The Exorcist

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The Exorcist was a movie adapted by the book of the same name by William Peter Blatty, who also worked on the screenplay. The story revolves around an actress who is filming in Georgetown and begins to experience strange occurrences on in the house she is staying in while on location, especially regarding the behaviour of her daughter. After exhausting all medical avenues, the actress consults a priest and it is decided that the young girl requires an exorcism.

The Exorcist was the first horror movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and it had an amazing affect on cinema audiences when it was released. People still talk about the ambulances that were stationed outside the theatres. In 1974 my parents were newly weds as was my dad’s twin brother and his wife. They watched the movie at the theatre; it was quite the double date. My mother still talks about going to see it when it was first released and of how scared she was by it. My uncle apparently was so terrified he wouldn’t stop throwing up afterwards. Pea soup anyone? He even abandoned his new wife and slept with his father for a week. I knew of the movie but read the book before I saw it. The book really scared me, and even though I was around 18 years old at the time I had been an avid reader of adult horror for years (I’d get my mum to borrow the books for me on her library card). I remember I’d always read a chapter of some insipid Mills & Boons romance book before I slept to ensure I didn’t have nightmares.

There were several strange occurrences reported on the sets of The Exorcist and at one point a priest was called to bless the set after a mysterious fire broke out. Blatty talks about them in the documentary Hollywood Ghost Stories and Ellen Burstyn also refers to these in her autobiography.

Some people believe the film is cursed as actor Jack MacGowran, who played the drunken director Burke Dennings in the movie died from influenza shortly after filming.

The Exorcism Of Roland Doe

The author of The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty, was inspired to write the story after reading about a real exorcism while he was a student at Georgetown University in the diary of a priest called Fr. Raymond Bishop. The exorcism in question was performed in the late 1940s on a young teenage boy who was given the pseudonym ‘Roland Doe’ by the Catholic church, which sanctioned the exorcism.

The young boy lived with his parents and was supposedly close to an aunt who taught him to use the Ouija or Spirit board. It is said that he used the board to try and contact her after her demise. This is when unexplained occurrences began in the family home; strange sounds and furniture and objects moving by themselves. The family then consulted their own Lutheran priest who observed the boy, and after medical and psychiatric tests, came to the decision that the boy was possessed.

The boy was first exorcised by an Episcopalian church priest, but apparently this did not help. Finally a Catholic priest was consulted and an exorcism was performed. Much of the depiction in the movie is said to be taken from what happened in this exorcism. However, it is said that around 30 exorcism rituals were performed over several weeks, rather than just one.

After this, the boy was said to have had his affliction removed and he went back to his family feeling fine. He had no memory of the possession and went on to lead a normal life.


The movie Possessed is based on the book of the same name by Thomas Allen. They both tell the story of the original exorcism of ‘Roland Doe’, the only documented exorcism in America.

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