Uncle Sam's Secret Sorcerers V

In 1969, screenwriter and novelist William Peter Blatty began work on a new piece of fiction. His previous book, Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane!, wrestled with existential issues of life and faith and was set in a military-operated mental institution (it would be made into a film in 1980, retitled The Ninth Configuration). There was more than a vague whiff of MK-ULTRA about the project.

With Satan in particular and diabolism in general infecting the atmosphere (especially in the wake of the media frenzy over Anton LaVey, Charles Manson and the hit film Rosemary's Baby), Blatty set about to fictionalizing a case he had heard about from a Jesuit priest during his school days at Georgetown University:
Recent investigative research by freelance journalist Mark Opsasnick indicates that Blatty's novel was based on an actual 1949 exorcism of a young boy from Cottage City, Maryland, whom Opsasnick refers to using the pseudonyms Robbie Mannheim and Roland Doe. The boy was sent to his relative's home on Roanoke Drive in St. Louis where most of the exorcism took place.
Blatty had a specific agenda in mind in the creation of The Exorcist. He intended it as a work of evangelism:
“It’s an argument for God,” he says today of the novel more often considered an entertainment. “I intended it to be an apostolic work, to help people in their faith. Because I thoroughly believed in the authenticity and validity of that particular event."
If so, it's a very strange argument. God doesn't seem to be around very much in the novel and less so in the film.

But with "God is Dead" theology a hot topic in seminary dorms and the Second Vatican Council reforms draining the church of its ancient mystery, many felt that the issue of existential evil was no longer being addressed by contemporary religion. Whether in response to the popularity of Blatty's novel or not, the Pope himself chose to tackle this topic of evil:
(I)n November 1972, Pope Paul VI urged Catholics to return to the study of the Devil: ‘Evil is not merely a lack of something, but an effective agent, a living spiritual being, perverted and perverting. A terrible reality...’ 

One thing a lot of fans of The Exorcist may not realize is the character of "Chris MacNeil" is based on a real person too, in this case the actress and New Age figurehead Shirley MacLaine (oh, the irony). And the character of Regan may or may not be based on MacLaine's daughter Sachi, depending on whose story you believe. 

And despite MacLaine's claims that she was a late-comer to the New Age-- she'd write of her alleged "conversion" in her 1983 book Out on a Limb-- Sachi claims that her mother was already well-immersed in esotericism in the late 1960s- as was William Peter Blatty:
Every summer, Sachi visits her famous mother Shirley MacLaine in Los Angeles. Shirley is already deeply immersed in exploring her spirituality, channelling spirits from here, there and everywhere: Tibet, Atlantis, Ancient Egypt, the lot. 
To relax, Shirley likes to invite William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist, around to chat with the spirit world on a Ouija board.
Indeed, according to Sachi, MacLaine is prone to stretching the truth to its reasonable limits:
Sachi, who became an actress and is a mother of two, says Mac-Laine doesn't exactly lie in her books but engages in "artful stretches of the truth. With her, a simple trip to the supermarket becomes a search for spiritual enlightenment". 
When Sachi was 17 MacLaine informed her that her father was not Steve Parker but a mystery man named Paul. "Right now, he's in outer space," MacLaine told her. "He's on a mission for the government. A secret mission, sweetheart. All I know is, he's in the Pleiades. The Seven Sisters," she said, pointing to the stars. 
And Sachi claims her mother confided that: "Steve was created by the government. He's a clone."
Well, let's hope that's an exaggeration.

But apparently Blatty also modeled Chris MacNeil's vicious temper on MacLaine as well:
And MacLaine could be ferocious, claims Sachi. When she thought her daughter was lying, she allegedly locked Sachi in her room without food for three days.
MacLaine would later claim that the cover photo on the first edition hardcover of The Exorcist was a photo Blatty had taken of Sachi. 

MacLaine would turn down a role in the high-profile adaption of The Exorcist but instead would accept one in a low-budget knockoff released the year before the film came out. There's something very strange about this career move here but I can't quite put my finger on it yet. 


As fate would have it, The Exorcist didn't set the world afire when first released. 
According to Blatty, his book was initially a disaster. It was so bad that his publisher went so far as to treat him to a farewell lunch. But in the middle of lunch, Blatty got a call from The Dick Cavett Show. They had lost a guest at the last minute and wanted him to fill in. 
"I came out onstage, and Dick Cavett said, 'Well, Mr. Blatty I haven't read your book.' I said, 'Well, that's OK, so I'll tell you about it,' " he recalls. "I got to do a 41-minute monologue. That was it." 
The next week, Blatty picked up a copy of Time magazine at the airport and found that his book was No. 4 on the best-seller list. Not long after, it reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list — and it stayed there for 17 weeks.
Dick Cavett is one of these old time show business personalities whose apparent ubiquity totally mystified me when I was young. I could never quite work out why he was famous. He seemed to pop up all over television, but never struck me as being particularly talented or charismatic. But he always seemed able to land the plum gigs, regardless. Maybe he was a gas at parties.

