The Darker Side > Demons, Demonology and The Devil

Case study: Exorcism of Michael Taylor

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Ossett, population 17,000, near Wakefield in West Yorkshire. It is 10 o’clock on the morning of Sunday, 6th October 1974, unusually cold for that time of year. The nation is preparing for a general election which will see Harold Wilson’s Labour Party take government, and the country is gripped by chopsocky fever, with David Carradine‘s “Kung Fu” gluing people in front of their TV sets every Saturday night and Carl Douglas topping the singles’ chart with “Kung Fu Fighting.” A police patrol comes across an extraordinary sight: 31-year-old Michael Taylor, wandering through the streets, naked and drenched with blood. The blood is not his own. “It is the blood of Satan,” he tells them. It is in fact the blood of his wife Christine (29) whose body they find at the family home. He has just killed her with his bare hands, gouging her eyes out, ripping her tongue out and almost completely tearing her face off.

What emerged about Michael’s life for the 12 days leading up to the murder caused prosecution barrister Mr. Geoffrey Baker QC to warn the jury that they were about to hear evidence which “would make it difficult to believe you are not back in the Middle Ages.”

Michael had always been “a loving and attentive husband” to Christine, and the marriage was described as “happy.” Dr. Hugo Milne said that Michael had been a “stable, intelligent, hard-working young man, with no signs of mental illness.” A normal, unexceptional member of society, Michael’s only problem was a previous back injury that could cause chronic pain, and made it difficult for him to hold down long-term employment, leading to occasional bouts of unhappiness. Despite this, the family home, where Michael and Christine lived with their five children, was described as one “filled with laughter and happiness.” They were not particularly devout, and didn’t attend church services because they found the order of service a little daunting, were unsure of what the correct procedure was and didn’t want to make fools of themselves in front of other, more knowledgeable, church-goers.

Barbara Wardman, a friend of the Taylor’s, became keen to introduce them to her Christian Fellowship organisation, led by 22-year-old Marie Robinson. The group was later characterised in court as “a group of tormented souls who fed upon neurosis.” Wardman said she “thought it would be nice to introduce them to a simple act of faith such as breaking bread.” And with that “simple act” began Michael’s descent into what a court would later hear was “a world of fear and religious mania.”

The following day, Michael attended a service at which Miss Robinson “preached.” In the evening, the Christian Fellowship group held a meeting at his home, during which one of the women present, Mrs. Mavis Smith, started to cry. Seeing this, Robinson said “I started shaking, which in me usually means that the Holy Spirit is very active, and His power was ready to be used in one direction. I felt, if only this power was for Mike, because I knew he had a bad back and was depressed because he could not get a job.” She wanted to make sure she was not “walking outside the Lord’s will” by directing the power at the wrong person. Robinson decided to use the power to “exorcise” Smith. She knelt in front of Smith, laid her hands upon her, and prayed “in tongues.” Michael also began speaking “in tongues.” Smith apparently showed “great animosity” and said that she hated Robinson.

Over the next 12 days Michael seemed to become infatuated with Robinson, and the fellowship meetings continued. On 1st October, during a full moon, Robinson and Michael sat up all night together making the sign of the cross over one another,  fearful and “desperately afraid of the full moon and its effect on Miss Robinson.”  On another evening, while Christine was out of the room, Michael and Robinson kissed. She said “The whole of my being just reacted completely against that. We just snapped apart. It was like a clash of wills, a clash of spirits perhaps, and I said ‘Mike, you know all this is wrong, you know you love Chris.’” When Christine returned, Robinson told her “We have won a great victory for the Lord. A miracle has happened. We have both overcome  our passions.”

Michael later told police “She seduced me with her eyes. I can still see those eyes. I saw her standing naked before me, and I was naked…” Robinson said “I suddenly glanced at Mike and his whole features changed. He looked almost bestial. He kept looking at me and there was a really wild look in his eyes. I started screaming at him out of fear. I started speaking in tongues. Mike also screamed at me in tongues… I was on the verge of death and I seemed to come to my senses. I knew that only the name of Jesus would save me and I just started saying over and over again ‘Jesus’. When Chris heard me calling on the name of Jesus she started saying it too, and I believe firmly that it was only by calling on His name that I was not killed.”

Now believing Michael to be possessed, the group persuaded him and his wife to meet the Reverend Peter Vincent of St. Thomas’ Church in Gawber, Barnsley, for an exorcism. Michael and Christine were told to attend the church at midnight on the 5th October. Those present included Rev. Vincent and his wife Sally, Rev. Raymond Smith (a Methodist minister) and his wife Margaret, Donald James (a Methodist lay preacher) and John Eggins from the Fellowship group. The exorcism that followed took almost eight hours. Michael was laid down and restrained upon hassocks on the floor.

Mr. Harry Ognall QC described what followed as a “grotesque and wicked malpractice posing in the guise of religion. It was supervised by members of two branches of the Church of England. He was made to confess sins of which he was innocent and was subjected to indignities which defy comprehension. These included having crosses pushed into his mouth while he was sprinkled with holy water. They made a list of the spirits which they cast out – “incest”, “bestiality”, “blasphemy”, “lewdness”, “heresy”, “masochism” and many others. At one stage a wooden cross Mr Taylor was wearing was burned.” At 7 am the group said that three spirits remained: “violence”, “anger” and “murder”. Margaret Smith said she had received “word from the Lord that the spirit of murder was going to break out and referred to Christine.” Despite this, at around 8 o’clock on Sunday morning, Michael and Christine were told to go home. Just two hours later, Christine would be dead and Michael would be bound for Broadmoor Secure Hospital for the Criminally Insane…

Mr Ognall QC said: “I am aware that it is generally regarded as improper for an advocate to express any personal feeling or opinion about the case in which he is engaged. I am afraid I find it quite impossible to observe such constraints in this case. Let those who truly are responsible for this killing stand up. We submit that Taylor is a mere cipher. The real guilt lies elsewhere. Religion is the key. Those who have been referred to in evidence, and those clerics in particular, should be with him in spirit now in this building and each day he is incarcerated in Broadmoor, and not least on the day he must endure the bitter reunion with his five motherless children.”

