5 long decades have elapsed since the Exorcist mesmerized audiences with its horrifying tales of the demonic possession of a 12 year old Regan, played by actress Linda Blair. Blair was chosen out of 600 applicants for the role, the fact that she was Max von Sydow's grand daughter may have also played a part in landing her the job. Von Sydow played Father Merrin in the film.
The Exorcist itself is loosely based on a real life occurrence. In the late 1940s a 13-year-old boy, commonly referred to as Roland Doe, mourned the death of his aunt. His Aunt it seems was a spiritualist who had indoctrinated him into black magic and the occult.
Following her death, Roland began to experience a haunting, unexplained scratching sounds from the floors and walls of his bedroom and unexplained tremors of his mattress. His family sought help from the medical community [to no avail], and their Lutheran minister. Lutherans have no formal Rite of exorcism and the minister was unable to help. The exasperated family finally went outside their faith and contacted the local Catholic priest, who gained permission from his superiors to perform an exorcism. The priest stopped the rite when the possessed boy broke off a piece of spring from the mattress and slashed the priest across both shoulders.
Objects would sail through the air with no visible source of propulsion. Roland would shriek 'blasphemes' for hours on end, particular at night. He would viciously lash out at sacred objects such as a rosary or crucifix.
The 'Doe' family relocated from Cottage City, Maryland [Not far from site of Blair Witch Project] to St. Louis where Jesuit Priests agreed to perform an exorcism with the help of several assistants. On that evening, the attending priests called on St. Michael to expel Satan from Roland's body.
Not long thereafter, an exhausted Roland stated "He's gone." and recounted how he had a vision that St. Michael defeated Satan on a great battlefield.
In 1949 the story of Roland Doe was publicized by several newspaper articles. Allegedly 48 people including 9 Jesuits witnessed the exorcism. The last surviving Jesuit was Father Walter Halloran who had participated in the exorcism. Allen wrote that a diary kept by attending priest Father Raymond J. Bishop detailed the exorcism.
In the 1970s a screenplay was written based on Roland Doe, with some major changes. Those who were present on the Movie set, acted in the blockbuster, have been chiming in ever since about weird and freaky happenstances during and following the filming. Some believe the Movie itself was haunted and many of the people involved in it became 'demonically possessed' in their own right. A number of people involved in the production in one way or another died during the filming including Blairs great Uncle, brother of Max Van Sydow, Axel Von Sydow.
Ellen Burstyn, the actress playing Regan's mother, stated that a number of people associated with the film died during its production.
Axel Von Sydow Blairs Great Uncle died Max’s first day of shooting.
Jack MacGowran, who played the alcoholic director Burke Dennings in The Exorcist, died from a heart attack related to a case of the flu shortly after completing his work on set. [ died January 30, 1973 ]. Vasiliki Maliaros, who played Fr. Damien Karras' mother, died during post-production from natural causes she was 89. [died February 9, 1973]. Both of their characters died in the film as well.
Linda Blair, the pea-soup vomitting star of the Exorcist recounted many creepy incidents, including a mysterious fire that that nearly demolished the set. The only portion spared by the inferno was Regan's bedroom, the site of her possession in the movie.
The voice of the demon 'Captain Howdy', Mercedes McCambridge, suffered a personal tragedy when her son later murdered his wife and two daughters before committing suicide.
Paul Bateson appeared as a radiological technologist in a scene from The Exorcist went on to murder film critic Addison Verrill. He was also been accused of the murder of several other people. Bateson was implicated in a series of unsolved murders of gay men in NYC, killings he had brazenly boasted of to fellow inmates. Bateson allegedly inspired the 1980 film Cruising about a serial killer targeting Gay Men.
Not too long ago there was speculation about a remake of the Exorcist. The studio took to Twitter stating
"For the record, we will never attempt to remake 'The Exorcist',"
80-year-old filmmaker William Friedkin, who made the original Excorcist completely denounced the idea of remake NEVER EVER NEVER he tweeted.