What an excellent day for an exorcism


What an excellent day for an exorcism
I'm in the mood to create another movie dedication thread and I just changed my avatar/profile theme to The Exorcist, so...............

The Article That Inspired William Peter Blatty for The Exorcist

William Blatty: In 1949, while a junior at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., I read in the August 20 edition of the Washington Post the following account:

In what is perhaps one of the most remarkable experiences of its kind in recent religious history, a 14-year-old Mount Rainier boy has been freed by a Catholic priest of possession by the devil, it was reported yesterday. Only after 20 to 30 performances of the ancient ritual of exorcism, here and in St. Louis, was the devil finally cast out of the boy, it was said.

In all except the last of these, 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 those climactic points of the 27 page ritual in which he commanded the demon to depart from the boy. In complete devotion to his task the priest stayed with the boy over a period of two months, during which he witnessed such manifestations as the bed in which the boy was sleeping suddenly moving across the room.

A Washington Protestant minister has previously reported personally witnessing similar manifestations, including one in which the pallet on which the sleeping boy lay slid slowly across the floor until the boy’s head bumped against a bed, awakening him. In another instance reported by the Protestant minister, a heavy armchair in which the boy was sitting, with his knees drawn under his chin, tilted slowly to one side and fell over, throwing the boy on the floor.

The final rite of exorcism in which the devil was cast from the boy took place in May, it was reported, and since then he had had no manifestations. The ritual of exorcism in its present form goes back 1500 years and from there to Jesus Christ. But before it was undertaken, all medical and psychiatric means of curing the boy, in whose presence such manifestations as fruit jumping up from the refrigerator top in his home and hurling itself against the wall also were reported, were exhausted.

The boy was taken to Georgetown University Hospital here, where his affliction was exhaustively studied, and to St. Louis University. Both are Jesuit institutions. Finally both Catholic hospitals reported they were unable to cure the boy through natural means. Only then was a supernatural cure sought. The ritual was undertaken by a Jesuit in his 50’s. The details of the exorcism of the boy were described to The Washington Post by a priest here (not the exorcist). The ritual began in St. Louis, continued here and finally ended in St. Louis.

For two months the Jesuit stayed with the boy, accompanying him back and forth on the train, sleeping in the same house and sometimes in the same room with him. He witnessed many of the same manifestations reported by the Protestant minister this month to a closed meeting of the Society of Parapsychology laboratory at Duke University, who came here to study the case, was quoted as saying it was “the most impressive” poltergeist (noisy ghost) phenomenon that had come to his attention in his years of celebrated investigation in the field.

Even through the ritual of exorcism the boy was by no means cured readily. The ritual itself takes about three quarters of an hour to perform. During it, the boy would break into the fury of profanity and screaming and the astounding Latin phrases. But finally, at the last performance of the ritual, the boy was quiet. And since then, it was said, all manifestations of the affliction, such as the strange moving of the bed across the room, and another in which the boy’s family said a picture had suddenly jutted out from the wall in his presence, have ceased.

It was early this year that members of the boy’s family went to their minister and reported strange goings on in their Mount Rainier house since January 18. The minister visited the boy’s home and witnessed some of the manifestations. But though they seemed to the naked eye unexplainable, such as the scratchings from the area of the wall in the boy’s presence, there was always the suggestion, he said, that in some way the noises may have been made by the boy himself.

Retaining his skepticism in the matter, the minister then had the boy stay a night, February 17, in his own home. It was there, before his own eyes, he said, that the two manifestations that he felt were beyond all natural explanation took place. In one of these the boy’s pallet moved across the floor while his hands were outside the cover and his body rigid. In the other the heavy chair, with the boy immobile in it, tilted and fell over to the floor before the minister’s amazed eyes, he said.

The minister tried to overturn the chair while sitting in it himself and was unable to do so. The case involved such reactions as neighbors of the boy’s family sprinkling holy water around the family’s house. Some of the Mount Rainier neighbors’ skepticism was startlingly resolved, it was reported, when they first laughed it off, invited the boy and his mother to spend a night in their own “unhaunted” homes, only to have some of the manifestations, such as the violent, apparently involuntary shakings of the boy’s bed, happen before their eyes.


"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."

What an excellent day for an exorcism

William Peter Blatty's Cases of Possession

From "William Blatty on The Exorcist: From Novel to Film," Blatty shares his research on cases of possession in preparation to write the novel. Below are a few examples from his research. Included in his research and inspiration for the novel, is the case of the Mt. Rainier boy in 1949 [posted above]. The first example is Blatty's additional comments on that case.

