Capuchin friar Theophilus Riesinger became the most well-known exorcist in America after a grueling case of demonic possession in 1928.
Father Walter Halloran assisted in the exorcism of Roland Doe in 1949.
Grave of Father Walter Halloran in Calvary Cemetery, Milwaukee, WI
Father Walter Halloran was a Jesuit priest who assisted in the exorcism of a 13-year-old boy known as Roland Doe in 1949. Prior to his death, Halloran was the last surviving clergyman to witness the only documented exorcism in America. The case inspired the novel The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, as well as the subsequent film adaptation in 1973, and fueled future generations with both a fear and fascination for the Ouija board.
The story, according to newspaper articles, as well as a diary kept by Father Raymond J. Bishop, began in Roland’s home in Maryland earlier that year. His aunt, a spiritualist who had introduced him to the Ouija, had recently passed away. Soon after, the family began hearing strange noises in their home and witnessed objects flying through the air. They expressed their concerns to their Lutheran pastor Luther Miles Schulze, who claimed to have experienced similar events while visiting with Roland, such as furniture and other objects moving around the house.
Schulze confided in parapsychologist J. B. Rhine, who recommended the boy see a Roman Catholic priest. Following Rhine’s advice, Roland’s family met with Father Edward Hughes, who decided to carry out an exorcism at Georgetown University Hospital. During the rite, Roland allegedly slipped his hand from one of the restraints, broke off a bedspring, and stabbed Hughes in the arm, effectively ending the ritual.
The St. Louis home where Father Bowdern began performing exorcisms on Roland Doe.
When the word Louis appeared on Roland’s body sometime later, the family went to stay with relatives in St. Louis. There, they got in contact with Bishop and Father William S. Bowdern. The two men visited the boy in his relative’s home, where they made numerous observations, including Roland speaking in a low, demonic voice, the bed shaking, flying objects, an aversion to the sacred, and other troubling phenomenon. This was sufficient evidence to attain permission from the archbishop to perform an exorcism.
Roland was admitted into the psychiatric wing of the Alexian Brothers Hospital. Bowdern requested that Halloran, then 26, assist with the rite. Over the course of several months, Halloran witnessed the boy’s hospital bed shaking, saw words appear in red lines on his body, and was almost hit in the head by an object flying through the air. At one point, Roland’s flailing arm broke his nose.
Despite these events, Halloran seemed to be skeptical of paranormal claims, especially in interviews later in his life. He would decline to give an official statement on the events he witnessed, as he didn’t feel he was qualified to pass judgement, but had said that he saw more evil during his service in the Vietnam war than he ever saw in Roland.
Halloran retired to a Jesuit community in Milwaukee, WI when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. He died on March 1, 2005, and was interred in the historic Calvary Cemetery, Milwaukee’s earliest Roman Catholic burial ground.
Father Halloran’s grave at the base of Jesuit Hill in Calvary Cemetery, Milwaukee
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The Destination America channel will televise a live exorcism from the real Exorcist house with psychic medium Chip Coffey and the cast of Ghost Asylum.
The real Exorcist house in Bel Nor, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri.
The Exorcist is widely considered one of the scariest films of all time. Not only did it manage to cause a fear of Ouija boards, it also put the fear of God into American movie-goers in the midst of America’s 1970s Satanic Panic. What many don’t realize is that the story of a child in the grips of a demonic possession is based a true story.
In 1949 a boy named Roland Doe underwent a series of exorcisms in his St. Louis home, supposedly possessed by an evil entity he contacted after his spiritualist aunt gave him a talking board to play with.
The house is still considered by some to be haunted, having been featured on paranormal investigation shows like Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures. Now the Destination America channel plans to broadcast a live exorcism of the infamous house that inspired The Exorcist novel by William Peter Blatty.
Exorcism: Live! will feature psychic medium Chip Coffey as well as the cast of Ghost Asylum, a group known as the Tennessee Wraith Chasers, as they attempt to remove whatever evil has inhabited the house for the last 66 years.
The exorcism will air live this October.
Fun Fact: The first-ever televised exorcism was aired by NBC in 1971.
The recording featured reporter Carole Simpson interviewing Ed and Marsha Becker, who believed their Chicago home was haunted. Medium Joseph DeLouise channels the spirit, and then a minister communicates with it and ultimately claims to have exorcised it. Ed later wrote about the frightening experiences he and later tenants experienced in his book True Haunting.