By Stephen Wagner, About.com
This is not a scene from a Hollywood production. This is a partial description of an actual exorcism that took place in a Russian parish on May 1, 2004.
- You can hear an actual recorded excerpt from this exorcism here (Windows MediaPlayer required). (WARNING: Do not listen if you are easily upset or disturbed by such things. Although there is no foul language, in English anyway, the sounds may be disturbing to some.)
This recording was made by Eugene Safronov, who is an assistant to one of the exorcists in the Russian Orthodox Church. Although he did not assist in this particular case, he was a witness, and has assisted another priest in many other instances.
Exorcisms on the Rise
The ideas of demonic possession and exorcism seem archaic and a peculiar anachronism in the high-tech, scientifically enlightened world of the 21st century. Most rational people regard the notion of demons as superstition. People who in the Middle Ages were thought to be possessed by demons and other evil spirits are now usually considered to be suffering from such brain disorders as Tourette Syndrome, schizophrenia, epilepsy or any number of psychiatric problems. At best, they are people with overactive imaginations under the negative influence of the occult and related media.
Yet the battle between the possessed and the exorcists continues today, with a growing number of people believing that it is all too real:
- In February, 2005, about 100 Catholic priests signed up for a Vatican-sanctioned course on exorcism. According to the LA Times, “In Italy, the number of official exorcists has soared during the last 20 years to between 300 and 400, church officials say. But they aren't enough to handle the avalanche of requests for help from hundreds of tormented people who believe they are possessed. In the United States, the shortage is even more acute.”
- In January, 2005, psychiatrist M. Scott Peck published a book, Glimpses of the Devil: A True Story of Evil, Possession, Exorcism and Redemption, which he says is an account of some of his patients that he believes were possessed by the demonic. Although most of his colleagues say that “possession” is just mental illness, Peck told The Dallas Morning News in an interview, “Possession is a mental illness, with a demonic involvement.”
- Even the book and subsequent movie, The Exorcist, was loosely based on a real exorcism that took place in St. Louis in 1949. The last priest involved in the case, Rev. Walter H. Halloran, died on March 1, 2005. Although the book and film took liberties with the actual events of the case, Halloran said he observed streaks and arrows and words like “hell” that would rise on the child’s skin.