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At this point, I think we can all agree that if you isolate people for a long time inside their homes, they get a little stir crazy. But for most of us, that means learning how to homebrew computer or teach yourself to salsa, not playing host to 46 demons, but in 16 32. After months of quarantining during a plague outbreak, the Ursuline nuns of Loudoun, France, underwent a terrifying transformation. Their bodies had become home to dozens of demons.
What followed was perhaps the most famous case of mass possession in history. So who invited the devil to London? According to the demons themselves? It was an unlikely source, Lou.
Very own parish priest. This is supernatural, a cast original.
I'm your host, Ashleigh Flowers.
Every Wednesday, I'll be taking a deep dive into a real unexplained occurrence to try and figure out the truth. You can find all episodes of Supernatural and all other originals from podcast for free on Spotify. This week, I'm taking an inside look at the Luden possession from sixteen thirty two to sixteen thirty seven. A group of clergymen repeatedly exercised twenty seven nuns and laywoman at the town's local convent. The ladies had been infested by an army of demons who claimed they'd made a pact with the local priest.
Even today, people believe the devil really did come to Luden, just not in the way we originally thought.
We have all of that and more coming up. Stay with us. In the fall of 16 30 to the town of Loudoun is a mess located in western France, the medieval city had been ravaged by a bout of plague. About 4000 people have died by the time the outbreak finally starts to die. Down inside London's new Ursuline convent, 17 young nuns and at least 10 other Catholic lay women have been quarantining for months. They've had nothing to do but fast meditate and pray, and they don't know it yet.
But things are about to get weird. On September 22nd, 16 30 to a junior nun named Sister Mar, designed Monique wakes up to the sound of a male voice coming from inside her room.
She looks towards the foot of her bed and sees the shadowy figure of a priest looming over her. He's hunched over, holding a white book. As her eyes adjust, Marte recognizes that it's prior Mousseau, the convent priest who normally takes confessions. There's only one problem prior Mousseau is dead. In fact, he died weeks before. But somehow the confessor is not only looking pretty lively, he's weeping at the foot of her bed. The ghost priest claims he's in great pain and he begs Maat to pray to God on his behalf.
Then he offers her a book to read. I'm not sure what the book is, but Maat refuses. Still, prior, Mousseau continues to stand there crying for a full three hours and Marbut is just absolutely paralyzed. I mean, she's so freaked out she can't even bring herself to get help. Then suddenly the priest just fades away.
The next morning, Mark discovers that prior Mousseau appeared to two other nuns at the convent. Apparently, he asked them all the same thing to pray for him and to look at his weird book. As far as I know, all the nuns refused and prior Mousseau never showed up again. But this is just the beginning because over the next weeks, the rest of the women at the convent start having bizarre experiences. Some of them hear voices at night, invisible hands hit and slap them.
Others have bits of uncontrollable laughter and full body convulsions. One even reports a giant black ball that crashed into her body, throwing her to the ground. But it all culminates with their 30 year old Mother Superior, a nun named John. John claims she's receiving visits from a new ghostly priest and he doesn't ask for help. This mysterious cleric has more amorous intentions. Instead of crying, he tries to seduce John. Not only is it very weird and creepy, but John has literally taken an oath of celibacy.
So this kind of proposal is deeply offensive. And overall, whatever is attacking the convent seems to hate their Catholic traditions. This starts to manifest in different ways, for example, the nuns apparently have strong reactions whenever they take Holy Communion, their bodies spasm like they're rejecting the bread and wine, which isn't unheard of to the Catholic Church. It's a hallmark symptom of demonic possession. Obviously, this is freaking everyone out. Soon enough, word spreads through London and beyond, alarming all the nearby clergy.
And by October 5th, barely two weeks since this all started, multiple priests have descended on the convent where they immediately begin performing exorcisms. Before the month was over, there would be 14 total. At this point, multiple nuns are acting possessed day after day. They each undergo a grueling exorcism, sometimes even twice a day. Most of these sessions follow the same script. A priest prays over a nun and she starts losing it. She convulses uncontrollably, making terrifying faces and swinging her head rapidly back and forth.
