In 1676 Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione awoke from a deep sleep. According to the legend, the nun’s body was covered in ink with a mysterious letter laying next to her.
Various illegible symbols and glyphs were scribbled on the piece of paper. Things got even more bizarre, when the nun stated that none other than the Devil himself had written the note.
The meaning of the letter remained an unsolved mystery for several centuries with no one being able to decipher it.
1. Christian Traditions
The strange event happened on Sicily. One of the apostles, Saint Paul, allegedly preached on the small Italian island more than 2000 years ago.
The place never let go of its Christian traditions and functioned as a spiritual refuge for nuns from all over Europe. Considering the Christian belief in good and evil, it seemed to make sense for Satan to appear in the same vicinity as Christ.
2. The Nun
Isabella Tomasi, who was born in 1645, joined the Benedictine order at age 15.
She was baptized in the Sicilian town of Palma di Montechiaro. After that, she started devoting herself to Christ under her new name Maria Crocifissa della Concezione. Her life as a nun consisted of work, prayer and peace.
However, Sister Maria repeatedly claimed to feel a dark entity take control over her.
3. Inner Conflict
During her time in the Benedictine order, Sister Maria seemed to be torn between her love for Christ and the evil force within her.
The nun was convinced that Satan was planning to abuse her as his mortal vessel. Approaching the altar resulted in her shrieking hysterically and passing out.
4. The Possession
No matter how much Sister Maria tried to fight off Lucifer, he seemingly reached his goal on a day in 1676.
Taking over the nun’s body, the Devil forced her to write the eerie letter the legend refers to. However, the note turned out to be as elusive as Satan himself.
Occult symbols of an archaic alphabet made the message impossible to decipher.
5. A Repeat Offender
At the time of Sister Maria’s possession, Satan already had a long history of turning nuns towards evil.
When a disastrous outbreak of the plague came over the French city of Loudun in 1632, 17 nuns hid inside an Ursuline convent. After a while, they showed erratic behaviour and reported having visions. Cursing, shouting and barking could be heard coming from the walls of the convent.
Rumors quickly started spreading and church authorities, urged by the convent’s chaiplan, began to investigate.
6. A Diabolical Contract
Church authorities found Father Urbain Grandier to be responsible for the horrific scenes taking place inside the convent.
Apparently, Father Grandier wasn’t as holy as he seemed. Using sorcery and dark spells he conjured evil spirits, that ultimatively possessed the unsuspecting nuns.
The trial in 1634 resulted in the conviction of the former cleric, who was subsequently burned alive in the town square.
7. The Cryptic Note
A few years later, in 1676, the Devil struck again.
Supposedly leading the hands of Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione, he penned an indecipherable letter. The God-fearing nuns of the convent believed Sister Maria’s statements and made the note public, in hopes that one day someone might be able to translate it.
After many futile attempts at cracking the code, progress was made in 2017.
8. A Scientific Decryption
The privately funded LUDUM Science Center in Catania, a city on the east coast of Sicily, went to great lengths in an attempt to decipher the symbols. The institute used a powerful decryption program to solve the mystery.
Since the software is used by governments and not available to the general public, the scientists had to enter the dark net to find the program.
9. A Skilled Linguist
The scientists suspected Sister Maria herself to be the author of the letter, without the help of Satan.
Nuns in the 17th century spent their life studying religious scriptures. Therefore, most of them were well versed in both ancient and modern languages. The experts concluded, that Sister Maria used her knowledge and a blend of different alphabets to create the note
10. Heretical Statements
The progress of the experts, surrounding team leader Daniele Abate, sparked the interest of the British newspaper The Times.
Abate explained how the scientists were able to crack the code after all these years. First, they embedded ancient Greek, Runic and Arabic letters into the software. With this method they were able to translate 15 lines of the letter.
11. The Incoherent Message
Sadly, a large portion of the text was muddled.
Other parts were coherent and consisted of rather shocking statements, considering a member of the Benedictine order wrote them down.Maybe Sister Maria wrote the letter to live out her rebellious side or, perhaps, she was slowly but surely losing her mind.
12. A Dark Statement
Sister Maria would have gotten into serious trouble for the scandalous remarks.
Whoever had the leading hand when writing the letter, it is clear that the author wasn’t as God-fearing as most people in the 17th century.
Denying the existence of the Holy Trinity and calling religion useless, the letter references the mythological river Styx. Supposedly located in the underworld, it is said to be the passage between the world of the living and the realm of the dead.
13. Satan’s Handwriting
John Ashton wrote his book The Devil in Britain and America in 1896. He included an excerpt consisting of strange symbols and illegible runes. The author described the text as the only known example of the Devil’s handwriting.
The sample was a copy taken from a Latin book by Teseo Ambrogio degli Albonesi, which dates back to the 16th century.
14. A Mysterious Language
How was Albonesi able to obtain a sample of Satan’s handwriting?
Historians believe that a French intellectual, called Guillame Postel, shared Albonesi’s interest in otherworldly languages. It was him who brought Ludovico Spoletano, an Italian conjurer, into the picture.
Not much is known about Spoletano other than that he supposedly recorded the handwriting featured in Albonesi’s book.
15. The Conjuring Of Satan
Spoletano was an experienced conjurer, who called upon the Devil to inquire about various topics.
