What Really Happened During St. Louis Exorcism of Roland Doe
More than likely you've seen the movie "The Exorcist" at some point in your life. You might also know that it's based on a real exorcism. But, did you know that exorcism happened in St. Louis and the true story of what happened is much scarier than the movie?
The original 1973 version of "The Exorcist" is now legend. Linda Blair helped make the concept of possession a frighteningly real concept.
If you check out the Wikipedia page for the movie, you'll see this tantalizing side note about how the story came to be:
Aspects of Blatty's fiction novel were inspired by the 1949 exorcism performed on an anonymous young boy known as "Roland Doe" or "Robbie Mannheim" (pseudonyms) by the Jesuit priest Fr. William S. Bowdern, who formerly taught at both St. Louis University and St. Louis University High School.
The real story of Roland Doe is a twisted one. His name is one that was made up to protect the anonymous boy that was treated. His background as told by Wikipedia talks about him being an only child. It says that Roland's aunt was a spiritualist who played with a Ouija board. As Roland suddenly developed violent behavior, what would follow would be witnessed by 48 people including 9 priests.
The first exorcism attempted on Roland produced the following terrifying result:
During the exorcism, the boy allegedly slipped one of his hands out of the restraints, broke a bedspring from under the mattress, and used it as an impromptu weapon, slashing the priest's arm and resulting in the exorcism ritual being halted.
And that was just the beginning. When priests returned to check on the boy a few days later, the bed shook and he spoke in what was described as "a guttural voice".
A decision was made to move the next exorcism was changed to a psychiatric ward of another hospital. Three priests including Walter Halloran assisted in the encounter. During the exorcism, reports were that the words "evil" and "hell" appeared on Roland's skin. The ceremony was so violent that Halloran's nose was broken according to the records.
One of the eyewitnesses recalled that the exorcism finally made a positive turn when Roland shouted that he saw Michael the Archangel with a sword causing the devil to flee.
It is believed that the boy portrayed as Roland led a somewhat normal life after this final exorcism.
There is one more wicked twisted to this story. Near the end of the documentary about Roland Doe on Discovery Plus, there is an interview with an investigator who was taken to a psychiatric hospital. He was led down what appeared to be a vacant floor. At the end of a hallway was a door. As he prepared to open it, he heard the sound of glass breaking and objects being thrown around. He was warned to not touch the door or open it. When he asked why, he was told this was the room where one of the priests who was a part of Roland's exorcism was being cared for. The consensus was whatever possessed Roland had gone into the priest and he lived the rest of his days in this lonely room in a psychiatric hospital.
There are disagreements among experts about whether "Roland" was indeed possessed or just suffering from severe mental illness. You can decide yourself as several witnesses tell their story in a documentary available now on Discovery Plus.