'Shock Doc' Reinvestigates The Demonic Possession Case The Influenced 'The Exorcist'
Most of us are familiar with the film 'The Exorcist' based on William Peter Blatty's book by the same name, but did you know the spine-chilling story is true? A new documentary examining the origins of the film lands on Discovery+ this week.
'Shock Docs: The Exorcism Of Roland Doe' begins streaming on Friday, February 5 and uncovers a secret diary revealing shocking new details of the real exorcism case that inspired the iconic horror film.
The victim of the real demonic possession was 13-year-old Roland Doe. In 1973 the movie shocked moviegoers. Overnight, the sinister presence of satanic evil seemed frighteningly real for millions of Americans.
This instalment of 'Shock Docs' previously aired on the Travel channel in the US over Halloween, but its release on the new streaming platform means fans of the paranormal will be able to rewatch the documentary and it will be accessible to a UK audience too.
Catholic priests who perform exorcisms say what happened to the young boy more than 70 years ago is consistent with demonic possessions and that details of the story are true.
The priests who battled the demon lurking inside the possessed boy are said to have witnessed bizarre and violent manifestations including levitation, vomiting, unnatural human strength and bloody markings on his body. And now, a long-lost interview with a dying monk, who never spoke about his participation in the boy's exorcisms, details his frightening experience of watching the boy levitate above his bed. Even more startling, another eyewitness exposes a possible cover-up in the case.
The two-hour special is an interesting watch which goes into great detail about the case. Because most of the alleged incidents of possession took place behind closed doors and even the victim's real name was kept a secret, there's of course no footage or even photographs relating to the case available, so the documentary mostly relies upon stock footage and for this reason would actually work well as a podcast.
However, there is plenty of rare archive footage which shows the effect 'The Exorcist' had on those who saw it. The documentary includes clips of cinema audience members frightened out of their wits – and literally out of their seats. Some in the audience ran out of the theatre, others got physically ill or couldn't sleep for weeks, but was there really anything to be scared of?
Father Vincent Lampert, who features in the documentary says, "I would say everything in the movie can actually happen because the Devil will play on a person's memory and imagination." According to the exorcist priest from Indianapolis, that includes head spinning, projectile vomiting, people crawling up the wall like a spider and levitation. He adds, "whatever it is, all these things are possible."
We learn early in the documentary that Blatty's novel isn't based on a girl, but the case of a 13-year-old boy. He is believed to have been called Robbie Mannheim, but was subsequently referred to pseudonymously as 'Ronald Doe'. The young boy reported 'strange things' happening in his bedroom. Specifically, strange noises, scratches, and perhaps most relevant here, his mattress moving of its own accord.
These events were reported shortly after his aunt had died, an aunt who was a spiritualist and had taught him how to use a Ouija board.
Unable to explain the events, the boy's family contacted a local pastor, Luther Miles Schulze, who observed objects levitating and strange sounds coming from the boy.
The pastor recommended the family contact a Catholic priest. What happened next was a series of exorcisms performed on the boy, including a documented exorcism performed by Father Edward Hughes, a Roman Catholic priest of St. James Church, Mt Rainier, Maryland, assisted by William Bowden, an associate of the local college church, and recorded by Raymond Bishop.
Allegedly, during the exorcism the bed was seen to shake, the boy spoke in a strange low voice, and obtained a bedspring from the mattress with which he attacked the priest. Further exorcism called in reinforcements, in the form of Fathers Water Halloran and William Van Roo, Jesuit priests.
In the last exorcism performed, words such as 'hell' and 'evil' were apparently spelt out on the boy's body, one of the priests suffered a broken nose, but the exorcism apparently worked as the boy was never troubled by 'evil spirits' again.
In the documentary experts including author Troy Taylor, paranormal investigator Jef Belanger, and an archivist from St Louis University, John Waide, weighed up the likelihood that Ronald was actually possessed by a demon, perhaps even the Devil himself?
The experts do talk about the eye witness reports that the boy was a bit of a joker, even a disturbed bully who threw tantrums to get out of school, but the documentary isn't very balanced. It would have been good to hear more of the skeptical evidence against the case, such as the points made by author Mark Opsasnick who investigated the case and found there was no credible evidence to show the boy was possessed, that rumours have snowballed about the case ever since it came to light, and that nothing supernatural was recorded at the time.
The only rational input in the documentary comes from Laurene M. Gomez, a licensed psychotherapist and forensic counselor. Speaking in the special, she said "I think a lot of therapists and psychologists and psychiatrists they really are very hesitant to endorse demonic possession as a diagnosis." She added, "if someone had childhood trauma, or even current trauma that could also mimic signs and symptoms of demonic possession."
However Terry Cooper, a research psychoanalyst, who also features in the documentary says they could find nothing wrong with Roland at the time, although the narrator states that "no known medical records exist." Terry says, "I don't think there is an available psychological diagnosis that can account for all of the things that have been reported."
This captivating documentary details claims that the Devil himself brought forth hell upon an unsuspecting, innocent young boy. Through rare archive footage, this two-hour 'Shock Docs' special examines the cultural impact of 'The Exorcist' and explores the case of Roland Doe, the chilling true story behind the film.
'Shock Docs: The Exorcism Of Roland Doe' is just one of five new paranormal, supernatural and ghost hunting shows that will be available to watch from this month on Discovery+. These new titles are part of the more than 1,000 hours of original programming to premiere on the streaming platform in 2021.
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