25 Things You May Not Know About Exorcism

Posted by , Updated on March 25, 2024

A creepy list: 25 Things You May Not Know About Exorcism!  Most people have heard of this practice in one form or fashion. Nowadays the belief that demons exist and can possess people is more likely something you’ll find in a novel or see in a horror film than in real life.

However, the fear of demons and evil spirits has been one of the most widely held religious beliefs in the world and goes back to antiquity. Unsurprisingly, the Catholic Church still claims humans can be possessed by demons and for that matter, the Bible recounts six instances of Jesus casting them out and offers exorcisms to remedy this threat.

The idea that invading spirits are inherently evil is mainly a Judeo-Christian concept, though every religion and belief system accepts possession, in one form or another.

In the United States exorcisms declined dramatically during the eighteenth century and occurred rarely until the latter half of the twentieth century when there was a sharp rise due to the media attention exorcisms were getting.

Hollywood contributed greatly to the exorcism’s “resurrection” with mainstream films often noted as “based on a true story.” As a result there was a fifty percent increase in the number of exorcisms performed during the 1970s and what’s even more tragic is that there were several cases where the “possessed” person died during or shortly after the exorcism.

These are 25 Things You May Not Know About Exorcism. Warning: These may creep you out, so make sure you turn on the lights before you read this.



The phenomenon of exorcism has probably existed from very early times. In Greece, Epicurus and Aeschines were sons of women who lived by this art, and each was bitterly reproached, the one by the Stoics, the other by Demosthenes, for having assisted his mother in her “dishonorable” practices.

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The word exorcism comes from the Greek word exorkismos – binding by oath.

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The Vatican first issued official guidelines on exorcism in 1614 and revised them in 1999.

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Contrary to popular belief, the practice of exorcising demons is not confined solely to Roman Catholicism or the West. It is performed all around the world by every major religion.

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Exorcism is pretty common in Judaism as well. Josephus, a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, reported exorcisms performed by administering poisonous root extracts. In more recent times, Rabbi Yehuda Fetaya authored the book Minchat Yahuda, which deals extensively with exorcism, his experience with possessed people, and other subjects in Jewish thought.

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In Islam, exorcism is called ruqya. It is used to repair the damage caused by sihr or black magic. Exorcisms today are part of a wider body of contemporary Islamic alternative medicine called al-Tibb al-Nabawi (Medicine of the Prophet).

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Beliefs and practices pertaining to the practice of exorcism are prominently connected with Hindus as well. Of the four Vedas (holy books of the Hindus), the Atharva Veda is believed to contain the secrets related to exorcism, magic, and alchemy.

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According to the Catholic Church, after the exorcism has been finished the person possessed feels a “kind of release of guilt and feels reborn and freed of sin.” Unfortunately for the patient, not all exorcisms are successful the first time and it could take days, weeks, or even months of constant prayer and exorcisms.

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Solemn exorcisms, according to the Canon Law of the Church, can be exercised only by an ordained priest (or higher prelate), with the express permission of the local bishop, and only after a careful medical examination to exclude the possibility of mental illness.

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In addition to these Vatican-sanctioned exorcists, there are hundreds of self-styled exorcists around the world.

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In 2005 a young nun in Romania died at the hands of a priest during an exorcism after being bound to a cross, gagged, and left for days without food or water in an effort to expel demons.

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Demonic possession is not a valid psychiatric or medical diagnosis and is not recognized by either the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

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Psychiatry’s official view on “demonic possession” is that the symptoms attributed to the possessed (the patient) are associated with physical or mental illnesses such as hysteria, mania, psychosis, Tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy, schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder, or even rare cases of autism.

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Speaking of autism, in 2003 an autistic eight-year-old boy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was killed during an exorcism by church members who blamed an invading demon for his disability.

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According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, signs of demonic possession include superhuman strength, aversion to holy water, and the ability to speak in unknown languages. Other potential signs of demonic possession include spitting, cursing, and “excessive masturbation.”

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What most religious circles probably ignore is that there’s a form of mania called demonomania or demonopathy in which the patient believes he or she is possessed by one or more demons. The illusion that exorcism works on people experiencing symptoms of possession is attributed by some to the placebo effect and the power of suggestion. Some cases suggest that supposedly possessed persons are actually narcissists or are suffering from low self-esteem and act demonically possessed to gain attention.

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In 1975, thirty-one-year-old Michael Taylor was exorcized at St. Thomas Church, in Barnsley, England, but went home “possessed with the devil” and brutally murdered his wife. He was found guilty but insane.

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In case you didn’t know, some priests perform “gay exorcisms” as well, which are pretty similar to demonic ones. In the gay version the exorcist evicts “homosexual demons” or other spiritual entities from a LGBT individual.

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On Christmas Day 2010 in London, England, a fourteen-year-old boy named Kristy Bamu was beaten and drowned by relatives trying to exorcise an evil spirit from him.

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After attending fifty exorcisms as research for his book American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty, Michael Cuneo stated that he never saw anything supernatural or unexplainable: no levitation, spinning heads, or demonic scratch marks appearing on anyone’s faces, but that he saw many emotionally troubled people on both sides of the ritual.

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Exorcism’s greatest cultural influence comes from the classic film The Exorcist. In the weeks after the film was released in 1974, a Boston Catholic center received daily requests for exorcisms. The script was written by William Peter Blatty, adapted from his bestselling 1971 novel of the same name.

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Christian evangelist Billy Graham claimed an actual demon was living in the celluloid reels of this movie.

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Father Gabriele Amorth is the Roman Catholic Church’s most prolific exorcist, reportedly preforming the ritual over one hundred thousand times. What’s more interesting about him, however, is that he considers the Harry Potter books and films to be satanic propaganda.

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Mother Teresa allegedly underwent an exorcism late in life under the direction of the archbishop of Calcutta, Henry D’Souza, after he noticed she seemed to be extremely agitated in her sleep and feared she “might be under the attack of the evil one.”

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Anneliese Michel was a Catholic woman from Germany who was said to be possessed by six or more demons and subsequently underwent a secret ten-month-long voluntary exorcism in 1975. She died the next year, due to lack of medical care. Two motion pictures, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Requiem are loosely based on Anneliese’s story, which is arguably the most popular exorcism case of the twentieth century.

Anneliese Michel's graveSource: Wikipedia, Image: Wikipedia