21 September 1952|
Leiblfing, Bavaria, West Germany
|Died||1 July 1976(aged 23)|
|Cause of death||Starvation and dehydration.|
|Resting place||Klingenberg am Main, Bavaria|
|Known for||Supposed demonic possession, death after exorcism|
|Religion||Christian (Roman Catholic)|
Anneliese Michel (21 September 1952 – 1 July 1976) was a German Catholic woman who was said to be possessed by demons and subsequently underwent an exorcism. The case has been labelled as a misidentification of mental illness, negligence, abuse, and religious hysteria. Three motion pictures, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Requiem, and the Asylum film Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes, are loosely based on Michel's story.
Early life 
Michel was born on13 September 1952 in Leiblfing, Bavaria, West Germany to a strict Catholic family. When she was sixteen, she suffered a severe convulsion and was diagnosed as having epilepsy. Soon, she began hallucinating while praying. In 1973, she suffered from depression and began to hear voices telling her that she was “damned” and would "rot in hell".
Psychiatric treatment 
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (December 2012)|
Her treatment in an unnamed psychiatric hospital did not improve Michel’s health. Moreover, her depression began to deepen. She grew increasingly frustrated with medical intervention as it did not help. Long-term medical treatment proved unsuccessful; her condition, including her depression, worsened with time. A devout Catholic, Michel began to attribute her condition to demonic possession. Michel became intolerant of sacred places and objects, such as the crucifix, which she attributed to her own demonic possession. Throughout the course of the religious rites Michel underwent, she was prescribed anti-psychotic drugs, which she took to no avail..
In June 1970, Michel suffered a third seizure at the psychiatric hospital where she had been staying and was prescribed anti-convulsants for the first time. The name of the drug she was prescribed is Dylantin; the drug did not bring about immediate alleviation of Michel’s symptoms. She also continued talking about what she called “devil faces”, seen at various times of the day. Michel became convinced that conventional medicine was of no help. Growing increasingly adamant that her illness was of a spiritual kind, she appealed to the Catholic Church to perform an exorcism on her. That same month, she was prescribed another drug, Aolept (pericyazine), which is a phenothiazine with general properties similar to those of chlorpromazine: pericyazine is used in the treatment of various psychoses, including schizophrenia and disturbed behaviour. In November 1973, Michel started her treatment with Tegretol (carbamazepine), an anti-seizure drug and mood stabilizer. Michel took this medicine frequently, until shortly before her death.
Exorcism and death 
Anneliese went on a pilgrimage to San Damiano with a good friend of the family, Thea Hein, who regularly organized such pilgrimages to “holy places” not officially recognized by the church. Because Anneliese was unable to walk past a crucifix and refused to drink the water of a holy spring, her escort concluded that she was suffering from demonic possession. Both Anneliese and her family became convinced she was possessed and consulted several priests, asking for an exorcism. The priests declined, recommended the continuation of medical treatment, and informed the family that exorcisms required the bishop's permission. Eventually, in a nearby town, they came across vicar Ernst Alt, who, after seeing Anneliese, declared that she didn't “look like an epileptic” and that he didn't see her having seizures. He believed she was suffering from demonic possession. Alt urged the bishop to allow an exorcism. In September 1975, Bishop Josef Stangl granted Father Renz permission to exorcise according to the Rituale Romanum of 1614, but ordered total secrecy. Renz performed the first session on 24 September.
Once convinced of her possession, Anneliese, her parents, and the exorcists stopped seeking medical treatment, and put her fate solely into the hands of the exorcism rites. Sixty-seven exorcism sessions, one or two each week, lasting up to four hours, were performed over about ten months in 1975 and 1976. At some point, Michel began talking increasingly about dying to atone for the wayward youth of the day and the apostate priests of the modern church, and she refused to eat. At her own request, doctors were no longer being consulted.
On 1 July 1976, Anneliese died in her home. The autopsy report stated the cause of death as malnutrition and dehydration from almost a year of semi-starvation while the rites of exorcism were performed. She weighed 68 pounds (30.91 kilograms)
After an investigation, the state prosecutor maintained that Michel’s death could have been prevented even one week before she died.
