is not being saved by the god Plutonium.
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Southwestern Illinois
The "real exorcist house".
Being a denizen of Saint Louis, this is something I've always been aware of, but apparently it's not quite common knowledge.
First, some backstory.
The following articles represent a large cross section of published material on this case. A careful reading will reveal many glaring inconsistencies in the basic story-telling, but I feel all are important for the raw data they offer. In scanning this material from 1949 to the present day one can discern the most common and widely believed scenario for this case of possession. Reporters to date have claimed that the 13- or 14-year-old boy was allegedly from Mount Rainier, Maryland. (It was later revealed that his date of birth was June 1, 1935, meaning he was actually 13 when the rite of exorcism was finally completed). Later accounts declared his home address to have been 3210 Bunker Hill Road. It is said the boy underwent a first exorcism at Georgetown University Hospital conducted by local priest Father E. Albert Hughes (where the boy allegedly slashed Hughes’s arm with a bedspring), and then underwent a final and successful rite of exorcism by Father William Bowdern at Alexian Brothers Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri in the spring of 1949. The road linking this information together is a muddled trail indeed.
The media first became involved in this case when The Washington Post ran an article on August 10, 1949 titled “Pastor Tells Eerie Tale of ‘Haunted’ Boy.” Written in an almost tongue-in-cheek style by reporter Bill Brinkley, the piece tells an “out-of-this-world” story of a local 13-year-old boy. The story came to light when an unnamed minister gave a speech before a local meeting of the Society of Parapsychology at the Mount Pleasant Library in Washington, D.C. According to the minister the family had experienced many strange events in their suburban Maryland home beginning January 18th: scratching noises emanated from the house’s walls; the bed in which the boy slept would shake violently; and objects such as fruit and pictures would jump to the floor in the boy’s presence. The minister, described as being intensely skeptical, arranged for the boy to spend the night of February 17th in his home. With the boy sleeping nearby in a twin bed the minister reported that in the dark he heard vibrating sounds from the bed and scratching sounds on the wall. During the rest of the night he allegedly witnessed some strange events—a heavy armchair in which the boy sat seemingly tilted on its own and tipped over and a pallet of blankets on which the sleeping boy lay inexplicably moved around the room. Curiously, the article described the minister as laughing as he related these incidents to his audience. He admonished the boy by saying, “Now, look, this is enough of this....” The article ended by saying that the minister called in the family doctor, who prescribed phenobarbital for the whole family.
The Evening Star (Washington, D.C.) followed up the Post’s scoop with an uncredited article later that evening on August 10, 1949 titled “Minister Tells Parapsychologists Noisy ‘Ghost’ Plagued Family.” The Evening Star’s account differed from the Post’s in that the family was referred to as “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe” and their 13-year-old son “Roland.” It also describes their house as a “one-and-one-half story home in a Washington suburb” and refers to the events as “the strange story of Roland and his Poltergeist.” The article tells of the talk given by the minister before the Society of Parapsychology, and recounts his experiences with the boy. The minister told the reporter that Roland had made two trips to a mental hygiene clinic and that during an earlier trip to the Midwest the boy had been subjected to three different rites of exorcism by three different faiths—Episcopal, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic. The article quoted Richard C. Darnell, president of the Society, as saying that Dr. J. B. Rhine, director of the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University, called the so-called haunting the “most impressive manifestation he has heard of in the poltergeist field.” The article ended with the minister saying that things had been calm in the household for about the last two months.
The Times-Herald (Washington, D.C.) joined the fray with an article by William Flythe, Jr. on August 11, 1949 titled “‘Haunted’ Boy’s Parents Tell Of Ghost Messages.” A basic rehash of the previous two accounts, this piece adds that the boy lived in the “Brentwood section northeast” and also tells that the family had found dermographic messages written in a rash on the boy’s body. The article states that when the messages were brought to the attention of the minister involved, “he could detect nothing more than an ordinary rash.” The family reported that the boy was taken to St. Louis, where he returned to normalcy after experiencing visions of St. Michael chasing away the devil.
On August 19, 1949 The Evening Star (Washington, D.C.) featured the article “Priest Freed Boy of Possession By Devil, Church Sources Say.” As the first account to provide any exorcism details to the public, the article opens by saying, “A Catholic priest has successfully freed a 14-year-old Mount Rainier, Md., boy of reported possession by the devil here early this year, it was disclosed today.” While names are withheld, it is revealed that the ritual of exorcism was given after the boy’s affliction was studied at both Georgetown University Hospital and St. Louis University. The article went on to describe the exorcism process, but offered no other significant details. The next day the same paper ran a follow-up titled “New Details of Boy’s Exorcism In Catholic Ritual Disclosed,” though in reality few new details were revealed. It did cite church sources as saying that during the rite the boy had recited a stream of blasphemous curses, intermingled with Latin phrases. The article then recapped events that had earlier been printed regarding the minister at a meeting of the Society of Parapsychology.
