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Fails from the crypt
Chris: How do you go about getting an exorcism?
Karras: I beg your pardon? Well, the first thing - I'd have to get into a time machine and get back to the 16th century...
The Exorcist[1]

Exorcism is the practice of purging demons, ghosts, dark influences, malevolent spirits, lost souls, and/or Satan out of a possessed person's body and/or soul, a haunted house, a cursed object, etc.

Exorcism usually involves invoking God, Jesus, angels, saints, doing funny dances, pouring holy water or dangerous substances on the victim patient, praying, sacrifices, amulets, and fasting either by the clergy or by the patient, among other things. It is generally performed by a member of the clergy or other holy dudes. It may include enhanced interrogation; see examples of deaths below.

The existence (albeit rare) of demonic possession and exorcisms is officially recognized by the Catholic Church,[2] though it is not exclusive to Christianity. It is also present in Islam and Hinduism, among other religions.

Notwithstanding the beliefs of the Catholic and Protestant churches there is no reliable and testable evidence of demonic possession occurring.

In 2008 the Texas supreme court ruled that a 17-year old girl who was imprisoned and abused while hallucinating could not sue the church over damages done during the exorcism.[3] In 2017, charges were brought against church members in the case of a North Carolina gay man who was beaten and choked for 2 hours in an exorcism attempt.[4]

A 2018 article reports that in the UK suspicion of witchcraft and demonic activity has resulted in nearly 1,500 child abuse cases.[5]

In Christianity[edit]

The Exorcist, a movie that gives people nightmares.

According to the New Testament, Jesus cast out demons, an act which became the foundation for Christian exorcism and it appears that by the 4th Century CE there was at least one established liturgy and procedure for exorcism.[6] Those few Christians who do believe in spiritual possession feel they are empowered to do exorcisms in the name of Jesus.

Demonic or other possession was at one time used to explain everything from basic illness to odd behavior of an individual, loss of memory (for example, after an accident), social problems like alcoholism and drug abuse, prostitution, and generally any opinion which was an embarrassment to an individual, his family, or the Church. As science began to provide explanations for illness, and as society became more accepting of different points of view, "possession" became more infrequent.

Small numbers of Christians accept exorcism in the 21st century. People being exorcised appear seriously distressed; believers say the demons rather than people exorcised are distressed.[7] Of course, they said the same thing when "witches" were being tortured to extract confessions.

Michael Cuneo, a sociologist at Fordham University, says that there are 10 official Catholic exorcists in the United States, and he estimates that there are 500-600 evangelical exorcism ministries.[8][9]

Roman Catholic exorcism[edit]

Father José Antonio Fortea: blabby

The Vatican website has this to say on Exorcism:[10]

When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcising. In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called "a major exorcism," can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.

Pope Francis was filmed carrying out a possible exorcism in St Peter's Square. Francis has previously carried out exorcisms as did John Paul II.[11][12]

Baptism includes aspects of exorcism to address the horror of the infant coming into contact with its mother's icky sexual vagina. Traditional belief held that such contact caused (or allowed) an evil spirit to enter the child.[13]

The Roman Catholic Church has a body of exorcists that follow tightly regulated rules, most of which are kept secret from all but a very few church members.[14] At least one official exorcist, José Antonio Fortea, was happy to blab at least some of the rules.[15]

The Roman Catholic hierarchy is reviving interest in exorcism in hopes of reminding people that secular institutions are incapable of dealing with demons while the church, of course, can.[16] They will probably not be trying to revive interest in the 1976 killing of Anneliese Michel by two priests (Ernst Alt and Arnold Renz) via exorcism in Germany.[17]

A victim named "Susan" apparently survived an assault unofficial exorcism conducted by future Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.[18]

Orthodox exorcism[edit]

The Eastern Orthodox Church also believes in Satan as a created being and a fallen angel with free will who always chooses to do evil.[note 1] The Devil can possess people and objects. As with Roman Catholics, priests do exorcisms and renunciation of the Devil is part of baptism. Lay Orthodox believers are also encouraged to “pray and exorcise evil.” There are specific prayers for exorcism.[19] Orthodox exorcism can involve physical restraints on the victim patient.[20]

Protestant exorcism[edit]