It's terrifying, but less bizarre than how some of the exorcisms go. Apparently, a few of the nuns can get a little frisky. Now, this was 16 32, so I don't have a lot of details. But one account says the ladies exposed themselves and, quote, invited lewd behavior and quote, This is definitely strange. And to The Exorcist, it's further proof that these women literally can't control their actions or the fact that now any time they so much as encounter Holy Communion, they freak out.
And there are other signs typical of demonic possession, like the nuns seem to be able to read the priest's thoughts. And during the exorcisms, they speak almost entirely in Latin, which might seem normal for a nun. Except these ladies don't know Latin. They've memorized some prayers. But aside from that, they never learned the language.
John and another woman, Sister Claire, are seen floating in mid-air for almost 15 minutes. They can even rise straight to their feet from a flying position without ever bending. Their body was like vampires standing up from their coffins. And as soon as a ritual is over, most of them can't remember a thing.
They can't recall what they did or what the demon made them say.
It's just completely gone. Church officials even invite a bunch of doctors, surgeons and apothecaries to examine these women, and they write that the patient's symptoms, quote, surpassed nature and quote, In the case of Mother Superior Zhun and Sister Claire, their pulses never rise above arresting level. And one doctor who examines the women claims they can answer almost any question put to them, including ones having to do with incredibly complex theology.
If this isn't evidence enough, there's the demons themselves. As the days go by, they start giving their names, which are all super satanic sounding like, zabulon Astaroth and Bohemia. And there's a ton of them. The Mother Superior Zhun has seven living inside her, each in its own separate body part. And when the priests compile a list of names, they realize they're dealing with a total of at least forty six distinct demons, which is just unheard of even for the Catholic Church.
At this point.
The priest performing the exorcisms are starting to think this is some end of days. Stuff like the town has just been through a plague and now this. It feels like a battle for the very soul of Luden, possibly even France.
But what really terrifies everyone is how the demons got there in the first place. During one session, a demon named Zabulon reveals that a priest has invited him and he goes on to say that no priest will be able to get rid of him. The exorcists are stunned, and after this testimony, they doubled down on their rituals, commanding the demons to give them a name. And finally, on October 11, one spills the beans. An unnamed nun is having an exorcism when suddenly the demon inside her speaks up.
He says his name is Astaroth and he claims a priest has brought him there. The exorcist asks who this priest is. And finally, the demon hisses a name, a one grungier. Coming up, we'll find out who urban ground here really is. Hi, it's Vanessa from Pakistan, they say there's someone for everyone, a soul to share your secrets with, a companion to grow old with, a conspirator to commit crimes with starting this February on Spotify, learn about the lethal and legendary lovers who fought the law in the past limited series Criminal Couples'.
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Now back to the story. When the demon names or bun granda, most of the foreign priests are like or who went to the loo tonight, everything starts to make sense. Urban Grungier is a parish priest of Loudoun. He's sort of this divisive figure in town. People either love him or can't stand him. And you can see why he's handsome, smart and good at public speaking, but also arrogant. And he's been sued multiple times over petty fights like refusing to install a pulpit at his church because he didn't like the way it looked.
But most of all, he's a player, runs constantly entertaining the rich widows and bachelorettes of Loudoun. Rumor has it he visits them in their homes and as one source puts it, enjoys their favors. One of these is the daughter of an aristocrat, a young woman named Madeline Dabru. Supposedly Urban became her spiritual adviser. Translation he makes her his mistress, Urbani's. So Prosek's that he offers a pamphlet arguing against church celibacy. He draws examples from history and the Bible to show that priests can and should be able to marry.
He even addresses the treaties to Madeline, who he refers to as his dearest concubine. So when the demon accuses him, the other Luden priests feel vindicated. If anyone's going to cause trouble in a convent full of isolated young women, it would be urban. As far as they're concerned, this accusation tracks with the evidence they've already gathered, like the Mother Superior Zhun, claiming that a ghost is trying to seduce her and all the nuns who flashed their exorcists.
Some even report a debilitating desire for urban. A nun named Sister Agnes recalls a day when she and a few other sisters discovered a bouquet of musk roses on the convent steps. Urban was nowhere to be seen, but when they smelled the flowers, they were struck by a great passion for him. Supposedly, they wandered around the convent grounds, calling out his name and they perched on top of the roofs and climbed up the trees where they stayed for four or five days without eating or drinking, just waiting for him to show up.
