Silver Screen Artists

THE EXORCIST: Behind-the-Scenes Stories that are Scarier than the actual Film!!

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Behind-the-scenes stories from 'The Exorcist' are scarier than the actual film

By Sarah Long (for

The Exorcist is well-known as one of the scariest movies of all time, but what went down behind the scenes is just as scary as what we all see on screen. In fact, legend has it that the film is cursed. Besides that, The Exorcist is one of those films that is rich in history and trivia — the kind of trivia that makes the tale behind the tale more interesting.

There were numerous deaths associated with the production of the film, including the grandfather of Linda Blair (Regan), a security guard and a cameraman's baby, who was stillborn. Jack MacGowran, who played Burke Dennings in the film, didn't even live to see The Exorcist come out in theaters in 1973. He died of a heart attack one month before the film released. If you recall, Burke Dennings was the boozy director whose neck was broken before he was thrown out the window by Regan, making his real-life death all the more spooky.

Vasiliki Maliaros, who played Father Karras' beloved mother, also died before the film hit theaters. Like MacGowran's character, Maliaros' character also died in the film. Maliaros was discovered in a Greek restaurant in New York City shortly before production began on the movie. She had had no acting experience when she was asked to appear in The Exorcist. Sydow — who played the elderly Father Merrin, but was actually only 43 during production and transformed through makeup — lost his brother, Axel Ulrik Bertil von Sydow, on the first day he started shooting scenes for The Exorcist. All in all, there were a total of nine deaths related to The Exorcist!


Mercedes McCambridge, who provided the demon's voice in The Exorcist, was struck by tragedy in 1987, when her son murdered his wife and children before killing himself. Did we mention he put on a scary, wrinkled Halloween mask before embarking on his rampage?


It was later revealed that her son had been accused of fraudulent activity at his investment company and had been fired a few days before shooting his family, according to Movie Pilot. And get this: He was fired on Friday the 13th. The incident sent McCambridge into hiding, but she was later exonerated of any wrongdoing by a note left by her son, according to the LA Times. Incidentally, McCambridge reportedly achieved her hideous demon voice by chain-smoking and forcing herself to vomit a raw egg mixture. Now that's commitment.

Also during filming, Jason Miller's (Father Karras) son was reportedly almost killed after being struck by a motorcycle. Miller had two sons, and after careful research, no sources pinpoint which son almost died. However, one of his sons, Joshua John Miller, was born in 1974, so that eliminates him from the running. By deductive reasoning, the motorcycle crash victim would be Miller's other son — none other than the famous actor Jason Patric.

During the scene where Ellen Burstyn is thrown across the bedroom by Regan, she landed hard on her back and endured a permanent spine injury that still gives her trouble to this day. "When she knocks me on the floor, I landed on my back and [director William Friedkin] said, 'Cut, take two.'And I said, 'Billy, he’s pulling me too hard,' because I had a wire pulling me to the floor," Burstyn explained to HuffPost Live in 2014. "And Billy said, 'well it has to look real.' And I said, 'I know it has to look real, but I’m telling you, I could get hurt.' And so he said, 'OK, don’t pull her so hard... But then I’m not sure that he didn’t cancel that behind my back because the guy smashed me into the floor."

Legend has it that a carpenter accidentally cut off some of his own fingers while working on set pieces for The Exorcist. But this one has never officially been confirmed! You be the judge…looking at the track record?? Hmmmm… Especially when you take into consideration such facts as: The original set of the MacNeil home where Regan and Chris lived burned to the ground — with the exception of Regan's room. The catastrophe set production back six weeks, which is devastating in movie time…Sure, chalk it up to another coincidence but are we keeping score here?

Also during filming, Miller was randomly approached by a priest on the street. Reportedly, the priest handed him a medallion and warned him against those who do things to "reveal the devil for the trickster that he is, he will seek retribution against you or he will even try to stop what you are trying to do to unmask him."…Um, creepy.

Reportedly, the film premiered in Rome in a theater located between two churches during a huge lightning storm. While the movie was playing, one of the church's 400-year-old crosses was struck by lightning and dramatically fell to the middle of the piazza. True story…once again…creepy. People were reportedly so freaked out that theaters started providing barf bags and paramedics at showings. Legend has it that some theatergoers were even taken out of buildings on stretchers. Apparently, at one showing of the film, a woman was so stressed out and frightened that she passed out and broke her jaw on the floor. She sued production, saying insidious subliminal messages caused her to lose consciousness. Warner Bros. settled out of court for an undisclosed amount — but we bet it was hefty. CCan I sue…it scared the daylights out of me!



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