The exorcist’s assistant: Columbia University psychiatrist and avowed ‘man-of-science’ witnessed hundreds of ‘demonic possessions’ – including a Satanic high priestess who put a hex on his cats and a 90-pound woman throw a Lutheran priest across the room
- Dr. Richard Gallagher is a renowned, board-certified psychiatrist from New York who helps diagnose ‘demonic possession’ for the Catholic Church
- The Yale- educated physician currently sits on the faculty at Columbia University and New York Medical College – and says he’s an avowed ‘man of science’
- As a trained doctor, Gallagher uses modern scientific protocols to determine if a person is possessed and says the criteria for diagnosis is ‘very rigorous’
- Gallagher began consulting on in the 1990s after a preeminent Catholic exorcist asked for his medical opinion on whether a patient was mentally ill or possessed
- He admits that he was ‘skeptical’ at first despite being a devout Catholic himself; later he served as scientific adviser to the International Association of Exorcists
- Signs of demonic possession, he says, can include extraordinary strength and even blocked senses as spirits stop people from hearing or seeing the spiritual
- His most extreme case was a woman named ‘Julia’ – a patient he observed for months who spoke in tongues, put a vex on his pet cats and levitated
- Despite having witnessed ‘hundreds’ of cases of ‘demonic oppression; Gallagher insists that it is still a ‘rarity’ and is most often a mental illness
- His new book, ‘Demonic Foes’ outlines evidence he’s collected in the 30-years he has worked as an exorcist’s consultant
Dr Richard Gallagher, a board certified psychiatrist and avowed ‘man of science’ details his journey from skeptic to believer in a new book, Demonic Foes. As a consulting doctor to the Vatican he says: ‘I think I have seen more cases of possession than any other physician in the world’
‘Exorcist’ is an unlikely job title for an academic physician but for Dr. Richard Gallagher- it was a profession that happened entirely by accident.
The Yale-trained, board-certified psychiatrist from New York who currently sits on the faculty at New York Medical College and Columbia University is a self- avowed ‘man of science.’
He has spent the last forty years of his illustrious medical career racking up credentials as a doctor who specializes in personality disorders and psychopharmacology.
Needless to say, the veteran psychiatrist felt ‘deeply skeptical’ when an unexpected visitor, dressed in head-to-toe clerical garb, showed up at his office in the early 1990s asking for help. The priest wanted Gallagher’s psychiatric opinion about a woman who claimed that she was being attacked by evil spirits.
Despite being a lifelong Catholic himself, Gallagher told the priest that he was incredulous, but he agreed to observe the patient and promised to keep an open mind. To his surprise, the priest responded: ‘If we didn’t think you were skeptical, Dr. Gallagher, we wouldn’t have wanted to use you.’
Thus began Dr Gallagher’s unusual side-career as an expert in evil spirits. Three decades and hundreds of ‘oppressions later’ – the disciplined ‘man of science’ has become the world’s leading consultant on demonic possession for the Catholic Church.
Now Dr Richard Gallagher has put his experiences to word in a new book titled, Demonic Foes: My Twenty-Five Years as a Psychiatrist Investigating Possessions, Diabolic Attacks and the Paranormal.
‘I suppose my major motive in writing the book was just to present the evidence,’ he told DailyMailcom. ‘I don’t try to convince people. You read the evidence and make up your own mind, it’s a free country.’
The book outlines how the doctor went from skeptic, to believer, to expert and illustrates his journey with a handful of compelling cases that he has witnessed over the years, from a ‘Julia’ – a Satanist high priestess who spoke in tongues and levitated during her exorcism. To ‘Stan’ a middle-aged man from the Pacific- Northwest who claimed that he was periodically scratched and occasionally choked by (in his words) ‘some kind of weird, unseen assailants.’
There was also ‘Catherine,’ a housewife from rural West Virginia who went into trance-like states and uttered vile blasphemies anytime something related to religion was mentioned. And ‘Barbara’ – a petite woman, ’90 pounds when soaking wet’ who threw a Lutheran deacon across the room and spoke Latin without any formal higher education or knowledge of a foreign language.
(Note: all names have been changed to conceal patient’s identity).
