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The Exorcism of Roland Doe, Halloween '21

Happy Halloween you beautiful bastards… Well… in a couple of days, but this is our Halloween episode so keep it or leave it. We've got some pretty crazy and creepy stuff going on today. Let's get into it!

Do you guys believe in demons? Possession? Are you afraid that at some point in your life a being from hell or possibly another plane of existence could enter your body and wreak havoc on your body, mind, and soul? That they could possibly even kill you or cause injury or death to someone you know? What must it be like to not be in control of your own being? Well, we're gonna discuss all of that today while talking about perhaps the most famous possession incident out there. The one that inspired what many think it's one of, if not the, scariest horror movies ever. Today we are discussing the possession and Exorcism of Roland Doe, also sometimes referred to as Robbie Manheim. While there are many versions of what happened, we will try to stay as close to what is thought to be the actual events. "Robbie Mannheim" was Allen's alias for the 13-year-old boy at the center of the exorcism story; the Catholic Church referred to him as "Roland Doe." None of the eyewitnesses publicly revealed the boy's true identity, and it was never disclosed from the unedited diary of Raymond Bishop that was used by Thomas B Allen to write the book "Possession: The True Story Of An Exorcism, which is thought to be the closest account to what actually happened.

From here on out we will be referring to the boy as Roland since that was the name given to him by the Catholic Church and we don't want to cause any confusion by switching names during the show.

In January of 1949 strange things started to happen in the house where Roland lived in maryland. Roland was born into a Lutheran family and was an only child. He spent a lot of time with his Aunt Harriet. Most accounts of the story day that when Aunt Harriet died that's when the whole ordeal began. You see it seems that Roland took an interest in the… Wait for it… Ouija board!!! Oh yeah the good old wholesome family entertainment known as the Ouija board. Well Aunt Harriet decided to help Roland learn the ways of the Ouija board when he showed interest and when she died the family thought that the things they were experiencing were caused by the deceased Aunt and things having to do with the Ouija board. So what types of things are the family experiencing you ask? Well we're not going to tell you. Goodnight everyone!!! Anyways… started with the usual small stuff. There were scratching sounds coming from the walls. They claimed to hear dripping water but couldn't locate a source of the sound. They claimed that objects around the house would levitate or move on their own when Roland was around. They claim they witnessed his mattress moving on it's own. The family was understandably concerned. They began to seek the opinions of physicians and psychiatrists who predictably couldn't really find anything wrong with the boy. They also sought advice from a minister from their local Lutheran Church. They go to Rev. Luther Miles Schulze, a Lutheran minister who happened to be greatly interested in the paranormal, as it was called at that time, and he said, 'Go to a Catholic priest; the Catholics know about this kind of thing. well thanks for nothing I guess!

Interestingly enough, later on Rev. Schulze spoke at a meeting of a Washington, D.C., branch of the Society for Parapsychology about this case. That information made its way to the press, and the published Schulze interview led to the leaking of the exorcism story by Catholic sources. Studying at Georgetown at that time, William Peter Blatty read the story in the Washington Post and years later used it as inspiration for The Exorcist.

On Schulze's advice, the family went to a local priest, Father E. Albert Hughes, who "gave them a bottle of holy water and candles and sent them on their way.

Unfortunately the holy water and candles didn't really do the trick. Things kept happening and things kept getting worse. Roland was getting more violent but it only seemed to come out at night. According to witnesses in the evening Roland would put on his pajamas and get in bed and that's when the trouble would start. He seemed to come into a trance-like state. He would claim to have no recollection of the night's events the following morning.

Come February things were getting a little more intense. Around February 26 scratches started to appear randomly on Roland's body. Several nights later words supposedly began to appear on his body either scratched or "branded" on him. At this point around Feb 28th, it seems Roland's first Exorcism took place at Georgetown hospital. Que the return of father Hughes. Hughes asked the arch­bishop of Washington, D.C., for permission to perform an exorcism on the boy. This was the first time that something major seemed to have taken place. During the Exorcism Roland supposedly broke of a piece of a bedspring from the mattress he was on and slashed the good father from his shoulder to his wrist although Later when the case was looked at a little more in depth there was no evidence that this event ever actually happened but will get to that later.

