TV special plans to rid ‘Exorcist’ house of spirits

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TV special plans to rid ‘Exorcist’ house of spirits

NEW YORK - The Destination America network’s “Exorcism: Live!” on Friday could either turn out to be the scariest pre-Halloween program on television or the ghostly version of Al Capone’s vault. There isn’t much middle ground.

The mostly live, two-hour telecast will culminate in an attempt to rid a suburban St. Louis home of supposed malevolent spirits. The boy who was the subject of the head-turning 1949 exorcism immortalized in William Peter Blatty’s 1971 book, “The Exorcist,” and subsequent movie, briefly lived in the Bel-Nor, Missouri, house.

“This, to me at least, is probably the quintessential American horror story,” said Henry Schleiff, group president at Discovery Communications who oversees the network.

Only three years old, Destination America is available in about half of the nation’s TV homes. It has established a specialty in programs about the paranormal like “Ghost Asylum” and “A Haunting,” and is looking for some major attention.

The exorcism of the boy known as Roland Doe was completed outside of the house, but there’s evidence bad vibes remain there, said Jodi Tovay, who developed the special.

Chip Coffey, a psychic who participates in the show, said the spirits communicated with him when he visited the house, and a picture of Pope Francis was mysteriously ripped from his hand. “This stuff is real,” Coffey said. “This is nothing to play around with.”

Without that confirmation from Coffey and other psychics that something creepy remains there, Tovay said that Destination America wouldn’t go to the house.

The boy who was the subject of the 1949 exorcism is still alive. Now 80 and living in the Washington, D.C., area, he guards his privacy and declined to participate in the special, Tovay said. Similarly, the people now living in the St. Louis house vacated for the production and would not discuss their own experiences there.

The special will have some pre-produced segments, including stories of past demonic possessions and excerpts from the diary of Doe’s lead exorcist. They’ll show the bed where he was exorcised. The bulk of the show will be a seance to try and communicate with spirits in the house and an effort to try and extricate them. Six TV cameras will be stationed in the house and streamed live online, so second-screen viewers can monitor to see if there’s any activity.

Tovay is well aware that even if it’s true that the house is haunted, the demons aren’t necessarily tied to a TV schedule (9 p.m. EDT).

“I can schedule events, but I can’t schedule demonic activity,” she said. “If that happens, I’m not going to fake it.”

Still, “The Exorcist” story is one of the most frightening she’s ever heard and just retelling it should provide a few chills.

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