Thursday, March 10, 2005

Another good article

Found it on Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

The Exorcist Revisited

The echoes of 'wild, diabolical laughter' recall the St. Louis U. exorcism of 1949

By John M. McGuire
Of the Post-Dispatch

This story was originally published April 17, 1988

EXORCIZO, te, immundissime spiritus, omnis incursio adversarii, omne phantasma, omnis legio.

(I cast thee out, thou unclean spirit, along with the least encroachment of the wicked enemy, and every phantom and diabolical legion.)

- From the Roman Ritual of the Catholic Church, its Rite of Exorcism

One night almost 40 years ago, when Verhagen Hall at St. Louis University was a residence for Jesuits, a priest just back from a year of study at Harvard University heard a diabolical laugh that froze his blood.

That evening, the young Jesuit had been saying his office - a priest's daily prayers - as he sat in his small room directly across from the old rectory at the back of St. Francis Xavier (College) Church. He was not 20 feet away from a rear window in the rectory, he recalled.

The old priests' house - which has since been razed and replaced with a newer building - was nestled between the creaky, wood-and-brick splendor of DuBourg Hall and its nearby 19th-century cousin, Verhagen, now home to the university's theological studies department.

''I heard this wild, idiotic, diabolical laughter,'' said the Rev. Lucius F. Cervantes, whose late brother, Alfonso Juan, was mayor of St. Louis. ''I hadn't heard a thing about the exorcism at the time. So I tried to find out what it was about. I looked toward the window from where the light was coming, but saw nothing.''

What he had heard was a 14-year-old boy from Mount Rainier, Md., a Washington suburb, who many believe was possessed or obsessed by demons.

In these nocturnal episodes (the boy's bizarre behavior occurred mostly at night), he would supposedly become incredibly strong, his body distorting and transforming, heels touching the back of his head, the body forming a loop - all reported by priests who were witnesses.

Curiously, during these convulsions, the doctors attending him could find no change in his pulse rate or blood pressure. The bed would shake violently. Obscene words and images appeared on his skin, in raised red welts, like bas reliefs.

''These brandings on the boy's skin - it happened as many as 30 times each day - were unquestionably paranormal,'' says William Peter Blatty, who wrote the novel ''The Exorcist,'' inspired by the incident. ''Some of the markings were on the back, and some were pictures, often lasting from three to four hours. All over the (official) diary were accounts of these brandings.''


Blatty recalled one of the strangest incidents in the official diary.

''One night, sitting on the bed beside the boy, Bowdern watched a tiny, nearly invisible pitchfork, or lines, move from under the boy's upper thigh all the way to the ankle,'' Blatty said. ''Droplets of blood occurred. Bowdern was only a foot away, and there were the usual four or five witnesses.''

The boy supposedly spat a foul substance at the priests who attended him, all the way across the room and with incredible accuracy. According to this account, the pea-soup vomit shown in the movie version of ''The Exorcist'' was not too far-fetched.


Halloran said he observed the streaks and arrows and words like ''hell'' that would rise on the child's skin. ''That happened a number of times. And it wasn't a case of taking a pin and scratching himself. It just appeared, and with quite a bit of pain.

''On Holy Thursday that year, this phenomenon started occurring as I was reading the prayers. 'Don't talk about it anymore, this hurts too much,' the kid said. The markings were most visible, and there were many obscenities. He was a nice little kid.''


It all supposedly began at the boy's home in suburban Washington in January 1949. In what exorcists call the infestation phase, the child's grandmother, who lived in a room above her grandson's bedroom, heard sounds like marching feet.

Then there were scratching noises, falling pictures and flying fruit, according to Walsh and Blatty. Later, as his condition worsened, the child's voice and behavior pattern changed, Walsh said.

''He had been a nice, well-behaved boy. They called in the family's minister; they were Lutheran. They just thought it was something weird; there's no mention of possession,'' Walsh said.

The minister thought a change of scenery would help the boy, and he took him to the parsonage. But his condition got worse. It was the Lutheran minister who suggested that the family consult a Catholic priest.


According to Walsh, the boy who was the object of the exorcism is now married and living in Omaha, and has been fine since the exorcism. He named his first child Michael, for the archangel, the scourge of demons. He works for an airline.

Is he a pilot? Walsh was asked. ''No, my word! I wouldn't want to fly with him.'' And he chuckled.

However, Halloran said he was under the impression that the boy became a doctor. There are other reports that the man changed his name and is still living in the Washington area. Walsh said the man reportedly recalled little or nothing of his ordeal.

According to these reports, the man is 54 and has converted to Catholicism, as did his entire family, save the grandmother who first reported her grandson's odd behavior. She remained a Lutheran until her death.

Read the whole article here.

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