Cavett would struggle as an actor, but was given a role in a production financed by the Army Signal Corps (who we've met time and again around these parts). Finally, he seemed to make his name as a talk show host when Watergate broke.

But he had enough of an audience to launch The Exorcist when it had been struggling. And the rest was history. (Strangely enough, Cavett began his career as a stage magician)


Up-and-coming director William Friedkin (The French Connection) was chosen to direct The Exorcist movie, which would star Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller and Max Von Sydow. Child actress Linda Blair beat out a small army of applicants for the role of Regan.

And expert opinion would be sought in order to ensure doctrinal accuracy. In fact there were a number of key consultants from the Society of Jesus involved in The Exorcist (Blatty himself was Jesuit-trained personnel), which is rather unusual for a secular film filled with such vulgarity and horror:
The project was sufficiently plausible for three Jesuits to give their services as technical advisors to the film; two of them, William O’Malley SJ and Thomas Bermingham SJ, even acted in it (playing Father Dyer, a friend of Karras, and the president of Georgetown University respectively).
The same attention to detail would apply to the production itself. Friedkin, another Hollywood young turk who peaked too early, was at the height of his powers as a filmmaker. It was his visual sophistication that sold a story that could otherwise have come off as extremely silly. The film still holds up today as a piece of cinema, thanks to his remarkably subtle yet insidiously creepy visual vocabulary:
The characters all live and remain in a state of mutual alienation. By failing to deliver emotional resolution, the film successfully keeps viewers ill at ease. The city in which the characters live is introduced as an emotional desert: the camera first cuts to Georgetown from the prologue amid desert ruins in Iraq, as sounds of dogs fighting and an evil screeching blend into what is clearly meant to be their modern equivalent, the traffic noise of a contemporary American city.
But perhaps it was too successful. Because The Exorcist would have the same effect on adult audiences that the matinee showings of Night of the Living Dead had on children.

And did so even before the film was released.
When William Friedkin’s The Exorcist was released back in December of 1973, audiences simply did not know how to handle it. They vomited. They fainted. They ran from the theater in terror. It was nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, instantly immortalized as the scariest movie of all time. 
And actually, it achieved that status BEFORE it was even released.
The so-called "banned trailer" nearly sunk The Exorcist with theater owners before it even hit the streets. The trailer is more than a little misleading- a stark sequence of harshly strobed, high contrast images (that don't actually appear that way in the film), accompanied by a screeching soundtrack composed by Lalo Schifrin. The combined effect instills an immediate sense of alarm in the audience:
(T)his trailer literally made audiences sick when it was shown. It’s unclear if the sounds and images were simply upsetting or if the flashing images actually caused seizures in some viewers.  
The combined effect of the intense strobing, disturbing imagery and the music- undoubtedly played at very high volume- seems engineered to play on the brain waves of the viewer, if not alter the brain chemistry itself. It looks very much like the kind of thing you read about in MK-ULTRA horror stories.

In fact, it's not entirely dissimilar to this brainwashing reel from A Clockwork Orange.

And it seemed to have a powerful effect:
By March 1974, the film had sold 6 million tickets in the United States and was poised to sweep the world. At one level The Exorcist phenomenon was just a skilfully mounted spectacle, stretching the limits of a newly liberal Hollywood. Yet the scale of the reaction suggests that the film – like William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel of the same name, and on which it was based – had hit a nerve.

The Exorcist touched on issues that were all too alive for the world of 1973. This was not a coincidence. It was more than a product of its time; it actively sought to shape that time.
If that was its intent, then it certainly succeeded:
(F)ans waited in lines that stretched around city blocks to catch the first screenings; some even tried using battering rams to force their way into theaters.
But many who made into the theaters would wish they hadn't:
Media alarm ranged from criticism of the relaxed ‘R’ certificate attached to the American release, to lurid accounts of viewers being driven to breakdowns and suicide. As a result, the film was picketed by some clerics...
Soon mental health professionals were being consulted with as to the film's effects on its viewers:
Many others who have seen the film experience nightmares, hysteria and an undefined, but nevertheless profound apprehension. “It is dangerous for people with weak ego control,” explains Dr. Vladimir Piskacek, a Manhattan sociologist and psychiatrist, “but it would not cause psychosis.” Small children may suffer from hallucinations after seeing The Exorcist, but Dr. Piskacek doubts that the film would permanently impair even an immature mind.

In fact, reaction to The Exorcist would become an even bigger story than the movie itself. Unlike the overblown, largely mythic reaction to Orson Welles' radio adaption of War of the Worlds, The Exorcist's effects on it audiences were real and widely documented. And would become the topic of later academic studies:
Following the distribution and release of the movie, "The "Exorcist," much publicity concerning the psychiatric hazards of the film was reported. Numerous cases of traumatic neurosis and even psychosis were supposedly noted. This report confirms the hypothesis that traumatic "cinema neurosis" can be precipitated by viewing the movie in previously unidentified psychiatric patients. 
This movie seems to be directly related to traumatic neurosis in susceptible people. Classical symptoms and disability were observed following viewing the movie. There are elements in the movie, such as possession with resultant loss of impulse control, that are likely to threaten people with similar problems, and to exceed their "stimulus barrier."  Cinematic neurosis following "The Exorcist",  Bozzuto, JC.
But was it simply the film itself? More and more work is being done on the psychological effects of trauma experienced through recorded media on the brain. Despite the usual protests from filmmakers and their apologists, the parade of increasingly explicit and sadistic gore in horror films that followed in the wake of Night of the Living Dead had measurable psychologic effects, particularly on borderline personalities.

