Spotlight: The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel

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Anneliese Michel

  • Born: September 21, 1952 in Bavaria, West Germany
  • Died: July 1, 1976
  • Roman Catholic family, Two parents ( Josef and Anna), and 3 sisters
  • Michel is a devout Catholic and attends Mass twice a week.
  • Has a seizure at 16 and is diagnosed with psychosis caused by temporal lobe epilepsy.
  • Diagnosed with depression and treated at a psychiatric hospital.
  • Graduates high school and attends the University of Würzburg
  • Described by classmates as “withdrawn and very religious”
  • In 1970, she has third seizure in the Psychiatric hospital and prescribed anti-convulsion drugs for the first time. These fail to work. 
  • Begins seeing “devil faces” at various times of the day.
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  • Is then prescribed Aolept, which is used treat various forms of psychoses including schizophrenia, disturbed behavior and delusions.
  • At 20, becomes intolerant of various religious objects and begins to hear voices. Some telling her to “rot in Hell” and that she is “damned”
  • By 21, Her depression worsens and begins hallucinating while praying
  • Condition worsened despite medication, and she becomes suicidal.
  •  5 years of medication and other medical treatment fails to improve her condition.
  • Michel becomes Completely intolerant of Christian sacred places and objects, family and friends become concerned about demonic possession.
  • Michel goes on a family pilgrimage but is unable to enter the shrine saying that “her feet are burning” from standing on the soil. She was also unable to walk past a cross, look at pictures of saints, or religious medals.
  • The Family asks 2 priests for help with an exorcism but were met with resistance. The priests believed she should stay on the medication and that they would need the approval of the Bishop before any action could be taken.
  • Michel’s overall mental and physical health continue to decline. She begins eating bugs, drinking her own urine, scratching the walls and becoming self-injurious.
  • Starts taking Tegretol, an anti-seizure drug and mood stabilizer. She was also prescribed anti-psychotic drugs during the course of the religious rites and took them until the time of her death.
  • Priest Ernst Alt believed she was suffering from demonic possession and urged the local bishop to allow an exorcism.
  • First session is performed on September 24th. Around this time, Michel Also stopped eating and at this point her parents quit consulting doctors.
  • 67 exorcism sessions were performed over about a ten month period in 1975–1976 . Each session lasting about 4 hours.
  • On July 1, 1976, Michel died in her home.
  • The autopsy report stated that the cause of death was malnutrition and dehydration due to being in a semi-starvation state for almost a year while the rites of exorcism were performed.
  • In 1976, Michel’s parents and priests Ernst Alt and Arnold Renz were charged with negligent homicide.
  • During court proceedings, tapes of the exorcisms were played and Michel’s body was exhumed.
  • Both priests said the demons identified themselves as Lucifer, Cain, Judas Iscariot, Hitler, and Nero among others.
  • The accused were found guilty of manslaughter resulting from negligence and were sentenced to six months in jail (which was later suspended) and given three years of probation.
  •  The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a 2005 American film is loosely based off of Michel’s tragedy.

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Anneliese Michel as a young child.

Anneliese Michel during college.


Anneliese continuing to genuflect despite her broken knees.


Anneliese Michel being restrained by her mother during the exorcism.


Anneliese during the exorcism.


At trial. From left to right: Ernst Alt, Arnold Renz, Anneliese’s mother Anna, Anneliese’s father Josef.


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