The story of the possession of a woman in Earling, Iowa was
originally published in 1935 as a pamphlet entitled Satan Begone. It bears the
Imprimatur of Joseph Busch, Bishop of St. Cloud, Minnesota. The incidents recorded
in the pamphlet were witnessed by hundreds of people in one way or another.
They're based on the eyewitness testimony of Father Joseph Steiger, who assisted
at the exorcism along with several other priests.
In early 1928, Father Theophilus Riesinger requested permission
of Father Steiger to bring a woman he knew into his parish, to stay at the Franciscan
convent while undergoing an exorcism.
The woman in question was a 40 year old parishioner from a
neighboring parish. She was devout and steadfast in her devotion to the Church,
but from the time she was 14 years old, she found herself unable to enter a
church or to pray. She couldn't bear to be in the presence of Holy Water or
anything that had been blessed. She also manifested other signs of possession:
she spoke in languages that she did not know, exhibited supernatural strength,
and caused things to move around her. She had been examined by both medical
and psychiatric doctors, and they had all agreed that there was no sign of hysteria
or nervousness. Eventually, after years of requests, the Church decided to try
Father Theophilus, the Church's chosen exorcist, had many
years of experience and was familiar with demonic possession. At sixty, he was
in excellent health, and was well-regarded in the Church and the community.
Both exorcist and possessed arrived in Earling, the evening before the exorcism.
The demon made himself known immediately. The Sister who prepared dinner for
their guest unwittingly sprinkled it with Holy Water and blessed the meal. When
it was presented to her, the possessed woman flew into a rage and refused to
eat even a mouthful until another plate - this one unblessed - was brought to
The next morning after Mass, the priests gathered in the room
at the convent, along with the strongest of the nuns. The nuns were instructed
to help hold the woman down in case she should attempt to attack the exorcist.
Despite the precaution, the moment Father Theophilus began to pray, the possessed
woman bolted from the bed and literally flew through the air to slam against
the wall by the door. There she clung - fixed to the wall like an obscene insect
of some sort - and had to be pried away from it physically.
Once she was returned to the bed, the exorcism continued.
It was not to be a one day event - in all, it continued for 23 days, every day,
from early morning to late into the night. During those days, says Father Steiger,
the possessed woman was 'made to vomit' sometimes as many as 30 times a day,
foul, disgusting messes that were enough to fill bowls and buckets. This despite
the fact that she was eating almost nothing, and throughout most of the ordeal
was being kept alive intravenous fluids. She spoke in many languages. If she
was addressed in German, she responded in German. She spoke in many voices -
there were many demons inhabiting her and each spoke with its own voice.
The demon also was adept at finding the sins and fears of
those who tried to roust him. Any person in the room might be stunned to hear
the foul voice from the possessed woman denouncing them and naming sins and
deeds that they had committed - some that even they had forgotten till reminded.
Nor were they safe outside the room where the exorcism was. Every one of those
participating in the exorcism was tormented - sometimes physically, sometimes
with sounds and scents and sights that kept them up all night. Father Steiger
himself was nearly killed and his new automobile demolished in an accident that
was predicted by the demon.
On the 23rd day around 9 in the evening, the woman suddenly
bolted from her bed again as she had on the first morning. Father Theophilus
sensed a weakening and called for the attendants to hold her down and keep her
from being hurled against the ceiling. Then he blessed her and intoned, "Depart,
ye fiends of hell. Begone, Satan! The Lion of Juda reigns!"
The moment the words were uttered, the woman collapsed to
the bed and a howling filled the room. The howling became voices repeating the
names of each of the demons as it left the woman's body. When the voices at
last faded away, the woman opened her eyes and was able to speak the name of
Jesus for the first time in over ten years.
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