Many Protestant fundamentalist churches are less regulated in their use of exorcism, leading to violent and occasionally deadly attempts to exorcise unwilling and/or uncomprehending victims.[21][22][23] In Texas forcible exorcism is legal or was legal in 2008.[24]

Exorcisms are needed because society is often skeptical about the teachings of the more hard-line Christian groups has lost its moral compass. According to J. F. Cogan, demonic possession is behind a wide range of happenings including gay ordination, women's ordination, and even spontaneous human combustion.[25] People can get themselves possessed by a range of activities that Christian fundamentalists dislike, such as viewing porn, illicit sex, gay sex, drug abuse, and even rock music. Astrologers and other psychics are vulnerable to demonic possession as are those who do Hindu or Buddhist meditation. Demons may time share; they torment one person then rush off at a speed slightly below the speed of light to torment someone else. Therefore possessed people may be worked up one moment and calm the next when the demon has gone off to a fresh victim.[26]

In evangelical Protestantism, exorcism is often practiced as part of a broader spiritual warfare agenda. In an even more ludicrous variety, exorcisms are performed at long distance over the telephone by Bob Larson or over the television by name it and claim it preachers ("laaay your hands on the television set").

Protestant exorcism is frequently a way televangelists make money; even teenagers do tele-exorcism. [27] Other people also make money through exorcism by selling scary books, etc. See Deliverance ministry.

United Kingdom[edit]

In the UK exorcisms are increasing; they happen mainly in charismatic and Pentecostal churches, also among communities of West African origin. Frequently the people exorcised are psychiatrically disturbed. Psychiatrically ill people are sometimes told to stop their medication as the church believes prayer and/or exorcism is enough. If pychiatric patients do not get better after exorcism they may believe they have failed to overcome the demon and get worse.[28]

Other religions[edit]

Exorcism is also practiced in other religions. In 2013, three family members in Malaysia were jailed for crushing to death a girl in an attempted Buddhist exorcism.[29] In 2014 a Belgian court charged 6 people with the death by torture of a woman in an Islamic exorcism that lasted one month.[30]

Exorcism is also found in Voodoo[31] and other folk and syncretic religions (see for example the Wikipedia article on the Malay dukunWikipedia, which includes their role as exorcist).

In Judaism, JosephusWikipedia reported witnessing an exorcism,[32] though being a decentralized religion that has changed much in the intervening millennia, it is unclear how mainstream the practice is today, if it is found at all.

Scientific explanations[edit]

Medicine and psychology do not classify possession as a mental illness, but rather as a misdiagnosis of different psychological conditions. In at least one exorcism that mentalist Jan Hellesøe witnessed Bob Larson perform, the subject had previously been diagnosed with a personality disorder, and the results of the exorcism were later replicable purely with hypnosis on someone else with no diagnosed psychiatric disorder.[33]

Although validity of exorcism would be a tough argument for theism, it surprisingly isn't brought up in debates very much. It could be that even the theists realize exorcism is bollocks, or it's a taboo theme among them. Or perhaps it's one of the few areas where they understand that what seems obvious to them isn't obvious to other people. Given as they often do appear to elicit some sort of response from the person undergoing the exorcism, and given that not everyone undergoing an exorcism wants to be undergoing an exorcism (such as those who are homosexual for obvious reasons) one theoretical argument from a scientific perspective could be that the effect of people yelling and screaming at you is enough to elicit an emotional response.

See spirit possession for scientific explanations of alleged spirit possessions in general.


The job of exorcist would seem to be perfect for a psychopathic sadist. They are usually able to get away with anything short of murder: kidnapping, torture and general mayhem. Here are some cases where the psychopaths were caught:

