Tuesday, 17 February 2015

EVERYDAY STRANGE - The True Story that Inspired "The Exorcist"

“Your mother sucks cocks in hell!”
-Regan MacNeil (played by Linda Blair) in The Exorcist

Cottage City, MD - We all know the story, we’ve all seen the movie: priests battle intransigent demon, pea soup is spewed, floors are soiled, Christ compels with heads a-twistin’. Here are the details of the real-life events that inspired the novel, which inspired the movie, The Exorcist.

These are some of the details found in the diary of one of the priests involved in the exorcism.

13-year old “Roland Doe” used to play Ouija board with his “Aunt Tilly”.

On January 15, 1949, dripping noises were heard in his Grandmother’s bedroom. A framed picture of Christ shook on the wall and scratching noises could be heard under the floorboards. The scratching continued every night for 10 nights

On January 26 Aunt Tilly died of multiple sclerosis after which the family experienced three days of peace followed by six nights of squeaking noises on Roland’s bed.

The mother suspected Aunt Tilly’s death had something to do with the unexplained noises. During one episode, Mrs. Doe asked if it was Aunt Tilly making the noises. This was answered with three knocks. Mrs. Doe then asked to confirm it was her with four knocks. Four knocks reported.

The "Doe" Family household.
On February 17, Roland Doe spent the night at the parsonage of Lutheran minister Rev. Schultz. That night, the reverend heard scratching noises and witnessed Roland’s bed vibrating, a chair Roland was sitting in tipped over and a pallet of blankets he was sitting on moved across the floor.

On the night of February 26 and for the next three nights scratch marks appeared on Roland’s body. His parents thought they could make out words in the puffy red markings, but this was not confirmed.

Many of the details of the manifestations are similar to those in the Hornsey Coal Poltergeist story: household objects flying around on their own, a bottle of holy water flew across the room but did not break. But there are other fascinating events described. Roland was removed from his school classroom because his desk was moving around on the floor. Another time a rocking chair Roland sat in spun around. Roland was taken to be baptized and became enraged during the ceremony.

In all, it took 30 attempts for the exorcism to finally take. At the end of each session Roland would issue a stream of profanity laced with Latin phrases. The boy had been shuffled between DC and St. Louis for the duration.

On April 18 the ordeal finally came to an end when Roland’s voice deepened in a masculine tone and commanded the spirits to leave his body in the guise of St. Michael.

After an unnamed minister gave a talk at a public meeting of the Society of Parapsychology describing the Roland Doe story, stories began circulating in Washington, DC and Prince George’s County newspapers. The first such article to appear was credited to Bill Brinkley in the August 10 edition of the Washington Post. It was a tongue-in-cheek account of the reverend’s lecture. By August 20 however, Brinkley sang a slightly different tune. His highly detailed article is what inspired a then 20-year old English major at Georgetown University called William Peter Blatty to write his best-selling novel.

From the first the names and even places were changed, the Doe family was said to live in Mount Rainier. Many of the details of the case were unearthed by researcher Mark Opsasnick, who wrote a very long 5-part article that is well worth the time of anyone interested in finding out more about the background of and true story behind The Exorcist. You can find it at the link in the Sources section below.

All of the above information and most of the newspaper articles and Blatty’s book are taken from the diary mentioned at the beginning of this article. Though the diary references events from January to April, the writer did not meet with the family until March 9. Most of the details come from Roland’s mother, according to witnesses the boy’s father didn’t believe that he was possessed. Make no mistake, this exorcism actually happened but Roland Doe’s head never spun around and he never spewed green sludge (although there was some spitting).

According to eyewitness Father Walter Halloran the boy mimicked the priests when “speaking Latin”, he threw tantrums and yes, even a punch, but he did not possess inhuman strength, or any other inhuman capability. His voice didn’t “really” change. He did not urinate or vomit prodigiously.

What it sounds like is a sensitive and troubled young man momentarily unable to cope with one of the most emotionally intense times in a youngster’s life and being saddled with unwanted attention on top of it. Blatty made hundreds of thousands of dollars off of this story, the producers of the film made that amount many, many times over. I’ve never come across any information regarding Roland Doe seeing a penny from the story, but the one positive in all of this is that the world has allowed him to remain mostly anonymous. 

His real name is out there, you can find it if you look hard enough, but there’s really no need to because he’d just an average person. I feel like I know everything about him and that's just creepy when you think about it. The fact that he’s never revealed himself shows that he is not interested in re-hashing a couple of ill spent months in his early teens, despite the fact that he could have made a tidy profit in doing so.

Whether he is referred to as Roland Doe or Robbie Mannheim or Regan MacNeil doesn’t truly matter, just leave him be and keep his real name out of it. We all make mistakes in our youth, those of us who make the kind of mistakes that lead to multi-million dollar books and pictures deserve our awe and respect.

This very long article turns out to be a very, very good read. One thing make me feel uneasy though. You ever get an inkling you’ve been had? This is probably a coincidence but the author’s name sounds like “Obsess-nik”. He was obsessed with finding out the truth behind this story and the suffix “-nik” describes someone who is attracted to or in the orbit of something like a “sputnik” or “beatnik”. It’s almost enough to inspire an Everyday Strange article in its own right.

The original article that inspired Blatty to write his book:


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