Saint Louis Exorcism of 1949

exorcism poster 2013 web largeThe Saint Louis University Libraries Special Collections, in a joint program with the University’s Office of Mission and Ministry, will present a guest lecture and panel discussion on the Saint Louis Exorcism of 1949 this 29 October 2013 at 4pm in Pius XII Memorial Library. The events surrounding this exorcism, which was performed in St. Louis in 1949, formed the basis for the 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist, and the 1973 film of the same name, considered by many to be the most frightening motion picture of all time. The film marks its 40th anniversary this year.

The novel and the film tell the story of the demonic possession of a twelve-year-old girl and the exorcism performed to free her of the demon. Both the novel and the film portray these events as occurring in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., with two Jesuit priests on the faculty of Georgetown University conducting the rite of exorcism. However, the real-life events on which the novel and film are based involved a fourteen-year-old boy living in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. Between January and March 1949, a series of strange and bizarre events too place in or near the boy’s home, but the actual exorcism was performed in St. Louis, MO, on the campus of Saint Louis University and at the Alexian Brothers Hospital (no longer standing) from March to April 1949, by Jesuit priests associated with Saint Louis University.

The guest speaker, Thomas B. Allen, is the author of Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism (Doubleday, 1993), which is considered the most comprehensive treatment of the events associated with the 1949 exorcism. Mr. Allen will provide a chronological account of these events and also discuss his friendship with Fr. Walter Halloran, the young seminarian who assisted at the exorcism and whom Allen met when beginning research for his book in 1990. Fr. Paul Stark, SJ, Vice-President for Mission and Ministry, will moderate the program and provide an overview of the modern rite of exorcism. John Waide, University Archivist, will speak about the individuals involved and the continuing interest in these events and their subsequent reporting and retelling. Noted Jesuit historian and scholar, Fr. John Padberg, SJ, will speak on the history of exorcism in the Church and recount his recollections of the participants.

The program is free and open to the public. It will take place on Tuesday, 29 October 2013, at 4pm on the second floor of Pius XII Memorial Library. Copies of Mr. Allen’s book will be available for purchase.

See the associated materials in the blog posting from Rare Books on Driving out the Devil: Demons, Witches, and Magic in the Rare Book Collection.

For questions or more information, contact John Waide, University Archivist, 977-3091, waide@slu.edu.

About John Waide

John Waide is University Archivist for Saint Louis University.
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