The Earling Exorcism

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Earling is famous for a 1928 exorcism that lasted more than 3 weeks. A local Franciscan convent was the setting for the ceremony; the target was the demons inhabiting Emma Schmidt. As Roman Catholic Capuchin Theophilus Riesinger worked, Emma is said to have flown across the room and clung to the wall above the door. After 23 days, the demons left Emma’s body and it is said she lived a normal life. Afterward, locals reported strange sounds and unpleasant odors coming from the convent.

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Geographic Information

207 Second Street
Earling, Iowa
United States

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41.775443, -95.41684800000002
Shelby County, Iowa
Nearest Towns:
Earling, IA (0.0 mi.)
Westphalia, IA (4.0 mi.)
Panama, IA (4.4 mi.)
Defiance, IA (5.1 mi.)
Kirkman, IA (8.5 mi.)
Harlan, IA (9.7 mi.)
Buck Grove, IA (9.9 mi.)
Portsmouth, IA (10.1 mi.)
Dunlap, IA (10.9 mi.)
Irwin, IA (10.9 mi.)


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  1. my name is Jason I live here in earling iowa and even though I do not go to the church here in town where this had taken place my soon to be wife lived in the origonal farm house where the girl was said to live. and now bot her and I live in a house not very far from the house we have our bed rooms in the basement and at night we hear a little girls voice and some times shes with others having conversations we also have to cats that at the same time every night are very aggressive and spend alot of time looking into our 8 month old daughters room in whitch we have not put her in because of what not just what we have heared but what we have seen….

  2. While I was researching the Emma Schmidt exorcism, I came across the names of the demons/spirits who were possessing Emma. The names were Beelzebub, Judas, Jacob and Mina. Also on this website, they reported. “She (ie. Emma) spoke and understood Latin and other ancient languages in which she had no formal training. On at least one occasion, she levitated to the ceiling in front of witnesses.” Later on in the report, the author stated, “During the exorcism, nuns were made busy in removing buckets of unusually foul smelling waste and green vomit from the woman who had eaten nothing for days. A peas sized lump moved freely underneath Emma’s skin. Voices eminated from inside her chest identifying themselves as various demons… Her body was completely distorted, swollen so badly that the nuns feared it would burst. Emma’s head swelled and turned red, her eyes bulged from their sockets and her lips protruded to twice their normal size. Sometimes she seemed to float above the bed, other times, her weight became so great, that it bent the beds iron frame….It was during this time that Emma admitted during her periods of rest that she had visions of horrible battles between good and evil spirits. Countless numbers of evil spirits continually arrived….The good angels came to assist at the exorcism. Many approached seated on white horses and under the leadership of St. Micheal.
    The report of the exorcism continues as follows,”Their bold, bitter demeanor gave way to more moaning and despairing tones. They could not bear the tortures of exorcism any longer. Father Theophilus demanded in the name of the Most Blessed Trinity that at their departure the devils should give a sign by giving their respective names…Father Theophilus shouted,”Depart, ye fiends of Hell! Begone!, Satan the Lion of Judas reigns!”…Emma fell upon the bed…a piercing sound filled the room…voices saying,”Beelzebub, Judas, Jacob, Mina,” could be heard. And this was repeated over and over until they faded far away into the distance. To these words were added, “Hell-Hell-Hell!”…It was the long awaited sign indicating that Satan was forced to leave his victim at last and return to Hell with his associates.

  3. The priest from my church had transferred there when I was a teenager. My family stopped to visit on our way to vacation. The convent is now the priests residence. I’ve been in the room. It’s cold creepy and small. Still has an iron bed frame. The hardware store sells a book on the story entitled “be gone satan”. During the exorcism two stations of the cross had swapped spots in the church next door. It would take a small crane to move them. There is also said to be a blue light in the bell tower around Halloween….that I can’t confirm.