But curiously, later audiences (the film would enjoy a number of revivals) wouldn't experience the same reaction to The Exorcist. Were they simply jaded?

Or was there something else at work, something encoded or embedded into the film, that created such hysteria?

Certainly the trailer is not only unusual, but it seems to be somehow weaponized. Was this intentional? And were similar- yet more subtle- techniques used in the original release of the film? It's worth making note of this story:
At one showing, a woman was so frightened she passed out in the theater and broke her jaw when she fell. She later sued the filmmakers suggesting that subliminal messages caused the accident. 
Warner Brothers settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Now why would they do a thing like that?

Probably because there were subliminal images encoded into The Exorcist. Several of them. And it wasn't just imagery, it was also sound.
The terrified squealing of pigs being slaughtered was mixed subtly into the sound track. The buzzing sound of angry, agitated bees wove in and out of scenes throughout the film.
That's what we've been told about, or has been discovered by fans. What don't we know about?

Was The Exorcist in fact a movie or an experiment?

This is probably a good time to look a bit more closely into William Peter Blatty's background. It's very...interesting:
(Blatty) interviewed with the FBI and the CIA, he says, but didn’t get far because the sheer number of address changes before college rendered a background check impossible.

He enlisted in the Air Force...He spent four years in uniform, landing in the Psychological Warfare Division, where his bilingual skills made him valuable.

By the mid-’50s, Blatty was stationed in Beirut as an editor for the US Information Agency. 

"Psychological Warfare."


The thing that's always bothered me about The Exorcist-- although I recognize what a well-written story and well-made film it is-- is how it portrays the nature of Good and Evil.

Ask yourself, who seems like the winner in the battle between Pazuzu (the possessing demon) and pretty much everyone else?

Good seems pretty weak and impotent in the face of Evil, as we see both exorcists easily killed by Pazuzu, who seems to vacate Regan more out of simple boredom than anything the priests had actually done. The priests and the doctors - Faith and Science- seem very much like helpless bystanders in the presence of this demon, who can pretty much do whatever the fuck he wants.

Quite an advertisement for demons, if you really get down to it.

Statue of Pazuzu installed at London's ICA:
There's some comforting symbolism for you

And like so many of these landmark horror films, The Exorcist comes complete with its own curse:
Shooting was delayed after the set caught fire destroying what was supposed to be the MacNeil’s home. During filming, actress Ellen Burstyn, who played Reagan’s mother, was actually injured when the possessed Reagan throws her to the ground.   
Actors Jack MacGowran, and Vasiliki Maliaros both died while the film was in post-production. What makes their deaths strange is that their characters died in the film as well. 
Other deaths that occurred during the filming of THE EXORCIST include Linda Blair’s grandfather and Max Von Sydow’s brother, who died on Max’s first day of shooting…the son of Jason Miller who played Father Damien Karras, was nearly killed when a motorcycle hit him… after the film’s release, Linda received so many death threats that the studio had to hire bodyguards to escort her for the next six month… 
Mercedes McCambridge, who played the demonic voice of Pazuzu, was the victim of a horrific tragedy when her son murdered his wife and children before taking his own life. 

William Friedkin would never equal the artistic or commercial heights he reached in The Exorcist. His next film, Sorcerer, went directly up against Star Wars and was virtually ignored. Cruising, an Al Pacino vehicle about a serial killer stalking Greenwich Village's gay S/M underground, would run into a brick wall of protests, bad reviews and disappointing box office.

He'd survive a heart attack in 1981 but his career as an A-list director was finished.

So with all of this death, trauma and manipulation in The Exorcist's jacket, what could you possibly do for an encore?

Don't ask questions you don't want to know the answers to.
At Universal Orlando Resort, guests will see, hear, feel – and even smell – every iconic levitating, head-spinning, vomit-wrenching, skin-crawling moment from the film. 
They’ll be paralyzed with fear as they witness the power of the supernatural, scream uncontrollably as they become part of Regan MacNeil’s possession and run in terror as they try to escape the horrific battle between innocence and evil. 
Universal Studios Hollywood’s “The Exorcist” maze will resonate as a real life interpretation of the demonic film, daring “Halloween Horror Nights’” guests to live the nightmare experienced by a tortured Regan and her determined mother. 
The maze will recreate some of the film’s most haunting scenes, ushering guests into its unparalleled terror as if their very souls were possessed by the devil.



  1. Okay, who in their right minds wants to go into a maze where you'll undergo a simulated possession? What next, simulated lobotomy a la The Ninth Configuration?

