Saturday, May 23, 2009

The True Story Behind the Film - 'The Exorcist'

By Jackie Reynolds

Most people have either read the book (1971) or seen
the film (1973) 'The Exorcist', where a young girl called, Regan
MacNeil was thought to be possessed by demons. However, in reality,
this film was based on the true life events of a boy named, Roland Doe.

This story became the inspiration for probably one of the most popular horror films of all time.

writer, William Peter Blatty became inspired to write this book after
he discovered there were diaries of the exorcism, written by the Jesuit
Priests during and after Rev. William S. Bowdern's repeated attempts to
exorcise thirteen year old Roland Doe.

In 1949, William Blatty
was an English major student at Georgetown University, when he began
reading the newspaper articles regarding the exorcism of Roland Doe. He
subsequently approached his lecturer, Rev. Thomas Bermingham informing
him of the story. The Reverand then went on to conduct further
investigations and discovered that the diaries of Roland Doe had in
fact been chronicled by the Jesuit Priests.

It was unfortunate
for Blatty, but he was unable obtain permission to read the diaries,
therefore, he had to turn to lengthy newspaper investigations, which
resulted in some amazing discoveries:

In January 1949, a young
boy called, Roland Doe and his dysfunctional family began experiencing
strange occurrence's in their home. The location is still undecided for
many reasons. One of them being:

Years later when Father Bowdern
was asked by Blatty during the making of the film if he should visit
the Doe family, the Father became insistent that the family's location
and confidentiality remain secret to protect the boy. However, I can
reveal, it was either Maryland, USA, or Mount Rainer, USA.

the true location may be, it is known that the family's troubles began
with minor disturbances, namely scratching sounds heard in various
locations of their home (usually coming from the ceiling or the walls).
This led the family to suspect rodent infestation. However, after
contacting a rodent extermination firm, who carried out a full
investigation, it was determined that the house was free of infestation.

It was not long after this when the cause of these disruptions began taking on a more dramatic and sinister role.

Roland Doe was to be the unfortunate victim of this relentless phenomena.

sleeping, he began experiencing violent bed shaking episodes and sheets
being dragged off his bed. These onslaughts rapidly increased in
intensity and could often be heard and witnessed by the family.

Roland's family became convinced these attacks were genuine, they also
started to link Roland's fascination with the Ouija board. Roland began
to dabble with this 'game' thanks to his Aunt Tillie, who introduced
him to it before she died on January 26th, 1949 - eleven days prior to
the start of the paranormal activity.

Although Roland's mother
suspected Aunt Tillie was the cause of the haunting, the family had to
act quickly as concern grew for Roland's welfare.

As Roland had
been baptized a Lutheran after birth, the family called in the help of
two Lutheran ministers - one being Rev. Luther Schultze. Accompanying
them was a Rabbi, who it is believed was only there because of his
knowledge in this type of suspected phenomena.

Whilst the young
boy was being assessed by the Rabbi, it is said that Roland suddenly
began ranting in a language he had no previous knowledge of.

two Lutheran ministers had no clue as to what Roland was saying,
however, the Rabbi understood every word...Roland was speaking the
rabbi's native tongue of Hebrew - fluently!


researching a number of conflicting articles on the exorcism of Roland
Doe and studying the Jesuit priests diaries, I can now give you the
facts surrounding the lead up to and the actual exorcism from the best
of my knowledge.

It was first understood by myself, after reading
various analogies, that Roland's mother held a number of Ouija board
séance's in order to contact Aunt Tillie, however, I discovered this
was not the case:

Roland Doe's mother 'suspected' that recently
departed Aunt Tillie was the cause of Roland's regime of relentless
torment. During one episode where Roland was being terrorised by this
unknown force, his mother shouted out, 'if that's you Tillie, knock
three times'.

Immediately, a cold breeze loomed down and weaved
its icy breath around Roland's mother, grandmother, and then Roland
himself. Then came three distinct knocks on the floor, which all three
of them heard.

Mrs Doe hesitantly asked, 'if that really is you
Tillie, knock four times'. Again, all three heard four knocks on the
floor...but most disturbingly - claw like marks were later discovered
on Roland's mattress.

However, Aunt Tillie was later discarded as
the cause after the paranormal activity carried over into Roland's
school. Roland was aghast as his school desk began moving around by
itself in full view of the horrified teacher and school children. This
later resulted in Roland's expulsion from the school.

the Doe family where traumatized as well as fearing for Roland's health
as the phenomena increased. Reverend Shultze was brought in to observe
the attacks on Roland. Over a period of several nights, Shultze
witnessed the boy seeming to be in agony as he slept - flaying his arms
around and ripping his sheets. The Reverend was still however
unconvinced of paranormal activity and referred Roland to the Mental
Hygiene Clinic of the University of Maryland for tests. The tests came
back with conclusive results...Roland was considered in no way abnormal.

sceptical of paranormal activity, Shultze asked Roland to stay over at
his parsonage. Shultze's main purpose was to discover if Roland's home
was being haunted, or whether it was Roland himself.