At this point Roland's mother thought that maybe a change of scenery would be good. She began thinking about moving back to where she used to live...St. Louis. Now low and behold weird had it that after they discussed the move, the word Louis magically appeared scratched onto Roland. Mama took this as a sign and they packed up and headed to St Louis sometime around March 4 or 5th. The boy ended up staying in a house with a relative who had attended Saint Louis University. One of her professors was Father Bishop, who became one of sev­eral Jesuits to participate in the exorcism and kept the day-by-day account on which Allen's book is based. Bishop talked to his friend William Bowdern, S.J. After both men consulted with Paul Reinert, S.J., then president of Saint Louis University, and St. Louis Archbishop Joseph Ritter, all agreed that an exorcism would be performed according to the Roman Ritual. It was something that Bowdern, who was chosen to be the lead exorcist, knew little about.

"Father Halloran said the first thing Bowdern did was hit the books," Allen, who wrote the book about the incident, said. "He would have learned something about it while becoming a Jesuit, but there isn't much call for exorcism to the modern-day priest. But Bowdern was a veteran of World War II, he'd been in combat -- so he was a combination of a religious man who was very tough."

The process ended up taking more than a month, during which Bowdern fasted. Several priests, Alexian Brothers and family members participated in or witnessed the rite, which always began in the evening.

"The pattern was that the boy would act normally during the day, and then he would put on his pajamas and go to bed, and go into a trance and start screaming and yelling and acting wild," Allen said. In the morning, the boy apparently never remem­bered what transpired the night before.

Many things were related to have happened during these weeks of Exorcism including the mattress moving as it did before, objects levitating and moving on their own during the rites, Roland speaking in latin and other random languages, more scratches appearing on the boys body and road beginning more angry and violent during the rites.

Halloran stated that during this scene words such as "evil" and "hell", along with other various marks, appeared on the teenager's body. Allegedly, during the Litany of the Saints portion of the exorcism ritual, the boy's mattress began to shake.

A Jesuit priest named John Walsh, a friend of Bowdern's, talked about the Roman numeral X that appeared on the boy's chest. It was believed that 10 demons were involved, Walsh said.

A voice coming from the boy supposedly told an attending Jesuit, who was assisting Bowdern, that he would die in 10 years and would burn in hell. The Jesuit had a fondness for strong drink, and the voice so unnerved him that he stopped drinking, for a time.

Another incident supposedly written about in the diary was when One night, sitting on the bed beside the boy, Bowdern watched a tiny, nearly invisible pitchfork, or lines, move from under the boy's upper thigh all the way to the ankle. Droplets of blood occurred. Bowdern was only a foot away, and there were the usual four or five witnesses.

Often, according to the priests, he had to be forcibly restrained. In one of these incidents, he broke the nose of Walter Halloran. He said of the incident

''I got in on the business with the prayers of exorcism, and the little boy would go into a seizure and get quite violent. So Father Bowdern asked me to hold him.'' (Halloran is a former high school football player.) ''Yes, he did break my nose.''

Halloran said he observed the streaks and arrows and words like ''hell'' that would rise on the child's skin. ''That happened a number of times. And it wasn't a case of taking a pin and scratching himself. It just appeared, and with quite a bit of pain.

''On Holy Thursday that year, this phenomenon started occurring as I was reading the prayers. 'Don't talk about it anymore, this hurts too much, ' the kid said. The markings were most visible, and there were many obscenities. He was a nice little kid.''

Throughout the ordeal, Bowdern fasted on bread and water. ''He looked terrible, '' said his brother, Dr. Edward H. Bowdern of St. Louis. He looked thin and wasted, and developed styes and boils, Dr. Bowdern said.

Other accounts attributed a frightening degree of strength to young Roland, and claimed that he spoke in perfect Latin, though the boy was unschooled in the language. Some sources state that at least one of these exorcisms was observed by no less than 48 people, nine of them Jesuits.

