The Power of Christ Compels You to Read This Book

The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty – The movie version of this was one of the first films Beth and I saw at the theater together. I’m pretty sure the VERY first was X-Men, but we saw the re-release of this one in 2000.

She grew up watching horror movies, while I didn’t. The story is partially based on an actual exorcism that occurred in Maryland, or at least there’s a popular rumor that it did. The common account is that, in the late 1940s, a boy was said to be moving and levitating objects in his vicinity. His family was Lutheran, but the pastor suggested consulting a Catholic priest. Unsubstantiated accounts claim that, during the exorcism, the boy loosened one of his arms from its restraint and attacked a priest with a mattress spring, and that his bed was shaking and words appearing on his body. I don’t believe the boy’s real name is on record, but he was commonly called Robbie Manheim in articles on the case. Blatty’s possessed girl, Regan MacNeil, has the same initials. We have a cat named Reagan, and while we didn’t name her, Beth prefers to associate her with The Exorcist rather than the former president. And yes, I know the cat’s name has an extra A. The book confirms that Regan was named after King Lear, and that her mother considered naming her Gonerill. The Wikipedia article states that Father Merrin’s first name and appearance were based on Gerald Lankester Harding, an archaeologist (but not a priest) who was responsible for much of the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. And I’ve already written a bit about the demon Pazuzu.

Due to an unusual amount of down time when I wasn’t able to access the Internet, I read the book in two days. I noticed it was very similar to the movie, right down to much of the dialogue. There was an additional subplot about the Swiss housekeepers having a daughter who’s a drug addict and her mother thinks is dead. The book does a good job of building up Regan’s possession little by little, with it being a long time before anything indisputably supernatural happens.

Father Damien Karras was a well-developed character, and Beth has said he’s one of her favorite literary/cinematic personages.

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6 Responses to The Power of Christ Compels You to Read This Book

  1. Dave says:

    what would he do for a Jewish person? the power of Moses compels you? 😁

  2. The Exorcist is one of my all-time favorite films; interestingly, neither Friedkin or Blatty consider it a horror film/book. I own the latter but haven’t yet read it. Back when I was involved with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Exorcist was considered highly taboo, which I find particularly strange in retrospect since the film is profoundly Christian; it’s neither science nor religion that are able to save Regan, but only the self-sacrificial love of Father Karras (who doesn’t even know the girl).

    There’s a great book on the modern day practice of exorcism by a scientist and psychiatrist, Dr. M. Scott Peck (famous for The Road Less Traveled), called Glimpses of the Devil. You might also want to check out his earlier book People of the Lie, where he first delves into the nature of human evil, treating it as a psychiatric disorder, individually and collectively, as he was among the few who dealt directly with the soldiers in the aftermath of the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam. Fascinating books if you want to have your mind blown!

    • Nathan says:

      Maybe Protestants don’t like the pro-Catholic message? I don’t know. It’s kind of like Dracula in that the characters eliminate the rational possibilities before turning to the supernatural, which turns out to work. As for not considering it horror, I have to wonder if that’s because there’s somewhat of a stigma against the genre (and, really, against pretty much all genre fiction). It’s supposed to be scary, so I’d say it’s horror, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be other things as well.

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