Many people are familiar with the popular book and movie about a young girl afflicted by a possession. The Exorcist tells the story of a demon possession, the trauma faced by the girl and her family, and the painful efforts of clergymen to free the girl from the Devil’s hold. What many people don’t know is that the story came from actual events of a thirteen year old boy from Maryland.
Roland Doe was the only child of a non-responsive father and a mother and grandmother who were obsessively religious. They experimented with spiritualism, often dabbling in rituals and Ouija boards. Roland was shunned and sadistic, often showing aggressive behaviors toward both kids and animals.
The reports account that Roland likely became possessed after he joined his Aunt in experimenting with a Ouija board. Shortly after the event, his Aunt died of Multiple Sclerosis and the family was shrouded in a series of weird events. The family attempted to use the board to contact the Aunt, trying to determine whether it was her or the Devil who was interacting with the family and their home.
It started out small initially. The family experienced strange events like scratching coming from the walls at night. At first it was just some blessed candles being extinguished. Objects like fruit and pictures began to jump off the wall when Roland was around. It was some food and milk being flung off the table. Bibles were pitched across the room. It moved up to having the kitchen table flipped over and violent shaking of Roland’s bed. Roland was even expelled from school due to disturbances with his desk and behaviors. No source or explanation could ever be located for the strange events.
Ultimately, clergymen were contacted with a request to exercise the boy. One pastor had Roland stay in his small apartment over night to see if the events were isolated to the home. He had similar experiences that the family did when he heard scratches coming from the wall and vibrating from the bed Roland slept on. When the boy was resting on an armchair, it tilted over and eventually slammed to the ground. A pallet of blankets he slept on moved about the room without explanation.
The first exorcism happened at Georgetown University Hospital, where Roland was restrained to a bed. A local priest attended to the boy but quickly realized he was in over his head when Roland Doe exercised super human strength by ripping a bed spring out of his bed and stabbing the priest in the arm with it. Although the efforts lasted over two months, Roland was eventually moved to the Alexian Brother’s Hospital in Missouri.
The efforts started with the Novena prayer, blessing the boy with a relic, and placing a crucifix under his pillow. The priest then began reciting the ritual prayers of exorcism. That’s when the events really took a turn for the worst. Messages began appearing on the boy’s body- first in rashes and then in what appeared to be claw marks. His skin was permanently branded from the events that took place during the exorcism. Roland excessively cursed, screamed blasphemous curses in foreign phrases, and had violent tantrums. He screamed, chanted in latin, vomited and urinated in efforts to defray the work of the exorcism.
It took over twenty to thirty performances of the ancient ritual and many months before the boy finally went quiet. Just as staff were about to check his vitals, he shot up in bed and proclaimed that he was St. Michael and that he demanded the demon be cast out of his body. With that, he went silent. Diaries kept by the clergymen indicate the boy eventually went home and even finished school, never speaking of the incident again.