A Possessed Nun’s Letter From The Devil

– [Narrator] On August 11th, 1676, a group of nuns were enjoying a choir performance in a convent in Sicily’s Palma di Montechiaro when they noticed one of their members, Sister Maria, was missing. They quickly left to go find her, searching through the hallways and rooms at the large monastery.

After looking around for a time, Maria was still missing, so the nuns decided to search her living quarters. As they neared the door, they became enveloped in fear, hearing screams and gasps coming from the other side. The nuns flung open the door, and what they saw would become part

Of a horrifying and bizarre mystery for the next 300 years. Demonic possession has been a popular tale of horror through the centuries, rising up in popularity every few years in the form of books, movies, and television shows. In reality, true cases of demonic possession throughout history were few and far between.

This is especially true in more recent history, with ever-advancing medical science to explain human behavior and other phenomena. Before the days of modern science, however, mankind often looked to their faith and religious leaders to help cope with things they couldn’t understand. While the scientific revolution was in full swing

By the tail end of the Renaissance and Reformation periods, Europe was largely still a world of angels and demons during the late 1600s. Faith was an important aspect of everyday life and prominent members of the church were revered for the strength of their faith. The nuns of Palma di Montechiaro were no exception.

Every aspect of their lives were devoted to the service of God above and beyond the piety of average members of society. Being so close to God, one would think they’d be the last to have their faith go astray. So, it was especially harrowing when one of their own began struggling with her faith,

Acting erratically and eventually falling victim to possible demonic forces that used her body to leave behind a cryptic coded message. This is the story of Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione’s letter from the devil. Sister Maria was born Isabella Tomasi to Prince Giulio Tomasi di Lampedusa in Sicily who was an ancestor to the renowned Italian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Not much is known about Maria’s mother or what her own childhood was like before she joined the monastery. She entered the convent at age 15,

Beginning her spiritual journey of devoting her life to God while she was still just a child. The Palma di Montechiaro was a Benedictine convent, which meant it followed the teachings of St. Benedict, who founded the Benedictine Order in the sixth century, making it the oldest religious order of the Western Church.

The life of a nun is not an easy path, usually involving vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience with many waking hours devoted to prayer in an isolated monastery. It’s credible that the 17th-century Benedictine teachings were especially severe for the nuns at the Palma di Montechiaro,

With high expectations to prefer nothing to the work of God. At first, Sister Maria seemed to fall in line and adjust to her new life with the other nuns at the convent, keeping up with her studies and following along with their customs and traditions. She was involved in the choir

And over time became a skilled linguist, studying Latin, Greek, and Arabic languages, amongst others. It’s unknown exactly when her behavior began to change. But at some point, Sister Maria began to suffer from alarming fainting spells during prayer at the altar. She would let out a chilling scream

That echoed off the walls before passing out cold. Maria’s behavior became more erratic over time and she became paranoid and fearful, warning the other nuns that the devil would tempt her to serve evil rather than the good of God. At one point, Sister Maria decided to go to confession,

Where she would sit behind a divider and confess her sins to a priest and ask for God’s forgiveness. Confession is a crucial aspect to keeping one’s faith strong, and Maria likely hoped this would help ease her escalating troubles. During this particular session, however, her behavior changed suddenly,

And she began speaking disrespectfully to the priest, as if someone else was controlling what she said. She didn’t realize her transgression until after the session and became increasingly distraught. A few days later, everything would come to a head after Maria would fail to show up to a choir performance.

The night before her absence, Sister Maria was alone in her room when she began experiencing a slew of fainting spells more overwhelming than usual. Fading in and out of consciousness, she felt as though a force was taking over her body. Without realizing what was happening, Maria grabbed a quill and some parchment

And began scribbling out strange symbols across the paper, the likes of which no human being had seen before. Maria continued etching out the symbols hours into the night, her mind not fully present, but her hand writing frantically as if driven by a demonic force.

By the time the nuns found her in her room the next morning, she was in such a frightening state that she was almost unrecognizable. She was seated on the floor, exhausted and gasping for breath, the left side of her face smeared black with ink. Besides the shock of her disheveled appearance,

She was surrounded by pages of a long, bizarre letter, each page containing unintelligible lines of obscure symbols that didn’t match any known language. Unable to stand up, the nuns helped Maria lay on the ground and asked her what happened. What she told them was so shocking that one of the nuns,

Mother Sor Maria Serafica, drew up a report of her story and the haunting incident, recounting: She said that having confessed days before the demons told her that many words had spoken of irreverence toward her confessor, she saw herself surrounded by a great number of furious evil spirits sent by order of infernal Lucifer,

And taking the paper and the pen that Sister Maria Crocifissa had in order to write, and commanding one of those damned spirits to write, Lucifer was immediately obeyed, and while dictated what he wrote, the words were all against God. No one but Sister Maria herself knew the specificity of what the letter said.

The only legible word it contained, “Alas,” was found at the bottom of the page, positioned as if Maria had signed the letter off with it. Nonetheless, from what they’d experienced together that day, the nuns concluded that the letter was part of an elaborate scheme by Lucifer to turn Maria away from God.

Besides the understood opposition to God, the specific words and phrases hidden in the demonic symbols of the letters would remain a mystery for over 300 years. It wasn’t until 2017 that a group of researchers from the Ludum Science Center in Sicily were able to decode most of the pages. Strangely enough,

They discovered an algorithm on the dark web that they were able to use to help decipher it, along with a military-grade decryption software. The symbols turned out to be a scrambled combination of Arabic, Greek, runic alphabet, and Latin, all languages Maria had learned during her studies.

While 30% of the letter was still indecipherable, the phrases that were able to be translated were indeed demonic. The phrases have a cynical and irreverent tone throughout. One line reads, “God thinks he can free mortals. “This system works for no one.” The letter goes on to describe God, Jesus,

And the Holy Spirits as deadweights and created by man. “God does not exist, Trinity is fake, “there is only me.” One of the strangest portions of the translated letter cryptically references something not a part of Christianity, but the river that separates the living from the Underworld in ancient Greek mythology.

“Perhaps now, Styx is certain.” whether she eventually recovered from her ordeal or continued to struggle against her demons, Sister Maria’s fate is unknown. 345 years later, she’d become mostly a figure of mystery and legend. But in the quest to study as many details of this chilling mystery as possible,

Ludum Science Center director Daniele Abate was able to construct a psychological profile of Maria that offers a possible medical explanation for her torments: I personally believe that the nun had a good command of languages which allowed her to invent the code, and may have suffered from a condition like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder,

Which made her imagine dialogues with the devil. We believe that life as a noblewoman in the cloister caused her a lot of psychophysical stress, and this letter is the result of a bipolar disorder. But we were surprised to have found an overall logical sense despite the fact

That 30% of the document remained incomprehensible. It’s very possible that Sister Maria’s lifestyle of strict devotion to piety and isolation could have, in some ways, aggravated her mental health and plunged her into a crisis. It’s feasible that with her eminent linguistic skills, creating this letter was a way of coping

With the pressure of her life and the stress of her condition. With the absence of modern medical science, we’ll never know exactly how many of these cases of possession, hysteria, or other phenomena were actually instances of a mental health crisis, misunderstood and therefore feared. Even in recent history,

Our understanding of mental health and its importance is still rapidly evolving, with perspectives shifting from neurotypical understandings of mental wellness to an effort of centering neurodivergent experiences and de-stigmatizing mental illness. Whether explained by science or the paranormal, Sister Maria’s letter from Lucifer is certainly one of the most hair-raising mysteries

To be born out of Italian history.

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