William Blatty: I later would learn that even a priest who had requested the material from the Washington archdiocese was told in 1952 that "His Eminence [the Cardinal] has instructed me to inform you that he does not wish the case of exorcism of the boy in Mount Rainier discussed publicly. The parents of the boy made a very strong request to that effect and we have tried to shield them and the boy from any embarrassing publicity."

I cannot vouch for what may have happened prior to the exorcist's appearance on the scene; but certainly no intelligent dialogue in Latin was ever in evidence thereafter, even though the exorcist frequently demanded it of the alien intelligence controlling the boy's response in Latin to certain questions required by the ritual ("What is your name? When will you depart?"); and although the "demon" (whatever ultimate reality may lie behind that name) protested at one point, "I speak the language of the persons," a seemingly childish, if not fraudulent, evasion.

But there was nothing evasive about the levitation of a hospital nightstand beside the boy's bed, which was witnessed by a physics professor from Washington University; nor could one so characterize a repeated and striking phenomenon not mentioned in the Post account: the various markings - described in the diary as "brandings" - that appeared spontaneously and without apparent cause on various parts of the victim's skin.

Many times they were words clearly etched in fiery red block letters that were usually a little over two inches tall; other times they were symbols; at still others, pictorial representations. One of the words that appeared was SPITE. One symbol was an arrow that pointed directly at the victim's penis. And a very clear picture was that of a hideous satanic visage. But by far the most frequent and alarming of the brandings were lengthy lines that at times broke the skin, as if the boy had been raked with the prongs of an invisible miniature pitchfork.

Or, one could say, claws. During brandings, the boy wore only his undershorts. No bedcovers hid his movements. His hands were at all times in view of the exorcist and his assistants and others in the room. One branding that ran from the boy's inner thigh to the top of his ankle, drawing blood, occurred while the exorcist was seated on the edge of the bed, his eyes on the boy, and no more than about a foot away. Other of the brandings were on the boy's back. And one, the word SPITE, did not fade from his skin for over four hours.

The physics professor from Washington, having seen the hospital bedstand levitate rapidly upward from the floor to the ceiling, later remarked that "there is much we have yet to discover concerning the nature of electromagnetism," an observation impervious to challenge. But when we are confronted with the paranormal, is it valid, in this age of scientific awareness, to resort at the last to "unknown forces"? We do not know all of the positive efficiencies of natural forces; however, we do know some negative limitations.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Aldous Huxley’s Devils of Loudun makes a devastating argument to the effect that the seventeenth-century epidemic of demonic possession in a convent of Ursuline nuns in France was a fraudulent, hysterical manifestation; yet even Huxley observes: "I can see nothing intrinsically absurd or self-contradictory in the notion that there may be non-human spirits, good, bad and indifferent. Nothing compels us to believe that the only intelligences in the universe are those connected with the bodies of human beings and the lower animals.

If the evidence for clairvoyance, telepathy and prevision is accepted (and it is becoming increasingly difficult to reject it), then we must allow that there are mental processes which are largely independent of space, time and matter. And if this is so, there seems to be no reason for denying a priori that there may be nonhuman intelligences, either completely discarnate, or else associated with cosmic energy in some way of which we are still ignorant."

And consider what happened to four of the exorcists sent to deal with the outbreak at Loudun. Three of them, Tranquille, Lactance, and Lucas, successively appeared to be possessed themselves, and while in that state, died, perhaps from cardiac exhaustion. The oldest of these men was forty-three.

The fourth, Surin, a noted intellectual and mystic, a truly good man, only thirty-three, became hysterical, they were so in defiance of a psychiatric principle that tells us that hysterics do not blossom overnight; and if hysterical beforehand, though of differing backgrounds, then their hysteria must surely have been the determining criterion employed by the cardinal who picked them for the mission, for how could we otherwise account for the coincidence involved in his selecting four closet hysterics?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

William James, the great psychologist, who investigated the case of a girl in Watseka, Illinois, who underwent a total and abrupt transformation of personality and identity, claiming for months to be someone named Mary Roff who turned out to be a real person whom she had never met: a sixteen-year-old girl who had died in a state insane asylum years before. James declared the “spiritist explanation” of the case “the most plausible” one available.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Carl Jung, it is perhaps little known, was connected with another case of possession for almost a year. 14 The case involved a fifteen-year-old girl, the daughter of friends. Normally dull-witted, she manifested three distinct personalities, one of them a chatty and eloquent old man who spoke high German, a dialect completely unknown to the girl. She demonstrated telepathic abilities and an astoundingly accelerated intelligence, all of which phenomena were frequently witnessed firsthand by Jung, who found in them no possibility of fraud.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I found a case that was relatively recent: 1928. In Earling, Iowa. There was only one account of the event, a printed pamphlet written by a monk. The pamphlet carried photographs of the principals. Paranormal phenomena were cited. One in particular gave me pause. It was stated that the victim, a forty-year-old woman, would repeatedly and forcefully fly up from her bed as if hurled like a dart, head first, at a point above the bedroom door, where she would hang suspended by her forehead, as if tightly glued to the spot.

