The movie “The Exorcist” was based on a true story from 1949. A boy was diagnosed as being possessed by the devil, and the Roman Catholic Church believed this enough to assign multiple exorcists to this case. A supposed total of 26 people have been said to have witnessed the horrible things that happened during these exorcisms, and it was apparently so terrifying to those who were involved that books were written about it, and movies were made.It is considered today as one of the scariest movies ever made, and so many stories borrow and steal directly from this story that it is hard to see where one begins and another ends. Also, in my experience from the research I have been conducting over the past year or so, the events which unfurl in the story below seem to coincide with what quite a few books also confirm. There is a book, written by a Father Malachi Martin called “Hostage to the Devil“. This is not a ‘questions & answers’ book or a ‘procedural’ book like the other ones I usually quote. This book tells you five stories in extreme detail about five individual cases of possession. These stories all, in some part or another, bear a resemblance to the story told of “R”. So, with that being said…
This is the true story behind “The Exorcist”.
“The first time I prayed for a truly possessed person, I put the crucifix on that person’s head and they slithered right out of the seat like a snake.”
-Reverent Thomas J. Euteneuer, Roman Catholic Exorcist
The setting is 1949, in Cottage City, in Maryland. It involved a 13-year old boy called “R”, whose identity has been kept a secret for many decades. It was not, in fact, a female as the movie suggests. To this day, the boy has never spoken publically about what he went through.
For a little bit of background, neighbors and friends such as a Dr. Alvin Kagey, who lived in this area and went to the same school as this boy, described him as quiet, unpopular, not very athletic, but he was very studious. He was also slightly withdrawn. To the outside world his family was very pleased to be a part of the working class. All in all, Dr. Kagey claims that the family was a plain, old, normal family when all was said and done, nothing to speak of in regards to nuances or peculiarities. But in the summer of 1948, their lived would be forever changed, because it was this summer that the boys aunt decided to teach him how to play with a Ouija board. This in itself does not seem as if anything could happen, but after a few weeks of constantly toying around with this Ouija board, the aunt who had taught the boy unexpectedly died due to what could only be classified as “natural causes”. Keep in mind, this being 1949, that phrase could encompass a very wide array of things. A person could be walking down the street and get hit with a bus, and the coroner would claim death by natural causes because naturally, when you get hit by a bus, you’re going to die. Times that far back had a different sense of logic than they do now, so what this boy’s aunt actually died of may only be revealed through your imagination. Not many people mention how bad messing with a Ouija board it, but from personal experience, I have seen with my own two eyes that sometimes the things you call to talk to you are not friendly, and when you invite them to come talk to you, they definitely view your invitation to them as just that – an invitation.
Shortly afterwards, this boy and even his family started to notice strange occurrences. Unusual sounds, such as unexplained thumping, tapping and banging coming from an otherwise empty upstairs, or objects moving on their own such as the chandelier swinging, or portraits of Jesus Christ banging against the wall as if moved by some invisible force. Additional sounds heard included a frantic scratching and/or knocking from under the floor boards, but in their denial the family blamed this on rodents and attempted to call in pest control, who in turn discovered absolutely nothing.
As time went on, the family began to believe that maybe these strange events were happening because the aunt was attempting to communicate with them from the afterlife. As nights went by, the intensity of these noises only grew and grew, and the house echoed with the noises of what could be described as a large group of people marching. Like a soldiers cadence of sorts. And even after that, events took a shocking and powerful turn – the mother walked in once to find the entire bed, with her son in it, shaking and rattling violently. This changed the entire game. Suddenly, it was not a “fun” or “cute” little communication from the afterlife, and the family began to have doubts that this was from the aunt at all.
This was not the only thing that was recorded, either. Additional pieces of furniture around the house began to move of it’s own free will as well, such as dressers, night tables, coffee tables, etc. As mentioned above, Dr. Kagey had another story that will make your brain freeze for a second as well. While Dr. Kagey’s father, in 1949, was in this boy’s house, he vividly recalls an instance where the boy was sitting in a chair, and then quickly, without any warning whatsoever, he was thrown completely out of the chair, and landed multiple feet away. This was the first time that someone outside the family had witnessed an event such as this and began to suspect that something abnormal was going on here.