    Oh, yeah, I remember being a kid when The Exorcist came out. The adults around me being FREAKED by that movie. Now, I did grow up in a Catholic community, so I can't say what role that familiarity with the background subjects played in the fear. The devil you know?

    I wouldn't be surprised to learn the production crew employed the same subliminal techniques employed by Madison Avenue at the time.

    As for it being magic, the answer is Yes. The movie employs techniques right out of the grimoires of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, especially their "trouble noises" audio cut-up technique. Someone had to be reading their stuff.

    1. Didn't get round to seeing the Exorcist until I was an adult, by which time the surprise was pretty much gone though could see it was a remarkably adept and disturbing cinematic achievement.

      On the other hand, watched the Omen in the early 80s and have no idea why but that film stills creeps me out (the remake has no such effect). Am not religious but something about it was incredibly malevolent. Most of the pieces I've read mention early poor reviews and that it was put together as a cash-in on Exorcist mania.

      However it didn't entirely come across that way to me - seemed like the team behind it put in a lot of effort to push our psychological buttons and inject certain concepts into the culture that would later be a staple of fundamentalist groups' apocalypticism (European community as a sign of satan's return etc.). The complete lack of humour and Goldsmith's soundtrack made things all the more unsettling.

      Richard Donner had previously worked on popular TV shows like the Twilight Zone and had a couple of average movies on his resume. He then hits the big time with this morbid, disturbing horror epic and spends the rest of his career making mainstream Hollywood popcorn fare. It's kind of a leap to go from hanging nannies, jackals giving birth to the antichrist and the American Ambassador trying to slaughter a child in a church... and then be seen as a perfect choice to make Superman: The Movie.

  2. Gysin's 1969 novel was entitled 'The Process'. That in itself smacks of something...👹

    1. On that note, 'The Process' apparently documents the first time Gysin met L. Ron Hubbard. I believe it was also Gysin who turned Burroughs on to Scientology in the first place.

    2. Crowley, Parsons, Hubbard, Gysin, Burroughs. Not aware if Bowie or Page ever checked out Process in London back then...
      Fantastic site Chris, thank U for the food for thought. Hi from Scotland !

    3. Just thought I'd chime in here and mention that Gysin's book, "The Process", has nothing whatsoever to do with the Process Church. Gysin's book is essentially a stoner's travelogue through Northern Africa that is at certain points a reflection on Moroccan culture and completely incoherent at others. A very Burroughs-esque read overall with no references to Scientology whatsoever.

    4. I was referring to the cut-up techniques discovered by Gysin and developed by he and Burroughs. The layering in of "trouble noises" was a technique Burroughs employed in a notorious revenge against a restaurant where he had been offended in some way. By blending in sounds of tension and violence to an ambient recording of the street scene around the restaurant, then playing it at barely-heard volume for hours around the place, he caused the place to be closed. So goes the story. He repeated the technique at a protest, where it caused great agitation among the unwitting, protestors and police alike. Manipulation of reality via crude audio technique.

    5. The Process, eh? The proverbial bad penny, even when they surface in name only. Gysin's book might have more to do with them than one might think, if we look carefully at the history, or at least the purported history. One thing to make note of is that the Process magazine also made use of collage techniques for their covers and splash pages. So there are strands of continuity that tie these disparate elements together in ways not immediately apparent. And of course Burroughs had his dalliances with Scientology as well. So many of these interconnections lie below the surface, and often function in a dream-logic fashion.

    6. Didn't the remnants of the Process go on to form this animal charity?


    7. "Proverbial bad penny" -- funny comparison, Chris. I'll admit that Gysin's book wasn't that memorable for me when I read it so there may be some things that I've forgotten about it. I know that Gysin's meeting with L. Ron Hubbard in the book is made a big deal of in some circles but the account of this event feels more in the service of dramatized fiction than anything else -- the character names and events are changed to service the story. From what I recall "The Process" being alluded to in the title is how the protagonist changes the events of his life simply by rewriting them, which is pretty standard stuff for Burroughs and Gysin and their whole magical belief system. Didn't see how any of that had any relation to the Process Church but you make a good point that the collage work of Gysin and Burroughs could be argued as producing a similar magical / psychological effect as the collage work done by the Process Church -- goes back to that earlier thing I said about marketing I suppose ha. I'm sure that Gysin and Burroughs probably found Scientology interesting in how it could relate to their obsessions with "rewriting personal events / history" but I don't think Gysin was trying to pimp ol' Hubb's particular ideas in this work. He does however talk a lot about the Master Musicians of Joujouka and Boujeloud, which I found interesting.

  3. I don't recall if The Exorcist was ever frightening, it seemed comical upon adult viewings.

    My favorite exorcism film atm is Beyond the Hills, a more realistic depiction ofsuperstition, similar to the recent horror film The Witch. Antichrist by Laesvon Trier is another, which presents possession for reasons other than scare tactics and psychological manipulation.

