Was this a case of true demonic possession?
Flies had been gathering on the body and the heat had started to cause it to bloat. When the occupants of the house were pressed as to why help had not been sought immediately after the woman's death, the response was that they expected her to be resurrected.
It was an exorcism that, to those involved, had been successful; the body was to be reignited with life. To others it was a shocking tragedy.
The deceased was Joan Vollmer (49), wife to Ralph Vollmer (55 at the time). Events of the alleged demonic possession started several weeks earlier, when Mr Vollmer noticed his wife's strange behaviour – she was dancing outside, yelling obscenities and waving her arms. He also said she was 'acting like a prostitute' and at times looked and behaved like a dog or pig.
With his mind set that his wife was possessed, he enlisted help from amateur exorcists, people he had met several years earlier through the salvation army. The group later joined an 'extreme' religious group.
Soon after this they began their prayer sessions, though at times they would force her eyelids open to ensure she was still 'with them', and also so she (along with the demon) would be forced to witness the presence of 'The Lord'.
After a few days of this treatment, and with the exorcism still not working, the group enlisted Matthew Nuske, a young assistant greenkeeper from a golf course who was recommended as an exorcist. He was recommended by his mother who believed her son had a god given ability, one that allowed him to excise demons.
On January 30 Nuske arrived early to take part in the final day of Joan Vollmers life. A recommended exorcist he was, however, this was to be his first exorcism. Nuske asked for a roll of cling wrap with which he ran around the house seven times, in order to set up a protective shield to prevent further evil spirits from making entry.
From that point on prayer was all but set aside and the exorcism took a much more physical aspect.
The group had learned that there were many demons using Joan's body as a host, and although most were removed, there were two stubborn ones that were much harder to be shifted. They would need to be forced out.
The group began at Joan’s lower abdomen and forcibly squeezed as hard as they could, moving the demons up through her body and out of her mouth. It was this pressure, at one stage applied to Joan’s neck, that caused her to begin having a heart attack.
Once the demons had been removed from Joan’s tongue, the group stated Joan let out a hiss and the lights went out.
When Joan passed away there was no worry within the group, as they fully expected her to be resurrected. For nearly two days they prayed and waited, and after Joan did not come back to life, they sought further guidance.
A Mrs Clugston had been providing some advice to the exorcists via the phone, and it was soon after Joan’s death that she says she received a message from the Lord to lay hands on Joan’s body and command her to rise and walk. When this advice failed to resurrect the body, she sought further advice from her local minister, who called the doctor to see what was going on.
The doctor arrived, took in the scene and called the police.
The media got involved and Ralph Vollmer even invited them to the funeral as that would become the day of Joans resurrection - which of course never eventuated.
For a while it seemed that those involved with the exorcism would get away with what was essentially manslaughter (if not worse), but in the end they all stood trial and were found guilty of different crimes ranging from wrongful imprisonment, manslaughter and causing injury.
Ms Reichenback and Mr Klinger who were there from the start of the exorcism received 4 months (20 months suspended) and 3 month (15 months suspended) prison terms, while Mr Vollmer and Mr Nuske had their prison terms completely suspended.
So was this a case of true demonic possession?
Was Joan Vollmer a victim of demonic forces?
That is for you to decide, however there is one more piece of information you may deem relevant to these events. In 1990, Ralph Vollmer had his wife admitted to a psychiatric institution. She had suffered abuse as a child, had lived through the suicide of a previous husband, and was also deemed to suffer from schizophrenia. She was released from the institution three weeks after admission and was advised her condition required medication.
Soon after returning home Joan Vollmer stopped taking that medication.
As of 2013 the Vollmer house still stands, doors and windows boarded over and is used as place for adventurous youths to dare one another to enter.