Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Haunted Boy – The True Story Behind “The Exorcist”

on October 13, 2021

In the summer of 1948, a young boy in Mount Rainier, Maryland began using an Ouija board with his aunt, who believed in spiritualism.  After she died, the boy and his family experienced disturbing sounds which woke them during the night: knocking, scratching, and marching feet.  The family witnessed the boy’s mattress furiously shaking, furniture moving on its own, and visitors thrown from a chair. Scratches and strange marks mysteriously appeared on the boy’s body.

Physicians and mental health experts could find no rational explanation for these events.  Finally, the family – which was not Catholic – consulted a local priest.

Father E. Albert Hughes interviewed the boy and later described his “dark, empty stare.”  He determined that the boy was possessed by multiple demons (Legions) and arranged to perform an exorcist at Georgetown Hospital in Washington, D.C.

The exorcism lasted for three nights, with no positive results.  The boy was sent home.  Not long after, the words “Louis” appeared on his chest.  The boy’s mother interpreted this as a sign to take him to St. Louis, Missouri, where she had relatives.

Father William Bowdern, a Jesuit priest, agreed to undertake a rigorous exorcism of the boy, who had suffered through months of violent behavior followed by periods of calm.

The boy was admitted to the Alexian Brothers Hospital in St. Louis and baptized Catholic.  During Easter week, while closely guarded and under restraint, the boy received confession and Holy Communion. Brother Rector Cornelius placed a statue of St. Michael the Archangel – Satan’s arch enemy – by the boy’s bed.  On the night of April 18, 1949, after hours of violent struggle and intense emotional resistance, the boy cried out, “He’s gone!”  By the next morning, Father Bowdern became convinced that the boy was indeed free from demonic possession.

The boy and his family returned to Maryland and spent the summer of 1949 as a normal, happy family.  The boy, whose identity has never been revealed, became known as “The Haunted Boy.”  With no memory of the dreadful events which had threatened to ruin his life, he grew up to become a scientist for NASA.

The fifth floor room at the Alexian Brothers Hospital, where the final exorcism had taken place, was permanently sealed.

Author William Peter Blatty, a devout Catholic, heard about “The Haunted Boy” while a student at Georgetown University.  He used the story of the boy’s ordeal for the basis of his best-selling novel, The Exorcist, one of the most terrifying and thought-provoking novels ever written.  It was later turned into a major motion picture.  Blatty wrote the screenplay.

Dawn Pisturino

Published in the Spring 2016 issue of Psychic-Magic Ezine.

Copyright 2016-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


7 responses to “Haunted Boy – The True Story Behind “The Exorcist”

  1. Iowa Life says:

    Thanks for the great story. That part where the boy yells out, “He’s gone!” Really has the ring of truth to it. I always loved the non-gross parts of the Exorcist. The musical score and the cinematography on the campus there in the fall was wonderful. I always thought Jason Miller (Father Karras) was so likable. He died way too young. I never saw a career fall apart quite so quickly as Linda Blair’s.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The book is much more spiritual than the movie, but the movie gets the point across. I’ve watched several documentaries and read books about it, and it does have a ring of truth about it. That’s what’s so scary about it, that it might be true! You are right about both Linda Blair and Jason Miller. I guess, once you get stereo-typed to a role, it’s much harder to move on. I did see her in some paranormal series on TV, can’t remember what it was called. I always wondered about Jason Miller because I never saw him in anything else except Exorcist I and III. I didn’t like III at all. And, I don’t think Blatty was very successful until he wrote “The Exorcist”. I read one of his earlier books, and it sucked.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wait, the movie the exorcist was based off of the incident in St. Louis, I thought haha I’ve been to the house where it all supposedly went down. Weird

    Liked by 1 person

  3. balladeer says:

    Very nice blast from the past!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There are so many stories from the making of the exorcist. All of them good. I enjoyed your story.
    A fun take, watch some of Linda Blair’s schlocky 70s films where she is a vigilante or prostitute or roller disco star, then watch the exorcist.

    Liked by 1 person

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