  • In 1976, one of the most famous exorcism killings occurred: Anneliese MichelWikipedia was starved and dehydrated to death by parents and priests.[17] Three films were based on true stories this case, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Requiem, and Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes.
  • In 1993 Joan Vollmer died of a heart attack induced by her husband and 2 friends.[34]
  • In 1995 Kyong-A Ha was beaten to death by 5 women.[35]
  • In 1995 Mary Odegbami was killed by her fiancé, Nicholas Sagunro.[36]
  • In 1997 Kyung Jae Chung was stomped to death by Jin Hyun Choi under the guise of "anchal prayer".[37]
  • In 1997 Breeann Spickard was beaten to death by Julia Ann Olivas and Esther Rebecca Griggs.[38]
  • In 1997 Amy Burney was poisoned to death; her mother Angelee Burney and grandmother Rosa Downing were charged.[39]
  • In 1997 Chua Wan Zuen was crushed to death by 8 people, including family members.[29]
  • In 1998 Charity Miranda-Martin was asphyxiated; her mother and daughter were charged with murder.[40]
  • In 2001 Signifagance Oliver was drowned by her mother, Sabrina Wright.[41]
  • In 2003 Terrance Cottrell Jr. was suffocated by Ray Hemphill.[42][43]
  • In 2005 Maricica Irina Cornici, a nun, was crucified. The monk who led the murder ceremony exorcism only received 7 years' imprisonment.[44][22]
  • In 2005 Kousar Bashir was beaten to death by Mohammed Bashir (no relation) and Nourani Sayeed.[45]
  • In 2005 Faranah Essop was beaten to death.[46]
  • In 2006 Malissa Mayfield was murdered by David Maxwell Shepherd.[47]
  • In 2007 Janet Moses was drowned; 5 people were found guilty.[48]
  • In 2007 an unnamed granddaughter was strangled to death by Ronald Marquez.[49]
  • In 2008 Jan David Clark was arrested for killing his wife, Susan Kay Clark, who was asphyxiated.[50]
  • In 2008 Shashi Devi was beaten to death by relatives.[51]
  • In 2008 Evelyn Vasquez was fatally slashed by her mother, Nelly Vasquez-Salazar.[52]
  • In 2010 Amora Bain Carson was killed by Blaine Keith Milam and mother Jessica Carson.[53][54]
  • In 2012 Latifa Hachmi was tortured to death over a period of one month.[30]
  • In 2014 Norell Harris and Zyana Harris were stabbed to death by their mother, Zakieya L. Avery.[21][23][55]
  • In 2015, Jaqueline Sanchez died from cardiac arrest during an exorcism in San Ignacio, Bolivia. The victim also had bruising and lacerations.[56]
  • In 2015, German police arrested 5 unidentified South Korean family members in connection with exorcisms. Two other unidentified South Korean women were found, one dead and the other injured. The victims were bound, gagged and beaten for hours; the survivor was also suffering from hypothermia.[57]
  • In 2016, Jack Gian Banday, a 5-year old boy, was beaten and strangled to death in the Philippines during an exorcism ritual inside a church by 3 relatives who were later arrested.[58]
  • In 2017, Vilma Trujillo Garcia was burned to death after being thrown naked into flames during an exorcism ritual in Nicaragua.[59]
  • In 2018, Juanita Gomez was found guilty of murder her 33-year old daughter in an exorcism attempt by shoving a crucifix down her throat.[60]
  • In 2018, Vietnamese singer Nguyen Viet Cuong (a.k.a., Chau Viet Cuong) was accused of killing a woman in an exorcism while under the influence of drugs. The woman died from asphyxiation after being force-fed garlic cloves.[61]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. If Satan truly is free why is he incapable of choosing good?


