As we get closer to the big day, another Halloween article from me. This time, I’m going to be looking at the (in)famous supposed ‘curse’ of The Exorcist. Now just for the record, I’ve done a few film curses articles over the years and I always start them the same way. So I’ll do the same here too…
I personally do not believe in curses. I believe in coincidence, misadventure and accidents. I don’t believe that anything I’m about to write is ‘factual’, that’s to say I don’t think any of the incidents covered here were down to a curse or the Devil, just a series of unfortunate accidents. And with that out of the way, let’s crack on with The Exorcist curse.
Do I need to recap what The Exorcist is about? Okay, just a quick one for context. The film is about Regan (Linda Blair), a 12 year old girl who get’s possessed by a demon claiming the be the Devil. So her mother calls in (the titular) The Exorcist to save her daughter from the ultimate evil. Basically the film is about good vs evil. It doesn’t set out to try and prove that either God or the Devil is real, just to show how good can beat evil. But all that being said, some believe that making a film about the Devil and trying to expose him is a very bad idea and that Beelzebub himself will try to intervene… hence this curse. Famed U.S. televangelist Billy Graham even went so far as to suggest the film was drenched in evil when he said: “There is a power of evil in the film, in the fabric of the film itself.”
The first known incident of The Exorcist came about early in the film’s shoot in 1972. The set used to film most of the scenes set in the home featured in the film caught fire and burned down. A bird had flown into a circuit box used to house the electrics of the set. This caused a small fire that quickly spread through the entire set and destroyed it… all of it except Regan’s room where the exorcism scenes take place. The incident set production back when it only just begun and ended up extending the shoot of the film to just under a year, but with post-production, the film took over 12 months to complete.
Regan’s mother, Chris is played by Ellen Burstyn in the film. There is a scene where Chris is hit by the possessed Regan and is slung across the room, slamming onto a hard wooden floor. In this scene, Ellen is actually badly hurt and that take is used in the final film too. She landed on her coccyx, the screams of pain and look on her face during the scene are genuine. It caused a permanent spinal injury that still bothers Ellen to this day.
Two actors in the film, Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros played characters who both die in the film. While the film was in post-production, both Jack and Vasiliki died in real life never to see their work on the big screen. Linda Blair’s grandfather also died while filming and The Exorcist himself Max Von Sydow’s bother also died during Max’s first day of the shoot. There was also a narrow escape with Jason Miller who played Father Damien Karras in the film. Jason’s young son was critically injured and almost died when he was hit by a speeding motorcycle. One of the cameramen working on the film became a father for the first time while the film was being shot, according to actress Ellen Burstyn, the baby died when it was only a few months old. Various statements say that a total of nine people died during the entire production of the film, both directly and indirectly linked to the production.
In the documentary on the film called Fear of God, Jason Miller tells the story of how an elderly priest gave him a silver medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The priest told Jason that if anyone tries to do anything to uncover the Devil, that he will take retribution on those involved. The priest gave Jason the medal as a token of protection. A few days later and that same priest died after giving up his protective medal.
Like her on-screen mother, Linda Blair also suffered a back injury when the rigging broke on a piece of equipment that was holding her in place for one of the exorcism scenes. Also, after the film was released, Linda received numerous death threats from various religious nuts for being in the film as they believed she really was the Devil and she was only 13 years old at the time too. The threats got so severe that the production studio hired bodyguards to escort the teenager for six months until the furore died down.
Mercedes McCambridge, who provided the demonic voice for the film also suffered a terrible tragedy. In November, 1987, her son, John Markle murdered his two daughters, Amy, 13 and Suzanne, 9. He also murdered his wife, Christine, 45 before committing suicide all with the same gun.
During the film’s 1974 premiere in Rome (a deeply religious place what with it housing Vatican City and all that), a thunderstorm broke out. A torrential downpour of rain and spikes of lighting almost prevented people from attending the screening, including cast and crew. There was also a story that lighting from the storm struck an old church which caused a four hundred year old cross to fall from it’s steeple, close to the cinema where The Exorcist was being shown.
At the same screening, one viewer was so disturbed by what they saw on screen that they fainted. They fell forward and hit their face on the seat in front of him and braking their jaw. The injured person then went on the sue distributors of the film, Warner Brothers for causing the accident.
Finally, Journalist Judy Klemsrud reported in a 1974 article that: “Several people had heart attacks, a guard told me. One woman even had a miscarriage” as this archived article states. Though to be honest, I’ve not managed to find any solid proof of this other than the article.
So is The Exorcist cursed?
As I said at the beginning of this article (and other cursed film articles I’ve written), I don’t believe in any of it. The film suffered a long production, over a year in fact. So of course given a longer time frame, more incidents will occur. More will happen in the space of a year then say a day or a week for instance. People die, storms cause damage, crazy people send death threats, this kind of thing goes on each and every day. I’m sure that if these exact same incidents had happened in connection to a film that had nothing to do with the Devil, no one would’ve paid them as much attention, they would’ve just been put down to normal incidents, not a curse.
Besides, if the Devil himself really was trying to stop the production of the film… he didn’t do a very good job did he? All that power and evil and that’s the best he could muster? Why not just kill everyone directly involved in the film instead of a very small amount of people who were and an even smaller who were not? Why not destroy the main print of the film before it was duplicated and distributed so it could never be seen? Why are there not more and more incidents from the millions up on millions of people around the globe who have watched the film since it’s original release up to today? I’ve watched the film in it’s various cuts many times over the years (twice this week alone) and I’m okay… so far…
Shit happens and everything that has been connected to The Exorcist is just coincidental.
Now to finish, the original and banned (because it was too scary) trailer for The Exorcist…
Coming up next, another The Exorcist article, but looking at something very, very real and horrific…