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Far from being confined to the darker ages of history, accounts of demonic possession and exorcism are still recorded in the modern day. Yet, they are not entirely what you might expect. Whilst religious figures no doubt take the lead in the performance of an exorcism, medical professions like physicians and psychiatrists have a role to play as well. One figure who is more than experienced in this field is Dr. Richard Gallagher, an Ivy League-educated, board-certified psychiatrist.
A self-described “consultant” on demonic possessions 1, Gallagher has spent the past three decades helping members of the clergy distinguish between mental illness and true cases of demonic possession. Yes, Dr. Gallagher, a man of science, ardently believes that humans can indeed be possessed by demonic forces. Although rare, he states that there are confirmed cases of what he describes as “the real thing”. 2
It was in the late 1980s that Gallagher became involved in one such case.
Although never afraid of what he experienced, the case certainly left an impression on Gallagher. It was, after all, one of his first cases. When discussing it in a series of articles in 2016 and 2017, he described what he witnessed as not only “creepy”3, but beyond anything that he could explain with his scientific training. 4
His patient was a middle-aged woman who described herself as Satan’s “queen”. A member of an underground organisation, she was wearing “flowing dark clothes and black eye shadow around to her temples” when Gallagher first met her. She was, she herself claimed, under attack by a demon. 5
Despite willingly aligning herself with demonic forces as the self-style “queen” of the King of Hell, the lady – whom Gallagher refers to as “Julia” – wanted to be free of the devil.
“She was conflicted,” Gallagher explained in an interview. “There was a part of her that wanted to be relieved of the possession.” 6
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In order to help the lady, Gallagher assisted the priest in assembling a team for an exorcism. One June evening, he and a small group of nuns and priests met Julia in the chapel of a house. Despite it being warm outside, a chill is said to have gripped the room. 7
Over the course of the evening, Julia demonstrated knowledge of personal details relating to Gallagher’s life. She revealed the “secret weaknesses” of those present in the room. She even knew how individuals she’d never known had died, including the doctor’s mother. 8
Even more disturbing was how Julia spoke in multiple languages, including Latin, during her exorcisms. Outside of her trances, these different languages were completely unfamiliar to her. 9 Knowledge of multiple languages is a trait of demonic interference, Gallagher has claimed. From his experiences, he believes that demons are “extremely bright” – more so than humans – with them having the ability to “speak all languages”. 10
Talking of Julia’s abilities, the psychiatrist has expressed certainty that “this was not psychosis”. It was, he has stated, a clear sign that she was possessed by at least one demon. 11
In addition to possessing hidden knowledge, Julia also appeared to be the epicentre of a demonic form of physical energy. Throughout the sessions, objects flew off the shelves around her. When holy water was sprinkled on her, she screamed in pain.
Ultimately, despite the best efforts of Gallagher and the rest of the team, Julia’s story did not have a happy ending. One day she called a halt to the sessions. Her willingness to reject the devil was, it seems, gone. She instead chose to embrace the darkness.
The last contact Gallagher had with Satan’s “queen” was about one year later. She told him that she was chronically ill. When he offered to help her again she rebuffed him.
The psychiatrist says he never heard from her again. The demonic entity, it seems, had won. 12
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