    Speaking of real life horror, are youfillowing the news of the foiled terror attack in Elizabeth, NJ? More wyrdness than a pack of giggling devils, imho. In fact, the bataclan revelations, about the torture and government attempts to hide it from the masses if far more chilling than any strobe and pea soup. Why more ppl arent horrified idk, maybe they are bored or jaded, or like seeing Frenchmen suffer.

    1. Well, was The Exorcist actually scary or were audiences being psychotronically manipulated? That's really at the heart of the matter here. It's an extremely well-made film that still holds its water today, but is it as terrifying as it seemed to be in 1973? Or were audiences subjected to a witches' brew of frightening imagery, subliminal triggering, general hysteria and finely calibrated sonic weaponry that caused predominantly fainting and vomiting, both of which may have been somatic reactions to specific aural (or subaural) frequencies? That is the issue here. Again, note that audiences in later runs of the film didn't have nearly the same reactions. What changed?

    2. Well, I certainly believe in government spooks.

  4. This is really great work you have done here, Chris. Very informative and gives us glimpses behind the behind-the-scenes stuff going on, as you usually do so well.

    I do remember seeing this movie in the theater at the time with some friends (we had to be accompanied by an adult to get in, if I remember correctly, in a time when they cared about stuff like that still). Being raised mildly Catholic at that time, I found the movie a little disturbing. It made me go out and get the book and I found it even more disturbing than the movie.

    Curiously, though, my wife who was raised Protestant, contrarily finds the film silly and explains her feelings by stating the film subject was too "Catholic" and that demonic possession and exorcism a particular set of Catholicism not shared in Protestant thought. So, to her, it was just a horror film with cheesy effects. Now, also consider, she was born in 1973 and viewed this movie many years afterwards.

    I find that an interesting contrast to the people who were present during that time as young people or adults that were clearly affected by this experience of watching and to fresh exposure to the film.

    1. Ironically, it was Protestants- or more accurately Evangelicals and Pentecostals- who picked up the possession ball and ran with it. The Vatican was always very reticent to tag a case possession, almost certainly because they realize how silly it could get. And did it ever. Soon you'd see people waiting in lines to growl and curse at showboating preachers who'd "exorcise" them in half the time it took someone to smoke a cigarette. Not exactly what the old-time devil-chasers had in mind.

  5. Two excellent comments got sucked into the vortex- could the posters please re-comment? They were excellent observations...

  6. My main point was that the Exorcist touched on something very primal--the fear of losing control. & how odd it was that its being rebooted as a series on Fox (on the 23rd, that special number) at the same time as things are reaching the boiling point in Pazuzu's old stomping grounds.

  7. I think your premise about the horror films being a part of some type of intelligence-connected conditioning for the general public to be quite compelling and extremely plausible.

    In 1975 a Navy doctor, one Thomas Narut, made some extremely curious comments to a journalist from the Sunday Times about an assassins program being run by the US Navy. Narut essentially alleged that the indoctrination process shown in "A Clockwork Orange" was real --potential Naval assassins were strapped into chairs with their eyes clamped open and shown ultraviolent films of children being murdered and such like repeatedly in a bid to desensitize them to human suffering and violence in general, thus thus make them more effective killers.

    Some have alleged that this process was a part of the Navy's highly, highly secretive Project PELICAN, which was initiated at some point in the late 1940s. There is evidence that parts of PELICAN were eventually incorporate into BLUEBIRD and later ARTICHOKE (unlike MKULTRA, the military was heavily involved in ARTICHOKE with each branch overseeing nominally independent components of the project's "research.").

    By the late 1960s, perhaps someone was feeling ambitious and decided to see if these techniques could be applied on a mass scale via horror and grindhouse films, among others. Certainly the arrival of these types of films appear to have had a profound effect on society, one of which that has been even more amplified thanks to first person shooter video games. Things may even have come full circle, with these types of games being increasingly used to train military personnel...


    1. Well, Kubrick had an interesting knack for telling tales out of school, even if he did so in a way that most people may not have scoped it out. There was such a flood of really terrible horror movies- and Satanic-themed horror movies at that- that you can't help but wonder what was behind it. It didn't feel like a demand-side issue, since most of the movies went nowhere. But we shouldn't forget the Cold War and the looming possibility of coming hot wars. And maybe the people who make these decisions felt Americans had gotten too soft and that's why Viet Nam was such a clusterfuck. Certainly the FPS games feel like drone training protocols. Or worse. All these zombie-killing games do nothing but dehumanize and desensitize.

  8. "The boy was sent to his relative's home on Roanoke Drive in St. Louis where most of the exorcism took place."

    Ooo...Roanoke is loaded with creepy symbolism…Latest season of American Horror Story plays with it…

    The Catholic Church has lost a lot of its moral authority since 1973. Good v Evil? Doubt that would play these days…Ponders implications…

    I’ve been reading the Gospels and noticed that Jesus as exorcist is really underplayed in a lot of the standard education. ( Catholic schoolgirl here.)

    Famous exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth died recently.

