cover image Possessed


Thomas B. Allen. Doubleday Books, $20 (259pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42034-1

A recently discovered diary kept by a Jesuit priest who participated in an exorcism in 1949 records the chilling events recreated here. When a 13-year-old boy, Robbie Mannheim (a pseudonym), the only child of a Lutheran family in Maryland, was declared exorcised, the news prompted the writing of William Peter Blatty's bestselling novel The Exorcist , and a film of the same name. Far different from these accounts, the actual exorcising took place over months and in several locations, including a St. Louis hospital. There a team of Jesuits sought to release the boy from physical harm (seizures and spontaneously appearing bleeding wounds) and other manifestations of diabolical influence to which he often seemed curiously indifferent. Allen ( War Games ), who was educated in Jesuit schools but is no longer a practicing Catholic, reveals the agonizing struggles of the priests who became involved. While Church officials are reticent about this incident and psychiatrists don't give credence to diabolical possession, the documentation presented here is credible and eerily fascinating. (July)