In 1971, William Peter Blatty's novel The Exorcist became
a world-wide sensation. Two years later, the movie based on the novel became
one of the most influential horror movies of all times. It was banned by the
Catholic and Anglican Church, and caused controversy in many cities where it
played. What many people failed to realize is that the book is based on the
diary kept by a priest who had participated in a real exorcism in 1949.
The child in the story was a 13 year old boy who has been
variously identified as Roland Doe, John Hoffman and Robbie. The story is often
known as "The St. Louis Exorcism", and has been called 'the only documented
exorcism in modern history'. The truth is that the boy actually lived in Maryland
- though even in that there is some ambiguity. The newspaper reports of the
time state that he had lived in Mount Rainier, MD. A widely publicized investigation
later stated that he'd actually lived in Cotton City, MD, some miles away from
Mount Rainier. No matter where he lived, however, the reports go on to state
Robbie (for the sake of easier reading, we'll stick with one
name here - the name that the Catholic Church uses in referring to the boy)
lived with his parents and grandmother in a small, suburban Maryland town. His
aunt was a frequent visitor who often stayed overnight with the family. She
was also a medium according to some reports - or simply had an interest in the
occult. She introduced Robbie to the Ouija board. Many believe that his playing
with the Ouija board opened Robbie to possession by a demon. There were no manifestations
of anything until after his aunt's death, though. Perhaps, the boy was attempting
to contact the spirit of his aunt - but without her protection there, he was
defenseless when a demon invaded his body instead.
The first manifestations of possession were odd sounds in
the walls. Suspecting it was rodents, his parents called an exterminator - who
found no signs at all of rodent infestation. Soon the manifestations escalated.
Objects moved without anyone near them. Tables were overturned. A vase reportedly
sailed through the air to crash against a wall, and a picture of Christ on the
wall would shake and rattle.
The family, alarmed not only by those incidents but by the
change in Robbie's demeanor, contacted their family pastor, a man with an interest
in the paranormal. The Reverend Schulze, a Lutheran minister, suspected that
the boy might be manifesting a poltergeist. He invited Robbie to move stay with
him for a few days. While Robbie was living with him, the minister observed
chairs gliding around the room of their own volition, and at night, the boy's
bed would shake violently. Suspecting a poltergeist still, Reverend Schulze
recommended to the family that they take Robbie to the mental health clinic
at the University of Maryland. He was examined there twice for a full round
of tests, but the doctors found nothing wrong.
Growing more desperate, Robbie's parents took him to a Catholic
priest in Mount Rainier. During the interview with the priest, the telephone
levitated, chairs glided around the room and Robbie began cursing the priest
in a loud, eerie voice. The priest was convinced that Robbie was possessed,
and obtained permission from the Church to conduct an exorcism.
The first attempt at exorcism was conducted at Georgetown
Hospital. During the exorcism, Robbie swore, contorted himself, shook the bed
and became violent with spitting and projectile vomiting. It ended abruptly
when Robbie managed to tear one of the bedsprings free and slashed the priest's
arm with it. After the priest was removed from the room, Robbie calmed, and
was released to his parents.
Not long after that, Robbie's parents noticed the word 'Louis'
scratched into Robbie's body. They interpreted this to mean that they should
go to St. Louis, where they met two priests who would conduct another exorcist.
During the ritual, the priests noted bloody scratches and
markings on Robbie's body that spelled words, swears and even formed the face
of the devil on his chest. The bed in which he was lying rocked and lifted off
the floor. Eventually, the boy was transferred to the psychiatric ward at the
Jesuit hospital. The attempts at exorcism continued until April 16, the day
after Easter. At that time, in the midst of more prayers and adjurations for
the demon to come out of Robbie, a deep voice spoke from the boy's body, claiming
to be the Archangel Michael. The voice ordered the demon to depart from his
body. There was a sound like an explosion throughout the entire hospital and
Robbie fainted. When he came to, he remembered nothing of his ordeal.
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