6 Creepy Things That Happened on the Movie Set of “The Exorcist”

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Lifestyle Scary Movies and Series

When William Peter Blatty (1928 – 2017) the writer of “The Exorcist” and subsequent writer and director of the sequel “The Exorcist III” began to visualize the screenplay for the original movie, he wanted to create a paranormal experience that would surpass anything that anyone had seen in the theaters before.  

The book was published in 1971, and it spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It was because of the explosive success of “The Exorcist” book (which sold over 13 million copies in the United States alone after publishing) that the movie was shot in 9 short months, and released in 1973.  The movie “The Exorcist” received 10 Academy Award nominations, and won 15 other film awards internationally.  

After the movie was released on December 26, 1973, audiences flocked to see it.   The imagery in the movie proved to be so shocking for 70’s audiences (who had never seen anything like it on the big screen before) that several individuals filed civil personal injury suits against Warner Bros.  From instances of fainting and vomiting in the theater, to heart attacks and miscarriages, the reports of emotional damage after watching the film were so prolific that one psychiatric journal published a research paper discussing the ‘cinematic neurosis’ triggered specifically by the film.  

To this day, few films have managed to capture the raw sense of evil that “The Exorcist” did.  In fact, both William Peter Blatty (writer/producer) and DirectoWilliam Friedkin went to great lengths to capture the realism of a true historical exorcism (on which the book was based) that many people suspect something ominous and evil was attracted to the set of the movie.  

Check out these 6 paranormal events that happened on the set of “The Exorcist” and you decide whether evil entities may have been ‘hanging out’.  Do you think that occult movies attract dark presences and influences?  

1. The Original Home for the McNeil Home Was Destroyed by Fire 

The interior sets for filming were built in New York City, however the exterior shots (and the McNeil home) was to be filmed on location in Washington, D.C.  The entire set for the MacNeil home caught fire and burned to the ground, which delayed filming for six additional weeks.  There was one room completely untouched however in the catastrophic blaze; the bedroom of Regan McNeil.  

The source of the fire and the strange and eerie fact that the bedroom had remained intact, was enough to make the writer and director seek out a Jesuit Priest (Thomas M. King) to bless the set, however unsettling and unexplainable mishaps continued to occur during the production of the movie.  

Nothing says “relax, it’s not dangerous here” better than having a Priest stop by to splash Holy Water over the set.  Yikes.  

2. Ellen Burstyn (Chris McNeil) Sustains Permanent Spinal Injury  

In that famous scene where Regan McNeil is mutilating herself with a Crucifix, actress Ellen Burstyn (Chris McNeil) rushes to the bed to stop her daughter.  The demon then shoves Chris McNeil across the room in one violent motion, and her scream is blood curdling and painful.  

That chilling scream that many of us will never forget, was actually authentic.  The stuntmen had a wire rigged to the actress to pull her backwards and abruptly for the filming of the scene. Unfortunately, the mechanics were rigged with full force, and her painful scream was the result of a permanent and painful spinal injury that she sustained during filming.  

Linda Blair (the actress who portrayed Regan McNeil) also sustained a serious back injury, when the set rigging that helped her levitate above her bed broke, sending her crashing to the floor.   

Photo: Warner Bros.

3. Abusive Directing Methods Used by William Friedkin  

When you watch “The Exorcist” you can literally feel the fear that the actors are portraying in the movie.  That is one of the rare qualities of the film that still makes it stand out among horror and paranormal movies and the original and most terrifying film of all time. Directors are often known to use unusual methods to elicit realistic responses from actors, but on the set of “The Exorcist” William Friedkin went over the top to create that realism.  

The Director would slap people, scream at them and make them cry, and also fire guns beside their faces to create ‘shock’ or trauma, before filming critical scenes.  If every actor in the film seems traumatized it’s because they actually were; and that led actors like Ellen Burstyn to call Friedkin a maniac.  And not in a fun, joking way.  

People who are traumatized are also more vulnerable to demonic suggestion while they are tired, and emotionally fatigued.  Something that was also linked to some of the more bizarre happenings on the set during filming.  

4. Inanimate Objects Moved on the Set  

The character Father Karras was played by actor Jason Miller, who reported many strange paranormal experiences while he was filming the movie. That Jesuit Priest that was called to bless the set hung around off and on during the filming (because of unexplained events) and Miller reported that the Priest gave him an eerie warning: 

“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”.  And then, Miller was handed an amulet for protection; a medallion of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Later, in character Father Karras’ dream, a medallion falls in slow motion to the ground, incorporated by the Director and Producer after the exchange with the Jesuit Priest.  

Several members of the crew witnessed seeing inanimate objects move on the set, before their eyes.  Writer and Producer William Blatty reported that the telephone that was used to communicate between the set and the production office would rise off the hook and then crash to the floor. 

William Blatty also claimed that he felt a dark presence around him when he was writing the book.  He also reported instances where he woke to find himself levitating in his home.  

Director William Friedkin used trauma inducing methods such as gunfire and ‘slapping’ actors to achieve emotional effects. Photo: Warner Bros.

