When hearing the word ‘Exorcism’, the first thing to come to mind for many people will be the 1972 horror film The Exorcist. This spine chilling movie is responsible for bringing the term "exorcism" to the public’s attention. This spiritual practice of evicting demons, or other evil entities, from a person who is believed to be possessed, exists in almost every religion throughout recorded history. Ancient Babylonian priests performed exorcism through voodoo-like rituals, and ancient Persians were saved from demonic possession with the help of holy water. The Bible, too, is full of recounts of Jesus Christ casting demons out of people believed to be possessed.
Naturally, modern history is full of creepy yet true exorcism stories, and when is a better time to tell them than the spookiest month of the year? So in the spirit of Halloween, here are 3 unbelievable exorcisms that happened in real life.
In the late 1770s, locals of the village of Yatton, about 20 miles from Bristol, England were rather alarmed at the strange behavior of the 28-year-old tailor George Lukins. The man who had been previously known to be calm and cheerful would now spontaneously start barking like a dog, sing hymns backward, chant in a foreign language that he did not know, speak in both the voice of a man and a woman, or blurt out vulgar obscenities for no apparent reason. These strange episodes were unpredictable, could last up to an hour, and plagued Lukins for years.
The spooked villagers began to suspect Lukins was under the influence of demonic forces, and even he himself believed to be possessed by no less than 7 distinct demons. Eventually, an exorcism was arranged at Temple Church in Bristol on June 13, 1788. It was meant to be a secret affair, but the word spread, and on the day of the ritual hundreds of curious gawkers arrived at the church. The exorcism was intense, and it took two men to physically hold Lukins down, while the priests said their prayers. After two hours it was stated that the evil spirit had left Lukins’ body.
The ordeal became one of the most controversial topics of the time. Some people doubted Lukins' truthfulness, claiming he was a drunk and a prankster, while others believed he merely suffered from Epilepsy, which was exaggerated by the clergy. In any case, Lukins went on to live a quiet and humble life in Yatton and never experienced any further incidents of demonic possession, until his death in 1805.
Gottliebin Dittus grew up in a rural German village located within the Black Forest and had a highly religious upbringing. After her parents passed away, Dittus lived with her siblings and continued to attend services run by an almost fanatical pastor named Johann Christoph Blumhardt. In 1842, when Disttus was 28 years old, neighbors and passersby started hearing strange sounds of violent nature coming from her home. To ensure no kind of abuse was taking place, a doctor and a few other locals stayed at the young woman’s home for a night. On that night they witnessed eerie things they could not explain: objects or furniture moving on their own and strange loud sounds that seemed to come from within the walls, which lead them to believe the house was haunted.
Dittus’ siblings also claimed that the young woman would sometimes go into a trance-like state, and violently attack them for no reason, after which she would not remember a thing. Eventually, the poor woman’s plight came to the attention of Reverend Blumhardt himself and he decided to try and help her. During their meetings, Dittus told the Reverend some truly bizarre things. For example, she claimed that evil spirits tried to kidnap her as an infant, but were driven away by her mother's prayers and that her aunt was a witch. One day, she informed Blumenhardt that one of the spirits that possessed her had left her body to rage chaos thousands of miles away, where they allegedly caused an earthquake. Not long after, the news would come that there was indeed a devastating earthquake in the West Indies, which Dittuss could not have possibly known about.
This convinced Reverend Blumhardt that the possession was genuine and he had to perform an exorcism. The process took two torturous years, during which Dittus suffered greatly. According to the accounts, finally, the spirits left Dittus’ body one by one, after which she supposedly said “Jesus is Victor.” After the whole ordeal, Blumhardt became quite a celebrity, and even wrote a book about the harrowing exorcism in 1850 called “Blumhardt’s Battle”.
In 1906, an evil force took over a 16-year-old orphan girl named Clara Germana Cele living in the town of Natal, South Africa. Clara began to exhibit bizarre behaviors, in the form of speaking in foreign tongues she could not possibly know, like French, German, and Polish, as well as revealing intimate secrets of people in her presence, which she had no way of knowing. Additionally, girls who lived with Clara at St. Michael’s Mission said to have seen her levitate in her sleep, sometimes up to 5 feet up in the air.
The stories about Clara were abundant. She was reported to go into tantrums and rip her clothes, and to even go into a state where her body became unnaturally flexible, like that of a snake. The most condemning sign of demonic possessions was that when Clara was exposed to religious objects or holy water, she showed physical signs of distress and pain. Two Roman Catholic priests named Rev. Mansueti and a Rev. Horner Erasmus teamed up to attempt to perform an exorcism. Eventually, Clara confessed to Erasmus that she had made a pact and was overtaken by Satan himself. The ritual took 2 days of consistent spraying of holy water and prayers, during which Clara tried to knock the Bible out of the priests' hands and lashed out wildly. Finally, the demon left the girl’s body, not before one last display of power, where he made Clara levitate and hover in the air in front of 170 witnesses.
Unfortunately, the evil spirit was a stubborn one, and Clara had to go through another 2-day long exorcism in 1907. This time Clara was liberated for good. She died in 1912 from heart failure, at the young age of 22.
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