[Controversial] When Exorcists Need Help, They Call Dr. Richard Gallagher

Dr Richard Gallagher is a renowned academic psychiatrist who currently teaches at both Colombia University and New York Medical College. He ...

Dr Richard Gallagher is a renowned academic psychiatrist who currently teaches at both Colombia University and New York Medical College. He also happens to be one of the world’s leading authorities when it comes to exorcism of those who claim to be possessed by demonic entities, and he is not the only scientific mind currently grappling with this ancient and mysterious phenomenon.


Dr Gallagher first came across accounts of demonic possession when he was a young medical student at Yale University. He says that at the time he believed that demonic possession in the Biblical scriptures were nothing more than ancient people struggling to explain frightening medical disorders such as epilepsy. However, his mind was changed as he began to practice as a psychiatrist and he is now convinced that demonic possession is real.

He claims that he has seen the evidence for the truth of demonic possession in numerous encounters over a twenty five year career. He says that some of the victims have begun speaking in perfect Latin, that they have caused objects to fly around the room, that they are privy to deeply personal information about others that they could not have possibly known and that they are sometimes capable of extraordinary acts of strength. "There was one woman who was like 90 pounds soaking wet. She threw a Lutheran deacon who was about 200 pounds across the room, "Dr Gallagher explains, "That's not psychiatry. That's beyond psychiatry."


Dr Gallagher says that these cases where there is genuine demonic possession are few and far between and that the majority of cases that he has attended have simply involved serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. He claims that he spends a lot more of his time convincing people that they are not possessed as opposed to assisting with the expulsion of demonic forces.

Dr Gallagher is not the only scientific mind which has turned its attention to exorcism and demonic possession in recent years. Dr Jeffrey Lieberman, another psychiatrist who specialises in schizophrenia, has also come to believe in demonic possession after a disturbing experience with a patient. He said that he and his colleagues had been assigned to treat the woman for her mental illness but that their treatments were not successful. However, after they treated her, he began to notice strange things such as the lights in his home going off without warning and objects moving around. After consulting with his colleague, he found that the same thing was happening to them. This convinced him that the patient’s demonic possession may well be genuine.

However, not everyone in the scientific community is convinced that demonic possession is real. Steven Novella, a neurologist and a professor at Yale School of Medicine, is considered to be one of the leading sceptics of exorcism. He claims to have studied multiple recordings of exorcism and is unconvinced by all of them, believing that most are nothing more than simple hoaxes. He claims that the supposed omnipotence of those under assumed demonic possession is nothing more than simply cold reading, and the knowledge of Latin can be easily learned by someone determined to mimic the symptoms of demonic possession. He also points out that it is remarkable that no one has actually managed to capture on camera the more inexplicable aspects of demonic possession such as levitation and moving objects. "They're boring, "says Novella of the videos he has seen of exorcisms, "Nothing exciting happens. The most you get is some really bad play-acting by the person who is being exorcised."

Perhaps Novella’s incredulity is well placed. Belief in demonic possession has resulted in catastrophic and tragic consequences in the past. In 1976, a young woman named Emily Rose Michel was subjected to a gruelling series of sixty seven exorcisms in the course of a nine month period. She displayed some of the classic signs of demonic possession such as abnormal strength, aversion to sacred objects and speaking in different languages. She died of starvation in the course of her ideal and it was later confirmed that she was actually suffering from epilepsy. Michel’s tragic case highlights the need to be cautious when it comes to claiming that demonic possession is real.

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