    1. “I think the manifestations that one sees in movies, such as The Exorcist, all that truly is possible.” (3:20)


    2. Yes, Amorth died right after I posted this article. Talk about syncs. I'd been working on this for a while now and by the time I got it up The Exorcist was everywhere- the attraction at Universal Studios (which I'll keep an eye on) and now this series on Fox, which will make a nice bookend to Lucifer. People can watch them OFTEN.

  9. This is from a link on the wiki page concerning the 'factual' basis:


    A fascinating read, I highly recommend reading it...sounds more like a troublemaker acting out. Still...?

    1. As far as possession cases go, I look for more extreme manifestations, phenomena that might be classified as poltergeist activity and so on. Frontal lobe epilepsy and other disorders can create all kinds of extreme behaviors. I need to see things happening that exist outside of simple human influence.

  10. Just read this article today: "A Key for a Clockwork Orange." It's got espionage, MKULTRA, Kubrick, Charlie Manson, and some other things that may be of interest. http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster72/lob72-clockwork-orange.pdf

  11. There is a great academic article called "Evil against evil. The Demon Pazuzu" by
    Nils Heeßel, it's easy to find in a search. Pazuzu is a wind demon, presubamly. The evicatiom of Pazuzu quoted in the article follows the same format as the bornless ritual, with the demon or deity named and his feats remembered, (I believe in the prayer he summons the four winds and breaks their backs). A brief geneology is mentioned, and then the invocation proper begins with "I am Pazuzu" etc etc.

    1. Babylonian demonology is a fascinating topic. They had a very elaborate and sophisticated hierarchy of demons and related entities and their priests catalogued all kinds of manifestations. It's fairly obvious that our folk tradition of demons and exorcism draws pretty heavily on the Babylonian.

  12. Jesus Christ I can't read this blog when I can't sleep. Doesn't help the problem even a little bit.

    This is a movie I've never seen, and decided a long time ago I'd probably be OK without. I remember in high school, I casually mentioned it, and my mom got very urgent and said not to see it. I think she might have been permanently damaged by it.

    1. Well, either the film or the technology. It's a toss-up.

  13. I believe there is an inherent danger in any media that deals specifically with this subject matter, from the aforementioned curse to just differing levels of strangeness, such as the two poignant comments sucked into the "vortex" you mentioned above. It's interesting that famed exorcist Gabrielle Amorth says he loves the film as it has the ability to scare straight many possible converts.
    I would suggest the excellent book "Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans" by the late Malachi Martin, one of my all time favorite books and one that you will not soon forget.

    1. It's interesting that Blatty later stated that he felt that The Exorcist left the viewer with the impression that evil won. I think the problem with these films is the immense amount of attention they pay to evil, which is never as glamourous and seductive as it appears in these stories. It's actually petty, vulgar and vain. You can tell by the symbolism and iconography associated with it. The Exorcist and The Omen and the rest give evil a veneer of omnipotence and seduction that have caused all kinds of problems with marginal personalities.

  14. Great article! I remember one of my friends had an epileptic seizure while watching 'The Exorcist' and I must say it unnerved me too. In retrospect, the cognitive dissonance produced by those background pig's squealing etc plus the strobe-like shots were definitely unhinging!! Although we have become somewhat more de-sensitised due to the massive visual/sound stimulus in movies today, I think The Exorcist still has the capacity to trigger serious dis-ease in more delicate types (self included). I think your insight re traumatic triggers is only confirmed with the helplessness of priests etc in the face of a demonic possession. (as you so aptly point out) There's still little that can compare with a good exorcist movie to horrify and chill one to the bones!

    1. Well, here's where I have to go back to Blatty's experience in Psychological Warfare. And wonder who else from his old unit might have consulted on the film. There's so much more here than meets the eye or ear. The fact that the film induced a seizure is excellent evidence that there was some kind of electronic influence at work. As is the fact that Warners settled the case of the woman who sued claiming the film was loaded with subliminals.

  15. Subliminal sound? The signature piece was Mike Oldfield's TUBULAR BELLS, which pretty much launched Virgin Records. If you wanted to embed subliminal tracks, that's the place.

    1. Tubular Bells is my ringtone. :P

    2. Music of the Exorcist--"Tubular Bells" (1973)

      I remember after seeing the movie, a bunch of us ran out and bought the Mike Oldfield "Tubular Bells" album with the trippy bent bell design floating in the sky. Many of us were fans of prog-rock back in those days and we were always on the lookout for anything new. Since that main tune, or parts of it, where used for the Exorcist soundtrack, that was all the hook needed to hear the whole thing (Part One and Part Two on the flip side). The quadraphonic version (from around 1975, I think) of the album really blew us away as you can get a much better experience and feel the soundscapes from all those instruments Oldfield layers through the piece, most of which he plays himself.

      What better pairing of music associated with a movie than this one to the Exorcist. Other than the two-note suspense building French Horn of the Jaws movie, do we associate so strongly the creepy vibe audio that everyone identifies with. Whoever was sculpting this film seems to have known what they were doing on a bunch of levels, it seems to me, in edition to the amazing 'WTF!' Chris is onto here, as well.