And OK, sitting in a tree for days with no water sounds a little hard to believe, but the Catholic Church hears these tales and for them it's settled. Urban obviously opened the Hellmouth in Loudoun, getting 46 demons through.
So the church officials move to the next step, finding proof that Urban is a sorcerer capable of summoning demons into a holy convent. Meanwhile, the Luddin possessions are causing a stir across France. Tourist travel to the city, hoping to see the famous nuns. And in Paris, this news from Loudoun pricks the ears of a very influential figure. His name is Cardinal Richelieu, better known as the bad guy from the Three Musketeers. In reality, he's the head of the Catholic Church in France and chief minister to King Louis, the 13th Richel, who's not only familiar with Urban, he actively hates him.
Years before a pamphlet surfaced claiming that King Louis was being fooled by his evil counselors. And while it didn't name any names, it pretty clearly meant Reesha Lou. Now, no one ever proves that Urban wrote the pamphlet, but everyone assumes it was him and they're probably right. So when Richel, who hears the rumor that Urban is a rotten priest, he is thrilled. He sends a lieutenant named Baron de Lobar Dhamar to London to investigate. On December 7th, 16, 33, over a year since the Demons first accuser bun the Barron burst into the priest's home in Loudoun, he raids the rooms looking for evidence of sorcery.
And as far as he's concerned, he finds it. There's a copy of her Bundes treatise against celibacy, along with a collection of dirty poems written by the priest. The Baron even finds a pamphlet in his desk laying out all the reasons why Urban couldn't have summoned the demons to the Baron. This all looks super suspicious. So he has or been arrested. Then Arbon just languishes in jail for months. While the possessions escalate, the number of women grows to a final total of 17 nuns and 10 laywomen.
The community becomes so enthralled they even start doing public exorcisms. They build a stage in front of the town cathedral where thousands of people gather day after day to watch.
Eventually, the most damning piece of evidence comes from one of these exorcisms. At this point, it's spring of 16 30 for about a year and a half since the possessions started, a crowd watches as the Mother Superior, John is led on stage in chains. The exorcism begins. A demon named Asmodeus speaks through Zhun. He claims there's a pact between Urban and a head demon named Leviathan. Asmodeus says the agreement is marked on a piece of paper that's spotted with blood.
And it's hidden somewhere nearby. The Exorcist and the onlookers frantically search the stage for this document, and there's nothing to be found. But later, during another exorcism, Leviathan himself speaks through Jannette. He tells them to look under a bishop who is nearby. Observing the ceremony, the bishop discovers a piece of paper by his foot. And sure enough, it's the smoking gun they've been looking for. Bloodsoaked, the top of the page and the words are written in backwards Latin translated, it says, quote, We the influential Lucifer, the young Satan, Beelzebub, Leviathan, Eljahmi and Astaroth, together with others, have today accepted the covenant pact of urban granda, who is ours and quote, It's even signed by Urban Granda, the Demons and Satan himself through Zhun.
Leviathan claims that the blood on the pact comes from or Bundes right thumb. When they check Urban's hand back at the jail, there's a scar in the exact same spot.
Obviously, anyone could have done this to Urban, but it's exactly what the Baron is looking for. Indelible proof that Urban is in league with the devil.
And in another one of Gene's exorcisms, the demon Asmodeus commands The Exorcist to search Urban for so-called indolent Marx or places on his body that don't bleed or feel pain. Asmodeus says it will be proof that the priest has dealt with demons like how witches supposedly have Marx of the devil.
So doctors are brought into Bundes Prison to test him. They stick him with long pins in some places, even down to the bone.
Now, this is both horribly cruel and painful, and according to Urban, he felt every pinprick and bled in every spot.
But according to the doctors, there were a few places on his body where he didn't cry out, or at least he didn't cry out enough.
And that's proof enough for the Baron and the other church officials. By summer, they're ready to move forward with a trial.
