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The True Story of The Exorcist: Unveiling the Horror Behind the Film


The Exorcist is one of the most well-known and celebrated horror films in history. It tells the story of a young girl named Regan who becomes possessed by a demon, and the attempts of two priests to exorcise the demon from her body. But did you know that The Exorcist is actually based on a true story? In this article, we will explore the real events that inspired the film, as well as the making of the movie and its impact on popular culture.

The True Story Behind The Exorcist

The events that inspired The Exorcist took place in the late 1940s and early 1950s, in the United States. In 1949, a 14-year-old boy named Roland Doe (a pseudonym) began to exhibit signs of possession. According to reports, objects in his room would move by themselves, strange noises would be heard, and Roland would speak in languages he did not know. His family eventually turned to the Catholic Church for help, and the case was referred to two priests, Father William Bowdern and Father Walter Halloran.

Over the course of several weeks, the priests performed a series of exorcisms on Roland, during which he reportedly exhibited extreme physical contortions and violent behavior. The exorcisms were performed in secret, but word eventually leaked out to the press, and the case became a national sensation. Roland was eventually declared to be free of the demon, and went on to live a normal life. He never publicly discussed his experiences, and his true identity was never revealed.

The Making of The Exorcist

The story of Roland Doe's possession eventually made its way to author William Peter Blatty, who was inspired to write a novel about a young girl who becomes possessed by a demon. Blatty spent several years researching the topic, and based his novel on a combination of real-life events and his own imagination.

The novel, also called The Exorcist, was published in 1971 and quickly became a best-seller. The film rights were purchased by Warner Bros., and director William Friedkin was brought on board to helm the project. Friedkin was known for his innovative and provocative filmmaking style, and he brought those sensibilities to The Exorcist, creating a film that was both terrifying and emotionally powerful.

The film starred Linda Blair as Regan, the young girl who becomes possessed, and Ellen Burstyn as her mother. Max von Sydow played Father Lankester Merrin, the priest who is called in to perform the exorcism, while Jason Miller played Father Damien Karras, a young priest who is struggling with his faith.

The film was shot on location in Washington, D.C., and the production was plagued by a number of setbacks and difficulties. The set caught fire at one point, and several actors were injured during the filming of a particularly intense scene. Friedkin was notoriously demanding of his cast and crew, and the stress of the production took its toll on everyone involved.

Despite the challenges, however, The Exorcist was completed on time and on budget, and was released in 1973 to critical and commercial success. The film was praised for its realistic and visceral depiction of possession, as well as its powerful performances and stunning visual effects.

Impact and Legacy

The Exorcist was an instant cultural phenomenon, and remains one of the most iconic and influential horror films ever made. Its impact can be felt in countless other horror movies and TV shows, and its images and themes have become deeply ingrained in popular culture.

The film also sparked a renewed interest in the subject of possession and exorcism, and led to a surge of interest in the Catholic Church and its teachings. It also inspired a number of sequels and spin-offs, including two direct sequels, a prequel, and a TV series.

But perhaps the most lasting legacy of The Exorcist is the way in which it has shaped our understanding of horror as a genre. Prior to its release, horror films were often dismissed as cheap thrills or exploitation cinema. But The Exorcist demonstrated that horror could be a serious and thought-provoking art form, capable of exploring complex themes and emotions.

The film also ushered in a new era of horror filmmaking, characterized by a focus on realism, atmosphere, and psychological terror. Filmmakers like John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and George A. Romero all cited The Exorcist as a major influence on their work, and the film continues to inspire new generations of horror filmmakers to this day.


The Exorcist is a horror classic that has stood the test of time, thanks in large part to its basis in a true story. The events that inspired the film remain shrouded in mystery and controversy, but their impact on popular culture is undeniable. The making of the film was itself a tumultuous and challenging process, but the end result was a masterpiece that has influenced generations of filmmakers and terrified audiences around the world.

Whether you believe in possession and exorcism or not, there is no denying the power and impact of The Exorcist. It remains a powerful and terrifying work of art that continues to capture our imaginations and push the boundaries of what horror can be.

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