What every horror film loves to boast, if possible, is the claim of "Based on a True Story." Because if the story is not just from some writer's imagination, if there is a thread to an actual event with real people, no matter how thin, then the fear becomes more real. William Friedkin's 1973 motion picture The Exorcist
is considered one of, if not the
scariest horror film of all time. At that time, no audience had seen a case of demonic possession dramatized so deftly and explicitly, and the resulting shock left a lasting mark on popular culture and our collective psyche. Not as widely known is that William Peter Blatty adapted his Oscar-winning screenplay for the movie from his novel of the same name. And perhaps even lesser-known to most is that Blatty based his book on a real-life case, what is more commonly known as the "1949 Exorcism," or "The Exorcism of Roland Doe," or of "Robbie Mannheim." The Jesuits of the Catholic Church who examined the 13-year-old boy exhibiting either severe mental and emotional disturbances or authentic spiritual possession referred to him at the time only as "R" in their journal about the investigation. This report, known informally as the "Exorcist's Diary," is the only complete documented account of the events, and it kept the boy's identity anonymous out of respect. Guiding our examination of the story is the exhaustive work of our friend and guest for the Villisca Axe Murder series, investigative author Troy Taylor. Troy's updated version of his book, The Devil Came to St. Louis – UNCENSORED,"
is the culmination of over 20 years of research and interviews with surviving witnesses to the incredible occurrences. Troy had kept a promise not to reveal "R's" real name and sensitive details until after his death. Now that "Roland Doe" had passed away in May of 2020, Troy was free to publish the 4th edition of his book in 2021, revealing previously unpublicized information, including his name. Troy's book and our presentation aim at getting to the facts behind an actual, largely forgotten case that haunted the mindset of a generation. But don't think that separating the myths from the facts will make this tale any less frightening. For if even the slightest supernatural happening in this record is accurate, and there is plenty of testimony to support that it is, it's enough to unsettle your beliefs. If the wildest and worst accounts are true, and you're unsure what to believe, then most disturbing may be the adage that not believing in the Devil won't protect you from him.
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