Though the classic horror film ‘The Exorcist’ popularised the phenomenon known as demonic possession, individual cases are still incredibly rare, and exorcisms - the ritual of casting out demons - are rarer still. Most cases of so-called possession are now treated from a psychiatric standpoint, though occasionally a patient’s family will try any avenue of treatment once the symptoms become severe enough. This is what happened to twenty-year-old Anneliese Michel in 1975.
Anneliese (Anna) Michel was a devoutly Catholic woman who lived a quiet life alongside her parents and three siblings in Bavaria, West Germany. Though the entire family was deeply religious, Anna was almost fanatically obsessed with 'being pleasing to the Lord’, and attended Mass many times a week. Friends from school remembered her as a lovely, shy girl who frequently prayed and knelt on the floor while she did her schoolwork.
When she was sixteen Anna suffered a seizure and was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy. Around this same time she became very depressed and withdrawn, and complained about seeing 'devil faces’ in the walls around her. Anna’s parents committed her to several institutions and took her to counselling, but by 1973, at the age of twenty, Anna stopped responding to treatment and became convinced there was a demon inside her head. Her parents attempted to have her healed, but their daughter apparently became incredibly violent when a priest tried to touch her head with a crucifix, and screamed when holy water was sprinkled near her. Initially the priests Michel’s family contacted refused to conduct an exorcism, but when Anna began drinking her own urine and speaking an unknown language in a voice far different from her own, the family bishop agreed to contact the Vatican and permission to perform an exorcism was granted.
On 24 September 1975, a Catholic priest named Arnold Renz began the exorcism of Anneliese Michel in her family home. Although she was twenty-two-years old, Anna was tied to her bed using yards of rope and denied food and water during the gruelling exorcisms, some of which lasted over eight hours. She was forced to genuflect for hours at a time, and Renz administered anti-psychotic medicine during the rites despite having no qualifications or medical authorisation. For over ten months Anna was systematically starved and forced to pray by Renz and both of her parents until she weighed just 30 kilograms.
On July 1, 1976, Anneliese Michel died at her home after a particularly long exorcism session. The medical team who attended her determined she died from persistent malnutrition and dehydration, and also stated that Anna hadn’t been seen by a doctor for at least three months before she died. Both of Anna’s knees were broken from endless praying, and an autopsy revealed she was suffering from pneumonia as well as kidney failure and gum disease. When the local police heard of her death while under the care of her parents and at least one priest, they built a case against them and eventually charged the Michel’s with negligent homicide. The Catholic priest who performed most of the exorcisms was also charged with negligent homicide.
During the trial in 1978 a score of doctors testified that Anneliese Michel was not possessed, but rather mentally ill. It was discovered that no medical doctor was aware of Anneliese’s previous health record for epilepsy, and no doctor was seeing her regularly during the last round of exorcisms. Both of Anneliese’s parents and the priest Arnold Renz were found guilty of manslaughter as a result of negligence and jailed for six months. The Catholic Church drew intense criticism in the aftermath of Michel’s death, and had to change its requirements for conducting exorcisms.
In March 2001, Armin Meiwes (right), posted an advertisement to the online blog, The Cannibal Cafe, with the intention of finding a “well-built 18 to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and consumed”. Meiwes claimed many people responded to the advertisement but backed out shortly after - one person who didn’t back out though, was Bernd Brandes.
A videotape made by the pair reveals the sequence of events leading up to Brandes’ demise:
Meiwes first uses a knife to remove Brandes’ penis, originally attempting to bite the penis off (as suggested by Brandes himself). Brandes then attempts to eat some of his own served penis, only to find it too ‘chewy’. Meiwes proceeds to fry the penis remains in a pan, along with some other ingredients, where he then feeds the ‘dish’ to his dog. Meiwes then begins to run a bath for Brandes - checking on him every 15 minutes. Brandes, suffering major blood loss, attempts to exit the bath only to collapse. Meiwes then proceeds to drag Brandes’ body upstairs where he makes the final decision to kill him - stabbing him in the throat. Meiwes then hangs Brandes’ body on a meat hook, consuming 20 kilograms of the corpse over the next 10 months.
Meiwes was later arrested in December 2002, when a college student contacted police after seeing new advertisements for victims and details about Brandes’ killing on the Internet. Whilst searching Meiwes’ home, investigators uncovered body parts and the 4 hour videotape. In January 2004, Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 8 years in prison, only to have a retrial on May 10th 2006, which found him guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Whilst in prison, Meiwes has admitted regret for his actions and aims to write a book in order to deter those following in his footsteps. Meiwes hasalso assisted in the analysis of two suspected cannibal murders from 1998 and 2000. It is also stated he has since become Vegetarian.
