Haunting accounts of real-life exorcisms through the centuries and around the world, from ancient Egypt and the biblical Middle East to colonial America and twentieth-century South Africa

A Penguin Classic


Levitation. Feats of superhuman strength. Speaking in tongues. A hateful, glowing stare. The signs of spirit possession have been documented for thousands of years and across religions and cultures, even into our time: In 2019 the Vatican convened 250 priests from 50 countries for a weeklong seminar on exorcism. The Penguin Book of Exorcisms brings together the most astonishing accounts: Saint Anthony set upon by demons in the form of a lion, a bull, and a panther, who are no match for his devotion and prayer; the Prophet Muhammad casting an enemy of God out of a young boy; fox spirits in medieval China and Japan; a headless bear assaulting a woman in sixteenth-century England; the possession in the French town of Loudun of an entire convent of Ursuline nuns; a Zulu woman who floated to a height of five feet almost daily; a previously unpublished account of an exorcism in Earling, Iowa, in 1928--an important inspiration for the movie The Exorcist; poltergeist activity at a home in Maryland in 1949--the basis for William Peter Blatty's novel The Exorcist; a Filipina girl "bitten by devils"; and a rare example of a priest's letter requesting permission of a bishop to perform an exorcism--after witnessing a boy walk backward up a wall. Fifty-seven percent of Americans profess to believe in demonic possession; after reading this book, you may too.
Winner of the 2020 Whirling Prize in Horror

“Suitably chilling reading for Halloween . . . Shows in illuminating detail how the belief in demonic possession stretches back more than 2,500 years.” ―The Economist

“What better way to embrace spooky season than with this collection?” ―Mental Floss

“Fascinating.” ―Dax Shepard, Armchair Expert (podcast)

“Gripping . . . Thoroughly researched . . . [with a] descriptive flare in rendering the ‘goblinlike entities,’ jealous demons, and evil spirits . . . This is a boon for anyone curious about exorcism and its wide-ranging, spiritually diverse legacy.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Spellbinding . . . Gripping . . . Fascinating . . . Demons, devils, dybbuks, jinn, zar and Chinese fox-spirits abound in accounts dating back to ancient times. . . . The editor's introductions are sharp and cogent. . . . [For] readers hungry for illumination―and a touch of terror.” ―Shelf Awareness