Anneliese Michel’s Gravestone

Anneliese Michel was a German woman who underwent Catholic exorcism rites during the year before her death. Later investigation determined that she was malnourished and dehydrated; her parents and the priests responsible were charged with negligent homicide.

She was diagnosed with epileptic psychosis (temporal lobe epilepsy) and had a history of psychiatric treatment, which was overall not effective. Her condition worsened with her displaying various other symptoms, for which she took medication as well. Michel and her family became convinced she was possessed by demons. The case attracted media and public attention because of the priests’ unusual decision to employ a 400-year-old ritual of exorcism. The 2005 film The Exorcism of Emily Rose is loosely based on her story.

In the Catholic Church, official approval for an exorcism is given when the person strictly meets a certain criteria, then they are considered to be suffering from possession (infestatio) and under demonic control. Intense dislike for religious objects and “supernatural powers” are some of the first indications. Michel worsened physically and displayed aggression, self-injury, drank her own urine and ate insects. In November 1973, Michel started her treatment with Tegretol, an anti-seizure drug and mood stabilizer.  She was prescribed anti-psychotic drugs during the course of the religious rites and took them frequently until some time before her death.

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Almost two years after the burial, on 25 February 1978, her remains were replaced in a new oak coffin lined with tin. The official reports state that the body bore the signs of consistent deterioration. The accused exorcists were discouraged from seeing the remains of Michel. Her grave became and remains a pilgrimage site in the  Klingenberg Cemetery in Bayern, Germany.


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