Case 128

Joan Vollmer

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Case 128

Joan Vollmer

On Sunday, January 10 1993, 54-year-old pig farmer Ralph Vollmer and his 49-year-old wife Joan returned home from a week-long interstate trip. The couple, who lived in the Victorian country town of Antwerp, had driven four-and-a-half hours west to attend a six-day religious convention in the South Australian capital of Adelaide. Ralph, a devout and ardent Christian, had been eager to attend the event, and while Joan didn’t share her husband’s fervour, she attended church regularly and so agreed to accompany him. 

The vacation had passed without incident, but shortly after their arrival home, Joan started to behave oddly. She had difficulty concentrating on tasks, would frequently change outfits throughout the day, was restless, and struggled to fall asleep. According to Ralph, as time went on she also started making peculiar noises and adopting different personas. On one occasion she acted as though she were a sheep shearer, speaking in a tone and manner consistent with a farmhand. On another, she claimed to be a sex worker while describing the activities she had participated in with supposed clients. 

It wasn’t the first time Ralph had witnessed Joan behaving this way. Two years earlier, she was hospitalised briefly for mental illness, but had made a fairly quick recovery and had been in good health ever since. Now it appeared her symptoms were returning. Over the course of the next two weeks, they seemed to worsen, particularly at night time. On the evening of Friday January 22, Ralph returned home to find Joan waving her arms and dancing in their property’s paddocks. Deeply troubled by the way his wife’s wellbeing had deteriorated, Ralph prayed to God for guidance…

________

Our episodes deal with serious and often distressing incidents. If you feel at anytime you need support, please contact your local crisis centre. Some suggestions for confidential support for men, women and children:

 

AUSTRALIA:

Lifeline Crisis Support: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: Depression and anxiety support: 1300 22 46 36

Rape & Domestic Violence Services: 1800 737 732

Men's Line: 1300 78 99 78

Headspace: Youth Mental Health Foundation: see headspace.org.au for your local centre

 

USA:

Distress &  Lifeline: 1800 273 8255

Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741 741

Domestic Violence Helpline: 1800 799 7233

Victim Connect: support for victims of crime: 855 484 2846

MTC program: maketheconnection.net/resources/spread-the-word

 

UK:

Mind: mental health support: 0300 123 3393

SANE: mental health support: 0300 304 7000

Samaritans support network: 116 123

National Stalking Helpline: 0808 802 0300

 

CANADA:

For a list of Canadian crisis centres: https://thelifelinecanada.ca/help/call/

 

NEW ZEALAND:

Lifeline: 0800 543354

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (Text 4202)

CREDITS

 

Casefile Presents

 

NARRATION:

Episode narrated by the Anonymous Host

 

EPISODE:

Episode researched and written by Erin Munro 

Creative director: Milly Raso

 

MUSIC:

‘Flatline intro’ and ‘Come play with me’ intro and outro www.dl-sounds.com

All other music and audio clean up performed by Mike Migas and Andrew Joslyn

 

OTHER:

Logo design by Paulina Szymanska

 

 

RESOURCES

 

BOOKS:

Writing on Gravestones. Chapter: Exorcism in Antwerp – Gary Tippet and Ian Munro.

 

COURT DOCUMENTS:

R v Vollmer and Ors [1996] VicRp 9; [1996] 1 VR 95 (7 September 1995)

Notice of application for leave to appeal against sentence for David Klingner

Notice of application for leave to appeal against sentence for Matthew Nuske

Notice of application for leave to appeal against sentence for Leanne Reichenbach

Notice of application for leave to appeal against sentence for Ralph Vollmer

 

ACADEMIC PAPERS:

Delivering demons, punishing wives: False imprisonment, exorcism and other matrimonial duties in a late 20th-century manslaughter case – Punishment & Society, April 2005

 

ARTICLES:

Devil took my wife – Herald Sun, February 3, 1993

Woman: I suffered exorcism – Herald Sun, February 5, 1993

Friends lay a spirit to rest – Herald Sun, February 6, 1993

Some strange goings-on in Antwerp – The Sunday Age, February 7, 1993

How Joan died in torment – Herald Sun, February 7, 1993

Pressure on exorcism woman’s neck: doctor – The Age, September 14, 1993

God influencing my answers, woman tells court – The Age, September 15 1993

Court clears four after exorcism death – The Canberra Times, September 17, 1993

Husband concerned over exorcism pain – The Age, September 16 1993

Community’s trial by exorcism – The Age, September 18 1993

Exorcism husband: it was God’s will – The Sunday Age, September 19, 1993

The demons within – The Age, September 20, 1993

In the will of the Lord – Herald Sun, October 18, 1994

A typical country town hears of the evil spirits in our midst -The Age, October 18 1994

