Graveyard Shift 15 Real Exorcisms Gone Terrifyingly Wrong  

Juliet Bennett Rylah
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While a popular staple in horror movies, real life exorcisms are practiced in several cultures by those who believe that not only are demons and other sinister spirits real, but they also have the ability to possess human beings. The process of casting out an evil entity ranges in severity from simple spells, to elaborate and often violent rituals performed on the supposedly possessed. A more reasonable explanation for demonic possession has often been found in mental illness: either on the part of the possessed, who may actually be suffering from demonomania, epilepsy, Tourette's, schizophrenia or another illness; or on the part of the accuser. Unfortunately, many terrifying exorcisms have involved brutal tactics including beatings, starvation and being bound for long periods of time, occasionally leading to injury and even death. 
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The Exorcism of Annaliese Michel


The Exorcism of Annaliese Mich... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 15 Real Exorcisms Gone Terrifyingly Wrong
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

In 1976, a 23-year-old German girl named Annaliese Michel died of dehydration and malnutrition after over 60 exorcisms were performed on her over a period of 10 months. Her troubles started at 16 when she had a seizure. She was later diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy and depression, and a few years later was reported to loathe religious icons, claimed to hear voices and had become suicidal. Her family was convinced she was possessed and eventually talked a pair of priests into exorcising her. Her parents and the priests were convicted of negligent homicide, and the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose is based on Annaliese’s case. 

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The Exorcism of Bridget Cleary


The Exorcism of Bridget Cleary is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 15 Real Exorcisms Gone Terrifyingly Wrong
Photo: The Wild Geese

Bridget Cleary was an Irish woman murdered by her husband, Michael Clearly, in 1895. Michael believed that Bridget had been kidnapped by fairies and that the wife he had been interacting with was actually a changeling. He either murdered her and set her body on fire, or lit her on fire while she was still alive. Prior to her death, Bridget had been sick, possibly with pneumonia or tuberculosis. 

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The Exorcism of Israa Zourob


The Exorcism of Israa Zourob is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 15 Real Exorcisms Gone Terrifyingly Wrong
Photo:  LoggaWiggler/Pixabay/CC0 1.0

A 17-year-old Palestinian girl named Israa Zourob died during an exorcism in 2014. Abu Khalil al-Zamili, the sheikh conducting the exorcism, forced her to drink a liter of water that had been mixed with salt in order to get the supposed demon to release her. Her mother, who watched her die, said that he and the girl’s brother forced her to drink after she complained that the water was too salty.

This followed the death of another woman in 1998 who was beaten during an exorcism so severely that she was paralyzed, then in a coma before ultimately passing away. 

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The Exorcism of Nun Irina Cornici


The Exorcism of Nun Irina Corn... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 15 Real Exorcisms Gone Terrifyingly Wrong
Photo:  Myriams-Fotos/Pixabay/CC0 1.0

In 2005, Maricica Irina Cornici, a young Romanian nun, believed that the devil was trying to communicate with her inside her mind. She was initially treated for schizophrenia, but her fellow nuns decided what she needed was an exorcism. The nuns and a monk tied the woman to a cross, shoved a towel in her mouth, and left her there for multiple days with no food. She died of suffocation and dehydration. The monk and nuns were charged with her murder, and spent five to eight years in prison.

 The 2012 film Romanian film Beyond the Hills was inspired by this case.