The Possessed Person of Briga Novarese
The story of the possessed person takes place in Briga Novarese and tells the tale of a young 16-year-old girl, Teresa Strigini, who was the daughter of the mayor of the town, a well-known farmer. Teresa (Theresa) and Giuseppe (Joseph), a boy who also lived in the village, were in love, but they found themselves forced to separate due to the strong opposition between their two families. Teresa suffered greatly because of the separation, but, following a long period of illness, allowed herself to be seduced by the beguiling painter Ignazio (Ignatius).
The girl ran away from home with her family’s gold to meet and be with Ignazio, but unfortunately he did not reciprocate her feelings.
Following this incident, during the Epiphany of 1849, the sick and malnourished 16-year-old was again bedridden and cared for by her mother. The legend says that out of nowhere, the door of Teresa’s room, left only for an instant, closed on its own, slamming loudly. Not receiving any response from Teresa after many requests to open the door, her parents forced their way in. To their great surprise, when they entered Teresa’s room there was no sign of the girl, and her bed was empty.
Teresa was found outside the house, unconscious, deathly pale, and petrified; no human should be able to disappear and reappear like that, said the parish priest. He said he saw the devil’s work at play: the Strigini girl needed an exorcism.
The bishop would not consent to the performance of the exorcism, and for a long time Teresa terrorized her family and the population of Briga Novarese, speaking of the devil, appearing and disappearing, tying herself to the rooftop chimneys, and yelling and waffling like an obsessed person.
The devil left the girl’s body February 12 at exactly 10:00 A.M. to inhabit the body of a clergyman in France.
Among the many peculiarities, documented or perhaps invented, it is said that in her wafflings, the young girl called the devil by the names Gioberti and Leggio. ‘Leggio’ referred to the legions of spirits that serve to the devil, and Gioberti was no less than the prime minister of His Majesty, defined by Teresa as the leader of the minister of Hell. The incredible thing is that the girl was illiterate and had no access to any form of culture. So, the story of Teresa, the 16-year-old possessed person, has remained part of the collective imagination of the residents of this area, contributing to the playing up of Briga as a mysterious place full of beliefs and rich popular fantasies.