On February
17th 1949, Roland was taken to Shultze's home where he would spend the
night and be monitored by Shultze. The Reverend would not be

During the night, the Reverend stated that distinct
scratching noises were heard coming from Roland's room. Shultze then
entered the bedroom and was horrified to witness Roland being tipped
out of the armchair he was sitting in and the bed at his side vibrating.

would later observe scratches appearing on Roland's body in front of
his eyes. The Reverend realised that time was now of the essence and
recommended the Doe family contact the Catholics.

parents were by now so desperate; they decided to take Roland to see
Father Albert Hughes at St. James Catholic Church in Mount Rainier.

the meantime, a very concerned cousin of Roland's, who was a student of
Father Raymond J. Bishop at St Louis University confided in him about
the paranormal activity taking place in the Doe household. After
concluding he had no doubt she was speaking the truth, he decided to
discuss this matter with his old friend, Rev. William S. Bowdern.

Father Bowden would go on to be the main instigator in the exorcism of Roland Doe.


Doe's family were by now clear in mind that evil had possessed their
13-year-old son after he had conducted numerous Ouija board sessions.
Their only choice left was to visit Father Albert Hughes at St. James
Catholic Church in Mount Rainier for assessment.

Father Hughes
was initially disbelieving and hesitant about the case. However, he
agreed to conduct the interview...encountering probably one of the
worlds most inconceivable, unearthly cases of possession known to date.


was reported; as Father Hughes began interviewing Roland, the icy
breath felt by the Doe family during their 'supposed' contact with Aunt
Tillie had once more made its hostile return.

Still sceptical,
Father Hughes carried on with the interview, which was soon followed by
Roland spilling out a tirade of ungodly language directed at the
Father. Hughes was evidently stunned but still remained unconvinced.
However, this was swiftly dispelled when Roland suddenly began speaking
fluently in Latin. A language he had never been taught.

At the
end of the interview, there was apparently no doubt in Father Hughes
mind that Roland Doe was indeed possessed as he immediately contacted
his archbishop, Cardinal O'Boyle and asked his permission to conduct an
exorcism. This was approved after the Cardinal studied the case and the
medical evidence.


The first exorcism of Roland
Doe took place at the Georgetown hospital. Before the ritual Roland was
tied securely to the bed, which was a normal practise.

As the
exorcism commenced, Roland launched a spitting frenzy directed at
Father Hughes. It was reported the outpouring was sent with such force
and incredible aim, it was described as 'beyond natural.'

exorcism then came to its grisly end as the young boy began screaming
obscenities at the Father and broke free from his restraint. Roland
then manifested a power far beyond his years and condition - ripping a
metal spring from the bed and slashing the Father's left arm -
resulting in Hughes needing over 100 stitches.

Roland promptly
became peaceful after Father Hughes left the room - not referring to
the exorcism at all; it was as though all memories had drained into a
void of obscurity.

Roland was not considered to be in need of
hospitalisation after the exorcism and was sent home. In the meantime,
Father Hughes was unable to comprehend the reality of what he had just
witnessed and suffered a mental breakdown.

The case however
remained far from closed; something needed to be done to help Roland.
After his cousin had spoken with her professor, Father Bishop at St
Lois University (mentioned at the end of part two), it was decided that
he and his good friend Father Bowdern would visit Roland.

March 9th 1949 Father Bishop and Father Bowdern, together with a young
Jesuit priest, Fr. Walter Halloran went to Roland's home. During the
visit, they were horrified to discover Roland's body had been
disfigured with bleeding scratches to his chest. Other phenomenon was
also witnessed, which resulted in Cardinal Ritter being petitioned by
the priests in order to carry out another exorcism.

The exorcism was granted by Cardinal Ritter on March 16th 1949...soon afterwards the priests began the exorcism rites.

exorcism took on a sinister air from the start, with violent bed
movements reported, extreme hostile language and extensive spitting
coming from Roland. When further bloody scratch marks apparently
spelled out the words 'hell' and 'devil' it was decided for everyone's
safety, the exorcism should be carried on in the psychiatric ward at
the Alexian Brothers Hospital.

At the hospital, Father Bowdern
began the exorcism by reciting prayers from 'The Roman Ritual'. Whilst
Father Bishop wrote a diary of the events.

Roland then screamed
in apparent pain as the prayers went on. At one point Bowdern was
clearly shaken as the boy spat out the words, 'I'm in hell - I see you
- you're in hell - it's 1957.'

Roland then began spitting at the
priests again. Fr. Halloran was reported to have said that Roland was
an absolute marksman when he spat, he stated that even with his eyes
closed Roland would spit right in your face.

The exorcism went on
for nights with each episode becoming more fearsome than the last. On
one occasion Roland exploded with such rage, he hit Halloran with a
force which broke his nose.

Bowdern began reciting the Roman Ritual of Christian Exorcism over and over again:

cast thee out, thou unclean spirit, along with the least encroachment
of the wicked enemy and every phantom and diabolical legion. In the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ, depart and vanish from this creature of

After hours of reciting, Bowdern and the others were
alarmed when Roland sat bolt upright and announced in a booming voice
he was the 'Arc Angel Michael' and demanded the demon to leave Roland.

writhed around, contorting his body in obscure positions until
eventually he lay still. Then he sat up and spoke in his normal voice
declaring to all the relieved witnesses, he had just seen a vision of
St Michael holding a flaming sword. The exorcism was a success!

days after the exorcism Roland's family moved from St Louis to
Maryland. Roland later wrote to Father Bowdern telling him he was
settled and had very vague recollections of what had happened to him.

The last report of Roland Doe is of a happily married man with three children and still living in Maryland.

Catholic church has a filed dossier which states that the possession of
Roland Doe was 'genuine' with forty one signatures of witnesses to the

By Jackie Reynolds

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