The Exorcist by author William Peter Blatty

The Terrifying Story That Shocked The World


William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel The Exorcist shocked and captivated readers with its disturbing tale of demonic possession. As someone who loves a good scare, I eagerly dove into this horror classic to see if its reputation was deserved. Spoiler alert: it absolutely is.

The Exorcist by author William Peter Blatty

You can find The Exorcist by author William Peter Blatty on your favorite bookstore, including and Amazon UK.

About author William Peter Blatty

Author William Peter Blatty

William Peter Blatty is best known as the author of the iconic horror novel The Exorcist, which was published in 1971 and went on to become one of the best-selling books of all time. However, Blatty had a long and varied career as a writer across different genres before hitting it big with The Exorcist.

Born in New York City in 1928, Blatty graduated from Georgetown University and worked for the United States Information Agency while beginning his writing career. His early published works included comedic novels such as Which Way to Mecca, Jack? (1960), John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! (1963), and Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane (1966). While these books did not achieve great commercial success, they demonstrated Blatty’s flair for satire and ability to sharply capture the quirks of human nature.

The turning point came when Blatty shifted to the horror genre. Influenced by a newspaper article he had read about a teenage boy’s apparent demonic possession and exorcism, Blatty crafted a taut supernatural tale set at Georgetown University and involving a young girl possessed by a malevolent spirit. When published in 1971, The Exorcist created a pop culture sensation through its unflinching depiction of demonic possession and innocence destroyed. It stayed on international bestseller lists for months and was also adapted into an Academy Award-winning film in 1973 directed by William Friedkin and starring Linda Blair and Max von Sydow. The iconic horror franchise was born.

Even after this huge success, Blatty continued writing in a versatile range of styles, including writing screenplays for film adaptations of his own novels like The Ninth Configuration (1978). He also occasionally returned to comedy with efforts like Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Fable (1996) while largely focusing on religious themes about the supernatural and faith. His 40th Anniversary Edition of The Exorcist released in 2011 added new scenes and backstory, showing his continued commitment to expanding and enriching his most iconic work.

Right until the end of his life, William Peter Blatty remained an inventive writer and master horror craftsman. Though always haunted by the success of The Exorcist, he continued to write fiction exploring moral themes and character rather than just surface gore or shocks. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 89, leaving behind a body of genre-defining work.

When Evil Comes Knocking

The story centers on 12-year-old Regan MacNeil, who begins exhibiting bizarre, violent behavior after playing with a Ouija board. Things escalate quickly as Regan spouts obscenities, lashes out physically, and displays supernatural strength and phenomena. Desperate for answers, her mother Chris seeks medical help to no avail. Their last hope lies with exorcist Father Damien Karras.

But can Karras’s faith prevail against the demon that has possessed the young girl?

Blatty masterfully builds suspense throughout the entire 400 pages. The prose drags you in andforces you to confront the unthinkable: that sometimes evil can’t be rationally explained.

Controversy From The Start

Set in Washington D.C., The Exorcist created controversy immediately upon release. Many denounced it as “spiritual pornography” exploiting faith for profit. But in my view Blatty handles religious concepts thoughtfully, asking profound questions about the nature of belief and evil.

And while sensational, there’s a nuance often lacking in modern horror. The Exorcist will make your pulse pound, but it will also make you think.

Complex, Compelling Characters

Amid all the pea soup and spinning heads, it’s easy to overlook the rich character development.

Blatty gives us fully-formed, complex individuals wrestling with internal turmoil. Chris mourns her late husband while facing single parenthood. Karras battles his wavering faith following his mother’s death. Both are deeply scarred people before confronting the demon terrorizing Regan.

We also see thoughtful priests grappling with the implications of evil presenting in such an unspeakable way. These religious figures aren’t caricatures, but thinking men struggling with questions for which there are no easy answers.

It’s far more profound than most horror fare.

“What An Excellent Day For An Exorcism”

The memorable quotes don’t stop there. From the ominous catch phrase above to Regan’s chilling taunts, you’ll find dialogue that stays with you long after finishing the book.