    3. Tubular Bells was Virgin's first release. And when you watch the film there's very little music in it at all, which adds to the documentary effect of it. Music would have mitigated the stark realism that Friedkin was working to convey here. I think that's yet another aspect of the movie that film students need to pore over.

    4. F**king A! I was just about to comment on Tubular Bells. I have misophonia, an enhanced sensitivity to sounds, and I could NOT tolerate more than a few moments of Tubular Bells when it came out. I was 12/13 at the time. This reaction was not unique to me, as I recall. "The Exorcist" rode in with a powerful egregore of deep fright and a strong sense of doom. Tubular Bells transmitted this within a few bars.

      Also keep in mind how new this was. No one had ever heard anything like this. ... Well, I take that back. Yes, they had. On the idea of the choppy and disturbing sounds -- I think you have to go right back to the White Album. Now, I am a devoted Beatles fan and I do not think any of them, nor George Martin, were trying to create disturbing sounds as a result of being influenced by any nefarious government or secret/shadow group. And I don't believe the backward masking stuff or anything like that. But they -- especially John -- were "tapped in." And listening to the White Album for the first time, with its choppy mini-songs, dissonant and eerie passages throughout -- the end of "Glass Onion," the pig snorts on "Little Piggies," even the melancholy of George's guitar on "Long Long Long." And, of course, the entirely unlistenable "Revolution 9." I think that, like many artists of the time, they were caught up in the modern notion of breaking things into parts, of rebelling against the shackles of order and harmony (and therefore, stifling convention). Their talent to encode and transmit their internal upheavals via music exceeded their ability to understand how that might affect others -- they were not unique in this; the entire Baby Boomer generation largely had no idea what they were unleashing.

    5. I love tubular bells and it was in my vinyl collection until it was stolen. I hope the thieves are hit with that ol' exorcist curse, without mercy!

      In response to Chris's reply, I am a film student and I resent any "authority " who tells film students what to think and forces his agenda, or else!

  16. This article was from a couple of years ago. No idea if its an area that has been freed of ISIS control or not since then-- Iraq's Exorcist Temple Falls Into ISIS/Jihadist hands:


  17. I saw the Exorcist in 7th grade and it freaked me the hell out. Couldn't get a good night's sleep for a long while afterwards. I live right across the river from Georgetown so after high school football games in the mid 80s my buddies and I would go down to the Tombs restaurant and drink (they wouldn't card and we were 16/17; drinking age in DC was 18).It was located right at the top of the steps and across the street from the house where it was filmed. Always a nice spooky reminder along with an evening out drinking. I went to the dedication of those steps as an official tourist site last October and had my first edition copy signed by Blatty and my 25th anniversary DVD signed by Friedkin at the top of the steps. There was a nice dedication ceremony at the bottom after the sun went down with speeches by Mayor Muriel Bowser, Blatty, and Friedkin. They unveiled a plaque marker on the brick wall on the right as you are about to go up the steps.
    Here's a story: The film came out when I was 4 years old and was going through one of those post-toddler nightmare phases. My parents told me I had been coming to their room often for a period of 3 months leading up to when they went to see the film. The night they saw it, while they were asleep, they said I came in again and complained I was having a nightmare. They told me to go back to my room and try to go to sleep, same as they had been doing for the past month to try to get me used to going back to sleep on my own. When they told me, I apparently said, "But my bed is shaking up and down." They said they both bolted upright, looked at each other startled, and pulled me into their bed in no time flat. Maybe my child-like mind picked up on the trauma they brought back with them from the film to the house? Going through the nightmare period it seems reasonable at that age I might be more open to picking up on it and either dreaming it or making it manifest slightly in the physical realm. Either way, people freak out a bit and get a kick out of the story when they hear it.

    1. There was a lot of weirdness, weirdness of the bad scary kind, floating around at the time of The Exorcist's release. Serial killing, satanic murders, hauntings, UFO flaps, on and on and on. I wonder if the film in fact wasn't a catalyst for some of this activity. And whether it was contagious and if in fact you were experiencing something more than just a nightmare. Food for thought.

    2. ^ I agree. Images and sonics are powerful magickal tools, if you believe in that sort thing, which I do. Just because the images and sounds are not being produced by a tribe with an established shamanic culture does not mean they won't transmit -- accidentally or intentionally -- a current of energy that can and does open portals and create wide-ranging effects. Our collective social skepticism about the power of our own Art probably enhances these effects...because "it's just a movie," or "it's just a song."

  18. Never have viewed the Exorcist. Never will. What is the point? 87

    1. So that you can appreciate its parody, Repossessed.


  19. My (Episcopalian) parents would not let me see The Exorcist, though I had borrowed and read the book in secret. My best friend (son of a former Jesuit) told me poured holy water on himself at the worst moments and was extremely enthusiastic about the special effects. We were budding actors and mad scientists, so of course the question was, "How did they do it?!"

