Exorcist who smelt Satans breath died after possessed girl spoke to him

“I have smelt the breath of Satan and heard the demons’ voices – cold, scratchy, dead voices carrying messages of hatred.”

Those were the words of Malachi Martin, the real-life former priest who inspired iconic horror film The Exorcist, and who, it has been suggested, was eventually killed by a demonic force.

Exorcisms have been carried out for centuries in most religions when demons or evil spirits are believed to have taken possession of people's bodies and minds.

Right now, the number of exorcisms being carried out in the UK is on the rise.

Last year the government warned they were becoming "an industry" in some minority community-based churches, and said they were often an excuse for abuse.

In America, the number of cases shot up in the late 1970s and one man became famous for his work in the field – Mr Martin.

Ordained in 1939, the Irishman first assisted at an exorcism in Egypt after the Priest's assistant fainted. He went on to leave the church in 1965, partly because he claimed it was not taking the threat posed by Satan seriously enough.

He then became a professor and author whose books about exorcisms became bestsellers.

Over his career he said he carried out thousands of exorcisms and said: "Exorcism can be extremely violent. I have seen objects hurled around rooms by the powers of evil."

In one case, where a man called Carl had been possessed, Mr Martin wrote: "And around the eyes, in a way none of his associates and students could ever explain, there was what they had come to call the ‘twist’- some crookedness, some wry misshapenness, as if the natural contours of skull, forehead, eyes, and ears had been splayed out of kilter by some superhuman force residing in him temporarily with tremendous and awe-full power.”

In another case, he claimed a spirit possessed a transgender woman – whom he called Richard/Rita – and said: “The mouth opened, baring gums and throat, the tongue protruded, quivering on a stream of gray foam bubbles. The whole face was furrowed in irregular lines, as Richard/Rita broke into peals of laughter. Great buffeting gusts of mocking, jeering, Schadenfreude laughter. Laughter pouring from a belly of amused scorn and contemptuous hate.”

In the Netflix film Hostage to the Devil, former CIA man Robert Marrow said an exorcism in Connecticut led to Mr Martin's death.

He claimed when Mr Martin arrived at the victim's home, the possessed four year old girl approached him and said: “So you’re Malachi Martin, and you think you can help her?” He said it seemed as if the demon was speaking to him, using the girl as a puppet.

Mr Martin subsequently suffered a fall after claiming to have been pushed by the malevolent spirit. He suffered a head injury, leading to his death.

Mr Martin claimed in 1999 around 1,000 exorcisms were taking place across the globe and said "possession is not some tale of dark fancy featuring ogres and happy endings. Possession is real: and real prices are paid.”

He claimed there were three major steps to possession. In the first the Evil Spirit enters the victim, who then begins making decisions influenced by the spirit, before the victim loses control of their will. He said the process could take years to happen.

He also said when performing exorcisms, the exorcist takes the pain for those who are possessed: “When the rebellion of the possessed person does lead to exorcism, the bitter struggle is brought out into the open. The exorcist literally offers himself as hostage.”

However, not everyone agreed with Mr Martin, with some claiming he was cashing in on publicity around exorcisms.

A new film about exorcisms, The Seventh Day, starring Guy Pierce, has just been released.

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