Dr Richard Gallagher admits that he was ‘deeply skeptical’ when a priest visited him early in his career asking for his psychiatric opinion about a woman who claimed that she was being attacked by evil spirits at night. It eventually turned into an unlikely side-career for Gallagher who has advised faith leaders all over the world in distinguishing whether a person is suffering from a mental illness or true demonic attack
Gallagher says that a well-trained psychiatrists can easily distinguish the difference between a demonic possession from other mental illnesses (like schizophrenia and multiple- personality disorder). The criteria for an official diagnosis is very strict and priests must have ‘moral certainty’ in order to perform an exorcism. ‘The Roman Ritual, which is the official manual, advises that exorcists consult with a physician’
Richard Gallagher, 70, was one of five children born to an Irish-American family in the suburbs of New York City. ‘I was instilled with a deep Yankee skepticism,’ he writes. ‘I didn’t give much thought to the idea of a devil, let alone the strange idea of demonic possession.’
Gallagher was a classics major at Princeton and went on to play semi-professional basketball in France after graduating. He then entered medical school and completed his psychiatric residency at the Yale University School of Medicine. Soon after, the young doctor enrolled at Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research.
By the 1990s- Dr Gallagher was teaching a course on Sigmund Freud at Cornell Medical College and well on his way to pursing a conventional career as an academic psychiatrist when he received an unexpected visitor that would lead him into the world of exorcisms.
The elderly Catholic priest (whom Gallagher refers to as ‘Father Jacques’) was dressed in head-to-toe black except for his identifying white Roman collar. He wanted Gallagher’s help in diagnosing a woman, who claimed that she was being assailed at night by invisible spirits.
She had traveled 2,000 miles from California to meet with Father Jacques (was a well known exorcist throughout country at the time). Curiosity outweighed ambivalence and Dr. Gallagher agreed to meet with Maria.
‘She was a very charitable and Holy person,’ said Gallagher. ‘But bruises would just appear all over her body and she would have the sensation of being beaten up but they were by, you might say, spirits or invisible forces.’
Gallagher’s job was to evaluate whether there might be any diagnosable mental or physical illness behind Maria’s bruises, some of which were still visible on her arms. He investigated her ailments with the same exacting methods and scientific protocols he used as a physician.
He ran a battery of tests: a physical exam, repeat blood work (specifically tests for clotting abnormalities), an EEG, and a CT scan. All were negative. Her bruises superficially resembled a disorder called ‘psychogenic purpura’ – an illness caused by stress and trauma that creates swelling and spontaneous lesions. But Maria seemed mentally healthy and showed no sign of inflammation.
‘Could she and her husband Alejandro both be delusional?’ Gallagher wondered if they shared psychotic condition called folie à deux, but neither appeared paranoid. ‘Could Alejandro be beating Maria and making up a story to hide his abuse?’ But that also proved to be a dead end, surmising that the couple had traveled too far to involve Father Jacques, and Gallagher in their ruse.
‘They went to a number of different doctors and they basically told them, as I eventually told them as well, that we couldn’t find any medical or psychiatric reason why this was happening.’ According to Father Jacques, Maria was suffering from a demonic ‘oppression.’
Films such as The Exorcist have focused frequently on possession in pop culture, and Dr Gallagher says common real-life symptoms include superhuman strength, fluency in ancient languages, trance-like states, demonic voices, hostility toward the sacred, and other ‘paranormal activity’ – like psychic knowledge and ‘the extraordinarily rare phenomenon of levitation’
One of the most extreme possessions Gallagher ever consulted was a patient named ‘Julia’ (not pictured). She was a ‘once-in-a-century-case’ who entered trance-like states, spoke in demonic voices and allegedly levitated during her exorcism. Gallagher says that eight witnesses corroborated the story
According to Gallagher there are two types of demonic attacks: ‘oppressions’ and ‘possessions.’ Oppressions are ‘less dramatic attacks by evil spirits’ and more common than full-blown possessions. A true possession happens when ‘an evil spirit controls a person and completely takes them over.’
Despite their rarity, Gallagher estimates that he’s seen ‘a little more than a hundred’ full-blown possessions in his lifetime. ‘But again, remember that’s over 25 years,’ he said.
There is a very strict criteria for a demonic possession and patients must exhibit more than one symptom in order to be diagnosed.
Classic signs include: trance-like states, demonic voices, have hostility toward anything sacred or religious, fluency in foreign languages and a tendency to spew violent and crude vitriol. ‘There also has to be evidence of what in modern times is called ‘the paranormal,’ said Gallagher. ‘For instance, they can exhibit highly impossible superhuman strength or display the extraordinarily rare phenomenon like levitation.’
