Monday, May 23, 2011

The Dark Side of Exorcism

Exorcism is a topic I’ve been thinking about covering for awhile, but I’ve always hesitated because it’s such a sensitive subject. There’s also a ton of information out there about it, so sorting through it all is a bit overwhelming. I’m going to be doing several posts on this, mostly because my posts would be insanely long otherwise.

Most people think of exorcism as a Catholic/Christian practice but the truth is it’s practiced by all sorts of religions and cultures. It’s easy to see how early people who didn’t understand a lot of diseases and disabilities could attribute odd behavior to the presence of supernatural, so it only makes sense that the idea of possession would appear all over the world. The whole concept is so interesting that it’s been picked up by hundred of books and movies, making it more and more popular.

But is there any truth to the idea that a person could be possessed by something, or someone, else? For most people that’s a really personal question that only they can answer for themselves. There’s always going to be examples of possession out there. Ultimately you have decide for yourself if the people involved are being honest and really understand what’s happening. Personally, I do believe that possession is a real phenomenon but I think it’s a lot rarer than most people realize.

One thing I realized while researching this topic is that exorcism has a really dark side that most people don’t even know about-and it has nothing to do with demons.  Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people have been killed during exorcisms. In every case I found, the person who died was killed by some negligent action on the part of the family or friends performing the ritual. An autistic boy in Wisconsin died after being wrapped in sheets during an exorcism. A boy in Russia suffocated after being forced faced down during an exorcism ritual. A Texas man killed his wife in a similar manner. A woman in New Zealand drowned when her family held her underwater during a ritual. Others died having holy water poured into their throats. The cases (many of them recent) seem to be piling up. The deaths always seem to be accidental. Often these deaths result in court trials and sentences for the parties involved. I didn’t find a single case where the death was attributed to the demonic entity. Humans seem to be the ones actually doing the most damage.

I think that people can learn from these cases. If you think someone is possessed, don’t try to handle on your own. Get help from a religious official. And use good judgment if you decide a ritual is a necessity. Don’t do anything that could potentially harm the victim.  

Next week, I’m planning on covering some of the signs of demonic possession. Have you ever met someone who thought they were possessed? I’d love to hear some real-life stories!


  1. Figures as much that people attempting to deal with erratic behavior (whether brought about by mental illness or some other disease) or (I shall suspend disbelief for a moment and have an open mind) via possession of an evil spirit end up killing the person. So is there any truth that people who are possessed can speak languages that they never could have known or have moved objects or something like that? I also wonder why the Catholic church seems to be synonymous with the rite of exorcism with all that "Save your servant"... stuff.

  2. I have never known someone who claimed to be possessed, thank goodness.

    The Catholics and other groups have rigorous screening processes (I think) before they can say a person is possessed. Priests have to clear it with someone higher up and that is only after certain other requirements have been met. It still leaves room for error, however...

    I don't usually bring movies into this but, have you ever seen the movie "The Exorcism of Emily Rose"? The two sides for the argument are laid out there because of the court case that goes on.

  3. Well, most of the stuff in the exorcist movie is based on a preists journal that was found, so there's no way to say if it really did or didn't happen. There's a lot of debate about possesed people speaking other languages. Sometimes people argue that they are just speaking jibberish that sounds like another language. I wouldn't say it's impossible but until I see it with my own eyes, i'm pretty skeptical. Movies have the habit of taking a shred of truth and turning it into something totally different.

    Jennifer, I have seen that movie. I thought it did a pretty good job of presenting exorcism as well. There have been a lot of exorcism movies lately but I'd love to see one based on some other word religion for a change.

  4. Is the movie "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" scary? I thought the Excorcist was pretty scary. It's not something that I would ever go home to on a weekend and say, "You life isn't complete until I've watched the Excorcist one more time on television while watching dinner."

  5. I'm probably not a very good judge of whether or not a movie is scary because I don't really find any of them scary. But if the Exorcist scared you then The Exorcism of Emily Rose probably would as well.