Although the principle events in this drama occurred outside the Calderdale region, one of the main players had previously been something of a fixture in the area, namely the Father Peter Vincent who was vicar at the Church of Saint John the Divine in Rastrick between 1963 and 1971. The case and his involvement in it consequently generated a lot of discussion in the local press at the time, and hence it seems worth recounting here.
By 1974, Vincent was the parish priest at the Church of Saint Thomas in Gawber, South Yorkshire and known to be an expert in the art euphemistically described as “deliverance” but more commonly known as exorcism. Thus, he was called in by the Christian Fellowship Group of Osset when one of their members, Michael Taylor, felt he was possessed following an attack he carried out on his wife Christine and an encounter with the devil himself.
On the night of 5th April, Vincent and the Methodist priest Reverend Raymond Smith took Taylor to Saint Thames’ Church in Barnsley, whereupon the performed an intensive exorcism ritual which lasted over seven hours into the following morning. The clerics claimed to have expelled forty demons from Taylor but in light of the events that followed admitted “at least three demons – insanity, murder, and violence – were still left in him.”
Returning to his home in the early hours of the morning and clearly still in a profoundly disturbed state of mind, Taylor proceeded to murder his wife Christine and mutilate her body by reportedly removing her eyes and tongue, practically tearing her face off the skull with his bare hands. He went on to kill the family’s pet poodle and was subsequently found by the police wandering the streets naked and slick with blood, claiming to have no memory of events.
Taylor was found to be suffering from schizophrenia and an inquest declared him criminally insane, confining him to an asylum from which he was released only three years later. Inevitably, the incident sparked a huge controversy concerning the role of exorcism in modern society. In the Church of England, deliverance cases must now first be referred to a panel including a medical psychiatrist, and the Taylor exorcism remains the last acknowledged instance in an Anglican church.
In April 1975 following the conclusion of the inquest, the Brighouse Echo reports that Vincent successor at St. John’s Church, Rev. Ian Walker had performed an exorcism in the Brighouse district on at least one occasion, whilst it seems inevitable that Vincent himself carried out such rites in the area during in his term, considering his reputation as an expert in those matters. However, following the Taylor incident, all exorcism in the Wakefield diocese was banned by the bishop.