15. Who was the Jesuit Who Inspired the Making of the Blockbuster Film "The Exorcist"?

With the screening of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, talks about real demonic possession resurface. People have been asking whether there was some historical basis to William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist, which was made into a blockbuster film and became one of the most unforgettable movies of all time. Here is the story of the Jesuit priest who inspired that movie.

By Catholic News Service
(From the issue of 3/17/05)fr. halloran

WAUWATOSA, Wis. — A funeral Mass was celebrated in early March in St. Camillus Chapel in Wauwatosa for Jesuit Father Walter H. Halloran, who died at age 83 March 1. He was the last surviving Jesuit involved in a 1949 exorcism case in St. Louis that led to William Peter Blatty's 1971 best seller, "The Exorcist," and the hit 1973 movie of the same name.

The priest had been living in retirement at a Jesuit assisted living facility at St. Camillus. No cause of death was reported.

Father Halloran, who was ordained to the priesthood in 1954, was a Jesuit scholastic at St. Louis University at the time he was assigned to hold down a 14-year-old boy known by the pseudonym "Douglas Deen," while Jesuit Father William Bowdern performed the exorcism with the assistance of Jesuit Father William Van Roo.

In a 1988 interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch daily newspaper, Father Halloran said he observed streaks and arrows and words like "hell" that would rise on the boy's skin. "The little boy would go into a seizure and get quite violent," Father Halloran recalled. "So Father Bowdern asked me to hold him. Yes, he did break my nose."

The exorcism was performed with the approval of Cardinal Lawrence Ritter of St. Louis. Father Halloran would not presume that the boy's actions were caused by demonic possession. "I've withheld judgment," he said.

News of the exorcism was reported in 1949 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference News Service, Catholic News Service's predecessor. The old United Press news agency published its own article based on the NCWC story, and Blatty said he was inspired to write his novel by the three-paragraph United Press account that appeared in The Washington Post while he was a student at Georgetown University. The boy involved in the exorcism was from the Washington suburb of Mount Rainier, Md.

Father Halloran was assistant director of alumni relations at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., at the time of the 1988 story revisiting the exorcism. "He had no idea that this would create such a stir," a Creighton spokesman said.

Born in Jackson, Minn., in 1921 and the eldest of nine children, Father Halloran was awarded two Bronze Stars for his service as a paratrooping chaplain during the Vietnam War. At age 48, he was the oldest airborne chaplain at the time.

Father Halloran later taught at St. Louis University and at St. Louis University High School. He also was assigned to a parish in north St. Louis for a few years. In 1972 he was named director of national alumni relations at St. Louis University.

Father Bowdern died in 1983 at age 85, and Father Van Roo died in Wauwatosa in March 2004 at age 89.

this article was taken from http://www.catholicherald.com/cns/cns05/halloran.htm


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