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The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel

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  1. Ryan Ahlgrim says

    interesting but could have been better The recent movie, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” made me curious about the original case, so I purchased this book. The author, a religious anthropologist with some psychiatric background, would appear to have good credentials for analyzing this case of possession/exorcism, but the author’s bio at the end of the book makes one wonder if she may not be on the flakey side. For instance, the bio mentions that she grew up and attended school in Transylvania and immigrated to the U.S., after which “she was made aware of the infestation by vampires of her home province.” Is this meant to be serious or a bit of dry humor? The background provided on Anneliese Michel contains surprising ommissions. For instance, we’re told that she had an older sister who died, but we’re not told how old Anneliese was when this happened. Surely this is an important part of her psychological history. The book’s description of Anneliese’s seven-year history of convulsions, medications, depression, odd behaior, etc. is sometimes maddeningly unclear. Paragraphs often contain quotes and conversations from multiple people, making it hard to determine who is saying what. And because the author does not footnote her sources, one cannot determine where some of the information and perspectives are coming from. The section detailing the several-month attempted exorcism is interesting and tedious at the same time. The subsequent report of the trial for negligent homicide rarely quotes from trial transcripts but instead relies primarily on psychiatric reports provided to the court and the memory of one of the accused. Finally, at the very end of the book, the author presents her own counter-perspective as to what was actually going on with Anneliese and why the exorcism failed and the young woman ultimately died. This is the most intriquing and rewarding part of the book, and it changed my own opinion, but even here the author fails to give us as much anthropological analysis and scientific research as the reader would want. For instance, if Anneliese was experiencing a relatively common “religious altered state of consciousness,” why aren’t there many more cases such as hers in the Western world? The author’s claim that an anti-convulsant drug was responsible for Anneliese’s failed exorcism and death, while an interesting hypothesis, lacks sufficient research. The epilogue, uncharacteristic of the rest of the book, raises a frightening but overly vague prospect. A final complaint: $28 (the Amazon price) is unreasonably high for a 250 page paperback.

  2. Victoria Shephard "Newbirth" says

    Very similar to the movie Ms. Goodman uses court records and eyewitness interviews to put together the facts surrounding this case. She takes the view that possession is real, and common to many cultures.But in the last couple of chapters where she looks at things from a clinical perspective, we find that she does not believe in possession as literally true, but as an altered state of conciousness, and that Anneliese, as a hypersensitive person, needed help to switch from the altered state back to “normal” reality. Rituals are the means of accomplishing this, and in her culture, exorcism was the means chosen.Ms. Goodman also speculates that since Anneliese was not epileptic (in her opinion), the medication given to her to control her seizures only made her condition worse, increasing her frightening visions.The book fleshes out many of the things the movie left obscure. It’s a good read and I highly recommend reading it. I see it’s been republished and is available again on Amazon. Buy it!And rent the video if you haven’t seen the movie. It’s great.

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