An extraordinary image! I instinctively felt that it could not have been invented. Moreover, while phenomena tended to repeat themselves in the cases I had studied, this was one I had never before heard the likes of. And yet my overall reaction to the pamphlet was a shrug. Perhaps some who are familiar with the pamphlet were impressed, by which I do not imply that my threshold of credulity is higher than theirs.

But the tone of the pamphlet seemed so overly credulous, so replete with pietistic asides and exclamations, that it turned me off. I reacted illogically, I suppose, as the basic phenomena might still have been factual. I simply didn’t trust it. And the people involved were unfortunately dead. That ended Earling, at least for me.

I just want to hug (your FACE)!
"My Dionne Warwick understanding of your dream indicates that you are ambivalent on how you want life to eventually screw you."
- Joel

"Ever try to forcibly pin down a house cat? It's not easy."
- Captain Steel

What an excellent day for an exorcism

Letter From Jesuit Priest

William Blatty: I called upon numerous Jesuit friends in the hope that they might lead me to someone now living who had actually performed an exorcism. I came closest with Father Thomas Bermingham, who had taught me at Brooklyn Prep and was master of studies at St. Andrew's-on-Hudson, a Jesuit seminary.

He recalled that in his earliest years in the priesthood a Jesuit quartered at the seminary was known to have performed an exorcism. But Father Bermingham couldn't remember the original model's name. I called a Jesuit friend of mine in Los Angeles. He gave me the exorcist's name and address. I wrote to him. He answered with the following letter, from which I have deleted certain information for reasons that will be apparent:

Your letter, addressed to me at the - - - Retreat House at - - - , was forwarded to me here, where I have been stationed for the past year. We have a mutual friend in Father - - - , S. J. As you stated in your letter, it is very difficult to find any authentic literature on cases of possession; at least, I could not find any when I was involved in such a case.

Accordingly, we (a priest with me) kept a minute account each day of the happenings each preceding day and night, one reason being that our diary would be most helpful to anyone placed in a similar position as an exorcist in any future case. My hesitancy in giving you the details of the case of possession is due to two facts. First, - - - , who delegated me as the exorcist, instructed me not to publicize the case. I have been faithful to his instructions.

Secondly, it would be most embarrassing, and possibly painfully disturbing to the young man, should he be connected in any way with a book detailing events that took place in his life some years ago. Since a case of possession is a very rare occurrence, he would certainly connect his own experience with any such account. Some Jesuits living with me at - - - at the time were conversant with some of the events in the case; and, as often happens, as a story passes on, events are not correctly reported.

My own thoughts were that much good might have come if the case had been reported, and people had come to realize that the presence and the activity of the devil is something very real. And possibly never more real than at the present time. But I submitted my judgment to the instructions which I received from - - - .

I can assure you of one thing: the case in which I was involved was the real thing. I had no doubt about it then and I have no doubts about it now. Should I be of any assistance to you within the limitations I have set forth in this letter, I would be glad to accommodate you. I wish you every success in the important apostolate of the pen. You can do so much good with that gift.

What an excellent day for an exorcism

William Peter Blatty's Letter to Bantam Editorial Director Marc Jaffe

William Blatty: In December 1967, at a New Year's Eve dinner at the home of novelist Burton Wohl, I met Marc Jaffe, editorial director of Bantam Books. He asked me what I was working on. Finding the shortest line at the unemployment office, I told him; and then spoke of possession. He warmed to the subject matter instantly. He suggested publication of the book by Bantam. He said, "Send me an outline." I had no plot. I had only the subject matter, some hazily formulated characters, and a theme. So I wrote him a long letter:

It cautions exorcists that many of the paranormal phenomena can be explained in natural terms. The speaking in "unknown tongues" (unless it is part of intelligent dialogue), or possession of hidden knowledge, for example, can be explained in terms of telepathy - the possessed may simply be picking the knowledge out of the brain of the exorcist or someone else in the room.

And as for levitation, Hindu mystics reputedly can manage it now and then, and what do we really know about magnetism and gravity? The "natural" explanations are, of course, somewhat mystical themselves. But the occurrence of one or two of these phenomena, exorcists are cautioned, does not justify assuming one is dealing with true possession.

What the Church does tell its exorcists is to go with the laws of chance and probability which tell us that it's far less fanciful to believe than an alien entity or spirit has control of the possessed than to believe that all or most of these paranormal phenomena are likely to occur all at once through purely natural causes. When all of them occur, and psychological causes are eliminated, then try the cure.

