There has long been the belief across cultures that beyond the fringes of our known physical reality, lurking on the periphery of our vision and what we think we know, are enigmatic evil spirits, demons, and assorted spectral things beyond our comprehension wallowing in the dark. As scary and creepy as this idea may be, there is also the persistent belief that these apparitions on occasion push forth past the veil that separates our domains to invade not only our reality but also our bodies. For whatever inscrutable reasons or agendas, they seem covet our flesh forms and wish to penetrate within us and take control, dominate us, and own us. From beyond the wall that separates us from the world of demons they creep, and there at times seems to be very little we can do but try and fight them and the unknown powers they possess. Cases of demonic possession and our efforts to fight these sinister beings are numerous, coming from all over the world, and here I have put together a list of some of the creepier and well-known of these. Let us take a look into the bizarre, frightening world of allegedly real demonic possessions.
In the late 1700s, locals of the village of Yatton, around 20 miles from Bristol, in England, were rather alarmed when a man by the name of George Lukins began to display increasingly bizarre behavior. He would spontaneously start snarling like an animal or barking like a dog, as well as sing hymns backwards, sing or chant in a foreign language that the illiterate man did not know, speak in both the voice of a man and a woman, or blurt out vulgar obscenities or profanity for no apparent reason. During these fits he was also said to often convulse, walk around on all fours, or appear to be thrown about by unseen hands. It was all very uncharacteristic behavior for the young man, who villagers had known to have always been well-behaved, calm and cheerful. These weird episodes were completely unpredictable, could last for up to an hour, and plagued Lukins for years, forcing his family to have him put in a mental institution for 20 months, where all efforts to treat him, or indeed find any cause for condition, failed.
Indeed, these episodes became even more intense and tinged with the paranormal as time went on. Lukens would have violent outbursts where he would claw or bite at people or smash items with strength far beyond what his slight figure would suggest, as well as speak in voices that were not his own, and also showed a profound aversion to religious symbols, objects, or words. Spooked villagers began to suspect Lukins was under the influence of demonic forces or witchcraft, and even he himself began to proclaim to anyone who would listen that he was possessed by 7 distinct demons that would require 7 priests to eject from him. One minister by the name of Joan Valton, who had long known Lukins, said of him at the time:
I personally knew him; a youth about 18, short in stature, and meagre in aspect. He had frequent fits or paroxysms, and was sometimes affected like the Pythonesses, or rather like the furies, mentioned often by Herodotus and ancient writers. He was cruelly distorted, and uttered foul language; but was often heard to say, that he should be delivered, if 7 ministers should pray with him.
Whatever was tormenting Lukins was obviously taking a toll on his health, as he had wasted away into an emaciated, withered looking husk of his former self, drained of all vigor, and villagers became extremely worried about him. The story of the odd, seemingly possessed man spread through the village and surrounding areas, finally coming to the attention of an Anglican Reverend in Bristol by the name of Joseph Easterbrook, who was the vicar of the town’s Temple Church. When other clergymen of the Church were told of the case, most of them agreed it to be a possibly genuine demonic possession but refused to get involved, perhaps out of fear. Nevertheless, Easterbrook managed to gather together 6 other ministers from a movement of Protestant Christians called Wesleyanism, for the purpose of arranging an exorcism for the demon-plagued Lukins, to be held at Temple Church, on June 13, 1788. The whole thing was meant to be a low-key affair that would be kept secret, so this rag tag group of exorcists was no doubt very surprised when hundreds of gawkers arrived out of morbid curiosity, fueled by stories on Lukins that had been circulating by both word of mouth and through the local news.
According to Easterbrook’s own account of the ordeal, the exorcism started with Lukins eerily singing in a high-pitched voice, which soon dropped in timbre to a deep, gruff one that ridiculed and berated the ministers present and told them that they would undoubtedly fail. He then started alternating between a man’s voice and a woman’s voice, spewing out vitriol, blasphemous rants, threats of physical violence, and even at one point jarringly singing a love song. The demons also made it very clear that they were infuriated that these priests would want to try to exorcize them, and expressed contempt towards Lukins for telling them of their evil presence within him.
As this tirade went on, other distinct voices began popping through, chattering about different things, singing, barking, growling, babbling about utter nonsense, and one particularly bass voice bragging about his vast powers. Sometimes the voices spoke perfect Latin, which Lukins had had absolutely no knowledge of, surprising one skeptical observer who was trained in Latin and convincing him that perhaps what he was seeing was all real. Lukins also sang out a hymn of praise, called a Te Deum, to the Devil, proclaiming him the supreme leader and governor of all things. The haunted man became so unruly that it required two men to hold him down as the ministers said their prayers over his writhing, contorting body. When asked why they were torturing Lukins, one of the demons allegedly replied: “So that I may show my power among men.” After two hours of intense prayer and constant physical restraint, Lukins then became calm, praised God, and stated that the evil presences were gone.
