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The Exorcist Director William Friedkin Went to a Real Exorcism

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William Friedkin Photo: Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Tonight, after you’ve retired your inevitable David S. Pumpkins costume, hop under the covers with a flashlight and this creeptacular Vanity Fair story by William Friedkin, director of 1973’s The Exorcist. Friedkin attended an actual exorcism in Italy earlier this year as the guest of 91-year-old Catholic priest Father Amorth, otherwise known as the “Dean of Exorcists.” Friedkin watched as Father Amorth performed his ninth exorcism on “Rosa,” a beautiful young woman who was allegedly cursed by her brother and his girlfriend, a witch. And yes, you read that right: nine exorcisms. Apparently the Devil is a stubborn fellow, which makes us wonder how poor little Regan McNeil rode out the rest of the 1970s (but we digress). Friedkin’s firsthand account of Rosa’s plight, which also goes into pretty fascinating detail about Father Amorth’s career and life, is full of fun, fast-paced, and spooky details (and plenty of all-caps Latin). A sample: Another voice from deep within [Rosa] shouted in his face: ‘DON’T TOUCH HER! DON’T EVER TOUCH HER!!’ Her eyes were still closed. Father Amorth yelled, ‘CEDE! CEDE!’ (Surrender!).” Incredibly, this was also 81-year-old Friedkin’s first ever “real-life” exorcism — 43 years after his filmic version was released in theaters. Doubtless there was a lot less cranial rotation and pea soup than he might have expected.

The Exorcist Director Went to a Real Exorcism