Let’s Talk About… The Curse of 1973’s “The Exorcist”

Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow, and Jason Miller in "The Exorcist"

Over the past 45 years, horror fans have been treated to countless movies about exorcism and possession. In 1973, when The Exorcist was released, the iconic horror flick did not go down so well. The movie was heavily criticized by the Catholic community for its offensive religious content.

Given its content, the fact the movie was considered controversial in the 1970s is no surprise. Far more interesting is the creepy and tragic accidents that happened on set and surrounding the film’s release which led many to consider The Exorcist to be cursed.

Few people are aware that the film was actually based on a true story. William Peter Blatty  wrote the novel following a real life exorcism and changed the main character to a girl to protect the boy’s identity. This makes the following events even more creepy.

The Set Catches Fire

Shooting for the film is initially delayed thanks to a pigeon finding its way into the circuit boxes and causing a fire. Reagan’s room, however, is untouched by the flames.

Injuries On Set

Many injuries happened during filming. Ellen Burstyn, who plays Regan’s mother, was injured when her possessed daughter throws her to the floor on set. The scene where the accident occurred was used in the original feature and so her terrified screams are genuine. In addition, Linda Blair (who plays Regan) injured her back during a possession scene when she was thrown out of bed thanks to a piece of the bed breaking.

Deaths Following The Film

Before the film was completed, Jack MacGowran, and Vasiliki Maliaros, whose characters died in the film, died in tragic accidents. A decade after the film’s release, Mercedes McCambridge, who voiced the demon, discovered her son had murdered his wife and children before taking his own life. Linda Blair also lost several family members during filming.


These terrible events led Televangelist Billy Graham to claim: “There is a power of evil in the film, in the fabric of the film itself.” In fact, some people believed that watching the movie on a projector would invite the curse into one’s home. A combination of controversy and talk of curses resulted in the film being banned in the majority of Middle Eastern countries.

So yes, Hollywood blockbusters like The Conjuring and Insidious may use better visual effects, but the backstory and eerie coincidences behind The Exorcist are far more chilling.