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Roland Doe

The Boy Whose Exorcism was the Inspiration Behind “The Exorcist” Grew Up to be a NASA Engineer. He Contributed to the Apollo Mission in the 1960’s.

William Friedkin’s 1973 horror film The Exorcist is a classic. The film tells the story of a young girl possessed by a demonic force. It is one of the most successful horror films of all time, and critics praised it as a truly terrifying cinematic experience. But did you know what happened to the boy who inspired the film? 

The boy whose exorcism inspired “The Exorcist” grew up to become a NASA engineer. In the 1960s, his work aided the Apollo mission.

Roland Doe, The Inspiration for Exorcist

Ronald Hunkeler, who is later referred to pseudonymously as Roland Doe or Robbie Mannheim, was depressed over the loss of his beloved Aunt Harriet. Harriet was a spiritualist who had shown him how to use an Ouija board.

Ronald Hunkeler began to have strange experiences in early January 1949, shortly after Harriet died. He heard scratching sounds coming from his room’s floors and walls. Water dripped from pipes and walls inexplicably. The most concerning aspect was that his mattress would suddenly move.

Disgusted, Ronald’s family sought the advice of every expert they could find. Doctors, psychiatrists, and their local Lutheran minister could not assist the family. The minister advised the family to seek help from the Jesuits.

Hughes strapped the boy to the mattress and began his recitations for the exorcism. But he had to call it quits when Ronald slashed the priest across the shoulders with a piece of mattress spring, leaving the exorcism incomplete.

A few days later, the boy developed red scratches. One of the scratches formed the word LOUIS, signaling to Ronald’s mother that the family needed to travel to St. Louis, where the Hunkelers had relatives, to find a way to save their son. (Source: The Guardian)

Two Priests to the Rescue

During Ronald’s struggles, a family cousin attended St. Louis University. She connected the Hunkelers with Father Walter H. Halloran and Rev. William Bowdern. Following consultation with the university’s president, these two Jesuits agreed to perform an exorcism on young Ronald with the assistance of several assistants.

In early March 1949, the men gathered at the Roanoke Drive residence. The exorcists saw scratching on the boy’s body and the mattress violently moving. These were the same events in Maryland after the first exorcism failed.

A pitchfork-shaped pattern of red lines snaked down from the boy’s thigh to his ankle. For more than a month, this type of thing happened every night. When a red X appeared on Ronald’s chest, the priests assumed ten demons possessed him.

The two priests did not give up, continuing the exorcism night after night. The exorcism reached an unhealthy new level on the evening of March 20.

That evening, the priests present prayed to St. Michael to drive Satan from Ronald’s body. They yelled at Satan, threatening him with a battle for Ronald’s soul. Seven minutes later, Ronald awoke from his trance and exclaimed, He’s gone. The boy described a vision in which St. Michael defeated Satan on a vast battlefield.

According to Bowdern and Halloran, the strange occurrences and behavior stopped after that. And, despite telling the true story of The Exorcist, Ronald Hunkeler went on to live an utterly everyday life after that. (Source: The Guardian)

Image from Allthatsintersting

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