Diagnosing the Spectrum of Diabolic Attacks
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD GALLAGHER, M.D.
Richard Gallagher, a board-certified psychiatrist, is a professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College and a psychoanalyst on the faculty of Columbia University. He graduated from Princeton University with a degree in classics and trained as a resident in psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. The world’s foremost scientific expert on the subject of diabolic attacks, he has been an active member of the International Association of Exorcists since the 1990s. Dr. Gallagher wrote “A Case of Demonic Possession: Among the Many Counterfeits” for the NOR (March 2008). He is the author of Demonic Foes: My Twenty-Five Years as a Psychiatrist Investigating Possessions, Diabolic Attacks, and the Paranormal (HarperOne, 2020), a book he recently discussed with the NOR’s associate editor, Michael S. Rose.
NOR: Dr. Gallagher, you have written a unique and compelling book. Would you briefly explain your medical background and how you came to be a medical consultant to exorcists?
Gallagher: It’s a bit convoluted, so let me share my fuller background. I was born in New York City and brought up in an Irish-Catholic family. Before I decided to become a doctor, I studied classical literature and the history of religion at Princeton, winning a scholarship in Latin and ancient Greek. I enjoyed my studies immensely and was, I thought, primed to go to graduate school to pursue one of those disciplines. Instead, I became interested in helping people more directly by trying to relieve their suffering. So, I decided to study medicine. I eventually chose to become a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, as I found psychiatry the most interesting field during medical school.
I began working primarily as a clinician, upon finishing my residency at Yale, as an attending physician at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical College. To my surprise, one of the nation’s most prominent exorcists (at a time there were but a few) showed up unannounced one afternoon at my office door! He asked me to evaluate a complex case of a woman with bruises from what the priest thought were “evil spirits.” I was skeptical, but after an exhaustive medical assessment, I concluded that there seemed to be no other plausible medical or psychiatric explanation for her condition and that, surprisingly, this priest seemed to be correct.
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