Exorcism: A tale as old as time
Most people may not know what it’s actually like to be an exorcist. Exorcism came to everyone’s attention with the release of the 1973 film The Exorcist, which was based on the book The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. The author drew from the real-life exorcism of Roland Doe (more details to follow). But exorcism has been part of virtually every religion throughout recorded history. Ancient Babylonian priests performed exorcisms via a voodoo-like rite. Ancient Persians were saved from demonic possession via holy water, and the Bible recounts many times when Jesus Christ cast out demons from people believed to be possessed.
1778: The exorcism of George Lukins
In 1778, English tailor George Lukins was behaving oddly—speaking in strange voices, making inhuman noises, and singing hymns backward. In a ceremony held in Bristol’s Temple Church, seven priests commanded the demons who’d apparently taken over Lukins’ soul to leave, once and for all. When the ceremony was over, Lukins recited the Lord’s Prayer and thanked the priests. This was one of the few recorded exorcisms with a happy ending.
1842: Gottliebin Dittus
In 1842, German villagers noticed strange goings-on at the home of a 28-year-old woman named Gottleibin Dittus. Dittus claimed her house was haunted and soon began slipping in and out of what others described as “trance-like” states, but it was only when a religious pastor commenced an exorcism that things went truly nuts: Dittus became violent, requiring physical restraints. For two torturous years during which the pastor performed various exorcism rights, Dittus vomited glass, nails—and blood, of course. Finally, Dittus informed everyone the demons were gone and stated that “Jesus is victor.”