The REAL Exorcism...#2 of my spooky stories series
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? And how is this true story linked to St. Louis?
Here are the facts that have been confirmed by various investigators, and many details have been clarified and corrected:
>The family involved remains anonymous, 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.
>January1949, 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 exorcism...it'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 newsreporters. 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.
Walter Halloran (pictured left) became a priest and often talked about his experience with others. He passed away just this spring.
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.
Whatever you decide, you cannot deny our fascination with demonic possession.