Before dawn on July 22, 1951, a fire erupted at the College Court Apartment house in San Francisco, California, leaving 26 injured and eight dead. The fire was quickly determined to be of “incendiary origin,” based on “the point of origin; the rapidity with which the fire burned; the damage done to the surrounding partitions; the separation of the
two points of origin on opposite sides of heavy partitions; and
several holes burned in the first floor which indicates some volatile
substance was sprayed on the floor.” Over the course of a four-day investigation, 18 people were questioned, including 17-year-old Kenneth Skinner, who delivered newspapers to the apartment building around 3:30 a.m. that morning. It was during a follow-up interview he confessed to accidentally starting the fire. After delivering newspapers to each individual apartment, he returned to the lobby and noticed a doorway concealed by curtains next to the stairway. He peeked inside to see if there was anything valuable to steal, and while he was standing between the drapes, he lit a cigarette, causing a “poof” that set them alight. The boy became frightened and fled the building, then finished his paper route.
Skinner was pressed further in an interview on July 30, and he admitted the fire was set deliberately. While rummaging through the storeroom, he knocked over two quart jars that he could tell was paint thinner. It was then he “got a crazy idea” that “filled” him “with vandalism.” He recounted the story as follows: “I looked at that stuff on the floor and I wondered what type of fire it would make. So I leaned down and cupped my hands and threw some on the drapes. Then I lit the drapes with my lighter and left when the fire started going.”
Skinner was convicted on eight counts of manslaughter and sentenced to ten years in prison.
Donald McFarland and Bob Neal ended their tiring weekend at a friend’s apartment watching television. Around 9:30 p.m. that March 11th, 1956 night, McFarland had left his car unlocked on the street, due to a broken lock mechanism, in the neighborhood of Bell Gardens, California to carpool with Neal to their friend’s home, believing it was safe in the residential area. Neal dropped him back off at his vehicle about half past one in the morning, then waved goodbye before driving off. As McFarland stepped inside his car, a young girl appeared slumped over in the passenger seat. He began yelling at her to wake up and questioning how she got in his truck, but she didn’t move. Further attempts to wake her, including taking her chin in his hand and shaking her by the shoulders, also failed. He ran the couple blocks to a nearby tavern and exclaimed that he needed to use the phone because there was a sick girl in his car. McFarland promptly informed the authorities, and once they arrived at the tavern, he lead them to his car. As the police waited for the ambulance to arrive, they checked her pulse only to discover she didn’t have one.
The victim was identified as Margena Joyce Brunner, a 17-year-old student at the local high school, who lived a block away from where she was found. Her body was fully clothed, but she was missing a shoe on her left foot, and there were no signs of a struggle inside the car, indicating to police she could have been killed elsewhere. The coroner reported she had been raped, at least once, and she died of asphyxiation resulting from a broken neck. He further reported the girl’s neck was snapped back with a force so great that six vertebrae had been jammed upward, causing a brain hemorrhage, and it was his belief she lay there paralyzed for several minutes before she finally died.
After clearing McFarland and Neal, whose whereabouts were accounted for by their friend at the time of the murder, investigators began retracing Brunner’s steps throughout the evening. Her mother and stepfather were the first to be interviewed, and they said Joyce and her friend Jeannine had left around one in the afternoon with plans to see a show in Los Angeles, but they were going to pick up another friend named Hilda first. She lived just down the road, and it was coincidentally her house that McFarland’s car was parked in front of. Hilda further verified his alibi, mentioning how the car was parked there all night, then informed detectives all three of them headed from her house to a dance party at their friend Pat’s home, where they stayed the entire evening instead of going to LA because it got too late to catch the show. Officers asked for a list of people at the party, and Pat was able to provide the names of everyone there, except two men, whom no one could identify, besides that one had a blue star tattooed on his wrist. When everyone started leaving around 5:30 p.m., Joyce offered to stay and help clean up. After they were done, she told Pat she was going straight home.
A further canvas of the immediate area near her home produced a promising lead when four patrons of a small restaurant each reported seeing her inside shortly after 5:30 p.m. eating a hamburger. Detectives questioned the manager, and he said she was alone until these two guys invited themselves into her booth. He caught one of them trying to force her to drink a beer, and when he pointed out she was clearly underage, he threw a punch at him. The manager kicked them out, and they left without incident. He was sure the girl didn’t go with them, but he recalled she left soon after. Their names were Orville Townsend (right) and Leon Woolery, both 23, a pair with a reputation of frequenting the bars in the area. The manager described Townsend as a hulking, black-haired man with a tattoo of a blue star on his wrist. Immediately making the connection to the men at Pat’s party, they arrested Townsend at his place of employment, and Woolery surrendered himself shortly after.
Townsend immediately offered a confession and Woolery also admitted to his participation in the crime with their stories being nearly identical. They first saw Joyce at Pat’s party, then spotted her again inside the restaurant, where they asked if she wanted a ride home. Townsend claimed she accepted the ride,
and she willingly got intp Woolery’s truck after they waited for her outside, despite those closest to her saying she never would hitch a ride with a stranger. Instead of bringing her home, they drove across the county, stopping along the way at local taverns. Woolery went inside, while Townsend remained in the car with Joyce and made advances towards her, which she furiously resisted. She tried to escape, but each time she would be pulled back and held down by Townsend, and he would then force her to drink whiskey. This continued around four hours until Woolery stopped at a club in Artesia, once again leaving Townsend alone with her in the car. Joyce fought him off again, and he then admitted: “I just lost my temper, I guess, and I
strangled her. I
threw my arm around her neck and
squeezed. Then she went limp and
passed out. I thought she was just unconscious.” Townsend raped her twice before Woolery came back to the car. He noticed the girl slumped over, and he pushed her to the side, so he had room to drive. Woolery drove to his trailer, where he told Townsend he was going to sleep and tossed him the keys. Townsend then drove back to Bell Gardens and found a random, unlocked vehicle to dump her in. When detectives asked why he took the body back to that particular area, he responded, “I knew she lived around there someplace and I thought
that was the least I could do for her.”
