William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist

William Peter Blattys The Exorcist

Often referred to as “the most terrifying book ever written”, William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, released in 1971. The Exorcist is Blatty’s most popular book, which was later adapted into a film. In this article, I will go over who William Peter Blatty was and what the book is about. I will also get into what I liked about the book and why I recommend it.

Who was William Peter Blatty?

William released The Exorcist in 1971. In 1973, the movie adaptation was released.

William Peter Blatty, born January 7, 1928, passed away on January 12, 2017. He was a renowned author for his horror book The Exorcist. He studied at Brooklyn Prep High School and in 1950, graduated from Georgetown University. He then went on to George Washington University to get a Masters in English Literature. He then joined the U.S Air Force and after leaving, he started to write books.

Although Blatty is known for his horror books, horror actually was not the first genre he wrote. Blatty was first a writer of a comedy book. Which Way to Mecca, Jack? was his first book, published in 1960. It is a semi-comedic memoir of his time in Lebanon working for the U.S Informational Agency. In 1971 he released his second book, The Exorcist, which became his most popular book. He continued The Exorcist story with the sequel Legion, though he still continued to write some comedic books. Some of his books would then be adapted into films, including The Exorcist.

The Exorcist

The book takes place in Washington D.C where Chris MacNeil and her daughter Regan MacNeil reside. They live in an apartment in Georgetown right across the street from a Jesuit university named Georgetown University.

One day while studying a script, Chris had heard some ruffling sounds coming from Regan’s room. Curious, Chris heads over to Regan’s room but finds her fast asleep with the window open. She doesn’t remember opening the window so she closes it and makes a mental note to tell one of her housekeepers, Karl, to check the attic for rats to figure out the source of the noise.

There were no rats, and as time went on more strange occurrences took place like finding an ouija board Regan would use, Regan mentioning an imaginary friend named Captain Howdy, Regan being sick, etc. Chris called a doctor and explained Regan’s temper and high energy. The doctor recommended her to another doctor who took a look at Regan and diagnosed her with a nerve disorder.

One day, at a party hosted by Chris, Regan went downstairs from her bedroom and created a scene in front of the guests. Chris had to quickly take her back upstairs. Chris then went back to the doctor again and explained Regan’s odd behavior. This time, she mentioned more unusual behavior coming from Regan like the incident at the party. Chris also mentioned Regan’s foul language, and a time where Chris walked in Regan’s room and found her heavy furniture out of place. Already having heard about demonic possession, Chris heard more from the doctor but this time because of Regan’s potential problem with her temporal lobe being misunderstood as demonic possession hundreds of years before. Regan would not get better anytime soon and she quickly started getting worse. She would start using a deep voice and move around on her bed in very dramatic ways. She was even prescribed Librium, something to make her fall asleep.

Burke Dennings

Burke Dennings was played by Jack MacGowran for the movie adaptation of the book. He died January 30, 1973.

Burke Dennings was a character in The Exorcist who was fairly close to Chris. He was a movie director and worked closely with Chris and even would go to her house unannounced. One night Burke was drunk and he had “stumbled” out of the window in Regan’s room landing on the hard concrete of M Street. Nobody knew who it could’ve been but a detective suspected it was Regan since she was the only one in the house. Chris, however, didn’t believe it since 11-year-old Regan was sick. As the book progresses, you hear about detective Kinderman who investigates Burke’s case and other problems with the housekeepers, Karl and Willi.

Damien Karras

In the movie for The Exorcist, Damien Karras was played by Jason Miller. He died in 2001 at the age of 62.

Chris was tired of getting nothing clear from doctors and Regan not progressing. Chris wanted to hold off on getting a priest because she was not very religious. She eventually felt it was her only choice.

At the party she had heard about a psychologist and priest, Damien Karras, from Father Dyer. Chris met with Father Karras and Karras took a look at Regan. He didn’t want to do an exorcism and first looked at Regan as a psychologist. Chris told Father Karras that she didn’t want a psychologist, she wanted a priest and he agreed to do the exorcism. After some convincing, the church let him do an exorcism but with the help of Father Merrin, a more experienced priest.

The Exorcism

The exorcism was the most eventful part of the book and movie. Father Merrin had told Father Karras not to listen to whatever the demon was saying and to focus on the exorcism. Karras was caught off-guard when the demon had started to talk with his recently deceased mother’s voice because he felt guilty for not being there at that moment. He got back on track and kept performing the exorcism with Father Merrin but Regan had thrown up. The demon was being very loud and things had started to fall around the room.

Unfortunately, due to his heart disease, Father Merrin collapsed on the floor, leaving Father Karras to complete the exorcism alone. Father Karras then screamed out to the demon to take him instead and leave Regan. The demon then made Father Karras walk out of Regan’s window, falling on the same concrete of M Street that Burke Dennings had fallen on. Chris and her friend Sharon heard the crash of the window and ran upstairs. Chris saw that Regan was normal and it was Sharon who had found Father Merrin on the floor and Father Karras on the concrete. Father Dyer, who was a good friend of Karras, went over to the scene and completed Karras’ confession, being there at his last moments.

My Thoughts

The fortieth anniversary edition of The Exorcist was published in 2011. On the top of the cover it says “The most terrifying novel ever written”.

The Exorcist book is an amazing read and I definitely recommend it. The book is not slow, there aren’t any dull moments. Not only is the book of the horror genre, there is crime with Burke’s death which adds some drama, especially including the problem with the housekeepers. The ending is really good but sad because it was so unexpected and I really liked Father Karras. The book and movie both capture the ending scene where Father Dyer does Father Karras’ confession very well and it is emotional considering the fact that Father Dyer, Karras’ friend, had been there for his last moments. The movie is old but it does have all major parts of the book in it. The acting is good and the exorcism scenes were very dramatic and eventful. I do prefer the book because it goes into more detail than the movie does. Blatty’s writing in the book is very specific and detailed which is what I really liked.

Overall, this is a book everyone should read.


Donate to The Tiger

Your donation will support the student journalists of Elmwood Park High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Tiger