Finally, some have what’s called ”hidden knowledge’ of things that as a human being, they never could know,’ explained Gallagher. ‘For instance, one woman knew that my mother died of ovarian cancer.’
Father Jacques’ prominence in the field meant that he traveled all around the country to perform exorcisms and Gallagher began to work as his apprentice.
Eventually the young doctor was introduced to ‘Father A.’ – an enigmatic priest who Gallagher says ‘was probably the most experienced exorcist in US history.’ (He denied to DailyMail.com that ‘Father A.’ was a concealed alias for Father Gabriele Amorth, the Chief Exorcist of the Vatican who is said to have performed 160,000 in his lifetime).
Through their ad hoc training, Gallagher began to understand the many nuances and various manifestations of his new field.
Diabolic afflictions can occur on a ‘very wide spectrum,’ some can be minor while others can be very severe. ‘For instance, I knew a woman who would get strong pains every time she went for communion and that was her only problem.’
He learned that demonic attacks are never random, ‘There is almost always a discernible cause.’ In Maria’s case, she was being punished for her devout holiness. But the most common cause is when someone has turned to evil or the occult, and paradoxically it’s often when they move away from that world, that the demons attack.
Such was the situation with ‘Stan,’ a middle-aged man from the Pacific Northwest, who like Maria, felt like he was being hit and choked by (in his words), ‘some kind of weird, unseen assailants.’
His condition puzzled a number of physicians who had evaluated him through a battery of tests. Stan was a ‘brilliant man, well- read and knowledgeable about religious history.’ He admitted there was a time that he questioned his Christian upbringing and briefly explored Eastern religions, but vehemently denied engaging with the occult. Gallagher was suspicious, and eventually Stan admitted that he had briefly turned to Satanism as a young man, and ‘promised his soul’ in an exchange for favors.
Father Jacques subsequently delivered Stan from his demons in an exorcism.
He mentions the case of another US housewife, ‘Catherine’ – who ‘as a teenager had dabbled in satanic rituals, and she had kind of promised herself, in some fairly foolish way, to evil spirits,’ he says. ‘She did a few grisly things, which I’m not going to go into, but she also, with a couple of friends, they did minor satanic rituals and she became possessed.’
Catherine had a very odd symptom in which she selectively could not hear things specifically related to religion. ‘If you said to her: ‘Catherine, did you go to the store today?’ She would respond ‘Yes, I bought meat and potatoes.”
‘But if you said, ‘Catherine, did you go to church today?’ She would say, ‘What?’ I’d ask again, ‘Catherine, did you go to church or did you pray today?’ – ‘Did I what?”
Her sense of hearing was completely blocked. So Gallagher then tested it by writing his questions on a piece of paper and she responded well to the first round of written queries, such as ‘What has your day been like?’ or ‘How are your children?’ But when he held up a piece of paper that asked Catherine, ‘Did you pray today? Did you go to church?’
‘She looked at me quizzically and said, ‘Dr Gallagher why are you doing this? Why are you showing me these blank pieces of paper?’
Prior to seeking spiritual help, Catherine had visited an ear, nose, and throat specialist, she had seen psychologist, and an audiologist – all three doctors were unable to discern any concluded that there was no psychological or physiological explanation for these symptoms.
Catherine’s inability to hear anything pastoral in nature made helping her very challenging. ‘The obvious motive there was to prevent her from being able to talk about anything spiritual, get the help that she needed, get the solace and spiritual support she needed.’
Because possession is what he calls a ‘spiritual problem’ – there are no pre-established cognitive or mental tests that exist to help diagnose the problem like there would be for psychiatric issues. Thus, Gallagher uses deduction to rule out common diagnoses through standard rounds of medical tests. ‘I especially make sure the patient isn’t suffering from an odd seizure disorder or other undiscovered brain damage.’
‘I rely upon a full narrative assessment and symptom survey that I always conduct. I also generally interview friends and families to confirm all details reported by the patient.’
He adds: ‘Make no mistake, these attacks should not be haphazardly diagnosed; they required no less discernment as those made in medical practices.’
Despite having witnessed hundreds of demonic oppressions in his career, Gallagher still insists they are a very uncommon . He has seen 25,000 patients in his private practice over the years and said: ‘No ordinary patient has just strolled into my office and then been surprised by a dumbfounding diagnosis of ‘possession!”
