Thank God for Destination America, who never fails to impress me with the cheesiness surrounding their paranormal-related television shows. Examples being Amish Haunting and now, Ghost Asylum, where a team of red-neck hicks who make Deliverance look like an escape fantasy try to investigate haunted locations and trap the ghosts inside a special box. Well, if you thought that was all too much, just wait until this coming October 30th, when this network plans to air a live exorcism, creatively titled, Exorcism: Live! It will take place at the famous “Exorcist House” in St. Louis, where they will attempt to drive the demons out. We all know the story: in 1949, a young boy (whose name is still anonymous, and is referred to as either Roland Doe or Robbie Mannheim), claimed to be possessed and was exorcised by several Jesuit priests over the course of several weeks. The effort was exhausting and incredibly violent, but in the end, the boy was saved. The ensuing accounts of said exorcism would become legendary, and even provide the basis for William Peter Blatty’s landmark novel, and eventually, the groundbreaking film The Exorcist.
The house where this all happened remains standing, and has been occupied by several owners over the years. At no point between 1949 and the last few years was anything strange ever reported happening inside the house following the exorcisms. However, due to the plethora of ghost hunting shows out there (and money to be made), all of a sudden, in 2013, the house was open to the Ghost Adventures crew for an investigation. I remember them finding all kinds of activity, and of course, they encountered the demons they were trying to conjure. They interviewed witnesses who told them of terrifying encounters and even heard of one investigator who died within weeks of investigating the house. The location was nicknamed “The House Where Satan Slept”. As they planned for the investigation, they noted how they were putting their lives at risk to do a show at that location. If you believe all that, I have 50 acres of prime swamp land to sell you.
The house would no-doubt creep me out, even though I am an experienced investigator. Just knowing that an exorcism occurred there would be enough to make my skin crawl. However, I find it incredibly ironic and convenient that no paranormal and demonic occurrences were reported there for more than 60 years, growing active only when it was time to jump on the investigation bandwagon. Then, the house had to become a horrifying location where tortured owners risk their lives by sleeping within the confines. I had a discussion about this with my friend (and co-investigator) Brett, writer for International Business Times, who sent me the article when it came across their ticker. We both laughed. We laughed because of how genuinely stupid this Exorcism: Live! idea is. If the demons are real, trying to exorcise them for sport on a TV show is nothing but a slap in the face to anyone who believes in this stuff or has common sense. Demons are the one entity we never want to encounter. That’s why we are ghost hunters, not demonologists. But, the likelihood of there still being demons at this house is slim to none. No, actually its just none.
While I believe that something did happen at this location, the original story has its share of critics. Author Mark Opsasnik wrote, “To psychiatrists, [the patient] suffered from mental illness. To priests this was a case of demonic possession. To writers and film/video producers this was a great story to exploit for profit. Those involved saw what they were trained to see. Each purported to look at the facts but just the opposite was true — in actuality they manipulated the facts and emphasized information that fit their own agendas.” Some have alleged that the boy was intentionally acting out, while others have opined that his actions were subconsciously caused by mental illness after years of either mental or physical abuse. No matter which direction you want to head, the story does indeed begin with the use of a Ouija Board, given to him by his aunt who was a spiritualist. It was after using this board did he become disturbed. As has been claimed by psychiatrists over the years, if one truly believes they are “possessed” it will take something as extreme as an exorcism to cure them, even though their afflictions really are not of a supernatural origin. This is why exorcisms today can remain a last-resort option in the instance of extreme sudden mental disturbance.
But, to look at it from the popular stance, if the possession was real, and if the demons who possessed young Robbie are still there, why did they wait 60 years to manifest and make themselves known? Demons also cannot possess a house. They can enter temporarily through a medium such as a Ouija Board and can travel throughout our world, but cannot be stuck in an inanimate object (despite what the fraudulent Warren family proclaims at their paranormal museum in Connecticut). Therefore, the actual phrase, “exorcising a house”, is a non sequitur. Because a house cannot be possessed, it cannot be exorcised. It can be blessed, but then that terminology wouldn’t exactly attract a nationwide audience, would it? Can I also ask how much money this homeowner has made over the last few years due to this paranormal publicity? Most people whose houses are genuinely haunted do not want any attention because it affects their day-to-day lives, but this house is featured in the city’s haunted walking tour!
What do I actually expect to happen on October 30th? I don’t really know, but I predict an all or nothing presentation. They will either go in and be clawed, beaten, thrown down stairs, levitated, and attacked from all angles through the magic of Hollywood until a dramatic finish by the conclusion of the show, or they will find absolutely nothing, because nothing is all that is there. They will then say that its a shame the demons did not want to show themselves and the legacy will continue. They might have cause for a sequel. Those who do not believe will decry the whole thing as a hoax and waste of time, while the die-hards will grasp at the faintest straws to keep their sick dreams alive.
I don’t understand when demons and exorcisms became a sideshow. I wrote about this theme last year, in “Popular Culture Needs to be Exorcised of Exorcism Films”. There are several self-proclaimed exorcists (all southern baptists) who make their rounds on TV shows and are akin to snake-oil salesmen. Will any of them be involved with this show? So far, its been announced that only Ghost Asylum and famous “psychic” Chip Coffey will be involved. Another question is why will there be a psychic there at all? Since when have their mystical and moneymaking powers included talking to demons? I cannot think of such a precedent.
Anyway, I will await Exorcism: Live! with bated breath, and will be sure to blog about my thoughts. If you have read this site for a while, you will know that I am a paranormal investigator, along with Brett, and have conducted more than 50 investigations over the years. We have only encountered what we believed to be a demon twice, and even then, it was far from the head-spinning, chair-throwing, spectacles that we see on TV and in the movies. It was terrifying, to be sure, but not a chaotic frenzy. No one got possessed or thrown out a window. No one was scratched, clawed, or pushed down the stairs. Then again, I’m not looking for a book, movie deal, or television special. People will choose to believe what they want, and that is their prerogative. But if anyone believes this show to be authentic, then you really need to rethink your beliefs and the line between fantasy and reality. I can already see what this is going to be, and I’m not a psychic. I just have common sense.