Deborah Knapp, KENS 5 Eyewitness News
When most people think of an exorcism, the 1970s movie "The Exorcist," or the more-recent movie "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" may come to mind.
Both movies were based on true stories and depict what the Catholic Church recognizes as signs of true diabolical possession: super-human strength, speaking in an unknown language, a strong aversion to holy objects.
However, exorcisms are very real in the Catholic churches just south of the border. With more people going through the process than ever, priests in Mexico are doing their best to keep up with the demand to drive demons from people's souls.
KENS 5 traveled to the country for a rare look into the world of satanic possession — and exorcism.
A young girl screams and growls, then recoils when hit with holy water. "I am the dragon," a man says. "And I want to enter you." A woman begins to foam at the mouth at the sight of a crucifix. Each of these people and their families believe they are possessed by the devil.
Video from a church in Veracruz shows these cases and more. The priest gave permission for camera crews to come in and witness the exorcisms.
The demand for the ritual is increasing around the world, especially in Mexico.
In Mexico City, there are eight priests authorized by the Vatican to perform exorcisms. In contrast, the Archdiocese of San Antonio doesn't have one authorized priest.
Father Rafael Baltazar is one of the official exorcists. Priests from all over Mexico City send their afflicted parishioners to him, and every week he sees people that he believes are under demonic influence.
"Their facial expressions, their screams," he said in Spanish. He said that's how he knows they are possessed, and he's felt and overwhelming evil presence when he commands the devil to leave.
"It makes the hair on my arms stand up," Baltazar said. "It scares me."
So why are so many more people claiming to be possessed?
People have lost their faith in God, and that allows the devil to attack them, said Father Pedro Mendoza, the chief exorcist at the Archdiocese of Mexico. He gets at least 15 calls a day from people requesting an exorcism.
Mendoza also blames witchcraft, faith healing, psychics and magic for opening the door to evil.
"Everything that is magic is from the devil," Mendoza said in Spanish.
Since so many people are demanding exorcisms, Mendoza organized Mexico's first national meeting of exorcists. About 500 people attended to learn how to drive away evil.
The priests in Veracruz mainly deal with minor exorcisms — when the devil is said to be oppressing the soul, but not possessing it. In these cases, the priests use holy water, a crucifix and a prayer of liberation to free the soul.
The Vatican's exorcism guidelines require all those claiming possession to first be examined by a mental health professional.
"I took her to the doctor, then I came here (the church)," said one girl's mother in Spanish. "It doesn't happen anymore."
After months of daily torment, the young girl says the evil presence is gone after this exorcism.
Even if many believe evil forces around them are increasing, they are reassured by their belief that Satan is no match for the power of Christ.
"If I have a strong faith in Jesus Christ, then the devil can do nothing to me," Mendoza said.
While there is no official exorcist in San Antonio, there are 12 in the United States doing battle with the devil, because the Catholic Church believes Satan is very active in the world.