First edition cover
|Author(s)||William Peter Blatty|
|Publisher||Harper & Row|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
The Exorcist is a novel of supernatural suspense by William Peter Blatty, published by Harper & Row in 1971. It was inspired by a 1949 case of demonic possession and exorcism that Blatty heard about while he was a student in the class of 1950 at Georgetown University, a Jesuit school. On October 31, 2010, Cemetery Dance published a special omnibus edition of The Exorcist and its sequel Legion, signed by Blatty (ISBN 978-1587672118). A limited edition of 750 copies (with an additional 52 leatherbound copies), it is now out of print. On September 27, 2011, The Exorcist was re-released as a 40th Anniversary Edition in paperback, hardcover and audiobook editions with differing cover artwork. This new, updated edition is set to feature new and revised material: "The 40th Anniversary Edition of The Exorcist will have a touch of new material in it as part of an all-around polish of the dialogue and prose. It also features all new cover artwork and interiors by the artist Jeremy Caniglia. First time around I never had the time (meaning the funds) to do a second draft, and this, finally, is it. With forty years to think about it, a few little changes were inevitable -- plus one new character in a totally new very spooky scene. This is the version I would like to be remembered for."
Factual basis for the novel 
Aspects of the character Father Merrin were based on the British archaeologist Gerald Lankester Harding, who had excavated the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls had been found and whom Blatty had met in Beirut. Blatty has stated that Harding "was the physical model in my mind when I created the character [of Merrin], whose first name, please note, is Lankester."
Recent investigative research by freelance journalist Mark Opsasnick indicates that Blatty's novel was based on an actual 1949 exorcism of a young boy from Cottage City, Maryland, whom Opsasnick refers to using the pseudonyms Robbie Mannheim and Roland Doe. The child's Catholic family was convinced the child's aggressive behavior was attributable to demonic possession, and called upon the services of Father Walter Halloran to perform the rite of exorcism.
An elderly Jesuit priest named Father Lankester Merrin is leading an archaeological dig in northern Iraq and is studying ancient relics. Following the discovery of a small statue of the demon Pazuzu (an actual ancient Assyrian demigod) and a modern-day St. Joseph medal curiously juxtaposed together at the site, a series of omens alerts him to a pending confrontation with a powerful evil, which, unknown to the reader at this point, he has battled before in an exorcism in Africa. Meanwhile, in Georgetown, a young girl named Regan MacNeil living with her famous mother, actress Chris MacNeil, becomes inexplicably ill. After a gradual series of poltergeist-like disturbances, she undergoes disturbing psychological and physical changes, appearing to become "possessed" by a demonic spirit.
After several unsuccessful psychiatric and medical treatments, Regan's mother turns to a local Jesuit priest. Father Damien Karras, who is currently going through a crisis of faith coupled with the loss of his mother, agrees to see Regan as a psychiatrist, but initially resists the notion that it is an actual demonic possession. After a few meetings with the child, now completely inhabited by a diabolical personality, he turns to the local bishop for permission to perform an exorcism on the child.
The bishop with whom he consults does not believe Karras is qualified to perform the rites, and appoints the experienced Merrin, who has recently returned to the United States, to perform the exorcism; although he does allow the doubt-ridden Karras to assist him. The lengthy exorcism tests the priests both physically and spiritually. When Merrin, who had previously suffered cardiac arrhythmia, dies during the process, completion of the exorcism ultimately falls upon Father Karras. When he demands that the demonic spirit inhabit him instead of the innocent Regan, the demon seizes the opportunity to possess the priest. Karras surrenders his own life in exchange for Regan's by jumping out of her bedroom window.
See also 
- Dimension Desconocida. Ediciones Robinbook. 2009. ISBN 9788499170015. Retrieved 2010-04-04. "La inspiración del exorcista La historia de Robbie Mannheim es un caso típico de posesión, y es la que dio vida a la película El Exorcista."
- TheNinthConfiguration.com - Further 40th Details
- Folha de São Paulo, Ilustrada, p.5, January 28, 1976 (in portuguese) - Retrieved December 29, 2011.