following her, saying Anneliese will “stew in hell”. Anneliese began convinced she was possessed. She had mentioned the “demons” to her doctors only once, explaining that they have started to give her orders. The doctors seemed unable to help or console her fears in any way, and Anneliese lost hope that medicine was going to be able to cure her.
In the summer of 1973, her parents visited different pastors to request an exorcism. Their requests were rejected and they were given recommendations that the now 20-year-old Anneliese should continue with medication and treatment. It was explained that a Bishop cannot approve an exorcism until all the requirements are met by an individual; an aversion to religious objects, speaking in a language the person has never learned, and supernatural powers.
In 1974, after supervising Anneliese for some time, Pastor Ernst Alt requested a permit to perform the exorcism from the Bishop of Wurzburg, which again was rejected. Anneliese’s attacks did not diminish at any point and her behaviour become more erratic. At her parents’ house in Klingenberg, she insulted, beat, and began biting the other members of her family. She refused to eat because the demons would not allow it but ate spiders, flies, and coal, and even began drinking her own urine and sleeping on a cold stone floor. She could be heard screaming throughout the house for hours while breaking crucifixes, destroying paintings of Jesus, and pulling apart rosaries.
After making an exact verification of possession in September 1975, the Bishop of Wurzburg, Josef Stangl, assigned Father Arnold Renz and Pastor Ernst Alt with the order to perform “The Great Exorcism” on Anneliese Michel. It was determined that Anneliese must be saved from the possession by several demons, including Lucifer, Judas Iscariot, Nero, Cain, Hitler, and Fleischmann; a disgraced Frankish Priest from the 16th century, and some other damned souls which had manifested through her. From September 1975 until July 1976, one or two exorcism sessions were held each week but Anneliese’s attacks were sometimes so strong that she would have to be held down by at least 3 men, or even be chained up. For several weeks, Anneliese denied all food. Her knees ruptured due to the 600+ genuflections she performed obsessively during the daily exorcism.
The last day of the Exorcism Rite was on June 30th, 1976, when Anneliese was suffering at this point from Pneumonia. She was also totally emaciated, and running a high fever. Anna Michel recorded the death of her daughter on the following day, July 1st, 1976, and at noon, Pastor Ernst Alt informed the authorities in Aschaffenburg. The senior prosecutor began investigating immediately.
According the forensic evidence, “Anneliese starved to death”. Specialists claimed that if the accused would have begun with forced feeding one week before her death, Anneliese’s life would have been saved. The exorcists tried to prove the presence of the demons, playing taped recordings of strange dialogues like that of two demons arguing about which one of them would have to leave Anneliese’s body first. Not one of those present during the exorcism ever had a doubt about the authenticity of the presence of these demons.
Anneliese’s parents, as well as the exorcists, were found guilty of manslaughter resulting from negligence and omitting first aid. They were sentenced to 6 months in jail and probation. The jail sentence was later suspended.