John Thavis covered the Vatican for 30 years.
Provided by the author

When veteran Vatican journalist John Thavis interviewed exorcists for his new book, many said right off that exorcism was “nothing at all like the movie.”

These American and Italian priests were referring to the 1973 movie “The Exorcist” made from William Peter Blatty’s novel, which was based on a St. Louis event.

(Courtesy: John Waide, University Archivist, Saint Louis University)

The mattress began to shake.  Arms and legs flailing.  For hours he fluctuated between frenzy and calm.

The following phrases describe an exorcism that took place in March and April of 1949.  A cadre of Jesuit priests affiliated with Saint Louis University, led by Father William S. Bowdern, the pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church, undertook the exorcism of a 14-year-old boy. They took turns praying over the boy, working to cast out the demon believed to have possessed him.