Dr. Richard Gallagher, Ivy League trained professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and former scientific adviser to exorcists, gave a presentation on demonic possessions and exorcists by rare possessions of evil spirits in the Great Plains Ballroom Wednesday, Oct. 24. He was invited by the student organization Bison Catholic as their fall keynote speaker.
Gallagher is called to help with exorcisms and advises those who are believed to be possessed by evil spirits. An exorcist is someone who tries to get rid of evil spirits from a person or place. Gallagher is faced with having to differentiate patients who are mentally ill from those who are possessed. Most bishops will require a psychiatric evaluation to be done to rule out mental illness. Many people question how they know the difference.
During his speech, Gallagher said he didn’t have any training for exorcisms in his psychiatric residency, but throughout the years of performing consultations with clergy and talking with exorcists, he learned how to tell if someone was possessed. Gallagher claimed that when a demon has entered someone, it will have the ability to know what will happen in the future. Demons are usually able to speak another language like Latin and have the powers that make it hard for the exorcists to control them, according to Gallagher.
Throughout the conference, Gallagher listed examples of possessions that he evaluated in the past. From these different cases, he gave his personal experiences with them and the ways the demons acted toward him and others who tried to help them.
One case was about a woman named Julia, who he described as a woman with evil intentions. She knew things about Gallagher that no one else would know about him, like how his mother died. She also knew how 20 others had died, and she could predict what someone was wearing even when they were hundreds of miles away. Gallagher said he was angered that she used this information and her powers against him and others he knew.
Gallagher discussed how these cases impacted his life. Though he doesn’t worry about his physical and spiritual protection, there were still certain cases that freaked him out, like with Julia. When asked whether he thinks he could become possessed from these cases, Gallagher answered: “There are a lot of people who are praying for me, and because of that, I feel like I am on the winning side.”
The conference was well attended and, though it lasted about an hour, Gallagher made sure to give lots of information about his own personal beliefs on the many demonic possessions he has witnessed. Many asked him whether he believes horror movies can lead someone to become possessed, which he denied. He said he doesn’t think horror movies really provide a clear picture on possession and what it actually looks like. He said they change the truth in a way that will appeal to an audience.
Gallagher said the audience will have their own opinion on the matter of possession. Whether you believe in possessions or not, Gallagher said he encourages everyone to stay informed and keep an open mind. Throughout his presentation, he kept it light and humorous, but serious at the same time.
If you are interested in learning more about the demonic possessions and exorcisms Gallagher has worked with, he has a book coming out in a few months.