October 04, 2013
John Waide
(314) 977-3091

'Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism'

This year is the 40th anniversary of the movie based on the event.

Event Details: 4:00 p.m., October 29, Pius XII Memorial Library, 2nd Floor

The 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 Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 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 took place in or near the boy's home, but the actual exorcism was performed in St. Louis 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. Allen will provide a chronological account of these events and also discuss his friendship with Father Walter Halloran, S.J., the young seminarian who assisted at the exorcism and whom Allen met when beginning research for his book in 1990.

Father Paul Stark, S.J., Vice-President for Mission and Ministry, will moderate the program and provide an overview of the modern rite of exorcism.

University Archivist John Waide will speak about the individuals involved and the continuing interest in these events and their subsequent reporting and retelling. Noted Jesuit historian and scholar, Father John Padberg, S.J., will discuss 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 at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, on the second floor of Pius XII Memorial Library. Copies of Allen's book will be available for purchase.

For questions or more information, contact University archivist John Waide at (314) 977-3091 or by email at waide@slu.edu.

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