At his trial, Michael was found not guilty of Christine’s murder by reason of insanity. Detained instead at Broadmoor, he was declared “legally and clinically sane” after treatment and released. Christine’s death was recorded as one of “misadventure” at the subsequent inquest.

Asked to comment after the trial, Rev. Vincent said “I am quite convinced God will bring good out of this in His own way, however tragic it was at the time.” Rev. Smith said “If the psychiatrist said this crime would not have been committed but for the exorcism, that seems a rather strange thing to say. People will draw their own conclusions.”


So, was Michael driven to murder by the psychological effects of the group - "neurotics feeding neurosis to a neurotic" - and the stress and suggestion of exorcism, OR were the exorcists correct and the "spirit of murder" remained and then manifested? Was the murder the result of a man who had been deprived of sleep (which, if you've ever tried it, you'll know causes hallucinations) while clergymen wrestled with him, OR was the murder the result of the clergymen not wrestling hard enough to give him deliverance? They said afterwards that they had called a halt to proceedings when they did because they were "exhausted".

Complete aside: There's a great novel or screenplay hiding in there.

Paranormal Avenues:
Quite a story! Though I believe wholeheartedly in certain aspects of the paranormal, I think the human mind presents some of the greatest mysteries. I suppose one would have had to be witness to these events to get any kind of handle on the truth.

Lack of sleep, stress caused by religious thrill, sexual frustrations jealousy, priests too eager to "do good".... 

only demon i see here is that of men....

Hard to know anything without all the facts, though I have read some very suspicious things from other exorcisms.

Take the exorcism of Anneliese Michel as an example. Based on the transcript I read of the audio tape, I have some very skeptical viewpoints about it.

The transcript I'm referring to is this one:
*I'm pretty sure there is some bias on the part of the translator, so take it for what its worth.

Anyways if you read the transcript, the first thought that immediately popped into my head was, "These "demons" do more preaching then a priest does." Seriously, assuming the girl was possessed by spirit beings, the priests basically used "them" to spew a bunch of proselytizing propaganda for the Catholic faith:


Priests: The Mother of God?

"Demons:" YES.

Priests: More! Tell more!

--- End quote ---

1. If Annaliese wasn't possessed but mentally ill, perhaps these were feelings that were ingrained into her. Or, perhaps the priests were using her condition as a means to spew their own agenda.

2. If Annaliese was possessed, I find it interesting that those "demons" seemed so interested in preaching about the Catholic religion...

Whatever the case, I have a tendency to point the finger at extremist religious groups and their leaders as people who aggravate, or cause, situations like the one with Anneliese.

Freaky christian "discussion groups" + Psychologically Unstable(or demonically influenced, your choice) Person = Crazy s**t

Though even I must admit that I find the probability of a person going completely bats**t insane from a brief run in with religious freaks is rather unlikely. There is probably a fact or two that we are missing.


--- Quote from: Moneyman on November 27, 2011, 06:51:53 PM ---Hard to know anything without all the facts, though I have read some very suspicious things from other exorcisms...

Though even I must admit that I find the probability of a person going completely bats**t insane from a brief run in with religious freaks is rather unlikely. There is probably a fact or two that we are missing.

--- End quote ---

There are absolutely no salient facts missing from that account. Obviously, it is in "reader's digest" format purely for brevity ("like a miniskirt - short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover the subject...") If you're interested I could put copies of the relevant documents up on google docs - they're 36 years old but still legible. Everything in quote marks is taken unaltered from those original documents. I didn't include the comments of the various ecclesiastical bodies after the fact, nor the summing up of the coroner at Christine Taylor's inquest, but there are definitely no omissions which could mislead, or omissions of any facts with bearing on the case.

The coroner, Mr. Philip Gill, sitting at Wakefield, summed up as follows:

--- Quote ---There is no criminal element in this at all. It was clear that Mr. Taylor was trying to relieve his wife of the evil he saw in her." There were four lessons to be learnt. Exorcism was recognised as part of the Church's ministry, but it could have dangers associated with it. "Those who dabble in it without experience are playing with fire." Secondly, those involved in exorcism should not exclude the possibility that there was a medical element in the problem. They must be prepared to seek medical advice and to establish cooperation with the medical profession. Thirdly, exorcism must only be performed by those carefully trained and properly schooled in the work. The fourth lesson is the danger on occasions "when emotion may be high in religious gatherings; where people newly introduced to religious matters find themselves perhaps overwhelmed by the intense faith and conviction of those around them."

Mr. Gill said that before events starting on August 24 Mr. Taylor was a normal, healthy, hard-working member of society. But at times he tended to be depressed because of his inability to get a job because of a back injury. "As a result of that, and with the best of intentions, a number of people, friends of his, were anxious to bring him into fellowship and friendship. A meeting was arranged at their house, and the history of the tragic events that followed culminated in the death of Mrs. Taylor 12 days later in circumstances that I can only describe as appalling horror."
--- End quote ---


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