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October 25, 2015

(NATIONAL) -- William Peter Blatty's 1971 best-selling novel and later blockbuster movie, "The Exorcist" is based on a true life event that happened in the Washington DC., area in 1949.

An anonymous, and still unidentified 13-year old boy, who lived in Cottage Grove, Maryland - documented under the pseudonym "Roland Doe" or "Robbie Mannheim" - underwent at a relative's home in St. Louis a series of "exorcisms" by Catholic priests designed to "drive a demon" from the boy after two priests visited Roland in his relatives' home, where they allegedly observed a shaking bed, flying objects, the boy speaking in a guttural voice, and exhibiting an aversion to anything sacred.

Whatever was done, it evidently worked - for reasons that have long been disputed - as the boy reportedly graduated high school completely normal and went on to live a normal, uneventful life.

And now, a group of modern day ghost hunters plans to descend upon the St. Louis home where the exorcisms allegedly occurred, and will hold a "live on TV" exorcism as a way to rid the house of evil spirits should they still be hanging around 66 years later -- and there is no evidence that they are.

In fact, some who have investigated that 1949 event have grave doubts that any demons were involved at all in the boy's problems.

Be that as it may, the Huffington Post reports that Destination America's "Ghost Asylum" team will descend "on that hellhole of a home on Oct. 30 for TV's first live exorcism, to cleanse the home of whatever it is that inspired William Peter Blatty's 1971 best-selling novel and 1973 Academy Award-winning movie."

More on the made-for-TV "hellhole home" event here .

The untold story of 1949

So what's the real back-story of that 1949 event? The cause of the boy's demonic possession "symptoms" are hotly disputed by those who have looked into the case.

Wikipedia has a fairly comprehensive account of what some of the skeptics believe was going on with Roland. To begin with, according to author Thomas B. Allen, Jesuit priest Walter H. Halloran was one of the last surviving eyewitnesses of the events and participated in the exorcism.

Allen wrote that a diary kept by attending priest Raymond Bishop detailed the exorcism and in 2013 Allen, "Emphasized that definitive proof that the boy known only as "Robbie" was possessed by malevolent spirits is unattainable. Maybe he instead suffered from mental illness or sexual abuse — or fabricated the entire experience."

According to Allen, Halloran also "expressed his skepticism about potential paranormal events before his death."When asked in an interview to make a statement on whether the boy had been possessed, Halloran responded saying "No, I can’t go on record, I never made an absolute statement about the things because I didn’t feel I was qualified."

Roland was born into a German Lutheran family that during the 1940s lived in Cottage City, Maryland. According to Allen, Roland was an only child and "depended upon adults in his household for playmates, primarily his Grandmother Harriet. His grandmother, who was a spiritualist, introduced Roland to the Ouija board."

A disturbed, spoiled bully of a boy

In his 1993 book "Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism," author Allen offered "the consensus of today's experts" is that "Robbie was just a deeply disturbed boy, nothing supernatural about him."

Another author Mark Opsasnick questioned many of the "supernatural claims" associated with the story, proposing that "Roland Doe" was simply a spoiled, disturbed bully who threw deliberate tantrums to get attention or to get out of school.

Halloran, who was present at the exorcism, reportedly never heard the boy's voice change, and he thought the boy merely mimicked Latin words he heard clergymen say, rather than gaining a sudden ability to speak Latin.

It was also reported that when marks were found on the boy's body, Halloran failed to check the boy's fingernails to see if he had made the marks himself.

According to Opsasnick - and this may be one of the most important and overlooked elements of the case - individuals connected to the incident were influenced by their own specializations.

Opsasnick now:

"To psychiatrists, Rob Doe suffered from mental illness. To priests this was a case of demonic possession. To writers and film/video producers this was a great story to exploit for profit. Those involved saw what they were trained to see. Each purported to look at the facts but just the opposite was true — in actuality they manipulated the facts and emphasized information that fit their own agendas."

Opsasnik wrote that after he located and spoke with neighbors and childhood friends of the boy, he concluded that "the boy had been a very clever trickster, who had pulled pranks to frighten his mother and to fool children in the neighborhood," and another skeptic by the name of Skeptic Joe Nickell wrote that there was "simply no credible evidence to suggest the boy was possessed by demons or evil spirits" and claims the symptoms of "possession" can be "childishly simple" to fake.

Nickell also says stories of the boy's great strength were, "Nothing more than what could be summoned by an agitated teenager."

More on the subject here .



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