Exorcist had vision woman would rise, court told – The Age, October 18 1994

Plea to God to forgive death – Herald Sun, October 19, 1994

Possessed by 10 devils – Herald Sun, October 20, 1994

God’s power in court – Herald Sun, October 21, 1994

Media told couple of death – Herald Sun, October 22, 1994

Witness tells of exorcism strength – Herald Sun, October 26, 1994

The devil on trial in a country town – Herald Sun, October 27, 1994

Evil altar in greenhouse – Herald Sun, October 27, 1994

Dead woman seen in vision at Lazarus’s tomb, court told – The Age, November 4 1994

Satan was in control – accused – Herald Sun, November 3, 1994

Songs of victory over dead woman – Herald Sun, November 4, 1994

Man clear on exorcism count – Herald Sun, November 17, 1994

Vigil of exorcism man – Herald Sun, November 19, 1994

Exorcism man ought to have known wife was ill – Herald Sun, November 22, 1994

Straight six blast over link to God – Herald Sun, November 23, 1994

Exorcism labelled a frolic – Herald Sun, November 24, 1994

Lethal ritual: ‘exorcists’ found guilty – The Canberra Times, December 1, 1994

Quiet couple bound by love of god – Herald Sun, December 1, 1994

Exorcism 2 convicted of manslaughter – Herald Sun, December 1, 1994

Battle with demons that led to death on a lonely Victorian farm – The Canberra Times, December 3, 1994

Locals upset as ritual death puts town on the map – Herald Sun, December 3, 1994

When war with the Devil ended in death – The Sunday Age, December 4, 1994

 

 

ONLINE ARTICLES:

Australian woman dies after 4-day exorcism – Associated Press, February 3, 1993

The creepy Australian country house abandoned after Joan Vollmer’s terrifying death when an exorcist tried to rid her of ‘demons’ – The Herald Sun, September 28, 2016

 

THIS EPISODE’S SPONSORS

 

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Listen On

On Sunday, January 10 1993, 54-year-old pig farmer Ralph Vollmer and his 49-year-old wife Joan returned home from a week-long interstate trip. The couple, who lived in the Victorian country town of Antwerp, had driven four-and-a-half hours west to attend a six-day religious convention in the South Australian capital of Adelaide. Ralph, a devout and ardent Christian, had been eager to attend the event, and while Joan didn’t share her husband’s fervour, she attended church regularly and so agreed to accompany him. 

The vacation had passed without incident, but shortly after their arrival home, Joan started to behave oddly. She had difficulty concentrating on tasks, would frequently change outfits throughout the day, was restless, and struggled to fall asleep. According to Ralph, as time went on she also started making peculiar noises and adopting different personas. On one occasion she acted as though she were a sheep shearer, speaking in a tone and manner consistent with a farmhand. On another, she claimed to be a sex worker while describing the activities she had participated in with supposed clients. 

It wasn’t the first time Ralph had witnessed Joan behaving this way. Two years earlier, she was hospitalised briefly for mental illness, but had made a fairly quick recovery and had been in good health ever since. Now it appeared her symptoms were returning. Over the course of the next two weeks, they seemed to worsen, particularly at night time. On the evening of Friday January 22, Ralph returned home to find Joan waving her arms and dancing in their property’s paddocks. Deeply troubled by the way his wife’s wellbeing had deteriorated, Ralph prayed to God for guidance…

______

Our episodes deal with serious and often distressing incidents. If you feel at anytime you need support, please contact your local crisis centre. Some suggestions for confidential support for men, women and children:

 

AUSTRALIA:

Lifeline Crisis Support: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: Depression and anxiety support: 1300 22 46 36

Rape & Domestic Violence Services: 1800 737 732

Men's Line:  1300 78 99 78

Headspace: Youth Mental Health Foundation: see headspace.org.au for your local centre

 

USA:

Distress &  Lifeline: 1800 273 8255

Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741 741

Domestic Violence Helpline: 1800 799 7233

Victim Connect: support for victims of crime: 855 484 2846

 

UK:

Mind: mental health support: 0300 123 3393

SANE: mental health support: 0300 304 7000

Samaritans support network: 116 123

National Stalking Helpline: 0808 802 0300

 

CANADA:

