When he first heard about a Vatican-sponsored course on exorcism for priests, journalist Matt Baglio was intrigued by the idea of this ancient ritual taking place in the modern world. In his new book The Rite, Baglio follows American priest Father Gary — sent to Rome to train as an exorcist — and his apprenticeship with Father Carmine. Baglio talked to TIME about belief, skeptical priests, and the particulars of the exorcism ritual.
By far, this part of the interview stood out the most:
But usually, the more dramatic cases deal with people who are screaming, using their voice, shoving and punching, getting up, smacking their head against the wall, just very violent. And that voice is beyond a simple mimic of a strange voice. It’s very uncanny, very unnatural. And then, of course, there’s vomiting, which is common. Father Carmine saw a case where a woman vomited up a small black toad that was still alive. He went to catch it and it dissolved into saliva. I had another priest who I talked to who dealt with a woman who vomited up seven little black nails, six of which dissolved into this black liquid. Father Carmine saw a woman vomiting up buckets of human sperm.