Many of us are familiar with the sad and horrifying story of Anneliese Michel, the 24-year-old German woman who died after undergoing a grueling series of Catholic exorcisms. Anneliese’s story has become that of legend, even spawning the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Over the years, the facts surrounding the girl’s death have been at the center of many debates betweem believers and skeptics, but there’s still one piece of evidence that everyone needs to hear before making up their minds: the audio tapes.
While a few low-quality recordings have been floating around on the internet in various forms, they’re usually only around six minutes long. Below, you’ll find the rare, uncut version of the original tape recordings of Anneliese Michel’s 67 exorcisms, which clock in at around an hour and a half. While the audio is entirely in the German language, it isn’t any less horrifying to listen to.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Anneliese Michel, her story is a strange and sad one. She was born in Bavaria in 1952, and during the course of her short life underwent some of the most terrible experiences imaginable. Shortly after she turned 16, she suffered a violent seizure, and was subsequently diagnosed with temporal lope epilepsy. By the early 70s, after Anneliese had suffered her third seizure, her frightened parents decided there was nothing left to do but to check their daughter into a psychiatric hospital.
In 1973, Anneliese began to experience full-blown hallucinations that doctors concluded stemmed from her deeply-held religious beliefs. These experiences ranged anywhere from hearing menacing voices telling her that she was “damned”, to visual hallucinations of frightening demonic faces. Unfortunately, the hospital treatments did little improve her health or combat her visions, and Anneliese fell into a deep depression.
Finally, the church agreed to the exorcism, which took place on September 24, 1975. It would be the first of many. Over the course of ten months, Anneliese underwent a grand total of 67 exorcisms, each performed by Ernst Alt with help from a local pastor named Arnold Renz. Many of these sessions were recorded on tape by the Michel family.
During the series of exorcisms, the Catholic Church began to believe that Anneliese was possessed by the spirits of Cain, Judas Iscariot, Hitler, Nero, and even Lucifer himself. According to the priests, the audio recordings even captured the voices of “demons arguing” with one another.
The Michel family, believing that the exorcisms would work, stopped Anneliese’s medical treatment, and her heath began to quickly deteriorate. On July 1, 1976, ten months after the exorcisms began, Anneliese Michel died from malnutrition and dehydration, weighing only 68 pounds. Near the end of her life, Anneliese would often talk about “dying to atone for the wayward youth of the day, and the apostate priests of the modern church.”
Both the Michel family and the priests were charged with negligent homicide in the aftermath of the exorcisms of Anneliese Michel. During the trial, the horrifying tapes of Annaliese’s exorcisms were played, with the Catholic Church’s hand-picked defense lawyers intending on convincing the jury that the girl was suffering from a demonic possession, however the court was not convinced. The case of Anneliese Michel was officially labeled a misidentification of mental illness, and in the end, both priests were found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to six months in jail, though neither of them served any time.
The internet is littered with news stories, grainy cell phone footage, and even reality shows dedicated to demonic possession cases, but there’s something especially disturbing about the audio recorded taken during Anneliese Michel’s exorcisms. Her throaty growls sound otherworldly, and at times, its as if many voices, all screaming together at once, are coming from within her broken body. Whether or not Anneliese Michel was actually possessed is something you’ll have to decide for yourself, but the audio recordings are enough to consider why the church, and her family, believed it.
This post was written by Nadia Vella