Blatty masterfully brings terror to life in an unflinching way that few books manage to achieve.

The Scariest Book You’ll Ever Read

The Exorcist deserves its reputation as one of the scariest books ever written. The fact that it’s based on real events makes it even more unnerving.

While the shocking moments get the most attention, what stays with you is the thoughtful exploration of belief in the face of unspeakable evil. This isn’t just sensational horror, but a profound and philosophical examination into the nature of good and evil itself.

Forty years after publication, The Exorciststill stands the test of time for delivering piercing terror rooted in real questions about morality and faith. I highly recommend taking the plunge…if you dare.

Now A Terrifying Film

The book spawned a massively successful film adaptation. The Exorcist movie cemented its iconic status across generations by translating taut suspense and stomach-turning scenes to the big screen.

Something about seeing a sweet young girl transformed into a raving, head-spinning monster connects on a primal, visual level akin to our greatest nightmares brought to life.

Like the novel, the film provoked outrage and admiration in equal measure. And therein lies The Exorcist’s legacy: the ability to get under our skin like nothing else by confronting us with a vision so horrifying, so transgressive, that we can’t look away, even if we would like to!

There’s a reason The Exorcist tops all those “Scariest Movie Ever” lists: it shows us evil in its most profane, extreme form while simultaneously making us contemplate the very deepest questions about morality and faith.

Why You Should Read This Terrifying Classic

The Exorcist remains a must-read for anyone who loves cogent, sophisticated horror that unsettles both mind and soul. Here’s why you need to devour this demonic tale today:

  • It inspired dozens of lesser knock-offs, from films to books. Go back and read the OG scary story that started it all.
  • The writing quality stands head and shoulders above cheap horror thrills. This is an exceptionally-crafted literary work.
  • Questions about the nature of evil still ring universally relevant today. Themes of belief feel timely rather than dated.
  • For a book about demonic possession, there’s an unexpected sensitivity. Don’t assume it’s gratuitous or trashy.
  • It’s genuinely terrifying and discomforting. Prepare to be scared out of your wits.

The Exorcist set the bar high for provocative, quality horror driven by philosophical questions about good and evil. Give it a read to discover why four decades later, this demon still possesses our imaginations.

More Spine-Tingling Reads

Once The Exorcist grabs hold and refuses to let go, check out these 7 mysterious (and sometimes frightening) books:

  • Angels and Demons, Dan Brown. A gripping thriller that follows Harvard professor Robert Langdon on a heart-racing quest to find an apocalyptic weapon hidden inside the Vatican before it destroys the city.
  • The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown. Langdon is back, this time trying to solve a murder in the Louvre that contains a cryptic message leading to stunning secrets kept hidden by a clandestine society for two thousand years.
  • The Stand, Stephen King. King’s post-apocalyptic epic pits survivors against an evil hand threatening to wipe out humanity.Features his knack for rooting supernatural horror in relatable characters.
  • The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris. Harris explores the psychology of evil through fava bean-loving Hannibal Lecter and rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling. It’s sophisticated, psychologically astute horror.
  • Hell House, Richard Matheson. A dying millionaire offers a prize to whoever can prove life after death by spending a night in the haunted Belasco House. Will the guests make it out alive or fall victim to Hell House?
  • House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski. This postmodern haunted house tale with unusual formatting provides dread and unease from its unconventional first page to terrifying end.
  • Ghost Story, Peter Straub. Straub’s breakout novel features aging gentlemen recounting ghostly tales…before a revengeful spirit turns its fury on them. Terrifying, character-driven horror at its finest.

The Exorcist opened the door for provocative literary horror grounded in the battle between good and evil. Explore these frighteningly good reads once you muster the courage to close Blatty’s terrifying tome.


What inspired Blatty to write this novel?

