SLU expert talks about exorcism on campus

5:14 AM, Oct 29, 2012   |    comments
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By Pat McGonigle

St. Louis (KSDK) -- Many consider the 1973 film "The Exorcist" the scariest movie of all time. If the mere thought of the famous flick gives you the chills, consider this: It's directly based on a true incident that happened here in St. Louis.

"I mean there are witnesses," said John Waide, archivist at Saint Louis University. "At least 40 different people over the months that this occurred who said, yes, those things did happen."

The real story that inspired the famous book and movie happened in 1949. It began in Maryland, ended in St. Louis, and involved several Jesuits from Saint Louis University.

It's a chapter in school history that SLU wasn't always eager to reopen, but with curiosity about the famous case of demonic possession only growing over the years, SLU officials now openly share the records.

The bizarre series of episodes began with unexplained events happening to a 13-year-old boy in Maryland.

"These strange things started happening," Waide describes. "You know, scratching noises, drippings sounds, sounds of water dripping."

The boy, whose identity remains a closely guarded secret, had a close relationship with his aunt, who introduced the child to a Ouija board. Shortly after her death, the mysterious sounds in the house escalated to welts and marks on the 13-year-old's body.

In most accounts of this case, the boy is given the pseudonym "Robbie".

"After several weeks, the word, the family thought, the word 'Louis' appeared on his body," Waide said. "And his mother, Robbie's mother, had been thinking of taking the family away from their home to get away from there, improve things to just get out of that situation. They had family here in St. Louis, as I said, and once they saw that word, 'Louis' , they thought, 'well, I have to take him to St. Louis.'"

Robbie's symptoms didn't improve here in St. Louis. Eventually, his encounters with Jesuit priests from Saint Louis University would be the most documented example of exorcism in modern history.

This week on Today in St. Louis, you will hear from one of the priests involved in the exorcism in the last known interview he gave about this episode.

We'll also tell you what happened to "Robbie" and you'll hear from the neighbors who live near the house in North St. Louis County where much of the exorcism happened.

William Peter Blatty is the author who wrote the book that the famous movie is based on. Later this week on Today in St. Louis, hear why Blatty thinks people continue to miss the main point of this famous story.

Father Raymond J. Bishop, S.J. kept a day-by-day account of the exorcism. Click on the PDF link to read it.



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