Exorcisms are practices of religion or spirituality aimed at expelling demons or spirits that have possessed a person's body. These spirits are commonly believed to be malevolent and assumed to control the person, causing them to appear angry, violent, and disturbed. Typically, exorcisms include rituals and prayers and were once used to treat individuals who are now considered mentally ill. Emma Schmid, for example, was born on March 23, 1882, in Wisconsin to parents who had migrated from Germany to the United States before her birth. She was raised in a highly religious household and was considered a devout Catholic. After her mother's death in 1890, Emma frequently visited the church multiple times a day on her own. Her abusive, alcoholic father raised her.
Emma, who was born and raised in Marathon, Wisconsin, reportedly began working at a factory during her teenage years. Early on in her life, she was diagnosed with female hysteria, which was treated by doctors. According to some reports, Emma even underwent surgery, possibly a hysterectomy, at the age of 14. Emma began exhibiting unusual behaviors, including violent thoughts about harming priests in her local church, hearing demonic voices in her head, and struggling to receive communion. Emma's disturbed thoughts were just the beginning, as she soon began to avoid holy objects and could not enter any holy establishment. She also reportedly lost control over her sexual urges and engaged in unspeakable sexual acts. In June of 1912, at the age of 30, Emma participated in her first exorcism. Father Theopolis Reisinger, a Roman Catholic priest who emigrated from Bavaria, Germany, performed the exorcism. Father Reisinger was a capuchin friar at the community of Saint Anthony's in Marathon at the time. After the exorcism, his profile skyrocketed, and he went on to perform 19 more exorcisms by the time he and Emma met again in the 1920s.
Emma's successful 1912 exorcism was short-lived. She suffered from demonic possession for several years. In 1928, Father Risinger was contacted again and given permission to perform another exorcism on her. A friend offered his convent owned by the Franciscan Sisters of Erling, Iowa as the ideal location. The secluded convent in a small town offered privacy and anonymity for Emma. Additionally, a nearby railway line made it convenient for the 46-year-old to travel there. Emma and the priest had a place to stay during the process. It was hoped that the faraway location would weaken the demonic forces and make the exorcism easier, but Father Risinger soon learned that this was not the case.
Emma underwent a three-stage exorcism in 1928. The first stage, occurring from August 18th to August 23rd, was marked by her exhibiting several symptoms of demonic possession. She would fly into fits of rage upon discovering that her food had been sprinkled with holy water and would often hiss like a cat. Emma reportedly clung to the door frame and levitated during this time. Two further sessions were held in September and December, both of which were noted to be violent and exhausting, with Emma being bound to the iron bed frame by nuns before each practice. Despite these precautions, she managed to break free of her restraints at one point and cling to the wall opposite her bed, and in another instance, she was hurled across the room. Emma howled and made animal-like noises, spoke in different voices and languages, and dipped in and out of consciousness during each exorcism. The process was so grueling that the attending nuns rotated their attendance to recover, while Father Reisinger was the only one there every day and was noted to have aged years by the end of the exorcism. Reverend Steiger, who had provided the convent for Father Reisinger's use, began to have doubts and suggested moving the exorcism elsewhere, leading to a disagreement between the two.
Risinger, the father of Emma's friends, claimed that the devil was trying to create a rift between the two men. During an argument, Emma acted as a mouthpiece for the demons and said, "Just wait until the end of the week when Friday comes." On Friday, Reverend Steiger got into a car accident but fortunately only suffered minor injuries. The exorcism process was exhausting for everyone involved, and Emma's appearance started to deteriorate. Her face and body changed and became disfigured, with her head and lips swelling. She refused to eat food and survived on a small amount of milk and water, frequently vomiting bile and tobacco leaves. It was believed that Emma was possessed by multiple demons, including Bilderberg and Judas Iscariot. Judas claimed that he was there to push Emma into committing suicide. Emma's father Jacob and her aunt Mina were also influencing her. Mina was a known local witch, and Jacob was allegedly her lover during the exorcism. On several occasions, Emma spoke in a high falsetto voice, indicating that it was Mina speaking. It was believed that Jacob and Mina had cursed Emma because she rejected Jacob's incestuous advances during her teenage years.
Emma suffered from demonic possession after her parents died, leading to years of torment. Her final exorcism on December 23, 1928, was successful, and she exhibited manageable possessions afterward. Emma's identity was kept secret, but her story was documented extensively by Reverend Vogel and became the inspiration for the film The Exorcism of Anna Auckland. Some doubt the validity of Emma's story, but it has been documented by the convent, leading many to believe it is a true account of exorcism. Emma lived a normal life after her exorcism, never marrying or having children, and passed away in 1946, buried next to her father.