The legend goes, that the evil spirit did appear and willingly answered Spoletano’s questions.Surprisingly, the Devil turned out to be more of a writer than a talker as he replied with handwritten notes.
According to Spoletano, Satan didn’t use his body to do so but made use of a pen.
16. A Relic Of Eden
Ashton suspected the writing to stem from Amharic, a language spoken in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.
The author even referenced a legend, according to which Amharic was spoken in the biblical Garden of Eden. Ashton’s theory has since been criticized by contemporary experts, disputing the claim that Amharic is the primeval language of mankind.
17. An Unsolved Mystery
Where there’s a cryptic text, there are people trying to decipher it.
The creator of the website Cipher Mysteries was one of the many code-crackers, who tried their luck to no avail. Apparently, the only diabolic content of the excerpt is a specific symbol that resembles a pitchfork.
However, experts were able to at least agree on the text being incoherent.
18. A Human Reason
Regarding Sister Maria’s letter, the verdict is equally sobering.
Daniele Abate, who worked on the decryption of the note, doubts that diabolical spirits guided the hand of the nun.
The scientist’s theory is that Sister Maria either invented the code voluntarily or suffered from schizophrenia, resulting in her imagining her encounters with the Devil.
19. Similarities To Mental Illness
Abate’s hypothesis isn’t far-fetched.
Schizophrenia disturbs the thought process of those affected. Auditory hallucinations and weird fantasies are typical for the mental illness. In addition, many patients aren’t able to form coherent sentences anymore resulting in gibberish.
The similarities between the symptoms of schizophrenia and the reports of demonic possession are striking.
20. The Cultural Context
Not every person affected by schizophrenia hallucinates about Satan.
Research proves, that the horrific illusions are strongly influenced by the cultural and sociopolitical environment. The paranoid fantasies of patients in Japan often revolve around shame, as pride is one of the most valued traits in Asian culture.
Considering the deep-rooted Christian beliefs surrounding Sister Maria, it makes sense for her to hallucinate about religious themes.
21. The Catalyst
Religion seems to be the perfect breeding ground for psychotic breakdowns.
The Bible expects humans to never stray away from the virtuous road. Those who give into sin, are destined to burn in hell for eternity. As only few humans manage to live up to these standards, an inner conflict inevitably arises.
Unfathomable imagery and elusive themes function as a catalyst for skewed fantasies.
Some psychiatrists doubt that a mental illness, like schizophrenia, is the answer to the numerous reports of demonic possession.
Among them is Dr. Richard Gallagher of Columbia University, who is a firm believer in the existence of demons. The psychiatrist claims he saw cases of demonic possession with his own eyes and heard the bizarre language that they speak.
23. Fallen Angels
In an interview with The Daily Mail, Gallagher explained his belief in demons.
According to him, demons are fallen angels that have been roaming the world for thousands of years and, therefore, are knowledgable in ancient languages.
The psychiatrist adds that he heard demons speak Chinese, ancient Greek and Latin. He theorizes that the evil spirits use those languages to creep out humans.
24. Evil Spirits
Gallagher sympathizes with those who don’t want to believe in evil spirits.
However, as scary as the thought of demons existing is, the psychiatrist is convinced that they are to blame for humans turning to the dark side and losing their mind.
He adds that, neither psychopathology nor other scientific fields provide an answer that is profound enough to explain cases like the one of Sister Maria.
25. A Plausible Theory
Many fellow mental health professionals agree with Gallagher’s theory.
In an interview with CNN in 2017, Dr. Mark Albanese confirms that not everything can be explained with science. Some things remain beyond human grasp.
According to Albanese, the spiritual beliefs of the individual strongly influence how responsive they are to demonic possession.
Dr. Stephen Diamond depicts the ritual of exorcism as a form of archaic psychotherapy.
Even Jesus Christ and Hippocrates, one of the pioneers of western medicine, are said to having performed the ritual to free humans from demonic possession.
Exorcism plays a role in different religions and regions of the world.
27. Psychotherapy And Exorcism
Diamond states that psychotherapy and the ritual of exorcism have the same goal, when treating a possessed person.
The difference between the two lies in the approach they take. Psychotherapy is a secular method and focuses on healing the person’s belief in being possessed by a demon.
Exorcism takes things literal and aims to fight a real demon, assuring the patient that it is not just all in his head. A method that uses the power of suggestion to its advantage.
28. A Strong Inluence
As archaic as the ritual of exorcism sounds, it is still being practiced today.
Kennedy Ife, a 26-year-old man from London, died in 2016 after his religious family tried to exorcise the alleged demon inside his body.
Several videos from Mexico City even show exorcisms being performed on public transportation.
29. A Dark Influence
In the eyes of the church, exorcisms are a reliable method to cast out demons.
The Roman Catholic Church has uttered plans to train a new generation of exorcists to fight against evil forces and dark spirits.
Some Catholic schools went as far as banning the Harry Potter books for glorifying the use of magic.
30. An Intriguing Riddle
Even today, in our sophisticated world, some people firmly believe in evil spirits.
Therefore, it is understandable that Sister Maria and her fellow nuns in the 17th century were open to the thought of the Devil being real. Modern psychiatry and its pioneers, like Siegmund Freud, would take many more centuries before being born.
In the end, it is the uncertainty and the thin line between fact and fiction that sparks human interest.