Monday, October 1, 2012

Spooky Stories #1 - The REAL Exorcist

I love Halloween! And for the month of October, I will bring you my very BEST Spooky Stories going back seven years. I might even throw in a new one in here. Below is one of the very first spooky posts I did back in 2005. The movie, The Exorcist, remains one of the scariest movies of all time for me.

The freakiest part of it all - it's based on ACTUAL events that happened here in St. Louis. I hope you enjoy this!

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William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel The Exorcist and the Warner Brother's film from 1973 have etched the term "exorcism" forever within our everyday vocabulary. For most of us, images of a demented Linda Blair spitting pea soup, her head spinning around, and all kinds of spooky scary stuff.

The novel was based on eye witness testimony and a 26 page diary (once thought to be 16 pages). Eye witness testimony includes first hand accounts from Jesuit priests, various professors, family members, friends, hospital workers, and even construction workers.

What exactly happened? What is Blatty's novel based on? Here are the facts in timeline form that have been confirmed by various investigators, and many details have been clarified and corrected:

>The family involved remains anonymous to this day [2012], so we'll call them the Doe Family and the boy that was allegedly possessed we'll refer to him as Rob Doe. The Doe Family was from Cottage City Maryland, not Mt. Rainer, Maryland as previously believed.

>January 1949, strange things began to happen to 13 year-old Rob. He was being scratched and attacked by something unseen. His parents witnessed his blankets flying about on their own, the bed shaking violently.

>Februrary 26, 1949...The Does were Lutheran, so they turned to Rev. Schulze. Rob spent the night in Shulze's room. There, Schulze witnessed paranormal phenomena, such as a rug moving by itself across the room. After taking Rob to the Mental Hygiene Clinic of the University of Maryland, Rev. Schulze recommended the Doe Family consult Father Hughes of St. James Catholic Church in Mount Rainer.

>End of February, 1949...blessed candles would fly across the room, tables moved, and an attempted baptism went wrong. Rob would curse and act violently. They moved him to Georgetown hospital where Father Hughes began an unsuccessful rite of's unclear if it was authorized by the Church.

>Early March...Rob is released from the hospital, and Mrs. Doe decides to go back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. She thought maybe the "hauntings" would stop. As soon as they arrive, family members witness various supernatural occurances surrounding Rob.

>March 9, 1949...One of Mrs. Doe's cousins requests the help of her priest professor at St. Louis University, Father Raymond J. Bishop. He sees the scratches on Rob's body, floating objects, and the mattress vibrating on its own.

>March 11, 1949...Father Bishop calls in Father William Bowdern of of St. Francis Xavier Church (at the corner of Grand and Lindell here in St. Louis, pictured left; Fr. Bowdern is pictured right). These two priests and a Jesuit scholar, Walter Halloran, witness the scratches on Rob's abdomen, the bed shaking, Rob speaking to them in Latin and possibly Aramaic, and the 13 year-old boy's violent and strange behavior.

>March 16, 1949...Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter gives Father Bowdern permission to begin the formal rite of exorcism. That night, accompanied by Father Bishop and Walter Halloran, Father Bowdern begin reciting the ritual prayers of exorcism.

>March through April, 1949...Rob's "seizures" become more violent and often is held down by as many as ten people during the exorcism or prayer sessions. He would tear the sheets and even broke Halloran's nose. During this time, Rob is taken back and forth between his relative's house and Alexian Brother's Hospital. Numerous priests, students, and hospital workers witnessed many of the supernatural occurrences in his hospital room .

It was a stressful and scary time. Father Bowdern was known to have lost 40 pounds during the ordeal.

>April 18, 1949...The Final Exorcism...Fr. Bowdern places various religious medals around Rob, and instructs him to hold a crucifix. Rob starts to become possessed, and screams that the medals were becoming hot...soon, he is in full demonic possession and starts hissing and flicking his tongue like a snake.

>The rite continues when suddenly, in a different masculine voice Rob says, "Satan! Satan! I am St. Michael! I command you, Satan, and the other evil spirits to leave this body, in the name of Dominus, immediately! Now! Now! Now!" Rob has one last spasm before falling quiet and witnesses reported hearing a "gunshot sound" throughout the hospital at that moment.

>Rob told the priests of a vision that he had of St. Michael holding a flaming sword, and that the demon was gone.

>Twelve days later he left Missouri and returned to Maryland.

>The story made headlines, and several family members told the story to news reporters. Rob grew up, had a normal life, had three children, and resided somewhere in Maryland. Rob, if still alive, would be 70 years old today. Other than that, we know nothing of Rob [2012].

>Walter Halloran (pictured left) became a priest and often talked about his experience with others. He passed away in 2005

>Fr. Bowdern passed away in 1983. He never publicly talked about his experience. With his report to the Church, he received 41 signatures from those who testified to witnessing paranormal phenomena with this case.

>Following the exorcism, the hospital staff at Alexia avoided the room. The smells and cold air still emanated from under the doorway. No one ever used the room again. The entire wing of the hospital eventually was sealed off, and was demolished.

Before demolition, the crew found a copy of the exorcist's diary, which was given to hospital administrators. The diary was William Blatty's basis his book.

2012 Update: A local radio show did a contest that included having the "winners" do an investigation at the ACTUAL HOUSE in Bel-Nor (suburb in St. Louis). The trees near the house grow inwards towards the room where "Rob" stayed. You can listen to the radio broadcast of the investigation HERE. This group was the first and still only investigation at this house. The homeowner refuses to allow any further investigations.


Vero said...

