The film still captivates 40 years after its debut, in part because it draws on the real-life story of a Prince George’s County boy. Its screenwriter and author, William Peter Blatty, died yesterday.
William Peter Blatty, author and screenwriter of “The Exorcist,” based his book on a real-life exorcism conducted on a boy, known as Roland Doe, who lived in this house in Prince George’s County. It is where his reported possession began in 1949. That winter, according to the boy’s parents and several books on the case, Roland’s bed began to shake violently, furniture moved across the room, and scratching noises were heard in the walls. After having Roland evaluated at Georgetown University Hospital, his parents met with the Rev. Albert Hughes, a Roman Catholic priest at St. James Parish, near their Maryland home. Hughes said he believed the boy was possessed and sought permission from the archbishop of Washington to begin the rite of exorcism.Jim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency