Most bizarre tales of people being possessed

We've all occasionally felt unlike ourselves. Maybe we got up on the wrong side of the bed and we're just in a grumpy mood that isn't our normal way to approach the day. But sometimes people really aren't themselves. According to literally millennia of religious tradition, our bodies can become vessels for evil spirits and even the ghosts of other humans with nothing better to do.

Possessions can range anywhere from your run-of-the-mill pea-soup-head-spinny Exorcist-style possession all the way to the "spirit discos" of the Urapmin people of New Guinea. But looking past The Exorcist and the case of Roland Doe that inspired it (which apparently might have been a poltergeist instead of a demon anyway), you can find all sorts of wild tales of people taken over by demons, spirits, and ghosts, resulting in all sorts of unnatural acts.

Presented here in chronological order are ten of the strangest cases of possessions and exorcisms in history. 

Loudun possessions

One of the most notorious instances of possession came in the 17th century in the French village of Loudun, when an entire convent of Ursuline nuns appeared to have been possessed by a series of demons with such names as Leviathan, Astaroth, Zebulun, and Ageisdramon. No, wait. Sorry. That last one is a Digimon. Anyway, these nuns appeared during a series of trials that accused the parish priest, Urbain Grandier, of having made a pact with Satan.

You can probably guess that the priest had not, in fact, signed the souls of some nuns away, despite how totally realistic the signed pact presented as evidence might look. (How much does an authentic autograph from Satan fetch on eBay, do you think?) The fact is, at least according to Professor Gary Zabel, Grandier's problems came from being way too handsome and doing some not very priestly things with some politically influential men's daughters.

Nevertheless, in a series of public trials and exorcisms, these nuns barked, screamed, convulsed, spoke in devil language, and engaged in some naked nun Twister. These sights led to a public hysteria that ultimately ended in Grandier being burnt at the stake.

The events of the Loudun possessions were turned into a book by Aldous Huxley called The Devils of Loudun in 1952, which was then adapted as the 1971 film The Devils, which has its own buckwild history.

But you know what's wilder? This wasn't the first time this happened. An almost identical case of possessed nuns also ended with a crispy priest in Aix-en-Provence in 1611.

Gottlieben Dittus

It's not often that a demon's catchphrase becomes the motto for a Christian religious movement, but that's what happened in the strange case of Gottlieben Dittus, a young woman from Möttlingen, Germany, who was exorcised by a Lutheran minister named Johann Blumhardt (pictured above) in 1843.

According to Blumhardt himself in his book Blumhardt's Battle, Dittus began experiencing strange phenomena in 1840, starting with pretty typical poltergeist-style stuff, like knocking and scratching sounds around the house. But she also would have convulsive fits when trying to say prayers, as well as being visited by the ghost of a woman holding a dead baby in her arms.

Blumhardt was brought in to examine Dittus in 1842 and determined that she was possessed not only by the spirit of the ghost of a widow who had murdered and hidden the bodies of two children, but also by a number of demons. What followed was a two-year campaign of prayer and fasting in which Blumhardt describes himself as having been surrounded and confronted by hordes of demons, including the ghost of the murderous widow.

Finally, after all this spooky nonsense that sounds a lot like a direct-to-Netflix horror movie, the demonic activity finally ended in 1843 when a demon popped out of Dittus and shouted "Jesus is victor!" Blumhardt and later his son would adopt this as his personal motto as he led a religious revival and faith-healing movement through his parish and Germany at large — all while cribbing his catchphrase from Satan.

The Watseka Wonder

In 1877, Mary Lurancy Vennum of Watseka, Illinois, experienced a series of seizures, after which she reported taking a trip to heaven, chilling with angels, and high fiving her brother and sister who had died years before, because this was the 19th century and of course they had. Soon she was doing more than just telling tales: she was channeling spirits of the dead, speaking in different voices and talking about far-off places she had never been to before. As this was the height of the Spiritualist movement, word spread of her amazing abilities and she became a celebrity, known as the Watseka Wonder.

Her parents were more concerned with their daughter's health than with fancy ghost-talkin', so Vennum was set to be sent to an insane asylum (which was not a happy fate in those days), when suddenly a man named Asa Roff arrived at the Vennum home, presumably kicking in the door and shouting "Not so fast!" just as the men in white coats were chaining young Mary to one of those Hannibal Lecter dollies.

Roff explained that his own daughter, also named Mary, had experienced many of the same phenomena and had died in an asylum around the time Mary Vennum was born. Long story short, Roff asserted that his own daughter's spirit had entered Vennum's body. Indeed, Vennum was able to recognize Mary Roff's family and friends without prompting. For fifteen months, Roff possessed Vennum's body, during which time Vennum lived in the Roff home, which you can still visit.