In 1976, the state charged Anneliese's parents and priests Father Ernst Alt and Father Arnold Renz with negligent homicide. During the case Anneliese's body was exhumed and tapes were played to the court of the exorcisms over the eleven months leading to her death. The parents were defended by Erich Schmidt-Leichner. The state asked that no involved parties be jailed; instead the recommended sentence for the priests was a fine. The prosecution asked that the parents be recused from punishment as they had "suffered enough".
Trial and courtroom charges 
The trial started on 30 March 1978 in the district court and drew intense interest. Before the court, the doctors testified that Michel was not possessed, although Dr. Richard Roth, who was asked for medical help by Father Alt, allegedly said after the exorcism he witnessed on 30 May 1976, that “there is no injection against the devil, Anneliese”. The priests were defended by lawyers retained by the Church, and the parents were defended by Erich Schmidt-Leichner. Schmidt-Leichner claimed that the exorcism was legal and that the German constitution protected citizens in the unrestricted exercise of their religious beliefs. The defense played tapes recorded at the exorcism sessions, sometimes featuring what was claimed to be “demons arguing”, as proof that Michel was indeed possessed. Both priests presented their deeply held conviction that she was possessed and that she was finally freed by exorcism just before she died. Ultimately, the accused were found guilty of manslaughter resulting from negligence and were sentenced to six months in jail (which was later suspended) and three years of probation. It was a far lighter sentence than anticipated, but it was more than requested by the prosecution, who had asked that the priests only be fined and that the parents be found guilty but not punished. During the trial, the major lingering issues were related to the Church itself. A not guilty verdict could be seen as opening the gate to more exorcism attempts, and possibly the same unfortunate outcomes. But for the most part, experienced observers believed the effect would be the opposite: that merely bringing charges of negligent homicide against priests and parents would provoke changes and more caution in the carrying out of exorcisms.
Before the trial, the parents asked the authorities for permission to exhume the remains of their daughter. Their request came after receiving a message from a Carmelite nun from the district of Allgäu in southern Bavaria. The nun told the parents that she had a vision of their daughter’s still-intact body and that the vision authenticated the supernatural character of the daughter's case. The official reason presented by the parents to authorities was that Michel had been buried in undue hurry in a cheap coffin. 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 (to date undisputed by any authorities) state that the body bore the signs of consistent deterioration. The accused exorcists were discouraged from seeing the remains of Michel. Father Arnold Renz later stated that he had been prevented from entering the mortuary.
- Duffey, John M. (2011). Lessons Learned: The Anneliese Michel Exorcism. ISBN 978-1-60899-664-3
- Paris, André (31 May 2003). "Unreiner Geist, weiche!" (in German). taz. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
- Hansen, Eric T. (4 September 2005). "What in God's Name?!". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 May 2009.
- Interviews in "Satan lebt – Die Rückkehr des Exorzismus", 2006, wdr, Documentary by Helge Cramer.
- "Priests convinced woman was possessed". The Windsor Star. 4 April 1978. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
- "Religion: A Phenomenon of Fear". Time. 6 September 1976. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
- Michael Getler (21 April 1978). "Cries of a Woman Possessed; German Court Hears Tapes in Exorcism Death Trial". The Washington Post.
- Fryer, Jane (8 December 2005). "Satan's Schoolgirl; special report / Convinced she was possessed by the Devil, this girl's mother called in a team of exorcists. When she died in agony her parents were both charged with killing her. But who was really to blame for the tragedy?". Daily Mail.
Further reading 
- Goodman, Felicitas D. (1988). How about Demons?: Possession and Exorcism in the Modern World. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-32856-X.
- Goodman, Felicitas D. (1981) The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel. Eugene: Resource Publications. ISBN 1-59752-432-8.
- Getler, Micheal. "Cries of a Woman Possessed : German Court Hears Tapes in Exorcism Death Trial" in The Washington Post (21 April 1978)