The exorcism of Anna Ecklund: America’s most terrifying story of demonic possession from the 1920s

In the late 1920s, the news of intense sessions of exorcism performed on a heavily demon-possessed housewife had spread like fire in the United States.

The exorcism of Anna Ecklund: America's most terrifying story of demonic possession from the 1920s 1
An illustration of exorcism performed on a demon-possessed person © The Exorcism

During the exorcism, the possessed woman hissed like a cat and howled “like a pack of wild beasts, suddenly letting loose.” She floated in the air and landed above the door frame. The responsible priest experienced physical attacks that left him “trembling like a fluttering leaf in a whirlwind.” When holy water touched her skin, it burnt off. Her face twisted, her eyes and lips swelled to huge proportions, and her stomach became hard. She vomited twenty to thirty times a day. She started speaking and understanding Latin, Hebrew, Italian and Polish languages. But, what really happened that led to these events?

Anna Ecklund: The demon-possessed woman

Anna Ecklund, whose real name might have been Emma Schmidt, was born on March 23rd, 1882. Between August and December in 1928, intense sessions of exorcism were performed on her demon-possessed body.

Anna grew up in Marathon, Wisconsin and her parents were German immigrants. Ecklund’s father, Jacob, had a reputation as an alcoholic and a womanizer. He was also against the Catholic Church. But, because Ecklund’s mother was Catholic, Ecklund grew up in the church.

The demonic attacks

At the age of fourteen, Anna started displaying weird behaviours. She got very ill every time she went into a church. She participated in intense sexual acts. She also developed an evil mindset towards priests and vomited after taking communion.

Anna became very violent when confronted with sacred and holy objects. Thus, Ecklund stopped attending church. She fell into a deep depression and became a loner. It’s believed that Anna’s aunt, Mina, was the source of her attacks. Mina was known as a witch and also had an affair with Anna’s father.

The first exorcism of Anna Ecklund

Father Theophilus Riesiner became America’s foremost exorcist, with a 1936 Time article labeling him a “potent and mystic exorcist of demons”.
Father Theophilus Riesiner became America’s foremost exorcist, with a 1936 Time article labeling him a “potent and mystic exorcist of demons”. © Image Courtesy: The Occult Museum

The Ecklund family sought help from the local church. There, Anna was put under the care of Father Theophilus Riesinger, an expert in exorcism. Father Riesinger noticed how Anna reacted violently to religious objects, holy water, prayers and rites in Latin.

To confirm if Anna was not faking the attacks, Father Riesinger sprayed her with fake holy water. Anna didn’t react. On June 18th, 1912, when Anna was thirty years old, Father Riesinger performed an exorcism on her. She returned to her normal self and was free from demonic possessions.

Later, three sessions of exorcism were performed on Anna Ecklund

Over the next years, Anna claimed she was tormented by her dead father and aunt’s spirits. In 1928, Anna sought the help of Father Riesinger again. But this time, Father Riesinger wanted to perform the exorcism in secrecy.

So, Father Riesinger sought the help of a St Joseph’s Parish priest, Father Joseph Steiger. Father Steiger agreed to perform the exorcism at his parish, St Joseph’s Parish, in Earling, Iowa, which was more private and secluded.

On August 17th, 1928, Anna was taken to the parish. The first session of the exorcism began the next day. At the exorcism, there was Father Riesinger and Father Steiger, a couple of nuns and a housekeeper.

During the exorcism, Anna dislodged herself from the bed, floated in the air and landed high above the room’s door. Anna also began howling very loudly like a wild beast.

Throughout the three sessions of the exorcism, Anna Ecklund defecated and vomited massively, screamed, hissed like a cat, and suffered physical distortions. Her skin sizzled and burnt when holy water touched it. When Father Riesinger demanded to know who was possessing her, he was told, “many.” The demon claimed to be Beelzebub, Judas Iscariot, Anna’s father, and Anna’s aunt, Mina.

Iscariot was there to lead Anna to commit suicide. Anna’s father sought revenge because Anna had refused a sexual relationship with him when he was alive. And, Mina claimed she had placed a curse on Anna with the help of Anna’s father.

During the exorcism, Father Steiger claimed the demon threatened him to withdraw permission for the exorcism. A few days after the claim, Father Steiger crashed his car into the railing of the bridge. But, he managed to get out of the car alive.

Anna Eclund’s freedom and later life

The last session of the exorcism lasted until December 23rd. In the end, Anna said, “Beelzebub, Judas, Jacob, Mina, Hell! Hell! Hell!. Praised be Jesus Christ.” And then the demons freed her.

Anna Ecklund recalled having visions of horrible battles between spirits during the exorcism. After the three sessions, she was very weak and heavily malnourished. Anna went on to lead a quiet life. She later died at the age of fifty-nine on July 23rd, 1941.

Final words

From the beginning of her life, Anna Ecklund saw only the worst faces around her, the final phase of which ended with the last three sessions of the exorcism performed on her. Don’t know actually what happened to her, maybe she was psychologically ill or maybe she was really possessed by evil demons. Whatever it was, if we see her life very closely, we can understand that it was the time when Anna’s life reached a climax to normalize everything in her life. She spent the last years of her life happily like other ordinary people which was really needed, and this is the best part of her life story.