In the aftermath of the intense exorcism controversy stormed around the event and Lukins’ veracity. While those who had been present were convinced that this had been a genuine demonic possession, and many upstanding citizens of the village also tended to agree, others were not so sure. There were those who criticized the truthfulness of Lukins, claiming that he was well-known as a clever ventriloquist and skilled mimic, as well as an alcoholic and a prankster. Others said that Lukins merely suffered from some form of epilepsy, which had been exaggerated by the clergy to seem more supernatural, or that the demonic possession part was wholly fabricated by Lukins to avoid having to work. Even some other clergy criticized the exorcism itself, accusing the Wesleyan ministers of not having been properly ordained to engage in such battles.
All things told, the Lukins exorcism turned out to be one of the most hotly debated and controversial exorcisms the country had ever seen. For his part, Lukins experienced no further incidents of demonic possession, and returned to a quiet, humble life. Although he wanted to stay in Bristol, he eventually returned home to Yatton due to negative public reaction to him living there in the wake of the exorcism. He would go on to live a rather poor life with only sporadic employment as a book seller and bill sticker, and living mostly off of begging and government aide until he died a lonely man in 1805.
In the 1800s we have the chilling story of Gottliebin Dittus, a 28-year old resident of the rural German village of Mottlingen, located within the Black Forest. Raised within a strictly Lutheran family, Dittus had an oppressively religious, highly superstitious upbringing. After her parents died when she was quite young, Dittus lived with her siblings and continued to attend services run by a fire and brimstone, almost fanatical pastor and theologian named Johann Christoph Blumhardt. In 1842, the people living near the Dittus home and passerby began to notice strange noises emanating from the home during the dark hours of night, some of which sounded rather jarring and decidedly violent in nature. Suspecting that there was some sort of abuse going on there, a doctor and some other locals stayed there for a night, and witnessed things they could not explain, such as objects or furniture moving on their own and strange thuds, scrapes, and bangs that seemed to issue forth from the very walls, leading them to the conclusion that the house was haunted.
The eerie phenomena continued, and on top of this other strange things began to happen. Dittus began to claim that she was being visited at night by the ghostly apparition of woman holding a baby in her arms, and she was prone to having sudden blackouts, on one occasion going into an unresponsive, trance-like state for an entire day before snapping out of it as if nothing had happened and with no memory of what had happened. There were whispers around the village that the Dittus house was haunted, cursed, or both. Since the paranormal activity seemed to be focused most intensely on Gottliebin, she was sent to live with a cousin and the haunting apparently followed her to her new home, leaving the other siblings in peace.
The young woman’s plight captured the attention of Reverend Blumhardt himself, who came to visit Gottliebin and came to the conclusion that she was in fact possessed by a demon after witnessing evidence such as convulsive fits, speaking in different voices, and intense bouts of uncharacteristic cursing and profanity. Her siblings also claimed that she would sometimes go into a trance and violently attack them for no reason, after which she would not remember a thing. Blumhardt took it upon himself to taker her under his care and offer her spiritual support through her terrifying ordeal, and during his regular visits she confided in him some bizarre information indeed. Gottliebin claimed that when she been just an infant evil spirits had tried to kidnap her but had been driven away by the power of her mother’s protective prayers, and she also insisted that her aunt was a witch.
Things progressed to the point where an entity allegedly would possess Gottleibin to speak with Blumhardt directly. During these spooky conversations, the woman would speak in a voice that was not her own and this spirit claimed to be the one who had visited Gottleibin in the night. She told the pastor that she was a widow who had murdered two people during her life, and that these cruel acts had drawn the Devil into her, meaning that the case had become the rather curious situation of the Devil possessing a spirit who was in turn possessing a human being. However, this was not the only spirit who was apparently tormenting the girl, and more began to make themselves known as the months went on, until eventually there were apparently hundreds of them residing within this one young woman. Interestingly, many of these other spirits made the same claim as the original; that they were in fact victims of demonic possession as well, with some of them claiming to have sought refuge within the woman to try and escape the evil.
