Channel 4 to broadcast exorcism in the name of science

First it screened an abortion, then an autopsy. Now, Channel 4 is set to spark a fresh row by televising the exorcism of a man who claims he is possessed by evil spirits. Last night the channel defended its decision to run
The Exorcism, saying it was a "scientific experiment" and would be broadcast after the 9pm watershed.

First it screened an abortion, then an autopsy. Now, Channel 4 is set to spark a fresh row by televising the exorcism of a man who claims he is possessed by evil spirits. Last night the channel defended its decision to run The Exorcism, saying it was a "scientific experiment" and would be broadcast after the 9pm watershed.

But there is concern within the Church of England that those willing to put themselves forward for exorcisms are more likely to be mentally ill than possessed.

In the programme, an Anglican priest will perform the exorcism on the man in a television studio. He will be wired to brain-scanning equipment and monitored throughout. The priest is understood to have been practising what he calls "deliverance" for several years and the subject of the exorcism has been consulting him for some time over the possession by evil spirits.

Those who undergo exorcisms can range from those who complain of hearing voices to people who have dabbled in the occult and want to close the door on their experiences.

"This isn't just a man we've pulled off the streets - he is somebody the priest has been working with for years and it will be a proper scientific experiment monitored by a leading neuroscientist," a Channel 4 spokesman said.

Before an exorcism, priests are supposed to ensure the subject does not suffer from a medical condition, including mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, in which the symptoms of hearing voices and experiencing delusions involving evil spirits are commonplace. The man, who will only be identified by his first name in the programme, had been examined by two psychiatrists who concluded he had no diagnosable mental illness, the spokesman said.

But one Anglican bishop expressed concern over the motivation of anyone seeking an exorcism. "People who need this sort of help are nearly always psychologically troubled," the Right Rev Dominic Walker, Bishop of Monmouth, told The Sunday Times. "Once you've got a television programme on exorcism we'll end up with lots of telephone calls from people saying, 'I think I'm possessed' because they have got some problems that a doctor hasn't been able to solve."

Channel 4 argues that the programme, which will be recorded on 24 February before being broadcast at 11pm that night, was driven through by the science department and should be seen within the wider context of research into neuroscience.

Simon Andreae, Channel 4's head of science, said: "Exorcisms are performed regularly in Britain, and some scientists who have studied religious experiences believe measuring brain activity could reveal what's going on during the process."

The Church of England will be reserving judgement until the programme has been seen, a spokesman said. But he added: "There are very careful pastoral decisions made by priests about exactly what circumstances it's right to offer this ministry."

The 1973 horror film The Exorcist is thought to have led to a considerable increase in the number of people approaching the church seeking exorcism.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Day In a Page

Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing