Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Possession of Douglas Deen

People in line to see the film--The Exorcist.

Douglas Deen * was a 14-year-old boy who lived with his family in a suburb of Washington D.C. ** in 1949.

Douglas’ family came to believe he was possessed by demons. A long series of events made them come to this conclusion.

At first, the family noticed strange noises coming from Douglas’ bedroom. They thought it was just mice but none were found.

Gradually the activity became more violent. Furniture moved back and forth, a large bowl fell off the top of the refrigerator without any apparent cause then pictures started to jump off the walls where they hung.

Most of the disturbances were centered in Douglas’s bedroom. His bed would shake, sometimes all night.

The family first thought if they just ignored these disturbances, they would stop, but this did not work. In fact, the activity just became worse.

Concerned the family began to tell friends and neighbors what was happening--most laughed off their stories. But when several neighbors stayed overnight in the home, they changed their minds.

Home rented by
Deen family.
Everyone who the Deen’s confided in became convinced that something strange was going on. The family requested help from the minister of their church.

Reverend Winston was highly skeptical, but he was willing to visit the home. In February of 1949, he spent one night at the Deen house.

This is what he later told the Society of Parapsychology in Washington D.C.

“The boy’s bed began to shake then scratching and scraping sounds were coming from the walls. I switched on the bedroom light but noticed nothing out of the ordinary.

He then requested Douglas sit in an armchair--as soon as he sat down, the chair began to move around the room slowly. It then started to rock back and forth, and at one point it tipped Douglas out, spilling him onto the floor.

Next, he had Douglas lay down on the floor with a pillow and blanket to keep him away from the furniture. But this didn’t help for the boy, and his bedding started to slide across the floor.”

By the next morning the Reverend felt he had seen and experienced something quite extraordinary. He found no reasonable explanation for what had happened.

Two newspaper
articles written
about the case.
Douglas was taken to Georgetown hospital for a complete physical exam. The tests revealed no abnormalities. Subsequent visits to a psychiatrist did not impact the disturbances--they continued.

The Deen family desperate called in a Roman Catholic priest to perform an exorcism. They believed demons were afflicting their son.

This priest, a Jesuit Father by the name William Bowdern, stayed with Douglas for two months. He performed this ritual over 30 times. During these sessions, Douglas would shake violently and sometimes scream or shout in a voice other than his own.

By May of 1949, Douglas was no longer reacting violently, so Father Bowdern felt the exorcism had worked. After this, Douglas’ bed no longer shook violently, and the strange noises stopped.

* Douglas Deen is the original pseudonym used in this story. The pseudonym Robbie Mannheim is used in more recent reports. The boy’s real name is said to be Ronald Edward Hunkeler.

** Washington D.C. was also a made up location. The actual site is said to be Cottage City, Maryland.

The Exorcist

William Peter Blatty wrote the best selling novel The Exorcist. His book was based upon Douglas Deen’s story. He changed the possessed teen to a girl. The actress Linda Blair played this character in the film-- it was based on Blatty’s book of the same title.

Both Blatty and the film's producer admitted that they changed several facts to make their stories more dramatic and exciting. In fact, there are few similarities between these two versions and the real Deen Story.

Linda Blair's character
The Deen family felt in the end their son was possessed by demons but in recent years people who have studied the Deen story have concluded it was actually a poltergeist case.

They feel that Douglas consciously or unconsciously was most likely producing the phenomena that occurred.

But since no one with knowledge of poltergeist cases was called in at the time it remains a mystery what actually caused these strange events.


Gatekeeper said...

Sometimes reality is more scarier than fiction

Virginia Lamkin said...

The truth in this case is indeed scary.