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Columnistsz Tracey Huntley's Column

Posted on - Thursday 08th of July 2010

Author: Tracey Huntley
"The heart of a man is the place the Devil's in: I feel sometimes a hell within myself."
- Sir William Browne

Variant(s): also ex•or•cize /'ek-"sor-"sIz, -s&r-/
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): -cised also -cized; -cis•ing also -ciz•ing

Middle English, from Middle French exorciser, from Late Latin exorcizare, from Greek exorkizein, from ex- + horkizein to
bind by oath, adjure, from horkos oath

1 a : to expel (an evil spirit) by adjuration b : to get rid of (something troublesome, menacing, or oppressive)

2 : to free of an evil spirit

I recently pulled out my dusty old box of VHS tapes to see what I had. I came across The Exorcist. Being that it is one of my favorite movies, I popped it in and watched it again. It seems they don't make them like they use to.

The Exorcist is probably the only movie that I find hard to watch alone, even still today. o.O

After watching the movie again, I decided to research the background of what may have occured. As in most things in life, opinions vary on this topic as well.

December 26th 1973 - Movie history was in the making.The Exorcist hit the big screens and terrified the hearts of countless moviegoers.

Let's take a look back at some of the supposed facts that surrounded the story that inspired the best selling novel and award-winning film, as well as some different perspectives on what may or may not have ocurred.

At the end of the article, I will provide you with a few tools and resources to decide for yourself.

While attending college, William Peter Blatty was inspired to write The Exorcist, after he had heard of an exorcism that had taken place twenty years prior. The particular case that sparked his interest, was that of a thirteen year old boy from Maryland we know as 'Robbie'.

When Blatty started his three year research into writing the story, he learned of a daily journal that had been kept by one of the priests in attendance of the exorcism. He also discovered that there were at least five copies. Blatty was initially refused when he requested to see a copy of the journal. Later on, he managed to read a copy and based much of his novel on what he read.

A closer look at Robbie
Robbie was close to his aunt, who was a self-proclaimed psychic who enjoyed dabbling with the Ouija board. When she noticed that Robbie had taken an interest, she taught him how to use it as well. Robbie's aunt passed away within a month of teaching some of what she knew about the board.

Robbie continued to use the Ouija after his aunt's death. Possibly trying to make contact with her.

I found several inconsistencies on what part of Maryland Robbie actually resided in. Everywhere from Mt. Rainier to Cotton City have been mentioned. I discovered an author that came across a life long resident of Mt. Rainier. He told the author that he was good friends with a priest (Father Hughes) who was involved in the exorcism. Father Hughes stated that Robbie was actually from Cotton City.

For obvious reasons, Robbie might want to keep his identity hidden; perhaps the family and press let it be believed that Robbie was from different area to help protect his identity.

A few bits of information I could find on Robbie and what he may have experienced ...

The majority of the sources agree that the events that unfolded, were surprisingly similar to the movie. Some of the things that may have occured according to the sources are as follows:

* He received scratches and etched words on his abdomen and lower legs. Some say they were mere scratches while others state that words such as 'hell' appeared. I will revisit this point later.

* He was said to have burst out in strange voices ranging from alto to falsetto. There is some disagreement on what he may have been speaking. Some say ancient languages such as Aramic and Latin, while others claim that it was nothing more than ramblings.

* However it is mostly agreed that poltergeist activity may have occured. A bed he would be lying on would for example shake violently ultimately tipping Robbie onto the floor. This is said to have happened in more than one instance.

Furniture and objects were witnessed many times flying across the room, in many different places. Keep in mind that the exorcism took several months, and took place in more than one location.

* There were scratching sounds as well. In the beginning the family thought it was mice and had an exterminator come in.
Remember in the beginning of the movie Ellen Burstyn thought she had rats?

For the sake of clarifying Robbie's sanity, the parents had him analyzed by a psychiatrist and an M.D. as well. They both declared him quite normal, but a bit high strung.

Of course the infamous case ... or 'non case' whichever applies, has been more thoroughly investigated than is discussed here. Research on both sides of the coin has been argued; Those who believe and those who do not.

Stories of the final outcome often vary.

More than one source claims 'trickery, a very clever deception'. An example would be that it is said that he used his long fingernails to make the marks on his abdomen and legs.

Could it be that in the final stage of the exorcism, that the demons left Robbie's body as noted? Robbie is said to have stated that Michael the Archangel came to his rescue and ordered the demons vanished.

Presently Robbie is doing fine, and leading a quite normal life.

Reference to where Robbie might have been from, about half way down the page:
An article from the ever informative Troy Taylor:

Some other sites with resources in relation to this case, and different views on exorcism:

An interesting video from CNN. Although it was posted in 2008, it gives some insight on the Vatican's POV on exorcisms in present day.

The Vatican's official website:
The Vatican

Also found this quotation on the Vatican's website pertaining to exorcisms:

“When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing.178 In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called "a major exorcism," can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.”

You can find that specific quote about half way down on this page right next to the number 1673:

The Vatican's description of an exorcism

This article discusses the rise in the need for exorcists as noted in the above CNN video, but seems to lean more toward the possibility that it is mental disorders combined with a strong faith in religion most of the time, and quotes Vatican officials as saying that sometimes there is a need that they can resolve, when no medical doctor or psychologist would suffice.


Until next time,

Tracey Huntley
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