Possessed: SLU’s haunting history

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Saint Louis University has a sinister past: 54 years ago, the parents of a 15 year old boy came to SLU’s campus seeking an exorcism. They claimed their son had been possessed.  Thomas B. Allen, the author of “Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism”, spoke to a overflowing audience on the second floor of Pius Library concerning what transpired on campus all those years ago. Allen made sure to establish that evidence of the teenager’s actual, factual possession is unattainable. Yet what follows is constructed from witness accounts of the 1949 possession.

The boy, whom Allen called ‘Robbie’ to maintain his anonymity, had an Aunt Harriet who introduced him to a Ouija board. She thought it was a conduit to speak to the dead. On a night soon after eerie sounds began to ring through the house, the walls shook and sounds of scratching came from inside them. Soon Robbie was acting strangely, and the parents made an association between Robbie’s behavior and Aunt Harriet’s death.

They sent him to Reverend Luther Miles Schultz, a psychiatrist and Jesuit priest, who took the boy in to his home for a time. Unexplainably, supernatural things began and Robbie’s bed shook uncontrollably. Schultz created a makeshift bed for the boy on the floor out of a comforter, but the comforter slid underneath the bed and Robbie, unconscious, repeatedly bashed his head against the bedsprings.

They went to priests at Georgetown University for help, but Robbie only became more violent. Robbie and his parents then went to St. Louis where they had family and hoped to find a solution. They came into contact with Father Bowdern, Father Halloran and Father Bishop, whom would become the priests that would attempt an exorcism.

Robbie’s behavior only escalated during the exorcism, and he entered a trance every night. Scratches appeared on his body, the most distinct of which were the words ‘hell’ on his chest and the image of the devil on his leg. He reacted violently to prayers, nearly always with his eyes closed, but when they opened the boy seemed to be in between humanity and some other state.

Little progress was made over the following months.The parents eventually returned to Maryland with Bowdern in tow, still looking for a solution. The night before Easter, the priest tried to get the boy to go to mass. Suddenly, a voice came out of Robbie claiming it was Satan and that it would never leave because Robbie would never speak a certain word. Then the voice changed, and Robbie uttered, “Dominus.” The voice was Michael, Robbie later claimed, who appeared to him in his mind with flowing hair and a flaming sword and destroyed the demon with a word. “Dominus.”

An examiner later concluded that the boy never underwent a diabolical possession, and instead offered up a paranormal theory. Halloran never made up his mind about what really occurred.

“I simply don’t know,” he said.