Father Gabriele Amorth was an Italian Catholic priest and Chief Exorcist of the Vatican. He founded the International Association of Exorcists in 1990 (of which Gallagher served as a scientific adviser on the group’s governing board) and is said to have performed 160,000 exorcisms over his 60-plus years as a priest. He died in 2016
Gallagher still remembers meeting his first fully possessed patient. ‘She was a ‘remarkable once-in-a-century-case,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘Julia’ was a Satanic high priestess and appointed ‘breeder’ of a sex cult who was in her early forties and wore dark flowing clothes with heavy black eye shadow. She told Gallagher that she could ‘get pregnant easily,’ which gave her special status in the cult that used aborted fetuses for ceremonies. She also acknowledged that she worshiped Satan as his ‘queen’ which engendered her to a certain set of supernatural powers.
His initial introduction to Julia was unnerving.
Gallagher recalls how he was suddenly jarred from sleep at 3am the night before their first meeting; his two docile cats, inexplicably ‘went completely berserk.’ They were going at it ‘like champion prize fighters’ inflicting serious harm on each other. After separating the felines in different rooms; Gallagher and his wife went back to bed completely mystified.
The next day, Julia was on Gallagher’s doorstep with Father Jacques and she opened with a chilling welcome: ‘Well doc? How did you like those cats last night?’
‘I mean right from the start, it was clear that she had these abilities that just go far beyond a psychiatric patient, including one with multiple personalities,’ he said. ‘Yeah she would go into a trance, and yes there would be a personality that emerged from her, but outside these trances she had remarkable psychic abilities.’
Julia possessed an unfathomable propensity to know things that she couldn’t otherwise know. Like the cats, or that Gallagher’s mother died of ovarian cancer. She was also capable of ‘remote viewing’ – which is the ability to see distant people, places or events.
He tested this skill during one of their sessions once when she claimed to know where and what Father A. was doing in that exact moment. She described that he was walking on the sea shore wearing khaki pants and blue windbreaker. Later, Gallagher cross referenced Julia’s paranormal vision with the priest and everything she said was correct. It was these supernatural ‘gifts’ from Satan that Julia was so hesitant to give up, which is why she would routinely make appointments to be delivered and then fail to show up.
Gallagher continued to meet with Julia over the course of several months. He was struck by her candor and intelligence, she told him that she was sexually molested by a priest as a teenager, which disillusioned her from the church and pushed her toward Satan. The more she talked, the more Gallagher’s incredulity began to fade.
He also consulted with two psychiatrists that had previously assessed Julia. Both concluded that she wasn’t psychotic, nor delusional and had no reason to make things up. All three doctors however, agreed there were clear signs of a ‘personality disorder’ formed by years of a longstanding unsavory demeanor.
Gallagher was startled one time when he was riding in a car with Father Jacques and Julia. Suddenly a deep raspy voice boomed from the backseat: ‘Leave her alone you f***** monkey priest.’ He explained: ‘The voice was coming out of Julia’s mouth, but it wasn’t really Julia. Her face had taken on a distant, even vacant look.’
When Julia finally snapped out of her trance, she had no recollection of what just happened, where they were, or how far they traveled. ‘I had seen many cases of multiple personality disorder. This was hardly that.’
By then, all lingering doubts in demonic possession had faded for Dr. Gallagher: ‘That exchange and the other paranormal features I had experienced firsthand with Julia convinced me that this case entailed phenomena far beyond what any psychiatric patient presents,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘I always believe that skepticism should start out governing all these investigations, but it is difficult and foolish to hold on to disbelief in the face of such overwhelming evidence.’
In fact, exorcists are trained to be skeptical. Catholic priests must have whats called ‘moral certainty’ in order to perform a proper deliverance. According to Gallagher, these rules are outlined in the centuries-old ‘official manual’ known as The Roman Ritual. ‘It was revised about 20 years ago but it’s essentially intact,’ he said. ‘It not only advises that exorcists consult with a physician but also says that the exorcist himself should be a sober person that is not prone to exaggeration.’
Julia’s case was frustrating for her three demonic deliverers. She was reluctant to renounce Satan because she enjoyed the powers bestowed to her. She proudly ‘insisted that her paranormal abilities were typical only of a ‘powerful witch, not a run- of- the mill one,’ wrote Gallagher. Essentially, Julia wanted to remain a Satanist, but also rid herself of the evil spirit that possessed her- and in the Catholic Church, you can’t have both.
