ByVaria Fedko-Blake, writer at
Staff Writer at Moviepilot! [email protected] Twitter: @vfedkoblake
Varia Fedko-Blake

For centuries, the idea that an invading, malevolent spirit can infiltrate a person's body has instilled fear in people throughout the world. And to this day, our morbid obsession with this phenomenon – and perhaps most crucially, the topic of exorcism – continues to grow.

Yet, while many may consider the concept to be a relic of the Dark Ages, it's no secret that expulsions of evil spirits from the human body continue to be quietly performed even today. However, how much has the practice changed over time? And is it always linked to religion?

Although the majority of the science community regards the phenomenon of demonic possession as unscientific, there's undoubtedly still a fascinating element of science lurking in the field. Incarnate, which hits cinemas on December 2, suggests that this link between scientific reasoning and demonic possession is closer than we might think. The movie follows the story of an unconventional scientist who enters the subconscious mind of a possessed boy to evict the demon from the inside. Watch the trailer below.

Indeed, the exorcism seen above is far from the conventional ones we are used to witnessing on the big screen. But is it the first time science has been blended with the supernatural? Ahead of the Incarnate release, here are five other creepy demonic possession cures outside of the realm of religion:

1. Trepanation

Trepanning — Max drills his head in "Pi" (1998).
Trepanning — Max drills his head in "Pi" (1998).

One of the most horrific methods of exorcism — going back to prehistoric times — is trepanation. To put it simply, trepanation involved medicine men drilling a hole into the skull of a person deemed to be possessed or behaving irrationally, in order to unleash the spirit within.

The idea behind it was that the extra hole in the skull would alter the volume of blood in the brain, create better circulation and allow for a more balanced equilibrium, all positively affecting the person's consciousness. The overall effect is to let the light in — and to let the demons out.

While thousands of these procedures have been performed, a positive result is yet to be observed.

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2. Violent Intervention

"The Taking of Deborah Logan"/Eagle Films
"The Taking of Deborah Logan"/Eagle Films

The infliction of pain has been commonplace in the field for a very long time, despite the fact the overall goal of the process has always been to save, rather than persecute the victim.

Essentially, by excessively beating the body, exorcists believed they could drive the demon out of the person with brute force. Yet, more often that not, such actions would lead to grave consequences for the possessed, who failed to recover after being repeatedly choked, struck and starved over a period of days. In fact, unintentional death is not uncommon in this method and, as a result, several exorcists occupy prison cells after taking their physical methods too far.

A notable case is that of a priest and four nuns who were all jailed in Romania in 2005 after chaining a young woman, Maricica Irina Cornici, to a cross, gagging, and suffocating her to death to release a demon within. Shockingly, when he was arrested, Father Daniel failed to admit any fault in Cornici's death, saying:

"God has performed a miracle for her, finally Irina is delivered from evil. I don't understand why journalists are making such a fuss about this."

Following her death, it was revealed that Cornici had been suffering from schizophrenia.

3. Physical Binding

"The Devil Inside"/Paramount Pictures
"The Devil Inside"/Paramount Pictures

The most terrifying cases of demonic possession can only be dealt with forcibly, often meaning that the person has to be tied down to prevent them from hurting themselves, or others.

Considering those undergoing an exorcism are unlikely to be consenting individuals, it's necessary to bind the body. Reverend Maness in New Jersey, an exorcist who is reportedly affiliated with the a research department at Princeton University, has revealed how widespread the practice of physical binding is:

"[It is necessary] to restrain people if they get violent or start throwing things. It’s not an illegal restraint of any sort. The family is doing it under spiritual auspices. There is a separation of church and state here in the United States.”

4. The Insertion Of Needles

"Evil Dead"|TriStar Pictures
"Evil Dead"|TriStar Pictures

Another unsettling method used to cure demonic possession outside of religious practices is the insertion of needles into the body. A treatment stemming from East Asia, the procedure employs Tang Dynasty traditional Chinese medicine doctor Sun Simiao's 13 Ghosts Points, which are believed to cure mental illnesses caused by evil spirits within the body.

While in ancient times, the needles were meant to emulate spears driving dark forces away, these days the medicinal practice is said to initiate a healing process by opening the mind, body and soul to allow clarity and lightness to flood in. According to a scholar on the topic:

"It is possible that the use of acupuncture in this situation represents an effort to cause the body's chi to overpower and cast out the demon."

Ultimately, when the needles are inserted, evil influences built up in the body are in turn forced out.

5. The Power Of Suggestion

"The Exorcist"|Fox
"The Exorcist"|Fox

The final nonreligious method of exorcism is perhaps the least intrusive. Instead of violently ejecting a menacing spirit from the body, many exorcists nowadays call on the power of suggestion to encourage the victim to believe they are no longer possessed.

By manipulating the person to conceive that they have been cured, they find they can overcome the internal demons with their own psychological strength — in rare occasions, such is the power of the human spirit and mind.

Incarnate hits theaters on December 2.

Do you believe science can cure demonic possession?

[Sources:, Gospel Mysteries, Academia]


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