Alarmed, Blumhardt immediately began the ritual of exorcism, which caused an escalation in the strange phenomena surrounding the girl. She became even more violent and unruly, needing to be restrained at times, her venomous, blasphemous ranting became worse, and she exhibited the horrifying habit of vomiting forth sand, glass, nails, and copious amounts of blood. At one point, Gottleibin told the pastor that some of the possessed spirits within her had left her body to go run amok thousands of miles away, where they had allegedly caused an earthquake. Bizarrely, news would come not long after that there had indeed been a devastating quake in the West Indies, which Gottleibin could not have possibly known about, which only further convinced Blumhardt that the possession was genuine and strengthened his resolve to follow through with the exorcism to the end.
The end would be a long time coming. The exhausting exorcism dragged on for nearly 2 years, with the demon-infested spirits becoming more desperate and violent as their hold on the girl weakened. Some of the spirits purportedly were especially defiant, threatening Blumhardt and his family with physical violence and death. According to the account, these spirits actually ejected themselves willingly out of Gottleibin in order to attack her sister, Katharina, who also became possessed much as her sister had been. Blumhardt was purportedly able to face off against both possessed women and, perhaps realizing that they were no match for the priest, left the women one by one, after which Gottleibin supposedly said "Jesus is Victor."
The exorcism made Blumhardt into quite a celebrity and almost a hero at the time, and hundreds of people began to flock to his church from all over the surrounding areas to hear his sermons. He did nothing at all to shy away from this newfound popularity, and indeed started making bold claims that he could cast out any evil spirit at any time and also perform healings. To this end, Blumbhardt opened a retreat at a thermal spa in 1853 that was claimed to be able to cure all manner of illnesses, disabilities, and health conditions. Apparently Gottleibin herself joined up with Blumhardt to help is his cause. In 1850, Blumhardt also wrote a book about the harrowing exorcism, called Blumhardt's Battle. He would continue to run his spa and retreat and perform faith healings on people from far and wide until his death in 1880.
Clara Germana Cele
In 1906 evil came to the town of Natal, South Africa. A young, 16-year-old orphan girl at the St. Michael’s Mission by the name of Clara Germana Cele began to exhibit highly unusual, aberrant behavior, in the form of speaking in tongues she could not possibly know, such as German, French, and Polish, and was known to divulge intimate secrets about people in her presence which she should have had no way of possibly knowing. Additionally, she was said to be prone to suddenly and inexplicably levitating in her sleep, sometimes up to 5 feet up into the air, as well as producing sudden feats of fury in which she demonstrated brutish strength far beyond what she should have been capable of.
When exposed to religious objects or holy water, Clara was said to show visible signs of distress and pain, even if the objects were concealed from her sight. Holy water was said to sometimes snap her out of her trance-like dazes and sudden episodes to bring her back to a lucid state. Clara was also known to go into tantrums and rip at her clothes, as well as growl in a bestial way or have conversations with people no one else could hear or see. Other, more spectacular reports said that she could go into a state in which her body became flexibly and rubbery like that of a snake, and one nun claimed to have been bitten by Clara only to find snake-like fang marks in the wake of the attack. Her voice would also at times sound inhuman and distorted, or even devolve into a cacophony of unearthly noise, screams, moans, and wails. One nun would say of this phenomenon:
No animal had ever made such sounds. Neither the lions of East Africa nor the angry bulls. At times, it sounded like a veritable herd of wild beasts orchestrated by Satan had formed a hellish choir.
These were all sure-fire signs of demonic possession, and so two Roman Catholic priests named Rev. Mansueti, who was Director of the St. Michael’s Mission, and a Rev. Hörner Erasmus both teamed up to attempt to perform an exorcism. Clara would eventually confess to Erasmus that she had made a pact with and been overtaken by Satan himself. Whatever entity was lurking within the young girl did not appreciate the efforts to extract it, and fought back wholeheartedly. During the ritual she is reported to have knocked bibles out of hands, as well as spit, curse, and lash out wildly, and she even tried to strangle one of the priests to death with his own stole. After 2 days of constant bombardment by holy water and prayers, the demon announced that it would leave the girl’s body after a show of power in the form of levitation, after which Clara then proceeded to levitate and hover in full view of an alleged 170 witnesses before falling silent.
After this bizarre spectacle, the evil spirit was dislodged from Clara, but the story wasn’t over yet. The demon must have really wanted her, because in 1907, it apparently returned to possess her again. Another exorcism was performed and this time it again lasted for 2 days. When this second ordeal was done with, the demon’s departure was allegedly heralded by an incredibly foul, noxious odor which pervaded the air and sickened all present. However, this second exorcism would mark the last time the demon would bother Clara Germana Cele, and it either crawled back to its dark domain or went out hunting for another host.
A very well-known and documented case of demonic possession and exorcism is the case of Anna Ecklund, which is also sometimes known as the “Earling Posession.” Born in 1882 in the Midwest of the United States, Anna was raised in a devoutly Catholic family but had always been known as a charming and cheerful girl until she reached the age of 14, after which she began to display very unusual behavior and signs of potential possession.
