Panned by critics and hailed by audiences as one of many biggest horror movies ever made, William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” is a basic that all the time finds its method onto the screens of viewers throughout Halloween season. The 1973 movie, primarily based on the 1971 novel of the identical title by William Peter Blatty, facilities on mom Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), who’s determined for solutions after her seemingly regular daughter, Regan, begins to behave surprisingly after interacting with a Ouija board of their rented residence. After an try to contact a spirit named “Captain Howdy,” Regan’s bodily, psychological, and emotional state begins to say no severely and shortly, and she or he turns into possessed. Overwhelmed along with her daughter’s aggressive persona and superhuman energy, Chris enlists the assistance of two monks to expel the demon from Regan earlier than it kills her.
On the time of its launch, “The Exorcist” was thought of by many to be the scariest film in movie historical past. In theaters, many moviegoers skilled robust bodily reactions — like fainting or vomiting — to lots of the movie’s terrifying scenes, like Regan’s neck swivel (that one remains to be laborious for me to abdomen). Although the movie obtained combined evaluations when it premiered, it turned an immediate cult basic and the very first horror movie to be nominated for a greatest image Oscar. It is laborious to think about the very cloth of our society and movie historical past with out the supernatural horror style, and “The Exorcism” undoubtedly helped to encourage different classics like “The Omen,” “Poltergeist,” and “The Blair Witch Project” for years to come back.
The terrifying plot of “The Exorcist” could seem far-fetched, however the movie was truly impressed by the real-life exorcism of Roland Doe. Earlier than you see “The Exorcist: Believer,” which hits theaters Oct. 6, learn on to study extra in regards to the true story that impressed “The Exorcist.”
The Exorcism of Roland Doe
The actual story that impressed “The Exorcist” occurred lengthy earlier than the movie turned cemented in in style tradition. Whereas a scholar at Georgetown College, writer Blatty noticed an article in The Washington Put up in regards to the possession of a teenage boy, titled, “Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held in Devil’s Grip,” as reported by Skeptical Inquirer. The boy, recognized underneath the pseudonym “Roland Doe” or “Robbie Mannheim,” was simply 14 years previous when he’s reported to have begun experiencing supernatural phenomena in his Cottage Metropolis, MD, residence in 1949. The reported occurrences ranged from objects transferring throughout his bed room to his mattress transferring and scratching noises coming from his partitions, which led Roland’s mom to imagine his not too long ago deceased Aunt Tillie was behind the unusual supernatural occasions.
Much like Chris in “The Exorcist,” Roland’s household turned to Jesuit monks for assist. Over the course of two months, Father William Bowdern carried out between 20 and 30 exorcisms on Roland, who ultimately was rid of his possession and healed of his anguish. Throughout these two months, Bowdern additionally was assisted by Father Walter Halloran, Father Edward Hughes, and Father Raymond Bishop. The Washington Put up reported that the possession ended following 20 to 30 rituals, after “the boy broke into a violent tantrum of screaming, cursing and voicing of Latin phrases-a language he had never studied-whenever the priest reached the climactic point of the ritual, ‘In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, I cast thee (the devil) out.'” Fathers Bowdern and Bishop each saved diaries of the expertise, which turned the inspiration for Blatty’s novel greater than 20 years later.
Years after the exorcisms passed off, Roland was revealed to be Ronald Edwin Hunkeler, a NASA engineer who, amongst different accomplishments, aided the Apollo missions that despatched astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong to the moon in 1969, per The New York Put up. Hunkeler retired from NASA in 2001 and seemingly lived a quiet life till his dying in 2020. Regardless of the harrowing expertise, Hunkeler himself by no means believed he was a sufferer of demonic possession. An in depth good friend of Hunkeler informed The New York Put up in 2021, “He said he wasn’t possessed, it was all concocted. He said, ‘I was just a bad boy.'”
Many query whether or not Hunkeler skilled the alleged exorcisms or if the story was all a fabrication that took off after Blatty wrote “The Exorcist” in 1971. Regardless, the unique story by The Washington Put up served as an inspiration for Friedkin’s movie, which was alleged to have a curse of its personal.
“The Exorcist” Curse
The very nature of “The Exorcist” is horrifying in itself, however many turned much more afraid of the film after reviews claimed the movie was cursed resulting from accidents on set, deaths among the many forged, and a fireplace that burned down many of the set, per The U.S. Solar.
Throughout manufacturing, a chicken flew right into a circuit breaker and brought on a fireplace that burned down a majority of the set, aside from Regan’s room, the place essentially the most pivotal scenes of the movie happen. The fireplace brought on in depth harm and led to a six-week delay in manufacturing. After the set was rebuilt, a Jesuit priest reportedly blessed it.
Along with the fireplace, different unlucky occurrences occurred to those that labored on the movie. Actor Jack MacGowran, who performed Chris’s director Burke Dennings, died from influenza problems in January 1973, 11 months earlier than “The Exorcist”‘s launch. Vasiliki Maliaros, generally known as the mom of Father Karras, additionally died earlier than the movie’s launch, whereas Linda Blair (Regan) and Max von Sydow (Father Lankester Merrin) skilled deaths of their households.
Lead actors Burstyn and Blair skilled vital accidents on set, which led to lifelong points. Whereas hooked up to a harness, Burstyn injured her coccyx as she was pulled to the ground after being struck by Regan in a scene. “I said: ‘He’s pulling me too hard.’ Billy [Friedkin, the film’s director] said: ‘Well, it has to look real.’ I said: ‘I know it has to look real but I’m telling you, I could get hurt.’ So, Billy said: ‘OK, don’t pull her so hard,’ and as I turned away, I felt him signal the guy and he smashed me on the floor,” she later recalled in a 2018 interview with The Guardian.
Blair endured the same damage and fractured her backbone throughout a scene the place she was hooked up to a harness and thrashing as Regan’s possession turned extra intense. Blair attributed her later improvement of scoliosis to this damage, in keeping with a function from Strauss Scoliosis Correction.
“The Exorcist” Brought on a Surge in Experiences of Possessions
It is protected to say audiences reacted strongly to “The Exorcist,” and instantly after the movie hit theaters, there was a surge in reviews of possessions. A 1974 article from The New York Instances reported, “Chancery officials have been confronted with a wave of inquiries from persons who believe that they, or their acquaintances, are possessed by demons. Theologians have warned that the film distorts church teachings.” Reverend Richard Woods of Loyola College moreover informed the publication on the time, “I’ve received dozens of calls from people who are horribly frightened or so confused that they have begun to lose their grip on reality. I also know of two kids who came out of the movie thinking that they were possessed, and they have now been hospitalized.”
As data of demonic possessions and exorcisms turned extra widespread to the typical particular person, many believed they had been possessed or had skilled some type of supernatural phenomena. This popularization arguably led to extra movies like “The Exorcist” to be made for years to come back, starting from “The Shining” to “Paranormal Activity.”
“The Exorcist,” although 50 years previous, remains to be as bone-chilling because it was in 1973. Catch the newest installment within the franchise, “The Exorcist: Believer,” in theaters Oct. 6, and watch the trailer under.