I have spent over a decade researching the reality and the impact surrounding the movie phenomenon The Exorcist and the actual paranormal case that inspired it. My research and investigation have uncovered many aspects of the case that have never before been shared. Here are ten facts about the film and the actual possession case that inspired it.
- The film, The Exorcist, was inspired by an actual case of possession, which began at a small home in Cottage City, Maryland, in January of 1949. The exorcism concluded at Alexian Brothers Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, on the Monday following Easter of that same year.
- Unlike the film, the actual possession surrounded a young boy who the Roman Catholic Church referred to as Roland Doe. The young boy survived the entire ordeal and still claims to this day not to remember anything that took place in those early months of 1949. He grew up to live a normal life and worked for NASA until retirement.
- It is said the possession was the result of the boy playing with an Ouija™ board. The boy was taught how to contact the dead using the board by his Spiritualist aunt. The aunt died two weeks after the first signs of the possession began within the boy. However, evidence we have uncovered suggests there was great interest from the boy's mother in contacting the dead aunt, which may have compounded the effects of the case.
- The only written documentation surrounding the case was in the form of a diary kept by an attending Priest, Father Raymond Bishop. Father Bishop's diary was an internal Church document, which was never meant to be shared with the public at large. The sole intent of the diary was to document the case for Church records, which lends the diary more credibility as a truthful record.
- There were over forty witnesses to the boy's possession. His possession was attended to by a psychiatrist, a general medical doctor, priests, a Lutheran minister, Spiritualists, family members, and others.
- The boy was brought to St. Louis because the demon had scratched the word "Louis" on the boy's body when the mother asked it where to take the boy. The boy had family here and the plan was to stay with them in the suburbs of the city. The intent behind the move was not an exorcism. As a matter of fact, the first person who was consulted after the move was a Spiritualist in the form of an Alphabet Medium.
- In spite of what you see represented in other books and documentaries, there are only three main locations within the city of St. Louis where the actual exorcism took place. The diary tells us the exorcism was conducted at the suburban St. Louis home of the boy's aunt and uncle, the Rectory of the St. Xavier College Church, and at Alexian Brothers Hospital, where it concluded. There was one brief incident that occurred at the White House Retreat in St. Louis as well. Any other locations claiming to be part of the exorcism have been found to be nothing more than urban legend and wishful thinking.
- When the 1973 film, The Exorcist, was released it was a worldwide phenomenon. Audiences lined up for blocks, waiting hours for the chance to see the film. People would pass out in the theaters from fright due to the severe subject matter and the groundbreaking special effects. Interestingly enough, more men passed out in theaters than did women. The theaters would have nurses and doctors on hand to help those overwhelmed by the film.
- The man who acted as the exorcist in the actual case was Father William S. Bowdern, the pastor of St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis, Missouri. It is reported that during the exorcism Father Bowdern suffered from massive weight loss and boils that covered his hands and body. There is also evidence to suggest he dealt with lasting effects from the exorcism for the remainder of his life. To this date, Father Bowdern has not been considered for canonization, which leaves many of the St. Louis faithful wondering why.
- Roland Doe endured the most horrific of events. His body was often covered in scratches and what the diary describes as some type of branding. When these would appear on his body he would cry out in horrible pain. Evidence suggests that, during the early months of the possession, every single person who should have been there to help him let him down in one way or another. This includes his own mother, who would stand over him asking questions of the demon, watching as the answers where torn into the boy's flesh. There were times it would seem like every single person who was there to help him neglected him for the demon. Some would even go so far as to claim it was abuse. It was not until the involvement of Fathers Bishop and Bowdern do we see anyone attempting to tend to his needs. There is a moment in the diary that sticks in my mind. The exorcist, Father Bowdern, was kneeling next to the boy's hospital bed reciting the prayers of exorcism. The priest, at this point, was weak and frail—his body covered with oozing boils caused by the weeks of grueling exorcism. However, he continued to pray for this boy and his soul. He knelt by the bed of this profanity-screaming boy trying to save him, without a bit of regard to his own health and deterioration. It is this moment when I understood the impact of what was happening to this child and it is because of this moment that I dedicated my book to Roland Doe.
The events of 1949 will forever be the topic of discussion and conjecture. The journey my research took me on is one that changed my life. The exorcism ended in 1949, but the aftermath forever changed the Catholic Church and the city of St. Louis. The 1949 St. Louis Exorcism case ushered in a new age of the diabolic. The book and the film, The Exorcist, brought the age of the diabolic into the mainstream through the vehicle of entertainment and had lasting effects on the world. My research and investigation into this case has uncovered new information, which has never before been shared publicly. It not only changed the person I am today, but will also change you as well. Read my entire research and analysis in Confrontation with Evil: An In-Depth Review of the 1949 Possession that Inspired The Exorcist.