Most people are familiar with the movie “The Exorcism” and perhaps you are familiar with the story that inspired the movie itself. But the story of Clara Germana Cele has been seemingly forgotten in the over 100 years since it happened. I believe, though this is speculation, that this story also played quite the role in The “Exorcist” movie.
Clara was born in South Africa in either 1889 or 1890, and we don’t know much about her life before she reached the age of 16. What we do know is that she attended St. Michael’s Mission in Umzinto in the region of Natal, South Africa and that she had been adopted by the Mission at the age of 4 due to being an orphan. But she was always seen as a well behaved and good child.
What is tragic, and puzzling, was what happened on her 16th birthday. She began to cry out for help and was erratic and confused. Her words were as follows, “Get the priest! I have to confess something. Get him quickly! I’m afraid Satan will kill me before I have a chance to confess!” Father Erasmus came to hear her confession where she told him she had made a pact with Satan.
Even before this, most at first noticed the drastic change in the young girl. Some think she may have been a rebellious teenager or overly curious but really, we’ve never found out why a young Christian schoolgirl decided to do such a thing. Supposedly, many of the locals overheard her making said pact and word spread quickly.
After the pact, it didn’t take long for the consequences to manifest themselves. Her mental health rapidly deteriorated. She became angry, unstable, and regularly began to spout blasphemies and vulgar things at random. She also often acted like an animal around her family with hissing and barking and aggression. But she also demonstrated the ability to speak in languages she had absolutely no knowledge of. A nun claimed that Clara could understand any languages pushed on her such as Polish or German. This was also observed by others than just the nun. The nuns and priests tried to pray for her and give her religious items, but Clara was just not responsive. It seemed that only the demons possessing her were in charge.
But this went beyond merely speaking in tongues. She also allegedly began to manifest the ability to read people’s minds and showed immense knowledge of secrets of both strangers and those close to her. Almost as if she could see their sins… It goes without saying that it should not be possible.
But it gets worse, the presence of blessed objects seemed to drive her insane and for a crazed 16-year-old girl, she should not have been able to manhandle the nuns and beat them up. This is also common in Demonic possessions, strength beyond what the body can normally exert. The nuns also were horrified by her cries which were supposedly extremely bestial and unlike the girl. As one Nun wrote, “No animal had ever made such sounds. Neither the lions of East Africa nor the angry bulls. At times, it sounded like a veritable herd of wild beasts orchestrated by Satan had formed a hellish choir. No animal had ever made such sounds. Neither the lions of East Africa nor the angry bulls. At times, it sounded like a veritable herd of wild beasts orchestrated by Satan had formed a hellish choir.”
Father Erasmus, the one who heard her confession and who had been called initially thought this was merely the consequences of a young mind rebelling against authority. So for 6 months later in August 1906. Two nuns found her curled up and much of her room ransacked and her bedframe ruined. She explained she had thrown away all of her crucifixes, rosaries, and other holy items. She was now vulnerable. She also began to attack the nuns and threw things around the room. She also allegedly said something close to the following to presumably the demon or demons possessing her, “You betrayed me! You promised me glory, but now you torture me.”
Several nuns and older sisters were made to watch over her. Many still believed her claims were false and for attention. According to one book, it was during this that she questioned the faith the nuns had in God and it turned into a very violent event. Clara reportedly beat several of them severely, tore off their clothes, and left a few of them unconscious. It was after this that the people at the Mission began to test her.
Her skin also reportedly burned when in contact with holy water even when Clara had moments of lucidity. Fire also apparently transfigured out of nothing around her, burning her room but not herself. Many of the people began to congregate around Clara to try and get rid of the demons and to help her, but she revealed the impure thoughts of those around her and the congregations quickly left. She also spoke about Father Erasmus’ travel to Rome at the time and knew details the Priest couldn’t even remember well.
It was during Erasmus’ travel to Rome that a younger priest took over the congregation and attempted to perform an exorcism on Clara. But she taunted him and revealed impure thoughts and he eventually cracked emotionally and slapped the girl. She proceeded to rip part of his vestments and beat him and choke him afterwards. She then sat in a corner and wept as the priest fled the scene. Clara was then put in a private room.
Many of the doors around the Mission including Clara’s began to shake and be beat upon with tremendous force like that of thunder and one priest even patrolled the hallways with a gun. Clara mocked him and told him the demon inside of her only took pleasure in the ordeal.
One can only imagine the horror it must have been to see demons defile and use such a young girl. But her foolishness had clearly played a part…
It was around this time she also began to physically change. Her neck would stretch and extend so harshly that visible bumps would form from the damage to her body. She also began to got to the ground and wiggle around like a snake and even bit a nun severely who was knelt praying for her. This left puncture wounds like that of a snake bite..
Finally, an exorcism was arranged for Clara with Reverend Mansueti who by this time was the director of St. Michael’s Mission and Father Erasmus, her personal confessor. The exorcism began in the morning and went on until noon then was again carried on with at 3pm and carried on until night. Clara began the exorcism by ripping off one of the priest’s collar and attempting to strangle him with it. But the priest continued un-phased.
Well over 100 people were said to have witnessed the event, specifically when Clara began to levitate.
She allegedly levitated both horizontally and vertically and her strange animalistic noises were heard by all. They put her through extreme pressure trying to exorcise the demon and finally, after hours the following day, the demon agreed to leave after levitating her 6 feet in the air and dropping her. Though the exorcism seemed to have worked.
What is truly mind boggling is that after all of that, she made another pact with Satan in 1907. She had to be exorcised a second time which was again, a success and not many details are known about it except for the room apparently being filled with a truly foul smell after the demon left.
Many still believe this was just a case of mental illness, but as far as all the sources indicate, she lived a normal life after the exorcisms. Had she been just mentally ill, this never would have happened, and she would have lived the same way for the rest of her life. Likely she would have ended up in a sanitorium or asylum. Sadly, she died of heart failure at the age of 22 in 1912. There have been speculations about whether the pacts shortened her life, but such ideas are just conjecture as far as we know.
What do you think? Was Clara Germane Cele truly possessed by a demon or even multiple demons? Or was it just a lie and bad behavior from a mentally ill orphan? I’ll leave that to you to decide.]
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