So after undergoing a few exorcisms, Julia eventually gave up. But it wasn’t without a few fireworks first. In his book, Gallagher recalls her last ritual lasted two-hours. It was attended by a team of eight individuals, Father A. acted as chief exorcist, assisted by Father Jacques. Two nuns and four laypeople were recruited to help, a woman and three strong men. Julia signed the consent forms and the session began.
According to a 2016 Gallup poll – at least 60% of Americans believe there is a hell and the devil and 57% believe in demonic possession. According to various clergy, exorcisms as on the rise. In 2011 the US had fewer than 15 known Catholic exorcists, today there are well over 100. Father Vincent Lampert, the official exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis (not pictured), told the Atlantic that he received 1,700 phone or email requests for exorcisms in 2018 and The Vatican recently opened up an exorcist training course to all faiths in May 2019
As a trained doctor, Gallagher uses modern scientific protocols to make his determination and says criteria for diagnosis is ‘very rigorous.’ He rigorously examines his patients in order to rule out a possible medical or mental condition. He conducts a full physical exam and orders a battery of tests – repeat blood work, EEGs, MRIs and CT scans. He spends hours, days and sometimes months analyzing a patient’s mental condition. ‘I rely upon a full narrative assessment and symptom survey that I always conduct. I also generally interview friends and families to confirm all details reported by the patient’
The haunting of 23-year-old Anneliese Michel is a notorious case that Gallagher says highlights a need for close collaboration between an exorcist and medical professional. She died of starvation and dehydration in 1976 after a series of more than sixty exorcisms over ten months. She was originally diagnosed with epileptic psychosis but others speculated later that she more most likely suffered from psychotic depression. Her strict Catholic family decided to seek help from the church when she began hallucinating, licking her own urine from the floor and eating coal and insects. Later Anneliese began starving herself because she believed it was a message from the Virgin Mary. A court case found the two priest- exorcists ministering to Anneliese guilty of negligent homicide
The worst affliction Dr Gallagher ever witnessed was ‘Julia’ (not pictured). She was a Satanic high priestess and appointed ‘breeder’ of a sex cult, with ‘supernatural’ abilities that she said were a gift from the devil. The night before Gallagher met his new patient, he recalls how his cats inexplicably ‘went berserk’ at 3am. The next morning, Julia asked, ‘Well doc? How did you like those cats last night?’
According to Dr Gallagher, there are two types of demonic attacks: ‘oppressions’ and ‘possessions.’ Oppressions are ‘less dramatic attacks by evil spirits’ and are more common than full-blown possessions. A true possession happens when ‘an evil spirit controls a person and completely takes them over.’ He explains that there is a ‘very wide spectrum’ of afflictions, some can be minor while others can be very severe
Prior engagements with his day-job as a practicing psychiatrist prevented Gallagher from being able to attend Julia’s exorcism which took place in the small chapel where Father Jacques lived.
Father A. recounted to Dr. Gallagher how Julia rapidly slipped into a full trance whereupon the demon spewed blasphemies and vitriolic attacks on the nuns by calling them ‘sluts’ and ‘whores.’ The demon that possessed her apparently ‘writhed in pain upon any contact with holy water’ but showed no reaction to tap water. (She could not have known which water had been blessed).
Julia’s hands and arms had been restrained but that didn’t stop her from trying to grab the stole around Father A.’s neck. He said that she spoke in foreign tongues and released loud, feral animal-like noises. At one point a distinct chill took over the room before drastically spiking to stifling hot temperatures. Father A. told Gallagher: ‘Rich, I felt like I was at the gates of hell.’
The two nuns were instructed to lay their hands on Julia’s shoulders and arms in an effort to control her supernatural strength, when suddenly (according to Father A.) Julia levitated a foot off the chair for an entire half-hour. ‘All the witnesses later corroborated this story,’ said Gallagher.
When it was over, Julia emerged from her trance with no memory of what just occurred. She was never successfully delivered from evil and in the subsequent years, she fell out of contact with Gallagher and Father Jacques.
The last time they heard from her was two years later when she called to tell them she was dying of cancer, and that she was considering starting back up with her sessions but she never called again.
Gallagher doesn’t think that his unconventional beliefs have affected his credibility among his peers in the medical profession. ‘I’m quite sure that a lot of people disagree with me but they haven’t really confronted me or anything like that’
Gallagher says that exorcisms are not an instant ‘magic formula’ for all spiritual problems. Instead he insists that an exorcism is only part of the process. ‘You have to work at it. You have to renounce your evil ways or your involvement with something nefarious like the occult and you have to want to reform your life,’ explained the doctor. ‘You have to want to turn to God basically.’