The first symptom was an aversion to anything religious in nature. The once pious girl began to go into fits when confronted with the Bible, holy water, or any holy imagery, showed an inability to enter a church. She also started to blurt out incredibly, deeply obscene things detailing depraved, unspeakable sexual acts she could not have possibly known about, as well as an insatiable, unhealthy interest in sex. She then demonstrated detailed knowledge of Latin and German, two languages she had never had any exposure to. By 1908, Anna seemed to be totally under the dark spell of whatever evil entity was invading her, and it came to light later that, far from the deeply Catholic citizens they claimed to be, Anna’s father and aunt were in fact secret practitioners of witchcraft, who had supposedly cursed the girl at an early age through spells and special herbs sprinkled in her food, supposedly because the father was angry that he could not sate his incestuous desires for his daughter.
The advice of medical and psychiatric professionals was sought, but no one could find anything wrong with her, nor any reason for her outbursts. After years of this, religious council was requested and so would begin the first exorcism of Anna Ecklund in 1912, during which a Father Theophilus Riesinger was able to successfully cast the demon or demons out, but this proved to be only temporary. It is claimed that the estranged father and aunt worked their dark magic to call the ejected spirits back, and back they came with a vengeance. Over the next few decades Anna’s turmoil and troubles would return with even more intensity and vigor than they ever had before, and in 1928, at the age of 46, Anna, whose life had been basically destroyed by the unshakeable evil presence, turned to Father Riesinger once again in desperation.
This time, Theophilus enlisted help, unsure of whether he alone possessed the ability to drive out the obviously very powerful and tenacious demon. He went to his dear friend Father F. Joseph Steiger to beg him to join him in his confrontation with the forces of evil, to which Steiger grudgingly accepted. Anna was placed in a convent run by the Franciscan Sisters, where the exorcism was to take place, and on August 17, 1928 proceedings began in earnest.
From the beginning of this second exorcism, Anna was immediately repulsed by holy water and crosses, and absolutely refused to eat blessed food, which she could supposedly detect even without being told. She would often curl up in the corner to purr or hiss like a cat, or to deftly climb up the walls like a spider, until she was forcefully restrained to the bed and tied up. As soon as the exorcism began in ernest, Anna is said to have gone unconscious and to have levitated to stick up against the ceiling with so much force that it took several people to pull her back down. Even though the woman seemed to be totally in a comatose state, voices, wails, growls, and screams were said to bellow out from her even in absence of any movement from her mouth. She also purportedly vomited forth rancid liquid, spat constantly, and clawed or bit at anyone who came close to her.
At the same time, her body began to change in appearance; her eyes bulged inhumanly from her face, her head and lips swelling up to incredible proportions, and her abdomen was claimed to distend to the point where it seemed it would explode, only to revert to its normal size again to start the whole horrific cycle anew. At times, her body was said to inexplicably increase in mass, until the iron frame of the bed groaned under her weight. In addition to this, Anna displayed other signs of classic demonic possession, such as superhuman strength, speaking in foreign languages she could not have known or moving things with her mind.
Over the course of the exorcism, which would last for three session spread out across over 23 days, it became apparent that Anna was possessed by at least 4 distinct powerful entities, as well as a horde of lesser spirits. One of the prominent entities introduced itself as Beelzebub, also called the “Lord of the Flies” and one of the seven princes of Hell, who was claimed to try and engage the exorcists in complex philosophical debates and mind games. Another was supposedly Judas Iscariot, the very one who betrayed Jesus Christ, and who was said to have been trying to convince Anna to commit suicide so that her soul would be transported to Hell. The last two main spirits were Anna’s very own father and aunt, who had died since the first exorcism and seemingly had vengeance on their mind.
During the exorcism, the spirits apparently predicted a car accident that Father Steiger would be in and relentlessly taunted and insulted those present, and there were said to be swarms of flies that would suddenly cloud the air out of nowhere. So intense was this exorcism that the utterly terrified priests and nuns involved refused to stay for long in Anna’s presence, instead working in shifts, lest the poisonous atmosphere and the penetrating words of the demonic entities infect their souls. Father Theophilus was the one who spent the most time in the presence of evil, steadfastly determined to rid the woman these strange forces, and over time he wore the spirits down, eventually succeeding in driving them out, after which Anna is said to have jerked awake and praised Jesus. Father Steiger would go on to write his own account of the bizarre and terrifying events in a 1936 pamphlet titled Begone Satan: A Soul Stirring Account of Diabolical Possession in Iowa, which was meant to act as a sort of guide for priests in identifying the signs of demonic possession.