William Peter Blatty based The Exorcist on a supposedly real exorcism case from 1949 that he heard about while a student at Georgetown University. The story of a 14-year-old boy from Maryland who underwent a Catholic exorcism ritual fascinated Blatty and inspired him to explore the boundaries between faith and science in this legendary horror novel.

What makes The Exorcist stand out in the horror genre?

The Exorcist combines visceral scares with serious theological questions and an emotionally resonant story about a mother trying to save her daughter. Blatty’s expert blending of a gritty, real-world setting with supernatural terror grounds the horror in palpable realism. Even 50 years later, The Exorcist stands out for its ability to get under readers’ skin through both frights and a philosophical examination of good versus evil.

Why was The Exorcist so controversial when it was released?

The Exorcist faced controversy in the 1970s for its vivid depictions of demonic possession, including blasphemous language and imagery. The book also offended some religious people who felt it promoted an unscientific belief in possession. While frightening for many, it compelled conversations about the nature of evil and possibility of paranormal religious events not explainable by traditional science.

How accurate is The Exorcist to real exorcisms performed by the Catholic Church?

While dramatized for horror effect, Blatty based The Exorcist on accounts of an actual 1949 exorcism. Many of the ritual specifics in the novel are drawn from Church procedures, like the use of holy water, crosses, prayers to saints, and multiple priests working together. Descriptions also match reports of levitation, unnatural body manipulation, and drastic voice changes among subjects of alleged demonic possession.

What filmmaking techniques make The Exorcist movie so frightening?

Director William Friedkin amplified the novel’s terror through ingenious film techniques. The combination of grating, cacophonous music and subliminal imagery creates an unsettling tone from the start. Makeup and effects convincingly depict the demon’s twisting of Regan’s body. Clever editing transitions, intense performances, and Dick Smith’s iconic makeup also terrify without excessive gore. The result leaves seared images of possessed Regan in viewers’ minds.

Has medical science provided explanations for real-life possessions?

While medicine has uncovered physical and mental conditions that may explain some apparent possessions, science has not conclusively proven or disproven spiritual explanations. Conditions like dissociative identity disorder or seizure disorders share similarities with reports of demonic activity but do not account for all the radical behaviors and paranormal phenomena described in some cases. The Exorcist stirs debate between religious and scientific perspectives.

How did writing The Exorcist affect William Peter Blatty’s personal faith?

Penning this supernatural good-versus-evil thriller reignited Blatty’s strong childhood Catholic faith after years of spiritual doubt. Researching accounts of possession and exorcism convinced him that benign and malignant spiritual forces could manifest and battle for human souls. He believed writing The Exorcist was guided by God to share this message and described the process as a profound religious experience that restored and deepened his belief in angels, demons, and God.

What is the iconic quote from The Exorcist and why is it so creepy in context?

“Your mother sucks c***s in hell” is the iconic vulgar line uttered by the possessed Regan. This shocking obscenity arises early in the possession as the demon crudely lashes out, inverting Regan’s innocence. Coming from a previously sweet young girl, the line horrifies, offends, and immediately establishes the shockingly profane nature of the demon controlling her body. It leaves both the characters and readers reeling.

How does Regan’s possession compare to real-life exorcism cases?

Regan exhibits many behaviors reported in alleged possessions: drastic personality changes, unnatural body manipulation, supernatural sensory knowledge, repulsion by sacred items, and speaking in multiple voices. Details like her levitation, head rotation, and violent reactions to religious provocation align with several real case descriptions. Regan’s progression also follows the Church’s classification model of possession levels. Blatty clearly modeled his fictional case on realities described by exorcists.

Why do some critics consider The Exorcist one of the most spiritually significant horror novels?

Unlike much horror fiction focused narrowly on shocks, The Exorcist thoughtfully explores profound spiritual questions about the reality of good and evil as spiritual forces. Some laud Blatty for bravely exposing the darkest manifestations of these powers in a mainstream work of fiction. The story functions on both visceral and philosophical levels, providing entertainment but also asking readers to confront the possibility of supernatural forces battling for human souls.

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