Now, another thing to take into consideration is that back in 1949, you would slit your own throat before you let your personal – negative – information get out around town. People absolutely hated rumors, especially about themselves. So in this time period, people would do everything they could to keep events such as this “hush, hush” so that they wouldn’t be viewed as the town lunatics.
It was also said that once night fell, the boys behavior became dramatically, intensely, and increasingly disturbing. Marks, bruises, scratches and welts began appearing on the boy’s body without any indication that something had been done to physically react the way his body was. To this day, these markings have and probably never will be explained.
As most people will do, the family of the boy began to exhaust their options. They obviously went to doctors, and then to the county psychiatric evaluation professionals as well. More or less, they were trying to rule out certain aspects of the vast array of things that could potentially be wrong with “R”. Surprisingly enough, shrinks found nothing, so they contacted the Catholic Church as a last resort. There, they were put into contact with a Father Albert Hughes. Father Hughes died in 1980, but close friend of his and a confidant as well, Father Bober has spoken about the events which took place. Father Hughes first met the afflicted boy in February of 1949, and Father Bober explains that Hughes mentioned to him that upon the moment of meeting the boy, he noticed a very “dark stare, almost as if there were nothing behind the eyes”. He also noticed that immediately, the boy seemed to be staring hard at the books Father Hughes had placed across the table, one of which being The Bible. This is a classic symptom of possession, as the person afflicted with this seems to have a deep seated aversion or hatred to all things sacred, including the books of scripture, crucifixes, clergy members, idols, icons, medals, and so on. During this event in which the boy stared at the books, Father Hughes’ chair, with him still inside it quite literally lifted up and levitated, forcing him backwards against a wall. It was this exact instant that Hughes knew he was dealing with something preternatural and diabolical, and from that point on, he addressed the situation as properly as he could.
Immediately, Father Hughes asked the boy, in Latin, “What is your name?”. The boys response is classic. He clearly stated “I am legions.” As I have previously mentioned in my dissection of the movie “The Rite”, and cited quotes from Chief Vatican Exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth and exorcist Father Antonio Fortea, it is beneficial to speak to someone who may be possessed in a language that they could not possibly know, such as Latin, or Greek. This way, the actual person is unaware of what the priest is saying. That way, when the Priest addresses or questions the person/demon, if they respond to those questions, then it is a safe bet that the person has a diabolical presence sharing the vessel. The reason “I am legions.” Is such an intimidating response is because it immediately indicates that there are multiple demonic entities within the same vessel, which means that the priest will have to fight so, so much harder to absolve the afflicted person. Imagine it like this: You, the priest, are walking down a dark alley. You see someone, the demon, in front of you and you prepare yourself for a conflict. But then, you turn and see 5 more people/demons behind you. That is exactly what it is like in the situation I described above. It is perceived at first as an unfair fight, and is extremely intimidating.
While the belief of demonic possession is a shared one that spans many religions and cultures, it is most closely tied to Christianity, and more closely with the Roman Catholics. The actual rite of exorcism is an ancient one. It dates back to officially being formally written in the 16th century, but exorcisms have been performed for thousands of years, most notably by Christ himself. Almost all of the prayers involved are in Latin, though the more I seem to unearth about the topic, the more it seems that successful exorcists follow the “formula”, but slightly modify it in miniscule and often unnoticeable ways. Each exorcist is different, and each one will use different techniques.
At the time that Father Hughes had met this boy, he was not extremely familiar with the rite of exorcism. As a matter of fact, this 13 year old boy would be the first exorcism that Father Hughes would ever perform. The boy was admitted to a hospital in Washington, D.C., run by Jesuit brothers (monks) who oversaw the events. The boy was already in a violent and volatile state by this point, shaking and rocking, spitting, screaming and having aggressive outbursts. At some point, the nurses at the hospital made the choice to physically restrain him to try to get him under some type of control. By now, Father Hughes had been reciting the exorcism prayers for 3 consecutive nights, to no results. In fact, the boy became increasingly violent. He would foam at the mouth, shout, insult the priest and attempt to break his constraints. Eventually, “R” succeeded in getting one of his hands free, and with that free hand he reached under the bed, physically broke/ripped off one of the springs under the mattress, and sliced Father Hughes with the spring, in a gash that went from the inside of Hughes’ wrist all the way up to the nook of the elbow when bent. To an untrained eye, it looked as if it could have been an attempted suicide, but there were witnesses who could document this account of attack.