A more recent case of demonic possession occurred in 2008 and was reported in 2012 by board-certified psychiatrist and associate professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College, Dr. Richard E. Gallagher. The strange story revolves around a woman known only as “Julia,” who originally came forth begging her church to help her with what she claimed was a spiritual possession, and the church went to ask for help from the psychiatric community.
While investigating Julia, Gallagher became convinced that there was more going on than mere mental illness or outright fraud. During their conversations, Julia would suddenly respond in voices far different from her own and say things not in character for her, such as obscene language and hateful rants and threats, and showed extreme repulsion to religious items, which seemed to have disturbed the psychiatrist a great deal. Gallagher would later say of these occurrences:
Periodically, in our presence, Julia would go into a trance state of a recurring nature. Mentally troubled individuals often ‘dissociate,' but Julia's trances were accompanied by an unusual phenomenon: Out of her mouth would come various threats, taunts and scatological language, phrases like ‘Leave her alone, you idiot,' ‘She's ours,' ‘Leave, you imbecile priest,' or just ‘Leave.' The tone of this voice differed markedly from Julia's own, and it varied, sometimes sounding guttural and vaguely masculine, at other points high pitched. Most of her comments during these ‘trances,' or at the subsequent exorcisms, displayed a marked contempt for anything religious or sacred.
In addition to this, these strange voices allegedly would even intrude on phone conversations the psychiatrist was having with colleagues, defying all rational reason. During the actual exorcism performed on Julia the room purportedly became almost unbearably hot, and the normally scientific and rational Gallagher was also startled to personally witness items fly off shelves and Julia actually levitating. Julia also demonstrated personal knowledge of people in her vicinity and spoke in languages other than her own, such as Spanish and Latin. Holy water was said to affect her in violent ways, but normal water did not, even when there was no way for her to know which was which. After every one of these episodes, Julia would wake from her trance with no recollection of what had transpired, which fascinated the psychiatrist. She was eventually cleared of her seemingly demonic presence, but her account is a rare case of a professional scientist being convinced that the events were real.
The Ammons Family
In 2014, a mother of three in Gary, Indiana, in the United States, reported that her family was under siege from the forces of darkness. The strange events started with bizarre phenomena such as clouds of flies congregating in the home or on the porch, eerie noises emanating from the walls, and unexplained wet footprints tracked across the floors, but things escalated quickly. The mother, Latoya Ammons, claimed that her three children, aged 7, 9, and 12, were being targeted by sinister supernatural powers that covered a wide array of strange occurrences. Latoya reported that her son had at one point walked backwards up a wall and across the ceiling, that another son had been thrown roughly across the room by unseen hands, and that her daughter had been witnessed to levitate over her bed while unconscious. She also said that her children were prone to talking to invisible presences, speaking in deep voices, displaying evil smiles or giggles and bulging eyes, as well as stories of the kids growling with eyes rolling back in their heads, claims of which generated interest from authorities such as the police and child services.
One officer, a Capt. Charles Austin, visited the Ammons home expecting to see an abusive mother or a fraudster, but was seriously convinced when he personally witnessed the odd events unfolding at the afflicted home and even supposedly took a photo of a ghostly white figure lurking in a room. Psychiatrists brought in by child services found nothing suspicious about the mother, nor any signs of mental illness. Eventually, exorcists were brought in, who claimed that there were around 200 demons stalking the location, and the spirits were only appeased when the Ammons moved away from the cursed home and the exorcism was completed. The newspaper the Indianapolis Star claimed to have in their possession hundreds of pages of official documents on the phenomena, and also claimed that the possessions were so severe and believable that authorities were afraid to enter or even go near the home.
Looking at these bizarre accounts, one is left wondering just what it is we could be dealing with here. Can all of these be written off as mental illness, outbursts of rage, or some aberration of the mind? Or perhaps it is religious devotion and fear that has become so intense that it manifests into hallucinations and profound physical effects? Are these people simply liars and this is all a fraud? Are the phenomena that surround them easily dismissed as the mundane and brushed off as nothing more than superstition and fear of the unknown given form as something else? Or are there perhaps really entities from beyond our world waiting in the murk for a chance to push through and permeate our physical forms? Wherever the answers may lie, the concept of physical possession by demons or spirits is pervasive across cultures and religions, and represents what seems to be a fundamental fear humans have; that we are not alone, that these beings may come from places other than space, and that they mean us harm. As long as this belief persists and cases such as these continue to occur, there will perhaps always be that macabre curiosity as to what truly lies behind it all.