For a list of Canadian crisis centres: https://thelifelinecanada.ca/help/call

 

NEW ZEALAND:

Lifeline: 0800 543354

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (Text 4202)

CREDITS

 

Casefile Presents

 

NARRATION:

Episode narrated by the Anonymous Host

 

EPISODE:

Episode researched and written by Erin Munro 

Creative director: Milly Raso

 

MUSIC:

‘Flatline intro’ and ‘Come play with me’ intro and outro www.dl-sounds.com

All other music and audio clean up performed by Mike Migas and Andrew Joslyn

 

OTHER:

Logo design by Paulina Szymanska

 

 

RESOURCES

 

BOOKS:

Writing on Gravestones. Chapter: Exorcism in Antwerp – Gary Tippet and Ian Munro.

 

COURT DOCUMENTS:

R v Vollmer and Ors [1996] VicRp 9; [1996] 1 VR 95 (7 September 1995)

Notice of application for leave to appeal against sentence for David Klingner

Notice of application for leave to appeal against sentence for Matthew Nuske

Notice of application for leave to appeal against sentence for Leanne Reichenbach

Notice of application for leave to appeal against sentence for Ralph Vollmer

 

ACADEMIC PAPERS:

Delivering demons, punishing wives: False imprisonment, exorcism and other matrimonial duties in a late 20th-century manslaughter case – Punishment & Society, April 2005

 

ARTICLES:

Devil took my wife – Herald Sun, February 3, 1993

Woman: I suffered exorcism – Herald Sun, February 5, 1993

Friends lay a spirit to rest – Herald Sun, February 6, 1993

Some strange goings-on in Antwerp – The Sunday Age, February 7, 1993

How Joan died in torment – Herald Sun, February 7, 1993

Pressure on exorcism woman’s neck: doctor – The Age, September 14, 1993

God influencing my answers, woman tells court – The Age, September 15 1993

Court clears four after exorcism death – The Canberra Times, September 17, 1993

Husband concerned over exorcism pain – The Age, September 16 1993

Community’s trial by exorcism – The Age, September 18 1993

Exorcism husband: it was God’s will – The Sunday Age, September 19, 1993

The demons within – The Age, September 20, 1993

In the will of the Lord – Herald Sun, October 18, 1994

A typical country town hears of the evil spirits in our midst -The Age, October 18 1994

Exorcist had vision woman would rise, court told – The Age, October 18 1994

Plea to God to forgive death – Herald Sun, October 19, 1994

Possessed by 10 devils – Herald Sun, October 20, 1994

God’s power in court – Herald Sun, October 21, 1994

Media told couple of death – Herald Sun, October 22, 1994

Witness tells of exorcism strength – Herald Sun, October 26, 1994

The devil on trial in a country town – Herald Sun, October 27, 1994

Evil altar in greenhouse – Herald Sun, October 27, 1994

Dead woman seen in vision at Lazarus’s tomb, court told – The Age, November 4 1994

Satan was in control – accused – Herald Sun, November 3, 1994

Songs of victory over dead woman – Herald Sun, November 4, 1994

Man clear on exorcism count – Herald Sun, November 17, 1994

Vigil of exorcism man – Herald Sun, November 19, 1994

Exorcism man ought to have known wife was ill – Herald Sun, November 22, 1994

Straight six blast over link to God – Herald Sun, November 23, 1994

Exorcism labelled a frolic – Herald Sun, November 24, 1994

Lethal ritual: ‘exorcists’ found guilty – The Canberra Times, December 1, 1994

Quiet couple bound by love of god – Herald Sun, December 1, 1994

Exorcism 2 convicted of manslaughter – Herald Sun, December 1, 1994

Battle with demons that led to death on a lonely Victorian farm – The Canberra Times, December 3, 1994

Locals upset as ritual death puts town on the map – Herald Sun, December 3, 1994

When war with the Devil ended in death – The Sunday Age, December 4, 1994

 

 

ONLINE ARTICLES:

Australian woman dies after 4-day exorcism – Associated Press, February 3, 1993

The creepy Australian country house abandoned after Joan Vollmer’s terrifying death when an exorcist tried to rid her of ‘demons’ – The Herald Sun, September 28, 2016

 

THIS EPISODE’S SPONSORS

 

HempFusion – Get 20% OFF your first order and FREE shipping with promo code ‘CASEFILE’

ZipRecruiter – Post your jobs for FREE

Native – Get 20% OFF your first order with promo code ‘CASEFILE’

Article – Get $50 off your first order of $100 or more

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