    • The original convent where the exorcism took place was torn down in the mid 1990s and was just to the east of the church on the original church property. A home across the street to the South of the church was donated to the parish and was set up as the new convent and served as that until our most recent priest, Fr Dolan, moved to Earling and he now lives there. The rectory, to the West of the church, continues to be utilized as the parish business office and is also used as a meeting site and for weddings/funerals as a place for families/parties to gather. There is a book available titled “Begone Satan” that was once sold in the local grocery store (Finken’s Grocery) however the grocery store has been closed for 15+ years and unfortunately there are no other places of business in Earling that sell the book. I grew up in Earling one block from the parish grounds and then directly across the street from the parish gronds, attended St Joseph’s school from K-8 and spent countless hours in the old and new convent, church, rectory, and school – never saw a blue light in the bell tower or really anything unusual ever.

  4. My husband was born and raised in Earling. His grandparents farm was near the bridge where the Devil tried to run the priest off the road. The rectory is still there but the convent where the exorcism took place has been torn down.

  5. I can confirm, this entire town is eerie. My maternal grandparents live there, and have for their entire marriage. These grandparents ran a daycare I attended while my parents worked and I was too young for school, so I have many memories of Earling, and I visit at least twice a year.
    Often as a child, myself and several children, along with my grandpa, would walk to the park over the hill on which the old church, convent, and Catholic school (which my mother attended) were built. Though the convent was torn down by the time I was born, the school was still standing, though it has since been demolished. This building… I don’t even know how to describe the feeling it gave me as a child. Keep in mind, I had no idea that Earling was infamous for it’s exorcism until I was an older teenager, so these feelings were based only on the preconception that my mom went there and most of the nuns who taught her were really nice. Every time I looked through the windows, I saw moving shapes and figures. It being a school during the weekday, I believed for the longest time it was just class in session, until I was around seven, my grandma mentioned that the school’s been closed for at least as long as I’d been alive. That creepy feeling never went away, as even when I was a teenager, I looked through a window revealing the long hallway down the length of the school with my cousin, wondering if we’d see a bunch of animals taking over the building like in Jumanji. However, what we saw was worse. We looked inside, and after a few minutes, a closet door at the far end of the hall opened, very slowly. We got really excited, since we loved ghost stories and figured one door swinging open, even because of a draft, counted as a personal scary story. I could hardly focus on the inside of the closet, but as my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw regular cleaning supplies like a dry mop and some stacked buckets, nothing exciting. As things became clearer, I saw what I *thought* was a ghostly orb behind the buckets and mop handles. Within a few seconds, though, the orb seemed to form gaping holes where the eyes, nose, and mouth would be on a person’s face, like a glowing halloween mask. My cousin gasped as soon as I noticed these features and I shushed her like a jerk. The longer I stared, the more I could feel something else looking back at me. After what felt like hours, looking at this thing in the darkness, my cousin grabbed my wrist with shaky hands, and pulled me away from the window. Sometimes we randomly remember the event when we hang out these days, and we’ll say “Remember that thing we saw in that school closet?” Thinking about it always gives me goosebumps. The worst part is the gaps it had for eyes, a nose, and mouth. They were blacker than black, darker than anything I could ever imagine. The only thing I could compare them to is that vantablack stuff used in art. I’ve never seen something so void of texture or color, and honestly I hope I never see anything like that again.

  6. Sharelle Temaat  |  

    Does anyone remember Julia Dresen from Earling? She was my grandmother’s sister, my great aunt. I do not remember Aunt Julia’s married name; my grandmother was Kathryn Dresen Kobold.

    As a child in the 1940s I often visited Earling with my family from Council Bluffs.

    Recently I reread Begone Satan, rekindling my memories of your town. I’d appreciate it if anyone would contact me concerning descendants of my family who still live there.

    Mrs. Sharelle LaHeist Temaat
    Colorado Springs, Colorado 80920

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Disclaimer: The stories posted here are user-submitted and are, in the nature of "ghost stories," largely unverifiable. makes no claims that any of the statements posted here are factually accurate. The vast majority of information provided on this web site is anecdotal, and as such, should be viewed in the same light as local folklore and urban legends.