The Washington Post chimed in on August 20, 1949 with another Bill Brinkley-authored piece, this one titled “Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held in Devil’s Grip.” At greater length than the previous published accounts, Brinkley recounts the family’s entire haunting episode and reveals that only after 20 to 30 performances of the ancient ritual of exorcism was the devil finally cast out of the boy. He also tells that during the rite the youngster would break into violent tantrums of screaming, cursing, and voicing of Latin phrases. The exorcism, which according to Brinkley was conducted by a St. Louis priest in his fifties who accompanied the boy for two months, was first initiated in St. Louis, continued in D.C., and was ultimately completed back in St. Louis. The article states that when the last performance of the ritual was given, the boy became quiet and later reported witnessing a vision of St. Michael casting the devil out. The exorcism ritual was completed only after the boy had been taken into the Catholic church. It was this article that inspired then-20-year-old Georgetown English major William Peter Blatty to later write his novel of demonic possession.
The Parapsychology Bulletin (August 1949, Number 14), a periodical of the New York-based Parapsychology Foundation, weighed in with the uncredited “Report Of A Poltergeist,” an article that finally published the name of the anonymous clergyman of the haunted boy’s family. He turned out to be Reverend Luther Miles Schulze and in this article his experiences with the boy were reported in detail. My own research revealed that Luther Miles Schulze was born on July 30, 1906 and at the time of this case served as the pastor of St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (1611 Brentwood Road NE, Washington, D.C.).
The events continued when the boy was taken to Normandy, Missouri, during the first week of March 1949. Various relatives in Missouri were said to have witnessed the skin brandings.
March 9, 1949—Father Raymond J. Bishop, S.J., of St. Louis University was called in (for the first time) and witnessed the scratching of the boy’s body and the motion of the mattress.
March 11, 1949—Father Bowdern (described as being pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church) arrived on the scene. After Roland retired at 11 p.m., Father Bowdern read the Novena prayer of St. Francis Xavier, blessed the boy with a relic (a piece of bone from the forearm of St. Francis Xavier), and fixed a relic-encrusted crucifix under the boy’s pillow. The relatives left and Father Bowdern and Father Bishop departed. Soon afterward, a loud noise was heard in Roland’s room and five relatives rushed to the scene. They reportedly found that a large book case had moved about, a bench had been turned over, and the crucifix had been moved to the edge of the bed. The shaking of Roland’s mattress came to a halt only after the relatives yelled, “Aunt Tillie, stop!”
March 16, 1949—Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter gave Father Bowdern permission to begin the formal rite of exorcism. That night, accompanied by Father Bishop and a Jesuit scholastic (later revealed to be Walter Halloran), Father Bowdern began reciting the ritual prayers of exorcism.
Throughout March and into April, Roland was confusingly moved back and forth between the home of his aunt in Normandy, Missouri, a nearby rectory, and Alexian Brothers Hospital in South St. Louis. The rite was an ongoing process. Instructions in the ritual command the exorcist to “pronounce the exorcism in a commanding and authoritative voice.” The Roman Ritual of Christian Exorcism reads: “I cast thee out, thou unclean spirit, along with the least encroachment of the wicked enemy and every phantom and diabolical legion. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, depart and vanish from this creature of God….”
Erdmann tells of markings appearing on Roland’s body as these proceedings continued and of the boy’s usual bad habits: outbursts featuring excessive cursing, vomiting, urinating and the use of Latin phrases. Erdmann also mentions that on one occasion Roland got his hand on a bedspring, broke it, and jabbed it into a priest’s arm. (He mentions he is not sure if this event took place in his Maryland home or during the exorcism ritual.) Another time during a round of prayers after Roland had been instructed into the Catholic faith and had received his first holy communion, a six-inch portrait of the devil with its hands held above its head, webs stretching from its hands, and horns protruding from its head appeared in deep red on the boy’s calf. (It is not stated who actually witnessed this.) Later, Roland was transported back to Maryland for a short-lived visit and on one of the train rides he became maniacal, striking Father Bowdern in the testicles and yelling, “That’s a nutcracker for you, isn’t it?”
April 18, 1949—As the nighttime ritual continued, Father Bowdern forced Roland to wear a chain of medals and hold a crucifix in his hands. Roland’s demeanor changed and he calmly asked questions about the meanings of certain Latin prayers. Bowdern continued the ritual, demanding to know who the demon was and when he would depart. Roland responded with a tantrum and screamed that he was one of the fallen angels. Bowdern kept reciting until 11:00 p.m. when Roland interrupted. In a new masculine voice Roland said, “Satan! Satan! I am St. Michael! I command you, Satan, and the other evil spirits to leave this body, in the name of Dominus, immediately! Now! Now! Now!” Roland had one last spasm before falling quiet. “He is gone,” Roland pronounced, later telling Bowdern he had had a vision of St. Michael holding a flaming sword. Twelve days later he left Missouri and returned to Maryland.
My ex-girlfriend lived in the Normandy area, and about four years ago I took a trip to the house and took several photos, included here for your enjoyment.
For the record, I don't believe 'Robbie' to have been possessed, and not only because I don't believe in demons: the interviews with those who knew him as a boy make it clear he was known as a trouble maker well before the events that inspired The Exorcist
Still, this is an integral piece of horror history.
Do you know the terror of he who falls asleep?
To the very toes he is terrified
For the ground gives way under him
And the dreams begin...