Still loftily avoiding such crass considerations as a discussion of plot, I nimbly leaped to the next sure peak - my intended theme:

Is there a man alive who at one time or another in his life has not thought, Look, God! I'd like to believe in you; and I'd really like to do the right thing. But twenty thousand sects and countless prophets have different ideas about what the right thing is. So if you are out there, why not end all the mystery and hocus-pocus and make an appearance on top of the Empire State Building. Show me your face. We follow through by thinking that God doesn't take this simple recourse, this reasonable recourse, and therefore isn't there.

He isn't dead, and he isn't alive in Argentina. He simply never lived. But I happen to believe - and this is part of the theme of the novel - that if God were to appear in thunder and lightning atop the Empire State Building, it would not affect (for long, at least) the religious beliefs of anyone who witnessed the phenomenon.

Those who already believed would find the incident a reinforcement of their faith; those who did not already believe would be impressed for a while, but with the passage of time would convince themselves that what they saw was the result of either autosuggestion, mass hypnosis, or hysteria, or massive charlatanism involving nuclear energy and NASA.

On a theological level, I happened to believe that if there is a God who is somehow involved with us and our activities he would refrain from appearing on top of the Empire State Building, because he would ultimately only cause trauma for those who did not will to believe, and thereby increase their guilt. The Red Sea's parting and the raising of Lazarus are not viable entries to religious belief. The trick to faith lies not in magic but in the will of the individual.

The novel would ask, I went on to explain, what effect a confrontation with undisputed paranormal phenomena would have on the book's main characters: the atheist mother of the boy (as I then intended the victim should be; I had named him Jamie), and the priest of weak faith called in for the exorcism, whom I first named Father Thomas. This thematic aspect would prove only a suggestion of what it would become in the book I eventually wrote, expressed by Father Merrin as follows:

I think the demon's target is not the possessed; it is us … the observers … every person in this house. And I think - I think the point is to make us despair, to reject our own humanity, Damien: to see ourselves as ultimately bestial; as ultimately vile and putrescent; without dignity, ugly, unworthy. And there lies the heart of it, perhaps: in unworthiness. For I think belief in God is not a matter of reason at all; I think it finally is a matter of love; of accepting the possibility that God could love us . . .

And perhaps even this would seem merely an insight compared to the stronger, more encompassing theme that would spring from the Jesuit psychiatrist's act of ultimate self-sacrifice and love: the theme I call "the mystery of goodness." A murder. "The killer is the boy; the mother knows this, and against the eventual arrest of her son," I wrote to Jaffe:

The mother seeks psychiatric help to establish the boy was deranged at the time of the murder. The effort proves unpromising. She then seizes upon the device of calling in the psychologically intimidating forces of the Catholic Church in an effort to prove (although she doesn't believe it for a moment) that her son is "possessed" - that it was not Jamie but an alien entity inhabiting his body who commited the murder.

She resorts to the church and requests an exorcism; and soon it is arranged for a priest to examine the boy. She grasps at the desperate and bizarre hope that if the exorcist concludes that the boy is possessed and is able to restore him to a measure of normalcy, she will have a powerful psychological and emotional argument for securing both the release of the boy and the equally important release (even if the boy is imprisoned) from humiliation and degradation.

The exorcist selected for the task is, by the one coincidence permitted us, the priest who has lost his faith. Ultimately, the boy is exorcised. Although his fate at the hands of the law is not the concern of this novel. Our concern is the exorcist. Has his faith been restored by this incredible encounter? Yes. But not by the exorcism itself, for finally, the exorcist is still not sure what really happened. What restores - no; reaffirms - his faith is simple human love, which is surely the fact of God made visible.

What an excellent day for an exorcism

The Mysterious Body Next to Regan's Bed

During the scene where Demon Regan is impaling herself with a Crucifix, a bedroom cabinet scooted across the floor on its own while the mother, Chris, looks on in horror. This frame just before the bedroom cabinet moves, reveals a body lying next to Regan's bed. You can see the sole of his shoe and his hand just beyond edge of the bed. Who is that person?

Fan speculation has suggested this is the remnants of a deleted scene. The servant, Carl, had a scuffle with Demon Regan and she knocked him out cold. They decided to eliminate that scene, but they never went back and re-shoot that scene minus the body.

Throughout the movie up to that scene, Carl had always been seen with his glasses. But after this scene, Carl no longer has his glasses. This might be due to his glasses being broken while fighting with Regan. He is seen shortly after working with Regan's bedroom furniture in the hall where he says, "It wants no straps." However, it's also possible he just took them off while working.