As a rule, Gallagher says that he never officially diagnoses someone as being oppressed or possessed. Primarily because ‘it is not a clinical diagnosis that can be shoehorned into a conventional and scientifically responsible psychiatric diagnostic category.’
His primary function in the process exists solely to determine if there is a scientific explanation for one’s poor condition. In the rare occasions that he cannot find a pathological root to their problems, he refers the individual back to the priest, rabbi, pastor, imam, or other spiritual adviser who sent them – and allows for the faith leaders to make the final official diagnosis and arrange for spiritual help.
Despite Gallagher’s lengthy (and accidental) career dedicated to studying demonic spirits, he insists that possessions are still uncommon. ‘No ordinary patient has just strolled into my office and then been surprised by a dumbfounding diagnosis of ‘possession!’ he wrote in his book.
He tells DailyMail.com: ‘I must have evaluated 25,000 formal patients in my normal professional workday over the years and none of those patients have I ever thought were possessed.’
‘You got to remember, I see cases from all over the country and in some ways, from all over the world. I get calls from the Far East and from Africa so by the time I consult on those cases – usually some kind of educated clergy has already evaluated them, they’ve been pre-screened and they just want my confirmation.’
When asked if he’s ever encountered fraudulent cases, he said: ‘I think that it would be hard and maybe kind of foolish for anybody to fake it.’
‘But what you do see is a fair amount of people that think they’re possessed when they are not,’ he explains. ‘Sometimes it’s delusion, or sometimes the person can be a psychotic schizophrenic. Other times, people are just very suggestible.’
People with ‘suggestible’ natures, Gallagher says, ‘can come to believe all sorts of things about themselves from their overactive imaginations alone.
Such was the case with 22-year-old, ‘Lily’ who alleged that she was being attacked by demonic spirits. ‘She wasn’t multiple personality, but she was very, very suggestible.’ Gallagher accompanied Father Jacques on his initial visit with the woman who had recently joined an ‘almost cult-like’ religious group whose members traveled across the country on ‘prayer missions.’
The two faith healers were greeted by the group’s older, evangelical minister named ‘Wayne.’ Immediately, Gallagher was put off by the minister’s confident dogmatism. ‘It’s a spiritual problem, I’m sure,’ said Wayne, before either expert had a chance to talk. ‘None of my girls or guys need a shrink. I don’t believe in Freudian mumbo- jumbo.’….As a devoted student of Freud, Gallagher balked.
Father Elias Rahal, 68, performs exorcism ritual on a Lebanese lady at a church in the district of Mina in the northern port city of Tripoli on April 19, 2018. ‘In the book, I try to delineate the most common conditions where people might think that they’re possessed, but they actually a have mental illness or some other disorder,’ said Gallagher. He gives Tourette Syndrome as an example, which is a neurological affliction that causes people to voluntarily curse. He also said, ‘Some people have temporal lobe seizures which can cause all kinds of hallucinations and bizarre behavior’
Gallagher insists that exorcisms are not as uncommon as people may think. ‘There’s about a thousand Catholic exorcists around the world and there’s probably many more times that number of Protestant ministers,’ he said. ‘I don’t say they’re all super credible witnesses, but most of them are there, they’re educated people and they have the same stories I have – though they may not have quite as many – they certainly report a lot of the phenomena’
During their interviews, Gallagher noticed that Lily ‘brightened’ when asked if she ever read any books on exorcisms. She explained to the priest that The Exorcist was her favorite book and that she devoured other literature on evil spirits. In fact, she mentioned that she had already read some of the articles Father Jacques published and was ‘thrilled to finally meet him.’
As soon as Jacques began reciting his provocation prayers, Lily dropped to the floor in histrionics. She hissed and growled, slithered like a snake, writhed and walked around in a daze. ‘I was thinking, She’s not wasting any time, is she?’ wrote Gallagher. ‘It was too obvious a performance.’
Lily seemed to relish in the attention during her solo interview with Dr. Gallagher. ‘From the start, Lily displayed a classic example of a needy and suggestible character structure.’ He learned that Lily’s father was an alcoholic who left her depressed mother and five siblings when she was young. Her childhood was unhappy and because she was immature and ‘had an intense personality with a self- righteous manner;’ which precluded her from making friends.
