Tags: exorcism | priest | 1949 | boy | St. Louis | Father Herbert Ryan

Jesuit Priest Talks About Real-Life Exorcism From 1949

By    |   Friday, 31 Oct 2014 11:14 AM

Case Was Inspiration for Novel and Film "The Exorcist"


The late Fr. Herbert J. Ryan, S.J., from Loyola Marymount University, talks about the 1949 exorcism of a 14-year-old boy in St. Louis whose case inspired the novel by William Peter Blatty, "The Exorcist."

Fr. Ryan served as a consultant on the film "The Exorcism of Emily Rose."

Sixty-five years ago, the boy began to show signs of demonic possession in his Maryland home. An inexperienced local priest tried to conduct an exorcism at Georgetown University Hospital, with disastrous consequences.

The young man was sent to St. Louis where he had family ties, and where Jesuit priests successfully conducted an exorcism over the period of two months.

A St. Louis Public Radio report provides documentation for the events from January to March and April 1949 that Fr. Ryan discusses in the video. Here are some recollections from the radio report:

The mattress began to shake. Arms and legs flailing. For hours he fluctuated between frenzy and calm.

A cadre of Jesuit priests affiliated with Saint Louis University, led by Father William S. Bowdern, the pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church, undertook the exorcism of a 14-year-old boy. They took turns praying over the boy, working to cast out the demon believed to have possessed him.

This real-life exorcism was the inspiration for a 1971 novel called "The Exorcist" and a 1973 horror film by the same name. But the novel and film were mostly the product of William Peter Blatty's imagination, who changed the setting of the exorcism to Washington, D.C., and made the possessed child a 12-year-old girl.

In contrast to these works of fiction, author Thomas Allen wrote a history of the St. Louis exorcism called "Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism."

Based on a meticulous 26-page diary kept by the Rev. Raymond J. Bishop, the book was first published in 1993 but is now of interest to a new generation not familiar with the events.

How It Began

In January 1949, strange events at the Maryland home of the young boy took place. Author Thomas Allen writes mysterious things began to happen when the child was present. "A coat on a hanger seemed to fly out of a closet … a Bible seemed to rise from a bookcase … one day the kitchen table tipped over."

After some other events, an exorcism was sought for the child and a local priest agreed to perform it at Georgetown University Hospital. What happened next went terribly wrong.

After strapping the teen down and commencing the prayers of exorcism, the boy got ahold of a spring from the bed, broke it off and slashed the priest's arm from shoulder to wrist, requiring 100 stitches.

Soon after, the boy's family, which had strong ties to St. Louis, came to the city after finding bloody scratches on the child's chest spelling "Louis."

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The late Fr. Herbert J. Ryan, S.J., from Loyola Marymount University, talks about the 1949 exorcism of a 14-year-old boy in St. Louis whose case inspired the novel by William Peter Blatty, "The Exorcist."
exorcism, priest, 1949, boy, St. Louis, Father Herbert Ryan
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2014-14-31
Friday, 31 Oct 2014 11:14 AM
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