Clara Germana Cele

The book Demonic Possession: Extraordinary true life experiences, recounts a tale from 1906, in which a sixteen-year-old South African girl named Clara Germana Cele narced on herself by confessing that she'd made a pact with Satan to her priest, who had the truly spectacular name of Father Erasmus Hörner. According to the nuns at Cele's school, the girl would rip her own clothes, make sounds like a wild animal, and could speak languages she had never learned, such as Polish, German, and French.

In an apparent moment of strength over her possessor, Cele demanded to confess to Father Hörner by saying two amazing, terrifying things. First: "But quick, quick, or Satan will kill me. He has me in his power!" And then: "You have betrayed me. You have promised me days of glory, but now you treat me cruelly." The lesson here: Satan is a jerk, do not trust him.

Cele would also recoil from the presence of holy items and demonstrated clairvoyant abilities and superhuman strength. Oh yeah: and she was reported to levitate as much as five feet off the ground. No, wait, that's not the wildest one. The nuns also reported Cele could transform into a snake-like creature with a rubbery body and even left fang-like puncture marks in a nun's arm after biting her.

Father Hörner performed an exorcism and Cele flipped out, trying to strangle him with his own stole. Though Hörner was able to remove the demon, Satan dropped the mic by levitating the girl one more time in front of a church full of people as he made his exit.

Michael Taylor

Here's a quick quiz for you. If you were exorcising someone possessed by over 40 demons, which one would you make a priority: a) the demon of lust, b) the demon of loitering, c) the demon of MURDER? If you picked "c," congratulations! You are smarter than the priests who exorcised Michael Taylor in 1974.

Michael Taylor lived in a small town in England called Ossett, where he began attending a prayer group during a time of depression due to unemployment and a back injury. When the group leader, Mary Robinson, tried to heal Taylor with that Holy Ghost power, Taylor became obsessed with her, and the two would sit up all night making the sign of the cross over each other.

Naturally, Taylor's wife became concerned, convinced that Taylor was having an affair with Robinson. She confronted them about it in front of the whole church, and Taylor went bananatown, screaming in tongues and getting violent. Church leaders agreed Taylor must be possessed, and so called for an exorcism. For seven hours, two ministers prayed over Taylor, during which he spat and struggled. They busted over forty demons, including those of incest and heresy. You know. Typical demon stuff. But they thought they'd save three pesky boys until the next day: the demons of anger, insanity, and murder.

Surprise! Taylor went home and murdered his wife! And her dog! Police found him wandering the streets, naked and covered in blood, screaming, "It is the blood of Satan!" Great news: he was found not guilty.

Anneliese Michel

How many times would you say is a normal amount of times to be exorcised? Well, okay, sure. Zero is normal. But, like, if you had to be exorcised, you would hope one would be good, right? Maybe two if they couldn't get murder out on the first go.

How about 67 times? Is that overkill maybe? You might feel like you would die if you got exorcised that many times. Well, uh, guess how this story ends.

A Washington Post article from 2005 tells the story of Anneliese Michel, a young woman in Germany who began arousing suspicion when she refused to walk past a picture of Jesus and also started to smell like hell, literally. Other signs of possession included barking like a dog, ripping her clothes off, and compulsively doing up to 400 squats a day (although many might argue that aiming for sick gains is no sign of evil). She would speak in the voice of specific demons and damned souls, including Judas Iscariot, who threw shade on Hitler by saying he was a "big mouth" with no real pull in Hell.

This was followed by a series of 67 exorcisms based on a ritual from 1614, during which Michel stopped eating. In the end, she died of starvation, weighing a mere 68 pounds. "Wow," you might say, "the Middles Ages were messed up." Nah. This happened in 1975.

Michel's story was the basis for the 2005 film The Exorcism of Emily Rose, so at least her horrible and needless death led to a towering achievement in cinema.

Alice Lakwena

Not all possessions are by murderous demons or spooky widows. Take, for instance, the case of Alice Auma, detailed by The Economist. In the 1980s, Auma, a young woman from Uganda, found herself possessed by the spirit of a man named Lakwena, an Italian army captain who had drowned in the Nile during World War I. Together, Alice and Lakwena fought to purify Uganda.

