Since the release of The Exorcist in 1973, demonic possession and the righteous believers who battle it have figured as pop-culture staples when it comes to scare fare.
However, the concept of evil entities invading and inhabiting the human bodies of the innocent is an ancient belief that turns up in most major cultures and religions throughout history.
Still, the prospect of driving the devil out has far from disappeared from our modern times. In the five recent cases listed here, in fact, such practices have proven deadly.
1. ANNELIESE MICHEL: GERMAN WOMAN STARVED TO DEATH WHILE PRIESTS BATTLE “POSSESSION”
LEIBFLING, WEST GERMANY — After a series of seizures, psychiatric-hospital stays, and complaints that she’d been seeing “devil faces,” the religious Catholic family of 23-year-old Anneliese Michel called on local priests Ernst Alt and Arnold Renz for help in 1975.
The local bishop initially rejected the clergymen’s request to perform a 400-year-old exorcism rite, but when Michel herself wrote begging for the service, he granted permission.
Over the course of 10 months, then, the priests performed 67 four-hour exorcism sessions on Michel, during which time she stopped eating. By summer, Michel had starved herself down to 68 pounds and experienced broken knees from being ordered to repeatedly genuflect. She finally died on July 1, 1976.
State prosecutors convicted the Reverends Alt and Arnold Renz for negligent homicide, giving them three years probation. In the wake of the case, the Catholic Church took a hard look at its policies regarding exorcism and apologized, declaring that Michel had suffered from mental disorders and had not been authentically “possessed.” [Blumhouse]
2. EDENA HINES: MORGAN FREEMAN’S GRANDDAUGHTER STABBED IN PUBLIC AS “EXORCISM”
NEW YORK, NY — Horror hit the streets of Manhattan at 3 A.M. on August 15, 2015, when L’Amar Davenport, 30, repeatedly plunged a knife in and out of E’Dena Hines, his 33-year-old girlfriend.
As Davenport stabbed Hines on the sidewalk, he reportedly wailed, “Get out, devils! I cast you out, devils! In the name of Jesus Christ, I cast you out!”
Hines, a Broadway actress and the step-granddaughter of Hollywood star Morgan Freeman, died on the spot. When cops arrived, Davenport was allegedly kneeling over her body, proclaiming, “Jesus Christ is born!”
Davenport, who had rapped under the moniker “Lyric,” was reportedly in the throes of a drug psychosis. Cops said even after they took in Davenport, he continued to make stabbing motions with his arm and talk of “exorcism.” [CrimeFeed]
3. JUANITA GOMEZ: MOM WHO SHOVED CRUCIFIX DOWN DAUGHTER’S THROAT
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — On August 29, 2016, Juanita Gomez, 49, determined that Satan had taken possession of her daughter Geneva Gomez, 33, and sought to combat the Prince of Darkness with a crucifix.
Juanita did not merely wield the Christian symbol, though. According to her arrest documents:
“[Juanita Gomez] forced a crucifix and religious medallion down [Geneva’s] throat until blood came out of her daughter’s mouth. Juanita saw her daughter die and then placed her body in the shape of a cross.”
Neighbors said they had never heard or seen anything like this before, and they always thought Juanita and Geneva got along just fine. Mourners paid tribute by leaving candles and rosary beads outside the steps of Gomez’s home. [CrimeFeed]
4. TERRANCE COTTRELL: AUSTISTIC 8-YEAR-OLD SUFFOCATED WHILE ADULTS TRY TO HEAL HIM FROM “SPIRITS”
MILWAUKEE, WI — In the summer of 2003, Patricia Cooper, the mother of eight-year-old Terrance “Junior” Cottrell, took the boy to the Faith Temple Church — a one-room operation located in a ratty strip-mall spot that had been previously occupied by a bar, the sign for which still hung over the doorway.
Cooper, who had recently become zealously religious, hoped that someone in the church could “heal” the boy’s autism, which she took to attributing to “evil spirits.” Cooper found an exorcist in the form of Pastor Ray Hemphill, a man with no formal religious training who had been ordained by his brother, who owned Faith Temple.
Congregants then restrained Junior’s arms and legs, while Pastor Hemphill sat on the child’s chest during three weeks of “exorcism” sessions. One woman told police she pushed down on Junior diaphragm while Hemphill whispered for the “spirits of autism” to depart.
On August 22, Terrance Cottrell suffocated to death during one such ritual. Police initially charged Hemphill with murder. The court ended up convicted him instead of child abuse and sentencing him to two and half years in prison, with another seven and a half years of state monitoring. [CNN]
5. MARICICA IRINA CORNICI: THE NUN WHO DIED CHAINED UP ON A CROSS
VASLUI COUNTY, ROMANIA — Following a traumatic youth and struggles with schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders, Maricica Inrina Cornici became a nun in the Romanian Orthodox Church.
In 2005, Reverend Daniel Petre Corogeanu observed Cornici’s aberrant outbursts at the Tanacu Monastery and declared her not mentally ill but, in fact, possessed by Satan. He prepared to perform an exorcism, stating, “You can’t take the devil out of people with pills.”
The rite of exorcism took more than a week. Four other nuns bound Cornici’s hands and feet and isolated her in a tiny room. After several days, they chained her to a cross and carried her into church. Cornici remained on the cross for three days without food and only drops of Holy Water rubbed against her lips.
When Father Corogeanu pronounced Cornici “cured,” the nuns unchained her. She had already died from exhaustion, dehydration, and lack of oxygen.
The Romanian Orthodox Church shut down the monastery and defrocked all the clergy involved. Father Corogeneau got 14 years for murder, and each of his nun assistants got between five and eight years. Corogeneau got out on parole in 2011. [CBS News]
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Main photo: Anneliese Michel/YouTube video [screenshot]