Did A Malevolent Spirit Actually Curse 'The Exorcist' From The Get-Go?

How do you make a classic horror movie even scarier? With a classic curse, of course! From Superman to The Crow, many a Hollywood film has alleged curses but none so strange as the one attached to The Exorcist films.

William Friedkin's 1973 adaptation of William Blatty's novel about a girl possessed by a demon attracted a captivated and terrified audience as well as a huge amount of controversy for the occult content it brought to the big screen. Unsurprisingly, the Catholic ritual portrayed didn't go over well with certain religious groups. However, it's the dramatic and bizarre events that occurred during and after filming that have led some to believe that the ire of something far darker was piqued by the film's content.

Whether some demonic force cursed those involved with The Exorcist's making or not, these strange and eerie facts would give any sane person pause. 

Photo: flickr / CC0

  • One Of The Extras Confessed To Several Murders

    Paul Bateson was an X-Ray technician at New York University Medical Center where a scene for the film was shot. He ended up being an extra in a scene in the film, portraying his actual job. 

    In 1979, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for fatally stabbing and then beating film critic Addison Verrill with a metal skillet after a date. While in custody, he bragged about killing and dismembering six other gay men in New York, known as the "bag murders." Detectives strongly suspected his confession was the truth, though he was never convicted for the murders.

  • At Least Nine Deaths Have Been Linked To The Film

    According to Ellen Burstyn, who played Regan's mother in the film, at least nine people, including cast and crew members or close relatives to cast and crew, died during the movie's production or soon after its release.

    The death list includes actor Jack MacGowran, who played Burke Dennings, a character who dies in the film. Actress Linda Blair's grandfather died, actor Max Von Sydow's brother also died, and even a cameraman's newborn baby passed away. One could chalk it up to sad coincidence, but that's a lot of coincidence.

  • A Freak Fire Burned Up The Set Of The Family's House... All Except One Room

    During filming, the set of the MacNeils's house suddenly caught fire. Director William Friedkin said a pigeon flew into a circuit box which set off sparks and caught fire. 

    No one knows the exact cause of the fire, but undoubtedly the oddest part is that while most of the set burned down, one area was left unscathed. Regan's room was untouched, almost as if protected by something supernatural.

  • The Crew Claimed That Objects On Set Moved On Their Own

    There's almost nothing more indicative of a supernatural presence than inexplicable floating objects. During production, several crew and cast members claimed to have witnessed props and other objects moving by themselves. Most significantly, the telephone that the crew used to communicate on set rose and fell a few times.

    To appease fears, director William Friedkin asked Reverend Thomas Bermingham, the film's religious advisor, to perform a real exorcism on set. At first the reverend refused, but after the mysterious set fire halted production for six weeks, he had a change of heart and came to the set to give it a blessing.  

  • Actress Linda Blair Needed A Body Guard For Six Months After The Film's Release

    Actress Linda Blair Needed A Body Guard For Six Months After The Film's Release
    Photo: Sesc em São Paulo / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Taking on such a frightening role couldn't have been easy for a 14-year-old girl, but Linda Blair's performance is part of what makes The Exorcist a lasting horror classic. She even won a Golden Globe Award and People's Choice Award for her performance, as well as a nomination for an Academy Award. 

    Sadly, people's superstitions can be extreme and Blair was forced to have a bodyguard for the first six months after the film came out due to death threats she was receiving from people who thought she was harboring a demon in real life. 

  • Lightning Struck A Church Cross Near A Film Screening

    At the film's Rome premiere in 1974, a raging storm accompanied by thunder, lightning, heavy rain, and howling winds picked up suddenly. During the screening audience members claimed they could hear sounds in the wind, sounds they described as "demonic cries."

    Even spookier, soon after that, lightning struck a centuries old cross atop a historic church nearby, sending it crashing to the ground.