According to Auma, after Lakwena took over, he held court with all the animals of Africa, and they told him that "the people with two legs" were despoilers of Nature, so Lakwena assembled the Holy Spirit Mobile Forces (HSMF) to battle the National Resistance Army, at that time the ruling power in Uganda. Lakwena made the HSMF follow strict rules, including no hiding behind ant hills and that all men must have "two testicles, neither more nor less."

Oh yeah: also they were an army forbidden to use weapons. They sang hymns while marching into battle and covered their bare torsos with shea-nut oil, and the bullets, so they hoped, would bounce off. Their purity and connection with Nature would cause waterways to drown their enemies and any stone they threw to explode.

Auma also claimed to be possessed by other spirits, including an American amazingly named Wrong Element. By the late '80s the HSMF was driven off, and Auma ended up in a refugee camp in Kenya. The remainder of her troops were gathered up by Joseph Kony, whom you may remember as the warlord that a number of hashtags conspired to stop in 2012.

Bobby Jindal

Unless you're a real exorcism nut, there's a decent chance that Bobby Jindal is the first name on this list you recognized right away. He was the governor of Louisiana from 2008 to 2016, he gave the response to President Obama's 2009 State of the Union address, he was a real contender for Vice President in 2012, and he was a…well, he was a contender for President in 2016.

What you may not know is that he is also the most prominent exorcist this side of Damien Karras. No, really. While he was in college, Bobby Jindal performed an exorcism on his "intimate" but "non-romantic" friend Susan.

"Okay," you say, "this is obviously some political slander meant to discredit a candidate with scare tactics. Who targeted this obviously false story at Governor Jindal?" Oh, you know. Bobby Jindal. He wrote all about it in 1994 in an article for the New Oxford Review called "Physical Dimensions of Spiritual Warfare."

Noticing that Susan was "acting strange," Jindal decided to perform an exorcism together with members of his school's Campus Crusade for Christ, who restrained Susan despite her attempts to escape, rubbing crucifixes and Bibles in her face and being surprised that she kept swearing for some reason. While there is no clear answer as to the cause of the "sullen mood" that led to Jindal's suspicion, maybe — just maybe — it was that she was undergoing treatment for cancer, according to a Mother Jones article.

Anyhoo, college is a pretty weird time for all of us, huh?

Brother Hermes

There can't be a need for that many exorcisms, right? Like, The Exorcist came out in 1973. The Exorcist III came out in 1990. We're not going to acknowledge Exorcist II, so that's only two exorcisms in seventeen years. Sure, there are obviously a few circumstances where you've got to do, say, 67 exorcisms, but generally it seems like you only really get one before you fall down a bunch of stairs.

Unless you're Hermes Cifuentes, aka Brother Hermes, an exorcist who claimed in 2012 to have exorcised a staggering 35,000 demons in the previous 25 years, according to Reuters. Let's do some math on that. That's 1,400 exorcisms a year, or nearly four a day. A day. That's some brisk business. Where does this busy demon queller live? Some hotbed of sin like New York or Las Vegas?

Nope. He lives in La Cumbre, in the West Andes of Colombia, which presumably looks like that one scene in Ghostbusters just, like, all the time. Okay, but if he's doing that many, his process has to be pretty simple, right? A little sprinkle of holy water, a little "The power of Christ compels you!" and then on to the next one?

Again, nope. His process involves painting the allegedly possessed black and placing them inside ritually drawn circles with chicken eggs in each of their hands. He interviews the demons, they crush the eggs, then he sets the ring on frickin' fire.

Okay, fine. That's rad enough to do 35,000 times.

Father Marian Rajchel

We can all agree that, for better or for worse, Satan is pretty hip, right? You don't get to be Prince of the Power of the Air if you don't keep up with the times. He hung out with the Stones in the '60s and Sabbath in the '70s. And, honestly, would you rather be associated with the music of Slayer or Stryper?

But there's no better sign of the devil's with-it-ness than the fact that he's better at texting than your parents. That is, if you take Polish priest Father Marian Rajchel's word for it. According to a 2014 story from the Independent, Father Rajchel performed an exorcism on a teenage girl that apparently did not one hundred percent take. Because soon after the ritual, he began receiving text messages which he says come from the girl's phone but are actually from "an evil spirit who has possessed her soul."

Texts sent by the evil one include "She will not come out of this hell. She's mine. Anyone who prays for her will die," "Shut up, preacher. You cannot save yourself. Idiot. You pathetic old preacher," and, presumably, "u up?" at all hours of the night. Rajchel says that demons with a data plan are more common than you might think, claiming, "Often the owners of mobile phones are not even aware that they are being used like this."

But anyone with a Twitter account is definitely aware that the devil is online.