Demons In Iowa: The Possession That Inspired ‘The Exorcist’
Her story ended up influencing one of the most famous exorcisms in pop culture.
Anna Ecklund, the child of German immigrants, was born in March of 1882 and grew up in Marathon, Wisconsin. Ecklund was raised Catholic by her mother, but that all changed when she turned 14.
The young teen started to act strangely; she heard demonic voices, revulsion to holy objects, hissing like a cat. She underwent two separate exorcisms over the next few decades.
Ecklund's family sought guidance from members of their local church, and that's how Father Theophilus Riesinger entered the picture. This priest performed the exorcism rights on her in 1912.
According to church writings, "These voices tried their utmost to arouse thoughts of the most shameful type within her, and tried to induce her to do things unmentionable and even to bring her to despair. The poor creature was helpless and secretly was of the opinion that she would become insane."
All seemed well until sixteen years later when she began to act up again. Father Joseph Steiger was the holy man who assisted the woman this time. He took her up to his parish and the convent in Earling.
In August of 1928, Ecklund's first of three exorcism sessions took place. These sessions would conclude in December of that year.
The exorcism in 1928 took place at the Convent of the Franciscan Sisters, just north of Earling, according to Papal records. Also, it was one of the last ones that were officially sanctioned by the Catholic church.
During the course of these sessions, the priest claimed that there were four different sprits possessing her; Judas Iscariot, Beelzebub, her Aunt Mina, and her very own father.
Ecklund's father abused the young woman and tried to initiate a sexual relationship with her before he died. Also, he and the girl's Aunt Mina had an affair. Some reports claim that Mina was a witch and a child murderer.
The girl also levitated according to witnesses, spoke multiple languages that she had no training in, and vomited profusely during the sessions. Her exorcism took place over 23 days, which is longer than normal.
Many reports say she went back to normal after the final session, but others claim that the cleansing sessions resumed in 1929.
Another movie was made in 2016 based off of the events. Produced in the United Kingdom, this retelling uses the moniker for the young woman that Catholic writings used to document the possession.
There were multiple different pseudynms used for this woman, but many reports claim the girl's real name was Emma Schmidt. This incident as well as the exorcism of Roland Doe went on to inspire the beloved horror movie. The elements taken from the Schmidt accounts include levitation, and projectile vomiting.
Most of everything that experts officially know came from a pamphlet called Begone, Satan! A Soul-stirring Account of Diabolical Possession in Iowa by Father Carl Vogl. Another piece of literature recounting the incident includes a pamphlet called The Earling Possession Case: An Exposition of the Exorcism of ‘Mary’ a Demoniac and Certain Marvelous Revelations Foretelling the Near Advent of Antichrist and the Coming Persecution of the Church in the Years 1952–1955.
Schmidt went on to lead a quiet life and passed away at the age of 55.