The Baron gathers a tribunal of judges from the surrounding towns and presents them with an enormous five thousand page file describing everything that's transpired so far. And for a 17th century court, the proof is pretty compelling. There's the pact with the devil, the scar on Urban's hand and the so called indolent marks. Of course, none of this is actual evidence. It could have all been planted in urban himself is adamant he is not a sorcerer. He admits to a weakness of nature as far as his desire for women.
But he denies having anything to do with the possessions still is not enough. At dawn on August 18th, the tribunal announces their judgment. Urban Granda is guilty of performing magic, casting evil spells and encouraging demons to possess the nuns and lay women of Loudoun. His sentence death.
Coming up, we'll hear about Urban's unusual punishment. Now let's get back to the story.
It's not enough for the tribunal to simply execute urban first, he must ask for forgiveness. Of course, that would be admitting guilt. So Urban refuses. Allegedly, he writes a response to the judges saying he's innocent and that he hopes he dies worthy of God's love. So the tribunal moves on to the next point. They have a hard time believing one man could orchestrate such a mass possession in order to die with a pure heart. They tell Urban he must name his accomplices.
Of course, he says he doesn't have any. And this is medieval time. So the tribunal basically says, OK, well, then we'll have to torture you. And they whisk Urban off to something called the boot. It's basically these fitted wooden cuffs that squeeze or bundes legs until his bones are about to break. Still, he maintains his innocence and swears he has no accomplices, so they completely shatter his legs. The next step is to burn Urban alive.
But here's where he really protests. Torture means nothing, he says, but he's afraid of the fire. He's worried this fear would make him fall into despair, a mortal sin he believes could prevent him from entering heaven. Surprisingly, the tribunal agrees they'll hang him first.
They put Urban in a cart with a rope around his neck and parade him around Loudoun. Then they bring him to the town square, where an estimated six to 12000 people are waiting to watch. Some of the clergy have set up a gallows above a burning funeral pyre, and since Urban can't walk, the executioner literally carries him up to the gallows. They place the noose around his neck and Urban speaks his final words, quote, I hope that my God, my creator, savior and redeemer will pardon me.
He alone knows that I am innocent, end quote. One of the exorcist lights, the fire underneath the scaffold and the executioner pulls the trapdoor, but then the very thing urban fears happens, the rope snaps, he falls into the bonfire and burns alive. It is a horrible way to die. But in Loudoun, they believe they've done it. The sorcerer is dead, evil has been defeated, and they can finally go back to their normal demon free lives, right?
Well, not exactly, because even with urban dead, the possessions continue for two and a half more years. For the twenty seven nuns and lay women, it's business as usual to exorcisms a day every day. Then in early sixteen, thirty seven, the unexpected happens. On February seven, the Mother Superior, Jean has a dream. She claims she's visited by a beautiful angel with the face of Saint Joseph. He applies Assab to her side, and when she wakes up, poof, everything's back to normal.
After nearly five years of convulsions, speaking in tongues and daily exorcisms, the demons are gone just like that. Back to hell. The priests packed their bags and the crowds trickle out of Luden. It's over.
And that's just really suspicious, right? John's story seems like a super anticlimactic ending for something that's taken Loudoun over five years to get rid of. But if you believe in spiritual entities, it might make sense. Remember, the demon zabulon claimed that no priest would ever be able to get rid of him. Maybe this was some sort of prophecy and Zhun was the answer all along. Still, even people at the time are suspicious in sixteen thirty four when the possessions are still going on.
A Scottish doctor named Mark Duncan writes a treatise claiming the entire thing is a product of the nuns imaginations. After constant sermons on the devil's ability to tempt the righteous, the ladies may have convinced themselves that they were possessed. Perhaps Zhun is even the ringleader as Mother Superior, she could have persuaded the women underneath her to play along. In fact, a nun named Sister Agnes did admit to some sort of coercion going on. According to the exorcism minutes, Agnes said she was, quote, not possessed, but that they wanted to make her think she was and that they forced her to let herself be exercised, end quote.
And peer pressure or not, the idea of fake possessions start to make a lot more sense when you think about the context. When this whole thing started in September of sixteen, thirty two, John and the other women at the convent had been quarantining because of the plague. The months of isolation may have caused them to become unmoored from reality. And this tracks with what some people thought when the possession's first started. They basically blamed it on mental illness brought on by isolation.
