Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Tuesday 27 July |
Saint of the Day: St. Simeon Sylites
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

The true story behind ‘The Exorcist’

Warner Brothers Entertainment

Alvaro Real - published on 03/06/17

A 14-year-old Ouija fan from Maryland inspired the novel and the film.

The Exorcist is a true cinematic and cultural phenomenon. William Friedkin’s film has become a cult movie for those who feel called to ponder on the classic issues of good and evil. But even though the movie is widely known, the real case on which it is based is unknown to the many, although the story was originally published on August 1949 in the Washington Post. In fact, that’s where William Peter Blatty got the idea for his novel. Now, the Spanish newspaper ABC  again tells the story of the so-called “Mannheim case,” the story of a 14-year-old boy from Mount Rainier, Maryland.

According to the article, it all began when Robbie heard some noises down in the basement. He looked around the house and noticed some strange things: an image of Jesus in his grandmother’s room twisted and began to move as if someone were hitting the wall from behind. “Eleven days after that strange event, Robbie’s dearest aunt, who was fond of the Ouija game, died. He himself was also an avid Ouija board user,” the report said.

Right after the event, paranormal phenomena began to occur: “Robbie’s mattress moved violently in the middle of the night, there was constant bashing coming from the basement, a smell of excrement flooded everything and ordinary objects — glasses and cups, for instance — were suspended in the air.”

The family, not knowing exactly what was happening, asked a Lutheran pastor for help. He advised the family a Catholic exorcist should take care of the case. After doing some research, the license to carry out the exorcism was granted, as the Catholic church requests that every other hypothesis (medical, psychiatric and the like) be discarded before proceeding with an exorcism. What happened afterwards is what can be seen in the film.

Multiple exorcisms were performed, and the young man had to spend some days in a mental hospital in Baltimore to get some of his strength back. But unexpectedly, one day the word “exit” appeared in his body and the next morning the paranormal events ended, the child going back to his everyday life.

Robbie’s story continues to puzzle some people, as no one has yet been able to explain this behavior as anything other than a demonic possession. Some claim it was a “grave hysteric affection,” the consequence of his aunt’s death. In fact, Robbie’s obsession with the Ouija board begun after her aunt passed away, as he believed he could talk to her in the afterlife. However, when every medical diagnostic proved insufficient, an exorcism was requested.

If you want to read the whole article, as published by the Spanish newspaper ABC, click here.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Philip Kosloski
This morning prayer is easy to memorize
Daniel Esparza
5 Curious things you might not know about Catholicism
Joachim and Anne
Philip Kosloski
Did Jesus know his grandparents?
J-P Mauro
Reconstructing a 12th-century pipe organ discovered in the Holy L...
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been know...
Cerith Gardiner
5 Ways grandparents impact our lives for the better
Sarah Robsdottir
What we can learn from Elon Musk’s housing decisions
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.