The Exorcism of Roland Doe, a Real Life Event That Inspired The Exorcist Movie

A boy, a demon, and not enough space. That pretty much sums up today’s story, which is the Exorcism of Roland Doe. The strange tale of a 14-year-old possessed by a spirit. Or, perhaps, something else entirely.

There’s plenty of controversy surrounding this strange tale. Was it really demonic possession? Was it an elaborate prank? Sealed records, written accounts, and investigative journalism clash and contradict with one another retelling a convoluted event that happened almost a century ago.

No surviving witnesses are left – even the protagonist is long gone. Only the truth was left behind. That’s what we’re going to find out today.

Who is Roland Doe?

Roland Doe is a pseudonym given to the protagonist of this story. Nobody knows his true name – and some people believe it’s better that way. Doe was described as an average kid, a prankster of sorts. He liked having fun, sometimes at the expense of others.

The thing about this kid is that he was demonically possessed. He faced two exorcisms to get a cure for his, uh, ailments. Evidently, it’s not enough to ask nicely for a demon to leave.

At the time of this story, Doe was 14 years old. American-born, he moved to South Africa with his family. Most of the story about Roland Doe and his family before the exorcism isn’t known and the little pieces we have are hearsay.

What we do know for sure is that Roland was an only child and lived with both his parents. There’s not much to say about his family. Well, other than his aunt, Harriet, was a spiritualist and liked to contact the dead.

How did Doe become possessed?

The lovely Harriet, full-time aunt and part-time medium, wanted her nephew to have fun. Since there were no videogames back in the 1930s, Harriet went for the second-best thing and gifted his nephew a board game.

Did she choose Scrabble? No, that’s way too boring for kids.

Risk, perhaps? That’s too violent!

Monopoly, maybe? She wanted her nephew to have fun, not an existential crisis after going made-belief bankrupt.

After giving it much thought, Aunt Harriet went with the good old game of Ouija. That’s how the story truly begins!

That’s not all, though. This was a parting gift of sorts. Harriet died a little after giving it to Doe. Maybe she knew what’s was going to happen and wanted to talk to the family from the other side.

After her death, things got weird.

What happened before the Exorcism of Roland Doe?

After Doe’s aunt passed, strange things began to happen around him. Witnesses claim furniture moved by itself whenever Roland was around. Plates and vases started flying whenever he entered the room.

Imagine you’re having a nice plate of pasta for dinner and suddenly little Roland comes in. Your pasta goes flying and your day is ruined. No man can take that for too long, and that’s why the family quickly went to a pastor for help.

The Lutheran pastor agreed to help. He asked the boy to stay the night at his house. The man wanted to see what truly happened around the boy.

After a night’s worth of moving furniture, something that ruined the poor pastor’s Feng shui, he decided to let more qualified people handle the issue.

Exorcism is more of a Catholic Church’s activity – and that’s where the Doe family went for help.

The first exorcism

The first exorcism of Ronald Doe was a brief one. It was also action-packed, like a Vin Diesel movie.

When several Jesuit priests were called for help, they took Doe to a nearby hospital. This was no ordinary hospital admission, though. The doctors didn’t ask Ronald to pretty please with sugar on top lay down on a bed for a quick exam. Instead, they strapped him down to a bed before the ritual began.

Here’s the thing about possessed boys: they are strong. Not farm strong, but we-are-Legion strong. That’s like farm strong three times over. Ronald Doe not only managed to escape from the restraints but also managed to break a bedspring from underneath the bed and used it as a weapon.

In true hack-and-slash fashion, like Dante from Devil May Cry, Doe started to swing wildly. When he managed to slash a priest’s arm, the entire thing came to a swift end.

The second exorcism

Have you ever noticed that every time a movie does well, producers pour ten times as much more money for the second installment? Something like that happened in this story. The second exorcism was ten times as wild as the first one.

After the first exorcism, everyone went home. Except for the demon, he was still inside the kid’s body. Anyway, several priests traveled to St. Louis, where the Doe family was living.

The priests got to witness the demon at his best: flying furniture, shaking beds, and more. The kid could only speak in a guttural voice (maybe he was singing death metal songs). It was time for another exorcism.

The second time around, the priests managed to exorcise the demon out of Ronald’s body. It was ugly, though. Beds shook, furniture flew, guttural voices cursed in Latin, and the main priest got his nose broken. Once again, it felt like a death metal video.

What happened after the Exorcism of Roland Doe?

Once the exorcism was over, Ronald Doe went on to live a normal life. The assistant priest, named Halloran, talked to a reporter and claimed the kid was free of trouble. There’s not much information about Doe or his family before or after these events.

It’s probably for the better this way. Nobody wants to be known as the demon dude. Especially during the 1950s. And even more so in Maryland, where he lived.

He probably stayed away from Ouija boards for a long time. I hope he didn’t end up playing Monopoly. That’s the real trap.

Was Roland Doe possessed? Really?

This is an interesting story – and the people that participated in the exorcism claimed it was the real deal. Then again, that might not be the case. There are a few theories that explain the exorcism in a non-paranormal way.

The POV theory

You could say everyone took the events at face value depending on their profession. The religious folk saw it as demonic possession and felt the need for an exorcism. Other, less-religiously inclined people saw it as something else. A psychiatrist might’ve thought it was a mental disorder.

The problem with this theory is that it doesn’t help at all.

It’s like going: did something happen? Yes, of course, it did! Alright, what happened? Oh, well, you see, I’d love to explain it but I have to catch a bus.

And nothing gets solved. It feels like a lukewarm skeptic theory. Something happened – but it wasn’t a true exorcism, that’s too much!

The skeptic theory

Certain people decided to deny everything and claim it was all an elaborate setup. The parents were in on it, so were the priests, and everyone else. It’s a big set up coming from Big Business trying to scare us into buying… something.

The problem with this theory is the countless things that happened – and the many witnesses that saw it happen. Were the slashed arm and the broken nose fake too? How did a 14-year-old kid develop a voice worthy of a death metal lead singer? Did he learn Latin overnight?

This is not the worst theory, though. There’s a worse one. One so sick and so twisted it makes my stomach turn. A theory that claims that it was… just a prank, bro.

The prank theory

Most people want to believe the exorcism happened – but some others prefer to burst the bubble. There’s a theory running around that claims Ronald Doe wasn’t possessed. Instead, he was only a prankster. I don’t know which one is worse.

An investigator went back to the scene decades after the exorcisms happened. He interviewed plenty of people, all of them related to Doe one way or the other. Childhood friends, neighbors, and the like. Several of them claim Ronald was a prankster, always trying to make fun out of people.

Even though claiming to be possessed is a B-Tier YouTuber kind of thing, it does make sense. Maybe Ronald Doe wanted to skip school, or it was a prank that went too far.

Once again we face the worst thing a man can say. The exorcism could be one of many “it’s just a prank, bro” scenarios.

Wait, didn’t I hear about the Exorcism of Roland Doe before?

You probably did. After the exorcisms happened, the story caught the people’s attention. It was not worth nation-wide attention, but it definitely caught the right person’s eye.

Eventually, someone wrote a book about it all. After that, someone made a movie. It was called, you guessed it, The Exorcist. There’s a possessed girl instead of a possessed boy; she vomits a lot and can walk with her head backward – but that’s taking it a little too far.

Most exorcism movies are based on Doe’s case as well. At this point, we don’t how much we can trust the source material.

Want more? Check out our Podcast about the events below!

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