After all of this craziness took place...a miracle of sorts happened. At 11:00pm on 18 April 1949, while wearing saint medals and holding a crucifix, Roland screamed, “Satan! Satan! I am St. Michael! I command you, Satan, and the other evil spirits to leave this body, in the name of Dominus, immediately! Now! Now! Now!” After a final spasm, Roland fell quiet and proclaimed that “He is gone.” and with that the Exorcism was finished and Road seemed to well again. Following the final exorcism, Roland claimed to experience a vision of St. Michael slaying a dragon. Believing it was a sign that his ordeal was over, the family returned home from Missouri 12 days later. The strange behavior ceased and Hunkeler returned to school. After this not many people know what happened to Roland but a few people did keep tabs on him and the results are that the boy went on to live a normal life and eventually married and had a son he named Michael after St. Michael.

The following is a timeline of events that took place according to the diary that was kept. There are a few extras details about dinner if the effects as well and it's a pretty good summary.

15 January 1949

A dripping noise was heard in his grandmother’s bedroom by the boy and his grandmother.

A picture of Christ on the wall shook and scratching noises were heard under the floorboards.

Scratching was heard every night from 7 p.m. until midnight for 10 days. This was attributed to a rodent at the time

26 January 1949

Aunt “Tillie”/Harriet dies of multiple sclerosis in St. Louis.

Waves of air reportedly strike the grandmother

3 knocks are heard on the floor. Roland's mom asks, “If you are Harriet, tell me positively by knocking four times.” Four knocks were heard.

Scratchings on Hunkeler’s mattress.

28 January 1949

After 3 days of silence, nighttime “squeaking shoes" on rolands bed heard for 6 nights

17 February 1949

Roland spends the night with Lutheran minister Schulze.

Reportedly Schulze heard scratching noises, and witnessed:

bed vibrations;

a chair in which Roland sat tipping over;

and, the movements of a pallet of blankets.

Schulze's family take Roland to the Mental Hygiene Clinic of the University of Maryland for testing.

After two rounds of testing, nothing abnormal was discovered.

Schulze also contacted J.B. Rhine, the founder of the parapsychology laboratory at Duke University. Rhine and wife, Louisa Rhine, drove up from North Carolina to evaluate the boy but saw no activity.

26 February 1949

Scratches or markings appeared on the boy’s body for 4 consecutive nights.


27 February 1949

Words began to appear on the boy’s body and seemed to be scratched by claws.

Father Edward Albert Hughes of St. James Catholic Church in Mount Rainier is called upon to review the case. Hughes suggested the family use blessed candles, holy water, and special prayers.

Hughes reportedly witnessed:

Unassisted movements of a telephone and other objects in his office.

Roland make obscene and blasphemous remarks at him in a strange, diabolical voice.

And the room became unexplainably cold.

Father Hughes was convinced that Roland was possessed and requested Cardinal Patrick A O’Boyle at authorize exorcism.

28 February 1949


3 March 1949

Roland is a patient at Georgetown University Hospital.

This is the point that the alleged first exorcism took place.

Mother sees the bloody word “Louis” scratched on Roland. When the boy is asked if word “Louis” means “St. Louis.” The word “Yes” is said to appear.

Family departs for Normandy, Missouri, near St. Louis to stay at the home of an aunt.

8 March 1949

The shaking of the mattress and scratching resumed at aunt’s home in Normandy.

9 March 1949

Father Raymond J. Bishop of St. Louis University sees Roland for the first time.

Bishop witnesses the scratching of the boy’s body as well as the motion of the mattress.

11 March 1949

Father William S. Bowdern of St. Francis Xavier Church asked to meet Roland.

Father Bowdern read the Novena prayer of St. Francis Xavier, blessed the boy with a relic and placed a crucifix under the boy’s pillow.

After everyone has left the room, a loud noise was heard and, reportedly, a large book case had moved about. A bench was turned over and the crucifix had been moved to the edge of the bed.

The mattress was also reported to shake.