I have to admit that writing about The Exorcist still makes me incredibly nervous. On the other hand, I’m going to make an effort to tell you the real story behind this iconic film on the occasion of its 50th release anniversary (the formal premiere took place on June 19, 1973, in New York).
The real story behind the making of The Exorcist
Yes, real incidents served as the basis for The Exorcist. The William Friedkin-directed film is still considered the landmark horror film of all time.
Young Regan’s (Linda Blair) exorcism of a young priest (Jason Miller) in the film is based on the well-known book by William Peter Blatty, who in turn was inspired by a real case of demonic possession to create it.
The Case of Roland Doe
The story begins with Roland Doe, a boy who was supposedly possessed in the late 1940s.
Although his real name remains unknown today, the Catholic Church gave him the alias “Roland” to make the facts public. For his book, the author relied on newspaper accounts of the time, as well as diaries kept by Raymond Bishop, the exorcist priest.
Born in 1936, Roland Doe was raised by his Lutheran-Christian family in Cottage City, Maryland. He and his Aunt Harriet, a spiritualist who introduced him to the world of the pebble, were very close. He was an only child.
He tried to communicate with his aunt on the message board after she passed away and shortly thereafter the “symptoms” of his demonic possession began.
The house was filled with strange noises and furniture moved on its own
Even a vase of holy water levitating above the child’s bedside table suddenly fell to the floor. Doctors examined the little boy, but, according to Schulze, a local priest, they could not determine what was wrong with him.
Schulze himself surprised the family with a night of terror by asking permission to take Roland home for an all-night observation. According to Schulze, the boy’s bed was making noises, the walls were scratching and even the sheets were moving on their own.
The reverend concluded that Roland needed the Lutheran rite of exorcism.
This is how Edward Hughes, a Roman Catholic priest who performed the ritual at Georgetown University Hospital, came into contact with the case. However, the young boy’s aggressiveness forced the priest to end the exorcism and send the boy home.
He even received wounds from Roland that had to be stitched. The family soon took the boy to visit two other priests, Raymond Bishop and William S. Bowdern, after the boy developed multiple welts on his body during the trip.
Both saw the strange occurrences in Roland’s home and then performed the exorcism with the authority of the local archbishop. He asked them to carry it out in secret, but to keep a diary of the details.
Demon (evil) and hell (hell)
According to the writings, throughout the ceremony, Roland’s body displayed the words “evil” and “hell,” and during one of his fits of rage, he allegedly “spoke in a strange tongue” and broke the nose of one of the attendees.
In addition, they had to repeat the same ritual up to 30 times over several weeks, in addition to performing an exorcism.
Fortunately, the ritual was successful and life returned to normal for the family. The local church had information that Roland was a prosperous man, married, content and a father and grandfather.
As many as nine priests and 39 witnesses
Acknowledged signing a document stating that they believed that this child’s situation involved possession, even though others, such as author Mark Opsasnick, do not share this view.
The author claims that local witnesses, including priests and family members, have been interviewed and that the child never used a foreign language, but merely repeated Latin phrases he had heard.
He was never harmed because there is no evidence to support Priest Hughes’ claim that he attempted to exorcise him.
Supernatural events “were exaggerated”
The boy’s classmate claims the supernatural events were “exaggerated.”
Even Joe Nickell, another investigator, claims Roland Doe was a spoiled brat just looking for attention. Whether or not there is actual possession, belief in it is “a matter of faith,” a religion that still fills us with fear on a cinematic level.
The Exorcist, which grossed $441 million worldwide on a budget of $11 million, was the first film of its kind to receive an Oscar nomination.
With information from Yahoo!