24 January 2012

History's Mysteries: Anneliese and Exorcism

 By Jennifer Linforth

Her ordeal happened all in my lifetime, though I was a child and barely aware. Still, it has always fascinated me. Medical mysteries combined with a healthy imagination can cause any number of theories to pop into someone's head regarding Anneliese Michel. You know, the exorcised girl?

She was born in 1952 in Bavaria to a devote Catholic family. Their religion would be challenged come 1968/69 when at age 16 or 17 Anneliese started having seizures attributed to epilepsy. It was managed with medication but over time she complained of seeing visions, disturbing ones, while saying her daily prayers. Eventually it escalated to evil voices giving her commands and then to an aversion to religious iconography.

Come 1975 Anneliese's parent forewent medical advice and turned to a Roman exorcism. Believing she was truly possessed, for even Anneliese herself said that Judas, Nero, Cain, Lucifer and even Hitler were inside of her, she underwent 67 exorcisms. She had to repeat genuflections that, toward the end, were difficult for her to do on her own. During all this torment she stopped eating claiming the demons forbid her to do so. It is documented that she would drink her urine, eat spiders, bite, and self-mutilate. Claims exist that she also began speaking several different languages during the rituals and there are over 40 recordings of them saved for historic detail.

Annaliese eventually died of dehydration and malnutrition and her death was labeled as neglect homicide. The medical care she needed ended up secondary to the religious path of treatment chosen for her, but medical care could have played a factor in all her symptoms. Some evidence supports that she suffered from dissociative personality disorder (DPD) and schizophrenia combined with her epilepsy. She was subjected to powerful psychotropic drugs and anticonvulsants. One drug was known to deplete the brain of sodium which could cause mental lapses and forgetfulness as well as altering the thyroid function which controls metabolism. All these drugs are known now to also have side-effects of hallucinations both visual and auditory.

I tend to side with the idea that Annaliese had DPD and the drugs contributed greatly to her condition. If not regulated properly these powerful medications can have horrifying and frightening side-effects. That being said, they can also work brilliantly for the treatment of mental disorders I speak from experience having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

What do you think? Medical mystery perhaps not treated properly or religious possession treated too aggressively?

Jennifer Linforth expands the classics by continuing The Phantom of the Operaand her books are available now. Look for future books based on the classics, in addition to her unique historical romances. "Ms. Linforth's prose is phenomenally beautiful and hauntingly breathtaking." ~ Coffee Time Romance