Now, that's neither here nor there for the Catholic Church. As far as they're concerned, the Luden possessions are a huge victory. At the end of the day, it proves that they have the power to cast literal demons back to hell.
But an eyewitness at the time has his own theory. This is Nicholas Oben, a Protestant minister who observed the public exorcisms at close range in sixteen ninety three. Oben publishes his own account of the possession's. He claims the entire thing was an inside job meant to take down Protestantism and Urban. At the same time, according to Open, the Catholic establishment feared Lou Dunne was slipping into the hands of the Protestants.
In sixteen thirty two, the city sits near the edge of a Protestant controlled region in France, and Loudoun is a melting pot for people of both faiths. So the Catholic hierarchy makes a plan. They'll stage a series of exorcisms proving that Catholicism is the mightiest religion. Meanwhile, Cardinal Richelieu sees another opportunity to get rid of the man he thinks is his vocal critic.
Urban Oben claims the reason why it went on for years is that no one, not the physicians, clergymen or the nuns dared to speak up. Apparently, the tribunal for Urban had handed down a court order forbidding anyone from so much as disparaging the case, anyone found guilty would be put to death.
So it creates this impossible situation for anyone close to the case, which brings us to the crux of this whole conspiracy, the nuns themselves. Now, there are two ways this could have gone down. Either the nuns at Loudoun really were suffering from a real possession and cardinal racial issue, and the Catholic Church used it as an opportunity to clean house or they were in on it from the beginning. As it turns out, this particular Ursuline monastery was home to many daughters of French aristocrats and government officials.
In fact, two of our Bundes accusers were sisters in law to his chief prosecutor, the Baron Delbar Dumar. One was related to Cardinal Richelieu himself. So for all we know, the ladies were coerced or forced to pretend they were possessed. The ghostly visions and the levitation never happened, and the demonic voices were all some sort of ventriloquist trick.
But that's a lot of effort to go to, especially for a powerful establishment like the Catholic Church. You would think that is the king's advisor, Richel, who could have cooked up some other trumped up charge, one that wouldn't involve dozens of nuns and priests as actors. Unfortunately, we don't know for sure. And even Zhun, the steadfast Mother Superior herself, admitted at one point that the possessions were fake. Supposedly the day after she submitted her deposition for the pending trial, Zhun appeared in the Baron's courtyard for two hours.
She stood outside his house, a rope around her neck and a candle in her hand. And when he finally opened the door, she ran inside, fell to her knees and confessed that Urban is innocent. Then she ran back out to the courtyard, threw the rope over a tree branch and tried to strangle herself. The only reason she failed is because the other nuns intervened at the time. Xerces considered this as proof of Urban's influence. But it looks a whole lot like someone trying to come clean from a horrible lie.
So what really happened in Loudoun may be Cardinal Richelieu saw an opportunity in a convent of young, politically connected nuns, or maybe the devil really was active in Loudoun. Most of the time it comes down to whether or not you believe demons are real to begin with. But whatever the case, it's important to examine it closely because as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. Thanks for listening. I'll be back next week with another episode, you can find all episodes of Supernatural and all other cast originals for free on Spotify.
Spotify has all your favorite music and podcasts all in one place. They're making it easier to listen to whatever you want to hear for free on your phone, computer or smart speaker. Supernatural stars Ashley Flowers and is a Spotify original from podcast. It's executive produced by Max Cutler, Sound Design by Carrie Murphy with production assistance by Ron Shapiro and Carly Madden. This episode of Supernatural was written by Molly Quinlan with writing assistants by Drew Cole and Ali Whicker, fact checking by Anya barely and research by Mikki Taylor.
To hear more stories hosted by me, check out Crime Junkie and all audio Chuck Originals. Hi, it's Vanessa again. Before you go, don't forget to check out the new Parkhurst Limited series. Criminal couples from apocalyptic cult leaders to bank robbing bandits to married mafiosos. These couples give new meaning to till death do us part. Enjoy two part episodes every Monday starting February 1st. Follow criminal couples free and exclusively on Spotify.