Putting Faith to the Test

Litchfield, Conn., is the kind of place a lot of people might choose to raise a family. Among its other appealing qualities, Litchfield has a microscopically low crime rate, as in other suburban communities across America.

'The Grip of the Devil'

But no town can be protected from all things evil. Some time ago in this peaceful community, wife and mother Pat Reading felt as though she were possessed by satanic spirits. In a series of exorcisms, a local bishop tried to free her from what they saw as the grip of the devil.

Reading's then-teenage daughter Michelle Reading witnessed her mother's exorcism sessions first hand:

"When you see the person that you love," she said, "that gave birth to you and took care of you … and then you see her being attacked by something invisible, so heinous and so disgusting, I mean, it really is a disgusting situation and you will do anything to stop it."

Exorcism was a last resort for Reading. According to her daughter, Reading's normal life was derailed by feelings that an unseen force was hitting and shoving her and always at her side.

As Michelle described, "She'd scream, she'd jerk backward, I'd turn around and she'd be in pain. Of course, she would panic, she would cry, she was shocked."

Family legend has it that the Reading house was possessed before the spirit entered Reading. Family members said the home was subject to phenomena like furniture being inexplicably tossed about and strange knocking sounds.

"She would end up with black-and-blue marks in the most bizarre places that she wouldn't have been able to do herself," said paranormal expert John Zaffis, who is writing a book about the Reading case titled "The Struggle Within," which is due out later this year.

After witnessing Reading's exorcism, he said, "We have what we call soul victims, if you will, purely innocent individuals that have never had any exposure to paranormal stuff whatsoever, and during the course of their life they just fall victim, in the right place at the right time, and things could just occur. And I think that's what kind of happened with Patty."

But couldn't this be explained in medical or psychological terms?

"She was found to have no psychosis," Michelle Reading explained. "There was nothing wrong with her. She was not a drinker. She was not an alcoholic. Nothing like that."

"Medically, physically, everything had been ruled out and … that's when a decision had to be made," Zaffis told "20/20." "And that's when, actually, we had the Roman Catholic Church involved."

'Traci's Demons'

Another woman, who asked to be identified as "Traci," also felt the presence of the devil inside of her.

"When the demons are active in my body, I feel confused, I get paranoid. I get tense," Traci explained.

The exorcisms performed on Traci were documented by Paulist Productions for an upcoming documentary called "Satan Unmasked." The executive producer of the film is the Rev. Frank Desiderio. "20/20" will follow Traci's story when the documentary is completed. For more on Paulist Productions, click here.

"We've been following this story of this woman called Traci," Desiderio explained. "She does have a history of drug use … but that in and of itself does not explain everything that's going on in this woman's life."

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