I've always felt the readiness of a priest to perform a successful exorcism whatever it takes to be creepier than any "possession" someone might have. :D

I enjoyed the exorcism movies I've watched so far. But like with any horror, reality far supersedes our imagination.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Some creepy facts surrounding that movie! It was incredibly chilling for its time, and if based loosely on a true account, I understand why now.

Brinda said...

I am creeped out now. Just thinking about that movie gives me the hives. The story you've relayed is awesomely scary!

Ellie Garratt said...

Well I'm not creeped out at all. Nooo. Okay. Maybe a little. Fascinating post. Glad you re-posted it.

Jay Noel said...

Vero: Yes. Life can be stranger than fiction.

Alex: That movie sent a friend of mine to a therapist!

Brinda: YES. Very scary - and lots of eyewitness accounts. That's what makes this story so different.

Ellie: It's a perfect Halloween tale...that isn't so much a tale.

Miranda Hardy said...

Sometimes, the greatest stories are weaved with facts. I love it! Now, I want to go home and see the original movie again.

Samantha May said...

My parents always talk about how terrifying that movie was when it came out. I wasn't so impressed. To be fair, I can see how that movie would be incredibly creepy for its time. The concept is definitely scary, but I think the 70s special effects kept me from being too freaked out :P

I will say though that I was slightly creeped out by her crawling down the stairs backwards O_O

The Desert Rocks said...

Yikes, I read this book once a long time ago and refused to see the movie. Great reporting Jay like always.

Jay Noel said...

Miranda: If you have nightmares, don't blame me.

Samantha: The movie freaked me out as a kid - but moreso as an adult when I learned it happened here.

Eve: I read the book too - more terrifying than the movie.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...


William Peter Blatty said this in an interview when Harper reprinted "The Exorcist" to shake more money out of "The Exorcist" tree:

"The Exorcist"’s argument...that the novel was based on a true story, the so-called "1949 case” of demonic possession of a young boy in Cottage City, Maryland... was – and is – totally false. While writing the novel, the only facts that I had at hand were the classic symptoms of possession that had somehow remained an identical constant in every culture and in every part of the world going back to ancient Egyptian times."

Blatty does go on to say of the 1949 case that it "jump started" him, especially after he contacted the Jesuit priest Fr. William Bowdern" who claimed by phone that it was the "real" deal.

An investigative journalist by the name of Mark Newgent from the Baltimore area took the time to track down the legend and put the baby (this 1949 case of the boy) to bed, and all that he could deduce was that most of the "story" was completely fabricated, and that the child in question, was more of a problem child than he was possessed by the forces of evil.

IN my opinion, this "case" is just mental illness and should have been treated by a doctor and not a priest.

Emily R. King said...

Okay, creepy! Now I won't sleep. Thanks, Jay. :)

Jay Noel said...

Michael: I have actually spoken with people who worked at Alexian Brothers Hospital. Nurses told me the room was not only boarded up, but the entire floor was as well for many years until they shut down the entire building.

Nobody there talked about what happened. Despite the floor being perfectly safe and sound, no one was allowed up there.

And I spoke with the hospital's CFO a few years ago, and when they started doing construction for a new iron fence - they had to jackhammer into the spot the old building stood and some very "strange" things happened in the hospital at that very moment.

For those around the St. Louis area that had friends/family connected with St. Louis University and the family involved - the case is very real. Whether it was paranormal or not...well that speculation is the fun part!

Emily: Oops. Sorry!

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

@Jay: I'm an atheist. I don't believe in this stuff, so call me a skeptic. There are lots of people that tell me the devil is real, and I think he's made up. So the fact that you found people willing to testify to this is not surprising.

Just for the record, I don't believe in the Loch Ness monster, Big Foot is not real, Unicorns did not exist, Angels are not real, and there is no such thing as sorcery and magic. If a voodoo witch doctor wanted to put a curse on me, I'd poke him in the eye with my finger and say, "Now you're not so scary, are you?"

Jay Noel said...

Dude! Bigfoot is real. I saw him. He was at a local McDonald's drive-thru. Swear on my life.

Hope Roberson said...

I never knew the story was based on a real person. Those types of movies/stories freak me out so bad I have a hard time watching them :(

David P. King said...

The 360 head rotation gets me every time (and the projectile vomiting). Excellent choice for your first spooky entry! :)

Tammy Theriault said...

I remember watching this movie with my husband. Unfortunately we were the ONLY ones in the big theater watching it. so creepy!!

nutschell said...

totally creepy! But I loved reading the real story behind the movie :)


M Pax said...

Those are some creepy facts.

In college my popcorn popper went out during the Exorcist. It creeped us all out.

Carol Kilgore said...

I had no idea there was a real story behind The Exorcist, and I loved reading it here.

I read the book before I saw the movie. After the book, the movie was nearly as scary. I remember being glued to the pages in the kitchen with my back against a wall.

Phats said...

OOO I love when you do these posts :)

Mr. Shife said...

Thanks for sharing Jay. I have a love/hate relationship with these kind of stories because they are absolutely fascinating but they also scare the heck out of me. Have a good weekend, buddy.

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm not the most religious person, but this kind of stuff always scares the crap out of me.

Melissa Bradley said...

The Exorcist, both book and film, are bar none the very best demonic possession stories. Nothing comes close to Friedkin's flick or Linda Blair's performance. Knowing the true story makes you think twice about what you believe in.

Jay Noel said...

Linda Blair freaked me out for the longest time. And then I saw her in that Roller Skating movie. She was hot in that!

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