As the newest addition to Wayne’s travelling prayer group, Lily was excited to have peers that shared her same righteousness and was eager to impress them. She felt validated by her alleged assault from an evil spirit and thought others might be impressed that she was especially targeted for her piety. ‘The hope, I felt, was that her fellow members might not only admire her religiosity, but also accept her ‘specialness.’ Gallagher concluded that Lily suffered from narcissism and histrionic personality disorder.
‘She was psychologically, very troubled,’ said Gallagher. ‘Father Jacques had to tell her, ‘Look, there’s no signs of the demonic here. You just need therapy.”
‘I would say that there is a lot of schizophrenic patients or certain patients with severe personality disorders who think that their major problem is demonic. They think somehow their disorder comes from an evil spirit within them, it happens a lot,’ said Gallagher. ‘Particularly in fundamentalist cultures where they don’t understand mental illness and so they jump to the conclusion that whatever the mental illnesses is, it must be demonic.’
Gallagher thinks of himself as a doctor first. The same habits that guide him as a man-of- science, a psychiatrist and a professor – which he says is a respect for evidence, the scientific method, open-mindedness and compassion for the suffering – also guide him in his work discerning diabolic attacks. He analyzes those cases just as critically as he would conventional medical conditions.
‘I never volunteered for this,’ he told DailyMail.com. ‘But I became a doctor to help people. I spent my whole life trying to relieve suffering, that’s my job and I’m not going to turn them away even if the diagnosis is controversial.’
Gallagher doesn’t see any contradiction between his faith and the science he believes in: ‘I think my faith is quite rational.’
He explains that modern science is the study of things that can be experimented and replicated under specific ways of observing them in controlled conditions. ‘I’m a big believer in that. I mean, there wouldn’t be modern medicine unless a lot of people in the last few centuries had agreed to use those methods to study disease and antibiotics and engineering so that we have planes and medicine and all that.’
But Gallagher says, ‘Science is only one type of knowledge, there is also historical knowledge.’ He gives the example: ‘How do we know that Washington crossed the Delaware River? Well, that’s because there’s solid testimony for it, and there were witnesses to it, including George himself.’ He adds: ‘In my opinion, the evidence for possession is very similar.’
That being said, the doctor believes that these ‘hard-to-explain but well- documented spiritual experiences’ deserve continued scientific exploration.
Though he realizes there will always be skeptics and naysayers. Debunkers, he said, will always demand ‘more and more proof.’ They often want videotapes, but Gallagher said that not only would a recording violate one’s privacy, it’s ‘misguided to suppose that an evil spirit would deign to parade before a camera,’ especially after they have been expertly ‘hiding or disguising themselves for millennia.’
He wrote: ‘If you search in this book for laboratory evidence or controlled trials or neuroimages of states of possession, you will be disappointed. Spiritual beings don’t show up on x- rays.’
He concludes that there are ‘other ways of knowing things that don’t depend on whether that knowledge could be quantified through a laboratory experiment or a rigid scientific test.’
Having spent the last 25 years staring evil in the face hasn’t affected his relationship with religion. In fact, he told DailyMail.com, ‘I think it deepened my faith.’
‘I’m actually a very questioning person. I’m an academic so we kind-of question everything and I’ve gone through periods in my life where I really questioned the faith and certain aspects of it are hard to believe. But as I got more immersed in this field, I think in terms of my own beliefs, it’s made them more solid.’
Gallagher doesn’t think that his unconventional beliefs have affected his credibility among his peers in the medical profession. ‘I’m quite sure that a lot of people disagree with me but they haven’t really confronted me or anything like that.’
‘Is it possible to be a sophisticated psychiatrist and believe that evil spirits are, however seldom, assailing humans?’ he asked. ‘Most of my scientific colleagues and friends say no. But careful observation of the evidence presented to me in my career has led me to believe that certain extremely uncommon cases can be explained no other way.’
Francisco de Goya painted this 19th Century Spanish mural depicting a dying impenitent afflicted by demons ; Dr Gallagher says demons and evil spirits have been around for ‘millenia’ and are incredibly smart. His goal in publishing’Demonic Foes’ is to present evidence that he’s collected in the last 25 years as an demonic consultant. He told DailyMail.com: ‘I don’t try to convince people. You read the evidence and make up your own mind, it’s a free country’
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