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The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel

Was the real "Emily Rose" truly possessed?

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Exorcisms are in vogue again. Evangelists like Bob Larson roam the country performing "deliverances" on (and profiting from) members of his audience that he convinces have demons in them. Similar deliverances are conducted in churches and by ministries around the world - including Russia, on which I reported in the article "Exorcism in Russia." Even the Catholic Church, which for decades kept exorcism in the closet, is once again bringing it out into the open. In early 2005, about 100 Catholic priests signed up for a Vatican-sanctioned course on exorcism, and today the Church's ranks of official exorcists has swollen to more than 400.

No doubt about it. The interest in expelling demonic forces is high and growing. And when a film like The Exorcism of Emily Rose hits the theaters, fascination increases - especially when it is promoted as being based on a true story. The same thing happened when The Exorcist shocked viewers back in 1973, a story also said to be inspired by true events.

What's going on? Is there really an increase in demonic activity and possession of humans? Or are we becoming increasingly superstitious, blaming extraordinary psychiatric and physical ailments on the Devil, much as people did in the unenlightened Middle Ages?

No Evidence

The truth is, there is no evidence whatsoever for the idea of demonic possession.

I have been researching paranormal phenomena for many years, and have never come across or read about one plausible case of possession that could not be explained better as mental illness, physical ailments and hoaxes. (Psychic phenomena might be evident in some rare cases.) There is good evidence for ghost and haunting phenomena, Bigfoot, psychic phenomena and many other areas of the paranormal, but there is no good evidence for demonic possession. If there is, I'd like to see it.

As you can now tell, I am highly skeptical on this matter. And to be fair, I have never attended an exorcism or personally encountered a person thought to be possessed, but even those who have cannot seem to produce the slightest bit of evidence. No film, video or photos of levitation or other supernatural events - although they are often claimed to take place during exorcisms.

You've seen the videos and heard the recordings of alleged possession and exorcisms. Did you ever see or hear anything that could be regarded as truly supernatural? These recordings can be eerie and even disturbing, to be sure, but that's the extent of it. Howling, growling, yelps, cursing and screams. Crazy, even frightening, but nothing a mentally disturbed or hysterical person cannot manufacture. "Extraordinary strength" is one of the most common attributes that exorcists describe for the possessed. It has long been known that the mentally ill and even persons under great stress can muster such strength.

Next page: The Case of "Emily Rose"

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