Hughes was forced to take time away from the event to heal. He felt as if he had failed the boy, and the boy eventually returned home. The family remained in a constant state of fear for their son. He continued to exhibit unexplained cuts, bruises, scratches and welts. This had become common, but one night, the boy’s mother thought she saw something astounding – the words “Saint Louis” appeared to be literally branded into the boy’s chest. After that night, the family moved in with relatives who lived within the city. They gave the excuse that they had moved to St. Louis to obtain medical treatment for their son. This would be the exact opposite of good – because at this point, the move was the worst thing that they did. With doctors coming up with zero, the family yet again turned to the church, this time, meeting a Father William Bowdern, a senior priest from St. Louis Diocese. He was a very street smart priest who had spend time in the US Army, and was known for being observant and not easily swayed.
Upon meeting with the boy and the family, Father Bowdern also decided that he believed that the boy was possessed, but decided to approach the situation with caution because he already knew of the outcome of the previous exorcism in which Father Hughes had become seriously injured. He believed that he was going to be the person who would finish the fight that Father Hughes had started.
Shockingly, every single detail of the exorcisms performed over the next six weeks were kept in a detailed diary by the priests. After the events had concluded, an author named Thomas B. Allen published these diaries in their entirety. This book can be found here:
“Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism”, by Thomas B. Allen
At this point, Father Bowdern was having serious doubts about his own ability as well. He was unsure if he could complete the rituals successfully, but in the end, all he wanted to do was help a child fight off the demons who were taking up a residence in his body, quite literally ruining every aspect of life from the inside out. During these exorcisms, Father Bowdern chose to enlist the help of several priests and a young seminarian whose only function would be to help everyone hold “R” down once things intensified during the ritual.
Almost from the start, this child began to forcefully spit at the priests, threatening them with violence, commanding them to leave, and making vulgar sexual propositions towards the clergy present. But not to be deterred, Father Bowdern and his priests recited the exorcism prayers every night straight for a full three weeks. Pinning the boy down frequently due to his violent outbursts was not uncommon, and actually became rather common, in fact. One of the priests recorded in the diary that the blows this boy was physically delivering were far beyond the strength of an ordinary boy of his age. He was seriously injuring large, grown men. As an act of desperation, at times the priests even held a pillow over the boys face to stop him from swearing. In my opinion, this may not have been the best way to go, as I figure “The hell with it, just use a ballgag!”. Before you judge me, it’s actually safer as it leaves the nose completely free. J But moving on from S&M, back to the tale…
The marks continued to appear sometimes forming words, sometimes not. There were more frequently appearing periods of lucidity, when the boy would appear calm and cool, but still calculating. While they were becoming more frequent, they would never last. At this point, the priests all agreed that in order to give the family some peace, they would move the boy again, this time to a hospital run by an ancient order of Catholic monks. This was more of an exile. The boy was confined to a room in where no one could hear him during these outbursts, and where everyone could work as intensely as they needed to without raising the concerns of outsiders. It was in fact the same type of room that a mental patient of the time would be assigned to. The windows did not open, and you could not open the door from the inside. Everything in there was regarded as “safe”, or otherwise unable to assist the afflicted in harming themselves, so on and so forth.
By this point, people were beginning to become concerned with the health of Father Bowdern. It must be noted that priests are also responsible for their daily assignments while they take part in special assignments, so while Bowdern was conducting these exorcisms, often times into the early morning, he was spending most of his time at his “dayjob”, where he ran a parish. He had been losing massive amounts of sleep, he was feeling exhausted both physically and mentally, and at one point he even broke out in boils. This was not turning out how he had hoped, but he still kept at it and continued to put up a good fight with everything he had in him.