Reports indicate the charges against Woolery were dismissed, while Townsend was convicted of manslaughter, which carried a sentence of one to ten years.
While Chante Mallard’s crime was not pre-meditated or planned, it was a particularly cruel case. Mallard was driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs when she struck Gregory Glen Biggs with her car. The force of the impact sent Biggs crashing through her windshield where he became lodged. While this would be enough for most people to stop and seek assistance, this is not what Mallard chose to do. Instead Mallard continued to drive, with Biggs hanging out of her windshield, and went home. She parked her car in her garage and left Biggs trapped and injured, without calling for police or an ambulance.
Biggs died as a result of his injuries an unknown number of hours later, still trapped within the windshield of Mallard’s car, locked in her garage. When Biggs passed away Mallard called a male friend for help, and together with another male acquaintance removed Bigg’s body from her shattered windshield and dumped him in a park. Biggs would then go on to set fire to a part of her car in order to hide the evidence of the impact.
The most tragic aspect of the case is, that had Mallard sought medical attention for Biggs when the accident took place, all experts during the trial agreed that he would have survived his injuries.
Pictured above is the crime scene where 25 year old Carolyn Marie Sinclair was found after she was murdered by serial killer Shawn Lamb. Lamb was a drug addict and a career criminal who is thought to be responsible for the murders of three women, although the remains of one of the victims is yet to be found.
Sinclair was beaten with an axe handle after the pair returned to his apartment to smoke crack cocaine. Lamb explained that Sinclair had taken most of the drugs and locked herself in the bathroom, this resulted in the beating, although as she appeared to be conscious Lamb went on to choke her until she lost consciousness and subsequently died.
Lamb plead guilty to two counts of manslaughter and the majority of the evidence that police had against him consisted of statements that Lamb himself had made, including informing police where they could find Sinclair’s body. Lamb was given a 20 years sentence for the murders, with at least 10 to be served in prison.
The Cannibal House — This is the house of Armin Meiwes, a notorious German cannibal. In 2001 at the age of 39, Meiwes searched for a volunteer to be “slaughtered and consumed” on a website called The Cannibal Café. Bernd Brandes, a 43-year-old from Berlin, responded to the advertisement. The two met on March 9th, 2001, in Meiwes’ house in a small farming village near Rotenburg, Germany. After Brandes consumed sleeping pills and alcohol, Meiwes amputated Brandes’ penis with a knife. They attempted to eat the penis which was fried with spices and wine; however, this plan failed as it was too burned. Just after, Meiwes poured Brandes a bath (in the bathtub featured above), where he lay bleeding for three hours. Eventually, Brandes was dragged upstairs to the slaughter room where he was killed after Meiwes slit his throat. The body was hung on meat hooks and was later hacked into pieces. This entire gruesome ordeal was filmed on a two-hour long videotape.
Over the next 10 months, Meiwes consumed approximately 20 kgs (44 lbs) of Brandes’ flesh and stored body parts in his freezer. Eventually, Meiwes longed for another victim, and placed more advertisements on the internet. In December 2002, police arrested Meiwes in his home after receiving a phone call from a man who was concerned by the new ads. Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter in January 2004, and was sentenced to eight years in prison, as it was ruled that Brandes was a voluntary participant in the killing. In May 2006, this sentence was revised to life imprisonment for murder due to a retrial. Meiwes conducted several interviews in prison, and has stated that he believes there to be approximately 800 cannibals in Germany. He has since become a vegetarian and is reportedly feeling sorry for his crimes.
On May 18, 2005, a battalion of the Chilean Army left on a routine training mission that required to march for 13 miles along the side of the Antuco volcano. It was a group of conscripts, most of them not over 18 years old, who had only started their military service less than two months ago.
Despite signs of bad weather coming, the commanding officer insisted in keeping the hike as scheduled. It proved to be a fatal mistake. Shortly into the walk, the group encountered a whiteout, a snow storm so bad that they started to show signs of hypothermia early on.
In the end, 45 of them died. Most of the ones who survived were left with permanent sequelae. It took a long time to find all the bodied buried under the thick snow: the last conscript was only discovered on July 6, almost two months later. It’s considered the worst tragedy in the chilean army in times of peace.
Five higher ups in the army were tried and found guilty of charges that went from manslaughter to negligence. None of them did more than 4 years behind bars. The state also compensated some of the survivors with 15,000 US dollars each, a ridiculous sum considering they had a lot of trouble leading normal lives after that.