  1. The Exorcist (film) Wikiquote
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1673
  3. Court: Exorcism is protected by law. Texas justices throw out jury award after teenager alleged church ordeal (updated 6/28/2008 5:21:28 AM ET) NBC News.
  4. Gay man says church members beat, choked him for hours to expel 'homosexual demons by Samantha Schmidt (June 2 at 6:08 AM) The Washington Post.
  5. Exorcists are back – and people are getting hurt by Deborah Hyde (published on Tue. March 6, 2018 and accessed on Wed. October 2, 2019) The Guardian.
  6. Ghost Investigator: Ancient Christian Exorcism Liturgy
  7. About.com Paranormal Phenomena Exorcism in Russia
  8. Exorcism Thriving in U.S., Say Experts ABC News
  9. American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty by Michael W. Cuneo (2001). Doubleday. ISBN 0385501765.
  10. Vatican Archives: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
  11. Video emerges of Pope Francis reportedly performing an exorcism
  12. Did Pope Francis Perform An Exorcism?
  13. ReligousTolerance.org: Roman Catholic beliefs & practices
  14. Who can perform exorcism?
  15. In the book, Summa Daemoniaca: Tratado de Demonología y Manual de Exorcistas by José Antonio Fortea, also translated into Italian.
  16. The New York Times: For Catholics, Interest in Exorcism Is Revived 12 November 2010
  17. 17.0 17.1 Lessons Learned: The Anneliese Michel Exorcism by John M. Duffey
  18. Beating a Demon: Physical Dimensions of Spiritual Warfare
  19. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America: Exorcism in the Orthodox Church
  20. About.com Paranormal Phenomena: Exorcism in Russia
  21. 21.0 21.1 Maryland mom kills 2 of her children during attempted exorcism
  22. 22.0 22.1 Exorcism Death Priest Released from Prison
  23. 23.0 23.1 'She thought the devil was in the kids': Mother-of-four claims evil spirits made her 'stab-to-death 1-year-old and 2-year-old in shocking exorcism that left two older children seriously injured'
  24. Pharyngula: Texas court approves traumatic exorcisms
  25. Demon Possession Handbook
  26. ReligiousTolerance.org: Conservative Protestant Beliefs & Practices
  27. Teen exorcists: The girls who expel demons on stage
  28. 'Spiritual abuse': Christian thinktank warns of sharp rise in UK exorcisms The Guardian
  29. 29.0 29.1 Malaysia: Family Jailed Over 'Exorcism' Death
  30. 30.0 30.1 Belgium court charges six people in deadly exorcism of Muslim woman
  31. Sharon Guynup, "Haiti: Possessed by Voodoo," National Geographic, Jul. 7, 2004, as displayed Aug. 22, 2019.
  32. Flavius Josephus (tr. William Whiston), Antiquities of the Jews Book 8 Ch. 2 §5.
  33. "Eksorcisten," Fuckr med dn hjrne, Season 3 Episode 8, Danmarks Radio (in a mix of Danish and English)
  34. Exorcism of God-fearing Joan Vollmer led to her bizarre and violent death in country Victoria
  35. 5 Women Accused of Murder In East Bay Exorcism Death
  36. 'Exorcist' killed his fiancee
  37. Deacon Pleads Guilty in Exorcism; Agrees to Testify in Woman's Death
  38. Women Convicted of Killing Girl in Exorcism
  39. A Family Divided by a Child's Death
  40. Sister of Dead Long Island Teen-Ager Offers Account of Killing in Exorcism
  41. 'Exorcist' Mom Admits Drowning Girl
  42. Minister Charged In Exorcism Death
  43. Hemphill Sentenced Over Boy's "Exorcism" Death
  44. Ex-Monk Gets 7 Years For Botched Exorcism by Dave Reynolds (August 20, 2004) Inclusion Daily Express.
  45. Human torch dad devastated by daughter’s death
  46. Woman dies after brutal exorcism
  47. Occult murder: Man said sex would exorcise demons
  48. Five people found guilty in Janet Moses exorcism death
  49. Exorcism Ends In Deadly Stun-Gun Struggle
  50. Autopsy shows suffocation in exorcism death
  51. 3 young men beat mother to death in exorcism ritual
  52. Mom Fatally Slashes 'Demon' Daughter
  53. Conroe jury hears horrific details of injuries to slain baby
  54. Blaine Milam receives death penalty for child's murder
  55. Woman Charged With Stabbing Children in 'Exorcism' Enters Guilty Plea
  56. San Ignacio: Muere una mujer de un paro cardíaco, sus familiares indican que estaba poseída (25/11/2015-17:23) Eju TV.
  57. Five South Koreans held over 'exorcism' death in Germany: Relatives allegedly tied woman to bed, gagged and severely beat her for two hours with the goal of 'driving out the devil' Agence France-Presse in Berlin (Wednesday 9 December 2015 13.30 EST).
  58. 3 in deadly exorcism rites that killed 5-year-old boy nabbed (11:00 PM February 19th, 2016) Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  59. 'She was demonized': Nicaraguan woman dies after being thrown into fire in exorcism ritual by Samantha Schmidt (March 1 at 6:16 AM) The Washington Post.
  60. She forced a crucifix down her 'possessed' daughter’s throat. Now, she's convicted of murder. by Marwa Eltagouri (January 12 at 7:14 AM) The Washington Post.
  61. Vietnamese singer arrested over woman's death during 'exorcism' ritual: Report 06 Mar 2018 10:43PM (Updated: 06 Mar 2018 10:50PM) Channel NewsAsia.