I love The Exorcist, it’s my favourite horror flick. I’m such a fan that this is the second article on the film in my bumper, multi-article Halloween celebration for this year. The first one covered the very fictional ‘curse’ the film is said to have, but for this article, I want to cover a real life horror within the greatest horror film ever made.
Released in 1973, The Exorcist is a masterclass on how to make the perfect horror film. Directed by William Friedkin and adapted for the screen by William Peter Blatty from his novel of the same name. The film tells the story of 12 year old Regan (Linda Blair) and her actress mother, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) who are living on location in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. while Chris works on her new film. After using a Ouija board, Regan begins to act strangely. Long story short, it turns out that 12 year old Regan has been possessed by a demon claiming to be the Devil himself. Better call in The Exorcist.
Anyway there is a scene in the film where Regan is taken to hospital to have various tests as doctors try to work out why she’s been acting so strange (before the revelation that she’s possessed by a demon is made). One of the hospital workers was played by real life radiographer, Paul Bateson who also worked as a medical adviser for the film too. In fact, the particular scene where Regan has an arteriogram (an arterial catheter inserted into her neck) in which Paul appears is often praised by medical professionals for it’s attention to detail and realism. So he did a damn fine job…
Yup, that’s Paul in The Exorcist right there. However, in 1979, six years after the release of the film. Paul Bateson was arrested and convicted of murder.
It was the 14th of September, 1977 when film critic Addison Verrill was found dead in his New York apartment. Addison had been severely beaten and stabbed. There was no evidence of forced entry, which lead the police to believe that Addison knew his killer. An appeal was launched to find the person resposible and that all eventually lead to the arrest of Paul Bateson. After being questioned, Paul confessed to the murder and gave details of the crime that no one else would’ve known about except the investigating police. Paul told how he and Addison met at a gay nightclub, went back to Addison’s apartment, had drinks and cocaine followed by consensual sex. Paul then said that he hit Addison with a skillet incapacitating him before stabbing his victim in the chest. Paul said he then stole money, a credit card and clothing before fleeing the scene. All details that police had not yet made public.
At the time of Paul Bateson’s arrest, trial and conviction, police were investigating a series of other murders in the gay community over the previous two years before the Addison Verrill murder. A total of six bodies were found… or at least what was left of them. The dismembered and decomposed body parts were discovered in plastic bags and dumped in the Hudson River, New York. None of the bodies were officially identified due to the decomposition and dismemberment. No one was ever convicted of the murders either.
After his conviction in the late 70s, director of The Exorcist, William Friedkin visited Paul Bateson an interviewed him for a new film he was making. Based on Gerald Walker’s 1970 novel Cruising, a novel about a police officer going undercover in the gay community to find a serial killer. The film was released in 1980 starring Al Pacino and William Friedkin even worked in elements of Paul Bateson’s life and the murder of Addison Verrill into the movie. Anyway, during William’s chat with the incarcerated Paul, he said the police offered him a deal of a reduced sentence if he confessed to the other murders.
It’s not known if Paul actually did commit the other murders or not, but it is strongly believed by many that he did, mainly as the plastic bags used to hold the body parts found in the Hudson River all had tags on them indicating they came from NYU Medical Center… which was where Paul Bateson worked at the time of the killings. But there was never any concrete evidence to officially link him to the murders and no one had ever been convicted of them either.
Paul Bateson was sentenced to twenty five years for the murder of Addison Verrill, of which he served twenty four years and three months before being released in 2003 aged 63. As of writing, it’s not known what happened to Paul. It’s not known where he is or if he’s even still alive, but it had been rumoured he is still alive and living somewhere in upstate New York.
The Netflix true crime show, Mindhunter featured the Paul Bateson story in it’s second season (episode six) earlier this year, where Paul was played by Morgan Kelly.
So yeah, there was a real life killer in the scariest horror film ever made.
Next up is the finale of my Halloween celebration this year, a two part look at a recently resurrected horror movie franchise that spans almost forty years…