The truth behind the horror

Oct 292003
Authors: Elizabeth Kerrigan

Two of the scariest horror movies of all time, “The Exorcist”

and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” aren’t just works of fiction. In

fact, the essence of truth behind these chilling tales makes them

even more terrifying to viewers. Here are the true stories of the

real events that inspired these two horrifying American


The Exorcist:

Believed to be the scariest movie ever made, this film was

created in response to William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel

“The Exorcist,” about a diabolically possessed 12-year-old girl,

Regan MacNeil. The haunted girl commits numerous disgusting acts of

blasphemy while two priests try to exorcise the devil from her


Blatty had read newspaper articles about an exorcism in 1949

when he was in college. Some twenty years later, he became a

screenwriter and author and began to write “The Exorcist” based on

what he remembered from the articles from such newspapers as “The

Times Herald,” “The Evening Star” and “The Washington Post.”

He was able to contact a priest who was involved with the

exorcism and eventually obtained a diary kept by a priest

throughout the exorcism, according to Michael Opsasnick, exorcist

researcher and author of “The Haunted Boy, The Cold Hard Facts

Behind The Story That Inspired ‘The Exorcist.'”

Pattie Ross is a St. Louis University alumna who took a theology

class around the time “The Exorcist” movie first debuted. She

quickly discovered that her teacher was one of the priests involved

in the real exorcism.

Ross said that the priest told her that the real exorcism was

actually performed on a 14-year-old boy and was conducted in St.


Opsasnick’s research also concluded that it was, in fact, a

14-year-old boy and that the boy’s affliction was first studied at

Georgetown University Hospital and then at St. Louis University,

where the demon was finally exorcised from his body.

“During the rite the youngster would break into violent tantrums

of screaming, cursing, voicing of Latin phrases and in one instance

stabbed a St. Louis priest in the arm with a bed coil,” Opsasnick

said the Aug. 20, 1949 edition of “The Washington Post”


Opsasnick also claims that the boy’s possession originally

started when the family noticed “scratching noises that emanated

from the house’s walls. The bed which the boy slept would shake

violently, and objects such as fruit and pictures would jump to the

floor in the boy’s presence.”

Ross said she does not question the story told by the priest who

was her teacher, because he was a very believable person who seemed

unlikely to lie.

“I had an evening class with the priest and one night we all

went to coffee afterwards and talked about what happened during the

exorcism,” Ross said. “He told us that the other priest involved

died as the devil was exorcised from the boy’s body, but due to the

vow of confidentiality in exorcisms, he could not tell us exactly

how he died.”

Her teacher did tell her that the movie added many elements that

never truly happened.

“He told us that the movie had many fake elements, but that the

words ‘help me’ did in fact appear on the boy’s chest while the

exorcist was happening,” Ross said.

Opsasnick’s research includes an article that he found in “The

Times Herald,” in Washington, D.C., from Aug. 11, 1949. The article

was titled, “Haunted Boy’s Parents Tell Of Ghost Messages,” and

stated that the family had found messages in the form of a rash on

the boy’s chest. This statement is almost identical to what the

priest told Ross.

Opsasnick claimed that the final article published on the

exorcism was in “The Washington Post” and signified the end of the

exorcism. This article reported that “after 20 to 30 performances

of the ancient ritual of exorcism was the devil finally cast out of

the body.”

Texas Chainsaw Massacre:

Tobe Hooper’s low-budget film originally debuted in 1974 and has

been remade twice since.

Some people, like Mikey Hess, CSU business major, who have seen

the newest remake, claim that it is one of the goriest horror films

ever made.

“This movie totally freaked me out because it showed that

something like this could have really happened,” Hess said.

There are rumors that this film was entirely based on true

events, however the true occurrences that spawned the movie did not

include teenagers, chainsaws or even Texas.

There was however a massacre. This massacre took place in

Plainfield, Wis., at the decrepit farmhouse of Ed Gein.

The events and countless acts of things far worse than just

murder of Ed Gein’s life would eventually lead to the ideas for not

only the character “Leather Face” in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” but

also Norman Bates in “Psycho” and “Buffalo Bill” in “Silence Of The


Gein was raised by an alcoholic and jobless father and an

extremely religious mother who verbally abused him and his brother.

Although Gein’s mother constantly criticized him and never let him

make friends, he saw her as the epitome of pureness and goodness,

according to many sources including an article in Court TV’s Crime

Library called “Ed Gein,”

Gein’s brother died in 1944 and mother and father died around

1945, so he was left to take care of the farm. It was during this

abundant amount of time alone that his manic urges emerged.

“Based on the obsession of his mother, he had begun to develop a

deeply unhealthy interest in the intimate anatomy of the female

body, especially of women his mothers age,” said Court TV’s Crime

Library. “Soon he was digging up decaying female corpses by night

in the Wisconsin cemeteries.”

By the time Gein was finally caught, a human carcass hanging

upside down was found in his home, as well as bowls made out of

human skulls, lampshades, a wastebasket and an armchair, all made

of human skin. A belt made of nipples, a human head, four noses, a

heart and a suit made entirely of human skin were also found.

When Gein was asked why he would commit such horrible crimes, he

has been quoted as saying, “I had a compulsion to do it.”




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