‘Shock Docs: The Exorcism of Roland Doe’ Uncovers the Inspiration Behind 1973’s ‘The Exorcist’

Alice Oscura, Paranormal Investigations Head Writer

For many years, the true story behind the inspiration for one of the most terrifying horror movies of all time, The Exorcist (1973), remained obscure. Shock Docs: The Exorcism of Roland Doe delves into that true story. In 1949 a family living in Cottage City, Maryland had their lives turned upside down when their 13-year-old son became possessed. The details of the possession were only revealed upon the discovery of the diary kept by Father Raymond Bishop, one of the attending priests to Roland Doe’s exorcism and Father Walter Halloran’s eyewitness testimony shortly before his death.

As an only child Roland did not have a lot of mutual company other than adult family members. He was especially attached to his aunt who was a spiritualist and taught Roland how to use the spirit board. It is believed the reason for Roland’s possession was instigated through one of these spirit board sessions and was only activated when his aunt suddenly died.

This Shock Docs special contains a lot of extremely well-made re-enactments to recount the terrifying and horrific events mostly from the priests’ perspective during Roland Doe’s exorcism. The documentary goes into great detail to describe the disturbing and violent manifestations as the priests battled to expel the demon that had latched itself unto Roland Doe. It contains interviews with paranormal experts Jeff Belanger and Troy Taylor, and the latter wrote The Devil Came to St. Louis: The True Story of the 1949 Exorcism based on the Roland Doe exorcism case. Other key interviews included mental health professionals, priests ordained specifically to conduct exorcisms, and the grandniece of the main priest involved in the exorcism, Father Bowdern.

Many skeptics have doubted the legitimacy of the Roland Doe case and chalked it up to just a 13-year-old boy not knowing how to deal with the grief from the death of his beloved aunt. However, the documentary does state that the boy was examined by medical professionals who found nothing mentally wrong with him. What we do know for certain is that Roland Doe did experience something insanely traumatic that he may or may not remember. His true identity is never revealed even though it was discovered. All they can say is that he led a successful life afterward, studied hard after returning to school, and became a rocket scientist for NASA, achieving a couple patents to his name.

But the final shocker is the reveal that may answer the question as to what happened to the demon after it left Roland Doe’s body as an eyewitness dropped the proverbial bombshell in a potential cover-up that occurred after the final exorcism took place. The eyewitness claimed that he was taken to a mysterious room in a building. The room remained locked, and he was told to put his ear to the door and listen. When he did this, he said that he heard the sounds of objects violently crashing against the walls. The eyewitness was told that a priest made the ultimate sacrifice and absorbed the demon into himself once it left Roland Doe’s body. The priest was then kept locked up in that room until his eventual death.

It’s an extremely interesting theory even though it is a bit farfetched and is reminiscent of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist III (1990) big plot reveal that (SPOILER ALERT) Father Karras wasn’t dead but was being kept alive as a form of revenge by the demon for being exorcised (SPOILER ALERT ENDS).

In closing, the documentary’s overall presentation was well done. Specific details of the exorcism are still being kept locked up in the Vatican and the Roman Catholic church still does not confirm Roland Doe’s exorcism as a bona fide case of demonic possession to this day. Whether or not you are a believer, certain events continue to occur in the world that have no logical explanations.

Alice’s Score: 7.5 out of 10

You can check out more great Shock Docs content below:

Documentary ‘Shock Docs: The Devil Made Me Do It’ is Scarier Than ‘The Conjuring 3’

Shock Docs: Amityville Horror House Delivers the Best Breakdown of the Infamous Location


Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump. I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. Read More

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