Possessed: Roland Doe

Welcome to Possessed, a small series where I will be sharing everything I know about real life demonic possessions with you! Now, for the sake of filtering all of the cases down to just a few (a lot a few, but you know what I mean), I am going to be sticking to possessions that ended in an exorcism. 

To kick this series off right, we are going to start with perhaps the most infamous possession of all… The possession of Roland Doe.

The traditional story of this possession goes like this:

The Exorcist Courtesy of Blumhouse.com


Roland Doe” was the pseudonym given to a young boy in the late 1940s who was the subject of a series of exorcisms performed by priests of the Roman Catholic Church. His story, one that started off as innocently as you could possibly imagine, has gone on to inspire one of the most well known supernatural novels and movie adaptations in history. That’s right, Roland Doe was the inspiration for William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist“. Today I am going to share this young man’s story with you, there are many sources that say this entire thing is a hoax, now it’s your turn to decide for yourself.

Roland Doe was born in 1935 and grew up with his close-knit family in Cottage City, Maryland. His story begins with the death of his beloved Aunt Harriet in 1949. Since Roland was an only child, he often relied on the company of his family members as playmates. Aunt Harriet was one of Roland’s favourite people and the death hurt him immensely. During her time with him, Harriet taught Roland about her beliefs as a spiritualist and introduced him to the Ouija Board when he expressed interest in learning more about the lifestyle. (Side note: I’m sure they didn’t know how dangerous spirit boards were back in the 1940s, but what kind of an Aunt shows a young boy this?!) So when Harriet passed on, Roland did the only thing he knew how to contact her, the Ouija Board.

Roland Doe’s Childhood Home Courtesy of Getty Images

Shortly after Harriet’s passing, Roland’s family noticed strange happenings around Roland while he was in the house. Most commonly they heard strange noises, furniture moving on its own and everyday objects levitating while Roland was around. Once the family realized that it was all leading back to the boy, they turned to a Lutheran pastor, Luther Miles Schulze for assistance. Schulze arranged for Roland to spend a night in his home in hopes of seeing some of this paranormal happenings for himself, which, luckily, he did. The following day, Schulze advised the family to seek assistance from the Catholic church. This is when the long line of exorcisms began.

The first of many that were formally reported by priests of the Catholic Church, was an exorcism performed by Edward Hughes at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Hughes reported that during the exorcism he had Roland bound to the bed, but the boy was able to release one of his arms from the restraints and break a bedspring off of the mattress to use as a weapon against the Priest. Hughes suffered deep wounds on his arm and the ritual had to be suspended. The family then travelled to St. Louis, Missouri, where they came in contact with Raymond J. Bishop, a professor at St. Louis University, and a fellow priest named William S. Bowdern. It was stated that both of the men witnessed Roland’s bed shaking, objects flying across the room and Roland speaking in an inhuman voice. The men then requested permission from the archbishop to perform a second exorcism.


The second exorcism, performed by Bishop and Bowdern took place at The Alexian Brothers Hospital in St. Louis. Before this ritual began, two additional priests, Walter Halloran and William Van Roo, were asked to assist. It was Halloran, who first stated that words such as “evil” and “hell” began to appear etched into Roland’s skin. During one of the most notorious portions of the exorcism known as “Litany of the Saints“, the bed reportedly began to shake and Halloran’s nose was broken in the process. Halloran told a reporter that once the rite was completed, the anonymous boy known as Roland Doe was cured and went on to live a normal life.

A Skeptic’s Research

I like to think that I have a healthy amount of skepticism in me and I don’t generally take everyone at their word for events such as the case of Roland Doe. As I’m sure many of you who come to Nightscrawlers are the same, I wanted to share some information that was found by numerous authors who chose to write about the events that occurred.

  • The priests who attended the final exorcism in St. Louis, Missouri, never heard the boy’s voice change from its normal pitch and that the “latin” that they boy spoke simply sounded like he was mimicking latin that he had heard while attending church, but that he was not fluently speaking the language.
  • It was reported that no one checked the boy’s finger nails when they first saw markings appear on his skin to see if he had made them himself.
  • There is no actual evidence of the first exorcism by Hughes ever being performed.
  • There is actually no evidence of Father E. Albert Hughes visiting Roland’s home, admitting him to the hospital, or of his injury during the supposed exorcism.
  • Much of the information in the tabloids about the possession were never fact-checked and were simply taken as hearsay.

Now that I have spewed this information as you, it’s time for you to make your own decision. Do you believe that the possession of Roland Doe actually occurred? Or was it all a scheme devised by a tricky teenage boy who simply wanted to scare the crap out of his family? 

Regardless of whether or not the story is real, it still made way for one of the most iconic horror movies ever released and if you have yet to see the film, go do it, now. Have you heard of any demonic possessions that you’d like to hear more about? Tweet me @kelsimarie1330 and let me know!

Until next time… Keep it spooky!

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