St. Louis, home of The Exorcist


Owen Belt '23, Editor

That’s right, it’s that time of the year again. Spooky season is back. Filling the empty void between summer and Christmas, Halloween is a time full of cheesy horror flicks, weird-tasting legumes, and awkward costumes. Some cities across the United States are brimming with tales of the supernatural, but the “Gateway to the West” we know and love doesn’t receive the same spotlight. What if I told you that one of the greatest horror movies of all time was based on a story from right here in St. Louis? The story that inspired the 1973 film, The Exorcist, took place less than 20 minutes from Priory. For the residents of the cozy, colonial Bel-Nor neighborhood, a brush with the paranormal would stake its claim in St. Louis history.

The legend began with a sick 13-year-old boy who moved to the city of St. Louis in 1949. After coming to the conclusion that the boy was possessed, local Jesuit priests prepared for an exorcism. When they arrived at his house, the boy was shaking uncontrollably and would violently lash out at the mention of Scripture, with welts and scratches inexplicably appearing across his body. This grueling battle lasted for a month, with the rituals often taking up entire nights. Most of the priests involved with the case kept quiet about the details of the exorcism. Fr. Walter Halloran, a 27-year-old history student at Saint Louis University, provided the most information to the public, recalling a time when the boy broke free from his grasp and broke his nose. Another priest, Fr. Raymond Bishop, documented the exorcism in his diary, which would eventually become the main source of inspiration for The Exorcist

Sadly, much of the legend is a myth. Even though The Exorcist house became a popular destination for thrill seekers and squatters, the possession largely took place outside of the house. If it wasn’t obvious already, the events that take place in the movie are far from the truth. Even the actual exorcism is shrouded in controversy, some doubting that the boy was ever possessed. Many residents of the Bel Nor neighborhood believe the house stands as a portal to the other side while others quickly write off the rumors. Regardless of whether the events that inspired The Exorcist actually took place, a small, quaint cottage not too far from you has cemented itself in the history of St. Louis and the supernatural.

This is where the boy lived and where several of the prayers of exorcism took place.