Remembering William Peter Blatty: The Man Behind “The Exorcist”

Many of the included source links in this post feature images from the film that some may find scary or disturbing. Keep that in mind when clicking (As in, not at 3 AM when you can’t sleep).

There are a few things I was afraid of as a kid. The dark, spiders (okay, still afraid of that one), and the cover to my mom’s DVD copy of “The Exorcist” (1973).

Still freaks me out. The Exorcist (1973). (c) Warner Bros

I’ll admit it. Just hearing the infamous “Tubular Bells” theme from the movie when she watched it around Halloween used to freak me out.

It wasn’t until I was older that I even watched this cinematic classic about a 12-year old girl possessed by a demon. And I have to admit, it still gives me chills whenever I see it.

But the film is second to the book in fear-factor. I read it on the beach two summers ago after coming across it on sale in the bookstore, and it stuck in my mind for a week after.

There was quite a lot of talent involved in writing a book filled with terrifying imagery, powerful symbolism, and possessive of an uncanny ability to send chills down your spine, making its author is one worth remembering.

But even people with great talent can’t live forever. William Peter Blatty, author of “The Exorcist,” passed away  on January 12th, 2017, at the age of 89.

William Peter Blatty. – Wiki Commons

In honor of the late horror master William Peter Blatty, here are a few compiled facts I found interesting, both about the author himself, and his most famous work.

  1. Blatty wrote “The Exorcist” in 1971, after winning $10,000 on a game show
  2. The film, released in 1973, caused a wave of hysteria throughout viewing audiences, causing vomiting, fainting, and fits in theaters
  3. Blatty personally wrote the screenplay and directed  “The Exorcist III,” (1990) which completely ignored the events in the sequel, which was regarded as a commercial and critical failure
  4. He continued to write well into his 80s
  5. “The Exorcist” was based on a supposed real-life case of demonic possession, where a young boy, known as “Rolan Doe” underwent an exorcism in 1949 at his home in St. Louis, MO
  6. The film was at a center of a controversy when it was alleged that subliminal imagery had been scattered throughout to “sustain a dreamlike state”
  7. According to some, the set of the film was cursed, as many accidents accrued during the production. These included a fire on the set which set back the filming schedule several weeks, actress Ellen Burstyn enduring a permanent spinal injury during a stunt, and the lead actress Linda Blaire suffering a nervous breakdown, to name just a few. Yikes.
  8. The infamous “Spider-walk scene” was initially cut from the film because they didn’t have the technology to remove the wires. It was re-inserted with the film’s DVD release in 1998 (It’s one of the most disturbing scenes in the entire film, if you ask me)
  9. In the book, the “Spider-walk scene” differs – it describes Regan as quietly following her mother around, and licking her ankle (I told you the book was way scarier)
  10. “The Exorcist” recently went through a modern facelift. In 2016, Blatty’s novel was the basis for a new television series, airing on Fox ( I haven’t seen it yet. If you have, feel free to let me know what you think in the comments!)

So there you have it folks. William Peter Blatty changed the face of horror, both in written and cinematic form.

He was a great author who made a significant achievement in how we today think of horror as a genre, and made us know what it’s like to be truly afraid of evil.

But I won’t re-read the book anytime soon. Just saying.

William Peter Blatty, 1928 – 2017


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