A recently discovered diary kept by a Jesuit priest who participated in an exorcism in 1949 records the chilling events recreated here. When a 13-year-old boy, Robbie Mannheim (a pseudonym), the only child of a Lutheran family in Maryland, was declared exorcised, the news prompted the writing of William Peter Blatty's bestselling novel The Exorcist , and a film of the same name. Far different from these accounts, the actual exorcising took place over months and in several locations, including a St. Louis hospital. There a team of Jesuits sought to release the boy from physical harm (seizures and spontaneously appearing bleeding wounds) and other manifestations of diabolical influence to which he often seemed curiously indifferent. Allen ( War Games ), who was educated in Jesuit schools but is no longer a practicing Catholic, reveals the agonizing struggles of the priests who became involved. While Church officials are reticent about this incident and psychiatrists don't give credence to diabolical possession, the documentation presented here is credible and eerily fascinating. (July)
In 1949, a teenaged boy in suburban Washington, D.C., exhibited signs of demonic possession. His desperate family moved him to a relative's home in St. Louis, where they persuaded a team of Jesuit priests to perform an exorcism (a practice unheard of at the time). William Peter Blatty noticed a news article concerning the incident, which provided him with the inspiration for his novel and screenplay The Exorcist . Allen, coauthor with Norman Polmar of several American histories, based his work on a secret diary of one member of the exorcism team and personal interviews with another. His account is horrific, and he will succeed in forcing even highly skeptical, worldly readers into doubting their preconceived ideas about the ``medieval'' notion of demonic possession. Recommended for most collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/93.-- Richard S. Watts, San Bernardino Cty. Lib., Cal.