Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Friday 23 July |
Saint of the Day: St. Bridget of Sweden
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

The real-life exorcism that inspired ‘The Exorcist’

ALEXIAN BROTHERS HOSPITAL,EXORCISM

PD

Alexian Brothers Hospital, the location of the real-life exorcism portrayed in the film

Philip Kosloski - published on 06/12/18

The popular 1973 film was based on a haunting exorcism that occurred in St. Louis.

In 1949, a young 13-year-old boy in Maryland was hearing and seeing strange things in his house after playing with a Ouija board. His family didn’t know what to do, so they contacted their Lutheran pastor.

According to an historical account of the events, the pastor said, “Go to a Catholic priest; the Catholics know about this kind of thing.”

They visited a local priest who later asked permission to perform an exorcism at Georgetown University Hospital. It didn’t end well, with the boy breaking off a spring from the mattress and slashing the priest.

Supernatural events persisted and so his parents felt they needed to do something more. The boy’s mother was from St. Louis and thought it would be good to find a priest there who could help.

The family ended up staying at a relative’s house, who graduated from St. Louis University. They were familiar with the Jesuit priests at the university and asked them for advice. After getting permission from the local bishop the Jesuits performed an exorcism that spanned almost 2 months.

Initially the exorcism was performed at the house, but it was later moved to St. Louis University as well as the Alexian Brothers Hospital.

According to a Jesuit seminarian at the time, “I got in on the business with the prayers of exorcism, and the little boy would go into a seizure and get quite violent. So Father Bowdern asked me to hold him … Yes, he did break my nose.’




Read more:
The devil is like a dog in chains, and he’ll bite if you draw close, says Pope Francis

The Jesuit exorcist who was chiefly responsible for performing the Rite of Exorcism fasted on bread and water throughout the entire span of events and took his role very seriously. It was a spiritual battle and he was poised to do everything necessary to defeat the assaults of the evil one.

Surprisingly, many of the events portrayed on film did happen, including a vomit that shot across the room at one of the priests. Yet, the boy never remembered any of it and woke up in the morning with no recollection of the great struggle that happened the night before.

St. Louis University relates on its website, “The exorcism continued on almost a nightly basis, even though the boy seemed to be get­ting worse. The priests asked his family for permission to teach him about Catholicism and con­vert him as a way to strengthen the fight against the supposed demonic possession. As he got closer to conversion and making his first holy Communion, his episodes become increasingly violent.”

Everything culminated with the celebration of Easter, when the priests were finally able to expel the demonic influences.

The day after Easter Sunday the extraordinary events ceased and the boy went on to lead a normal life, getting married, having children and a successful career. The Jesuits believed the exorcism was a success.

While The Exorcist may seem like a work of fiction, it was inspired by real-life events and remind us all that the devil is real and the only way to defeat him is through a life of prayer, united to the sacraments of the Church.


RITE OF EXORCISM

Read more:
This is what exorcisms are really like


PRIEST PERFORMING EXORCISM

Read more:
Can anyone perform exorcisms?

Tags:
Exorcism
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 Aleteia.org 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
1
HEADACHE
Kathleen N. Hattrup
2 Bible verses when you’re weary down to the soul
2
nightbirde
Cerith Gardiner
8 Powerful quotes from Nightbirde that will fill you with hope
3
FRAY JUNIPERO SERRA
John Burger
Alumni sue after this Catholic saint’s name was removed fro...
4
CARDINAL
J-P Mauro
Italian police dressed as priests nab scammers disguised as cardi...
5
WEB2-Benjamin_West_-_Joshua_passing_the_River_Jordan_with_the_Ark_of_the_Covenant_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg
Daniel Esparza
Who are the cherubim in the Bible?
6
Blessed Carlo Acutis
J-P Mauro
The Diocese of Brooklyn acquires first-class relic of Bl. Carlo A...
7
ŁACINA
Philip Kosloski
Why is Latin the official language of the Church, instead of Aram...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.