There was one night in particular that brings some things into question. A priest had his nose broken by the boy during one of his outbursts. This was a period when the priests were going through a growing sense of doubt and despair, feeling as if they were not able to make a dent in the boys salvation. They decided that the best course of action would be to baptize the boy in an effort to strengthen his resistance through the sacraments. The belief was that once they anointed this boy as a converted catholic, he would be subject moreso to the spiritual power of the Catholic church and its priests, thus assisting the priests with progress towards liberation. When they attempted to force the boy to take communion by accepting the communion wafer, it was said that this was one of the fiercest bouts of resistance that the boy had ever put up, and he fought tooth and nail against this.
Finally, the boy did wind up ‘accepting’ the communion wafer, but the results were not as expected – this only increased the resolve of the demons within. But then, days later, in an event that shocked all those who were present, in the middle of one of the worst displays of violence and hatred the priests had ever seen, “R” for the first time in many days spoke in a clear voice, and declared:
“Satan! Satan! I am Saint Michael, and I command you, Satan and the other evil spirits, to leave the body now. “ – “R”
Now, to go into further detail about why this is significant, according to the Catholic belief, Saint Michael is the Chief Archangel in Heaven. He is the angel whom God gave power over Satan, and he is also the angel who threw Lucifer from Heaven and exiled him. He is literally one major bad-ass, but for the side of good. As a matter of fact, in every book I have read on Exorcism, the priests all mention that they pray for intervention from Saint Michael himself because it is quick, decisive, and absolute. Assistance from Saint Michael is like walking into that alley I described above, finding out that you’re against 6 assailants, and then literally unleashing an entire army against those 6 assailants. Demonic entities do not stand a chance against this archangel. As a matter of fact, for literary purposes, I will post the Roman Catholic prayer of Saint Michael here, for you to read over and review. This is the prayer that you are supposed to recite for protection over any type of evil you may feel building or brewing. For your believers out there, if you have ever experienced a malevolent presence such as a poltergeist or just a spirit/entity which you feel intends you harm, this is the prayer that you are supposed to say, as it alerts the Archangel to your situation.
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, Satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
I will be posting yet another article to explain to you what made me finally, after 28 years of being alive, believe that there are higher powers out there. I will never force my beliefs on anyone, and other than this blog, I rarely speak about them. I am not posting the article here, right now, because I don’t want it to take away from the story, plain and simple.
After what was believed to be the intervention of Michael, “R” attended mass finally, and for the first time, he seemed at ease. Only a few days after, the family returned home to Cottage City, and quietly slipped back into the way things used to be, entering their old routines, taking part in their old life, and moving on. The parents were a bit more reserved now than they had before, and things began to get back on track for the family. The boy went back to school, and never exhibited any strange behavior such as what was previously seen again. He eventually went on to work for NASA, and even now, the boy chose and requested the priests and authors to keep his identity a secret. As of the current time, he claims that he does not have any recollection of these events, and this is also common amongst possession victims. This usually means that whatever had control of them was stronger than the average diabolical entity, as only the stronger demons seem to rob the afflicted of the memories which occurred while the vessel was occupied by the diabolical entity.
This is the story of the true ordeal behind “The Exorcist”. This movie was responsible for spawning an intense debate of religion versus science. It was nominated for 10 academy awards and was a blockbuster hit. While many of the scenes in the movie “The Exorcist” were exaggerated, within the small world of actual exorcists, they all claim that the movie is strikingly accurate. Exaggerations aside, the content and many actions of Reagan in the movie are claimed to be rather identical to some things that real life exorcists have seen, minus the buckets of shooting pea soup and full 360 degree had turning.
I want to be clear on one thing – this entire article is nothing more than a basic summary of the events that conspired. I would recommend for everyone interested in the topic to read the book I mentioned above, “Possessed”. It will give you all of the details you could want about the details in this case. The records kept are meticulous. The detail is something that will blow your mind. But ultimately, the choice about whether or not you believe is completely up to you.