March 8, 2005 by

Rev. Walter H. Halloran

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Categories: Hollywood, Religious Leaders

Rev. Walter H. Halloran, the last surviving Jesuit participant of an exorcism that inspired a bestselling book and numerous films, died on March 1. Cause of death was not released. He was 83.
In 1949, the 27-year-old Minnesota native was working on his master’s degree in history at St. Louis University when he was summoned to the psychiatric wing of Alexian Brothers Hospital. There he met with Rev. William S. Bowdern and Rev. William Van Roo, two priests who needed his religious support and strong arms to exorcise a demonic presence from a 14-year-old boy.
The boy came from a Lutheran family in Cottage City, Md. Witnesses said the boy became extraordinarily strong after an experience with a ouija board, and spoke in a voice not his own. His body would twist and form a loop, with his heels touching the back of his head. At night, furnishings in his room allegedly levitated off the ground and moved across the room without any visible assistance. His bed also shook violently and the sounds of footsteps and scratchings emanated from the walls and ceilings of his house.
Unable to stop these occurrences or control the boy’s behavior, his parents brought him to St. Louis for a religious intervention. The boy underwent extensive medical and psychological evaluations as well as an examination from Bowdern, who determined the boy was possessed. Over the next 12 weeks, several priests endeavored to save his soul.
Bowdern performed the rites of exorcism as Roo and Halloran prayed and forcibly restrained the boy. Halloran later told the press that he observed the boy shout obscenities during these ministrations, and spit at people four feet away with unerring accuracy. He saw raised symbols and words appear on the boy’s body in the form of painful, red welts. During one particularly violent seizure, the boy even broke Halloran’s nose.
The exorcism was successful, however, and the boy reportedly went on to lead a normal life.
A three-paragraph article about the incident published in The Washington Post served as the inspiration for William Peter Blatty’s 1971 bestselling horror novel, “The Exorcist.” Blatty’s fictionalized version of events, which featured a girl possessed by the Devil, was adapted two years later into a hit film starring Linda Blair. The movie received 10 Oscar nominations and won for best adapted screenplay and best sound. Hollywood also produced several sequels and one prequel.
After the exorcism, Halloran worked for parishes in Minnesota, California and Wisconsin, and taught history at Marquette University and St. Louis University. At 48, he enlisted in the U.S. Army for chaplain duty during the Vietnam War. The oldest paratrooping chaplain at that time, Halloran received two Bronze Stars for his service.
“I saw more evil in Vietnam than I saw in that hospital bed,” Halloran once said.

2 Responses to Rev. Walter H. Halloran

  1. linda

    hi.i am 54 years old now.we lived on south broadway on 8th or 9th street.same area as alexian brothers hospital in st.louis,missouri
    we also lived close to a catholic church.maybe st.peter and pauls church.
    i have always been inspired by the movie the exorsist and possessed.
    i wish i could of talked to the priest about the boy.

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