For the record, I have some room in my life for the paranormal. I’m not really sure where I stand. I once lived in a house where all manner of the unexplained took place so bearing that in mind, I have a hard time taking myself seriously when I tell you that I don’t buy into the notion of demonic possession. I’ve heard some crazy-ass stories about this sort of thing from my Catholic friends but let’s be honest, they’re also a lot of people who “speak in tongues” as though the holy spirit were speaking through them and every time I see that shit all I can think of is this. Spiritual mediumship, demonic possession, it’s all bullshit to me. As if I even need to tell you this. Chances are you’re already a big skeptic. When I was a kid, my mom absolutely forbade me to see this movie. See, I was raised Catholic, too. I’m also confirmed. I more or less gave up on the whole thing not long after the confirmation when it more or less occurred to me that it didn’t take a book said to be handed down to man from the holy spirit, itself to be a good person. I don’t mean any offense here, either. Really, I don’t, but the whole lot of religious folks makes me nervous and I don’t just mean Christians. They get a bad rap but so do Jews and Muslims. Honestly, the only form of organized faith I can get down with is Buddhism and that’s mostly because their lines of spirituality intersect with my personal philosophy of be chill, do whatever you want. Most flavors of Christianity, more than Judaism and Islam, seem hung up on fear of the unknown quantity and rather than be comfortable with the notion that bad shit just sort of happens sometimes, they have to blame a lot of shit on the devil. That sort of baseless fear has a tendency to snowball, too. To the point, in fact, that a severely mentally ill person might find themselves strapped to a chair while an old priest and young priest chant in latin around them while dumping buckets of holy water on them. Bipolar disorder? Schizophrenia? Nah, couldn’t be. That boy has the devil in him. Thank god for that, too, huh? Without this innate streak of crazy that runs through all of us, exacerbated by Christianity, we wouldn’t have come out of the 70’s with one the true behemoths of horror: The fuckin’ Exorcist!
The Exorcist, like Jaws (and a lot of good horror movies) is based on a novel by William Peter Blatty. Blatty based his legendary narrative on the events surrounding the demonic possession of a boy in Maryland in 1949. The boy, name withheld by the church for decades, known only as Roland Doe, experienced a number of paranormal phenomena following the death of an aunt whom it is believed that he attempted to contact via Ouija board. I’m not sure if this story spawned the “don’t Ouija alone” myth or if it existed prior to that, but this seems to be a case study in using the spirit board to contact the dead. It began with poltergeist activity around the house but quickly escalated to episodes of Roland lashing out violently and uncharacteristically against his family. Medical and psychiatric staff examined him and couldn’t explain the violence or the unexplainable “shit flying around” phenomena that was taking place in the Doe household. Eventually, the family turned to the clergy and Lutheran priests stepped in to examine him. After a night spent with Roland, the clergy felt that they had no choice but to perform an exorcism During the exorcism, however, Doe inflicted an undisclosed wound on the priest that required stitches and the exorcism had to be stopped.
Exorcism part 2, Roland is eventually handed off the Catholic clergy for a second exorcism. After all, Catholics do exorcisms right. These new priests came to see the boy and took note of the same poltergeist activity surrounding him, the bed shaking, scratching sounds in the walls and Roland speaking in a deep, guttural voice. To flip the script, he was also said to be speaking Latin and Aramaic, a pair of languages that he just could not possibly have known. Welts had come to cover his body and his skin was said have words scratched into it. Words like hell and evil. Seems a little hokey to me but whatev.
This time an epic exorcism took place and Roland lashed out at the priests again, this time breaking one’s nose but the exorcism pushed on and was said to be successful. Following the exorcism, all paranormal phenomena ceased and the family of Roland Doe never reported anything weird happening to their son.
Naturally, in the years since the exorcism, critics have come to throw a wet blanket on this spooky paranormal party but most people just don’t care. Sketpicism of exorcism is a foregone conclusion. Roland Doe’s name, by the way, was later revealed to be Robbie Mannheim.