    1. Now it would be all CGI and not nearly as effective. You can fool the eye but not the mind.

  20. Jasun Horsley: "Reading The Friedkin Connection the autobiography of William Friedkin (French Connection, The Exorcist). Because of all my recent discoveries around Leonard Cohen & Strieber, and my comment to Ann Diamond about enjoying reading Hollywood bios & wondering what if anything was true in them, as I began the book I thought to myself, “I wonder if there will be any clues that Friedkin was an MKULTRA subject?” There’s a short prologue and then Friedkin begins his story, on page 9, with birth. On page 11, he describes his first experience of seeing a film: “An enormous black rectangle came alive with a blinding white light and a loud blast of music. The comforting darkness was shattered by words I couldn’t read. My instinctive reaction was to scream at the top of my lungs. I clutched my mother’s arms; I couldn’t breathe.”

    (Interesting side note, I just re-watched Wim Wenders The End of Violence, in which the movie producer played by Bill Pullman explains that he became a filmmaker because of how movies terrified him as a child: ie, he wanted to do the same to others.)

    On page 14, Friedkin writes: “I discovered that people, especially young people, liked to be scared. Many years later, Dr. Louis Jolyon West, then head of Neuropsychiatric Clinic at UCLA [& with only a small exaggeration, of MKULTRA], explained to me why he thought people enjoy suspense and horror films. You’re in a dark room with dangerous, life-threatening events happening before your eyes, but as a viewer you’re in a safe place, removed from what’s happening on screen.” [ie., dissociation]. ‘A safe darkness,’ he called it.”

    I had a hunch and checked the contents page: sure enough, Friedkin uses the phrase “A Safe Darkness” for the title of chapter 13 of the book. A clear homage to his “teacher.”

    (A possibly trivial detail, West, who if we discount the foreword is the first public figure Friedkin names in his narrative, is listed wrongly in the index on page 13.)

    Immediately after name-dropping West, Friedkin describes a bully he knew at school called Joel Fenster. In his account, he finally turns on Fenster and overpowers him. “I had the distinct impulse to end his life, and I felt it would make me happy if I did.” "


    (re-posting this comment from Subliminal Synchro-Sphere: http://subliminalsynchrosphere.blogspot.com.au/2016/04/the-exorcist-satan-serial-killings-and.html)

    1. Well, the fact that West was the head of UCLA's Neuropsychiatric clinic pretty much says it all. A man who was so deeply involved in unethical and illegal human experimentation having that kind of power and influence in an academic setting? It calls to mind the fact that the BBC director who "bungled" the Jimmy Savile inquiry is now editor in chief of The New York Times. Or the "ineptitude" of the police and FBI investigation into the Gosch case and the Bonacci revelations.

  21. Chris, once again you've connected with a bases-clearing homer as we cross over onto the other side of the Autumnal Equinox. Interesting that it was 1971 when Blatty came out with The Exorcist. In 1971 the NYTimes reported a story on the CIA and occult research, the basis of which was gained through a collection of documents released by the US Gov't Printing Office under a FOIA request. This was a report to Congress and clearly showed that the CIA was interested in the cause and effect clinical findings that occult religious practices have on the Black Arts practitioner's and/or observer's mind. Of particular interest to them were the heightened levels of suggestibility that certain occult rituals produced in the minds of the practitioners.

    Along that line of thinking and much like The Exorcist, I'm reminded that there's more than just a film going on when viewing 2015's The VVitch, which even received hearty endorsement from the Satanic Temple, and that was curiously first approached by the distribution company, A24, ostensibly for an endorsement. Also worth noting is that the film, per the extensive research of the director, boasts authentic Enochian (John Dee) language in the finished product we're all exposed to.

    Shirley MacLaine and Blatty striking up a kinship over a ouija board? At this point that seems not only likely but damn near inescapable. Ira Owens Beaty, Shirley and little bro Warren's dad, was headmaster of Westhampton High School in my hometown of Richmond, VA before delving even more into psychology and relocating the family in Arlington and other spooky D.C. suburbs, at the same time adding another 'T' to the family name (an intel inside joke indicative of a "double cross?") Or what was Warren trying to say in The Parallax View, anyway? Warren also connects to your previous posts, in that he was an extensive financial backer of Jay Sebring's hair salons, who of course he would pay homage to in Shampoo. These circles never let up, do they?

    You are TRULY onto something here. No matter where you turn in these investigations, you run up against the lengthening shadows of the intel agencies, and their growing fascination with the occult, and as we and others note, the weaponization of such. And those ops are ongoing.
    Tread carefully, Chris. The Powers-That-Shouldn't-Be don't exactly embrace researchers poking around in this particular area, as the final career arcs of Mae Brussell and Dave McGowan attest. Shining light on the strange resonances of these dark corners is some of the most noble work anyone could ever do; never forget that.

  22. Nothing as revelatory as previous posts, just a personal aside. I was six/seven years old when this movie came out, and when the preview would show, I literally would crawl under the movie seats to avoid seeing and hearing it. It made my skin crawl.Irony was I was raised Catholic, in hindsight you wonder how much subliminalism the Vatican wages through item placement, misselettes, and music in a typical mass. Why so much emphasis on Mary, when Christ had to die for her, too?!