Exorcisms first captured the attention of Americans in 1971 with the release of William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist, which was made into a movie of the same name, and became an immediate blockbuster on its 1973 release. Blatty has long said that his idea for the story of The Exorcist came from a newspaper story that he had read about a demonic possession when he was a student at Georgetown University. In fact, Bill Brinkley of the Washington Post wrote a few stories on the case, one from August 1949, was titled “Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held in Devil’s Grip.” The article was about a Maryland boy that had been possessed by a demon that was successfully exorcized by a Catholic Priest. According to the article, the boy was extensively examined at Georgetown University Hospital and St. Louis University Hospital, to try to diagnose and address his symptoms medically. It was only after a natural cause for his condition could not be found, that the church considered a supernatural one.
The article relates that the priest performed the ancient rite of exorcism 20-30 times, and that the boy broke into a violent tantrum of screaming, cursing and voicing of Latin phrases – a language he had never studied,” every time the priest recited the last three verses, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, I cast thee (the devil) out.” Also, the boy’s bed would sometimes suddenly move across the room. After two months of fasting, prayer and staying with the boy, the priest recited the prayer and the boy was quiet. The symptoms of possession never recurred.
Many since have tried their hand at casting out demons that they believe are possessing their loved ones, resorting to violence and inflicting psychological and physical damage. The following cases present some powerful examples of ways, not to perform and exorcism, unless you want to go to jail.
Prayers and Holy Water are one Thing, but Beating Someone With a Cane is Right Out
Asma Hussain, 50, of London, England, was the subject of an exorcism at the request of her wheelchair-bound husband, Ahmed Hussain, 60, who hired an unknown imam to perform the exorcism. It seems that the exorcism started out as one might expect, the “imam’s actions took the form of reading from the Koran and sprinkling her with water. However, that progressed to an assault on her over the course of about two hours. The imam repeatedly struck her on the back with a walking stick. During the course of the attack, Alma Hussain was screaming and it caused a great deal of pain.” The exorcism was stopped when Hussain’s daughter showed up, and called paramedics. Hussain’s male family members were convicted of watching the assault, not helping her, and of participating in the assault at key points, admittedly, to cast out the devil. Hussain’s son Mohammed Kayes Hussain, 28, was convicted and jailed for 12 months; her son-in-law, Muhammed Aziz, 21, convicted and jailed for nine; and her husband, though convicted, received a suspended sentence in September 2012, after she begged the judge not to jail him. The imam has not been found.
Cuffing and Withholding Food and Water is a Definite No-No
On June 10, 2009, police in Lilburn, Georgia, responded to a call about an “unruly juvenile” at the home of Larry Powell. According to Police Detective Matthew Lake, the 911 call was made by his friend Sandra Alfred about her teen son, 15. Lake told reporters that when police arrived they saw handcuffs and questioned Alfred, who “said that she was trying to perform an exorcism on her child,” by handcuffing him for 12 hours at a stretch, with no food or water for three days. When asked if Alfred thought her son was possessed Lake said, “I believe she did.” Powell, however, said that, “Everything has been blown out of proportion,” and that the son was violent, hurting them and himself, so they prayed for him. He did not comment on whether or not they restrained the boy. Alfred and Powell were arrested for cruelty to children and Alfred was also charged with imprisonment. The child was treated for lacerations on his wrists and dehydration, and was remanded to the care of the Department of Family and Children’s Services.
Holding up Mirrors? OK, but a Family Brawl Will Get you Locked up
An early morning exorcism performed in Franklin County, Alabama, on February 14, 2012, resulted in the arrests of Dianna Brewer, 54, Christie Wahl, 39, Ginnie George, 36, and Zachary Bryant, 20 , on charges of 3rd Degree Domestic Violence. Police responded to a domestic violence call, and arrived to find the front door wide open, a bible on the front porch, and a struggle going on inside. Police broke it up, asked what had happened and were told by George and Wahl that Brewer was Satan. They reportedly said that they had held a mirror in front of their mother’s face and told her to look into it so she could see that she was Satan. So the mother took a swing at George and hit a child, 2, that George was holding. Then the girls hit the mother and all three tried to shove her out the door, while she fought back. By the time police arrived, all four of them were bruised and bloody. Looking out for the 2 year old, police thought it better to arrested everyone and make sure that child services became involved.
This is Not a Contact Sport: No Pummeling or Induced Puking
Indiana man Edward Useyugi, a former high school star athlete and valedictorian, who was studying to be a protestant minister in Orange County, Kentucky, was arrested for performing his own personal autism exorcism on a boy, 14 on May 27, 2007. Useyugi was training at the same church that the boy’s mother attended, and apparently told her that he could cure her child’s autism by casting out the demons. Monroe County sheriff’s detective Brad Swain told reporters that the women, believing that what he proposed was in keeping with her church’s teaching, consented, but that “it immediately began into some physical battery of the boy. This lasted several hours.” According to court papers it lasted from 1 p.m. until midnight, and the boy was held down and punch by Useyugi while he yelled, “come out, you filthy demon!” Useyugi was also “sticking fingers into the boy’s mouth while he was restrained on the bed, causing him to vomit.” By the time Useyugi was done with him, the boy’s face was so bruised and swollen that he couldn’t swallow. The pastor finally called child services and Useyugi later turned himself in for arrest. He was charged with misdemeanor battery and felony confinement charges. Detectives later did confirm that the Cherry Hill Christian Church does teach exorcism through prayer, there is no mention of pummeling or puking. In fact, the church later released a statement denouncing Useyugi’s methods, “We emphatically denounce the method, manner and mentality of this unauthorized and unsupervised exorcism attempted by this young man.”
Pummeling with a Bible is Still Pummeling, no Matter What You’re Chanting
Karla Kuhl of El Sobrante, California, was arrested for the June 5, 2012, murder of her romantic rival Patricia Medeiros, 58, after Medeiros was found dead from suffocation and blunt force trauma. Kulh told police that she was performing an exorcism on Medeiros, and according to Contra Costa County prosecutor Harold Jewett, used a pillow, possibly, to smother the victim, and then beat her with a book, possibly a bible, and “She was chanting Biblical passages at the time of the attack.” He added, “I’m not prepared to speculate on exactly what her motivations were for doing what she did. … I know what she said, and what she said included performing an exorcism.” Kuhl was held on $1 million bail in the West County Detention Facility in Richmond.
An Indianapolis woman was arrested and sent for a psych evaluation after she allegedly drowned and gutted the family dog to release an evil spirit named Pedro who was haunting her. According to police her terrified children ran to their uncle’s house and told him what she had done, saying she then performed and exorcism on the dog’s remains before wrapping them up in a plastic bag and placing them outside in a dumpster. The uncle called police, who went to the woman’s home and took her into custody. The woman, apparently a diagnosed schizophrenic, and had gone off her meds.
And you Know What they say About Good Intentions…
In this last horrifying story an entire family in Malasia was performing an exorcism on a child, 3, in August 2012, when police received a call from a concerned family member. When they arrived they found a blanket over eight chanting people, on top of the child, who was face down at the bottom of the pile, and did not survive. All eight, the child’s parents, grandmother, uncle, aunt, two cousins and the Indonesian maid, were arrested. None of the reports explain why anyone thought that crushing her could possibly be of benefit.