028 The Exorcist (Roland Doe / Ronald Hunkeler)

Movie Still from The Exorcist. The exorcist standing in front of the house.

What Real-Life Exorcism Inspired The Exorcist?

What real-life exorcism inspired The Exorcist? In Ghostly’s twenty-eighth episode, Pat and Rebecca continue their exploration of exorcisms by taking a closer look at the real story behind the movie The Exorcist. Roland Doe was a 14-year-old boy who survived a series of exorcisms at a hospital in St. Louis, but was he really possessed? Also included is a BONUS INTERVIEW with one of the owners of The Basement of the Dead haunted house attraction in Aurora, IL. He’s got some amazingly creepy stories of what happens in a haunted house in the wee hour of the night.

Questions Explored in this Episode

Who was the character of Regan based on, and what happened at the St. Louis exorcism? Who was Roland Doe? Did the real-life exorcism start with a Ouija board? How similar is the real story to the movie? Who conducted the exorcisms? How did the boy survive, and did the priests in the real story survive? What creepy things happened on the set of The Exorcist? Was the exorcism behind the movie real?

Listener Mail

Submitted by Frank Csok, this listener mail is a story of ghostly figures and smells. Have a story of your own? Send your story or question to info@ghostlypodcast.com and we might read it on the air. You can also email us individually at pat@ghostlypodcast.com or rebecca@ghostlypodcast.com. You could be on a future episode of Ghostly!

What is the History of this Exorcism?

Listen to Pat give the history of the real story behind the movie The Exorcist. A 14 year old boy was taught how to use a Ouija board with his aunt. When his aunt died, the boy started to experience paranormal activity around him and, eventually, in him. His family tried doctor after doctor, but eventually took him to St. Louis in search of a more religious answer. At Alexian Brothers hospital, the boy went through several weeks of daily exorcisms. Finally, the priests called for Saint Michael to fight the devil for the boy’s soul. Throughout the history, Rebecca explains the similarities and differences between the movie and the story behind the movie.

What Happened on The Exorcist Set?

Rebecca’s Ghost Story dives into the filming of the movie and some of the paranormal events that happened to the cast and crew. The movie faced a lot of dark activity that eventually called for the director to ask a priest to come and conduct an exorcism on the set. While the priest refused to do an exorcism, he did perform a blessing.


We are saving the debate for Exorcisms until the final episode of the month, so there will not be a poll for this episode yet. But keep talking and thinking if you believe in possession and exorcisms.

Bonus Content

Be sure to stick around until the end of the episode to hear our interview with Jason Seneker from Basement of the Dead, one of the best Haunted Houses in the United States. Jason talks about how he and his family got into the haunting business and how they come up with the nightmare visions found throughout the attraction. He also reveals the REAL paranormal activity that happens when the lights are off and the crowds are gone. If you are in the Chicagoland area, be sure you visit this year-round attraction.

Have you listened to our previous episode where we talked about the real story behind the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose? If not, check it out here.

Done Listening to the Episode?

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We want to hear from you! We want your ghost stories or even your non-stories if you later realized you saw nothing paranormal. We would also love your suggestions for stories to cover in the future. Email us both at info@ghostlypodcast.com or individually at pat@ghostlypodcast.com or rebecca@ghostlypodcast.com  Follow us on Facebook and Instagram at GhostlyPodcast

Sources for this Episode


Special Thanks to Listener Frank Csok for sharing his story!

Music for this episode was performed by Michael Rivers
Intro: “III. Allegro moderato from Gargoyles” by Lowell Liebermann
Outro: “Dream Images (Love-Death Music)” by George Crumb
Bumper: “Ghost Waltz” by Lowell Liebermann
“Graceful Ghost Rag” by William Bolcom