Anneliese Michel Exorcism aka Emily Rose
The true story behind “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” involves a young German girl named Anneliese Michel.
The first person to recognize that Anneliese Michel was possessed by demons was an older woman accompanying the girl on a pilgrimage. She noticed that Anneliese would not walk past a certain image of Jesus, refused to drink water from a holy spring and smelled bad — hellishly bad. An exorcist in a nearby town examined Michel and returned a diagnosis of demonic possession. The bishop issued permission to perform the rite of exorcism according to the Roman ritual of 1614.
Half a year and 67 rites of exorcism later, Anneliese Michel was dead at 23.
Anneliese Michel did not die in the Middle Ages, but in 1976, in the small town of Klingenberg, in the heart of one of the most civilized and advanced countries in Europe: Germany.
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 highly secularized.
“The surprising thing was that the people connected to Michel were all completely convinced that she had really been possessed,” says Franz Barthel, amazement still in his voice three decades after he covered the story for the regional daily paper Main-Post.
“Many years later, I visited the woman who first diagnosed the Devil,” Barthel says. “She blessed my microphone with holy water because I was working for the radio then, and it was likely that the Devil was in control of the microphone.”
Michel was raised in a strict Catholic family in Bavaria, which rejected the reforms of Vatican II and flirted with religious fringe groups. While other kids her age were rebelling against authority and experimenting with sex, she tried to atone for the sins of wayward priests and drug addicts by sleeping on a bare floor in the middle of winter.