5. Nine Deaths from Crew and Actors Associated with the Film 

During the production of “The Exorcist” Jack MacGowren (an Irish actor) portrayed the role of Burke Dennings, Chris McNeil’s manager / possible romantic interest.  It was Burke Dennings that connected Chris McNeil to Father Karras, as they both worked at Georgetown University.  Burke Dennings is the first victim of possessed child Regan McNeil; his neck is snapped as his head is turned 360° and his body tumbles down the steep flight of stairs after being thrown out the window by a mysterious force.  

Actor Jack MacGowren contracted pneumonia on the set.  When the movie was shot, the bedroom of character Regan McNeil was refrigerated to freezer proportions.  In fact, the crew was required to wear parkas!  This helped create the paranormal cold effects and vapor clouds when actors were talking (before CGI).  MacGowren died just after his scenes wrapped up, but before the full production was complete.  Eight other members of the production and their close family members died during, or shortly after the release of the film.  

6. Lightning Strikes Ancient Crucifix in Rome Screening  

When “The Exorcist” was released, it was screened in one particular theatre in Rome (near the Vatican).   The theater was located between two historic churches. One the day the movie was released in Rome, there were unseasonal torrential rains and a thunderstorm (which added we’re sure to the scary effect for Italian movie goers).  

During the storm, a 400-year-old cross was struck by lightning and fell to the ground, in the middle of the piazza (or square) just outside the move theater.  How is that for a clear message from the superpowers that be?  Maybe they didn’t like the fact that “The Exorcist” was released the day after Christmas; intentionally, to spark international religious furor.  

Billy Graham (televangelist) spoke frequently about the film publicly and claimed that ‘the very celluloid of the film itself was cursed’ with powerful subliminal and demonic imagery.  He went on to further explain to his followers that he believed a demon lived within the movie reel, captured during the filmmaking process, and that its power could influence anyone who watched the movie.  

What do you think?  Is it possible for occult films to attract malevolent forces that can do harm?  Do films of this genre open a door to the paranormal, and has anything eerie happened to you when you’ve watched “The Exorcist” or another movie about a demonic possession?  Share your comments with us.  

7 Sea Hauntings Worth Watching

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Best Of Best of Movies Featured Scary Movies and Series

“Red Sky at night, Sailors delight; Red Sky in the morning, Sailors take warning.” Ahh the sea, it offers freedom, mystery, tales of glorious expedition, and epic struggles. Sailors have always been a superstitious folk from reading the sky to minding birds for bad luck. The sea is possibly the best backdrop for a good haunting and ghost ships are no exception here. Ships are often seen as almost human entities from being named to how they are referred to as he or she. It’s no surprise that there are piles of lore around haunted ships, ocean locations and sea creatures. It’s definitely one of my favorite locations for horror and here are a list of some of the great sea fairing horror movies out there.

The Fog-1980

The Fog Horror Movie Poster

 You may think that everything is safe, however, when a dense fog rolls into town, you may think otherwise. On the coasts of Oregon, you will find that this fog comes with vengeful spirits looking to haunt. 100 years after a ship mysteriously disappeared and sank, the spirits are back. The people of this small town must take a look at their history to stop this serious problem. One of Jon Carpenters many horror masterpieces here.

The Fog is rated R. 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-fog-1980/id707558494

Ghost Ship – 2002 

Ghost Ship Movie Poster

A 1962 passenger ship that has been lost for many years is soon discovered. This ship was floating in an isolated area of the Bering Sea. It was believed that all the passengers had died until further discovery has shown otherwise. The crew that discovered this long-lost ship is in for a huge surprise when the original crew of the boat is still on board…. in a supernatural sort of way.

https://www.vudu.com/content/movies/details/Ghost-Ship/9750

Death Ship- 1980 

Death Ship Horror Movie Poster

Going on vacation on a modern-day cruise could have you thinking twice. A ghostly-looking ship rams into the cruise ship. The passengers aboard the cruise ship who survive climb to this large vessel. The survivors soon discover that it is a Nazi torture vessel from World War II. They soon realize that they were better off dead than on this new ship.

https://tubitv.com/movies/454503/death_ship?utm_source=google-feed&tracking=google-feed

Triangle- 2009 

Triangle Horror Movie Poster

Nothing is better than a group of friends on a yacht… Until they are in an incident that leaves their yacht upturned. Luckily, they find a cruise ship that was drifting in the open sea. However, soon after climbing aboard this ship, they realize they were better off floating on their capsized yacht.

https://tubitv.com/movies/480291/triangle?utm_source=google-feed&tracking=google-feed

Deep Rising – 1998 

deep rising horror movie poster

Hijacking a luxury ocean liner is not an easy task, however, it is made even more difficult when you are faced with some pretty crazy creatures. Hijackers are looking to loot this luxury ship, however, they soon discover that they are not the only ones that have taken over the vessel. They are faced with man-eating creatures. 

https://www.vudu.com/content/movies/details/Deep-Rising/13317

Below -2002 

Below Horror Movie Poster

An encounter that occurs between two world war II vessels soon becomes the perfect camouflage for paranormal activities to begin. There are not that many submarine horror flicks out there so this one goes on the list simply for picking a new vessel.  

https://www.vudu.com/content/movies/details/Below/31486

Mary – 2019

Mary Horror Movie Poster

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5834854/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_10

An empty sailboat is found adrift at sea and is brought into port. When the owners cannot be located it goes to auction. Unwittingly a fishing boat captain buys it to restore and start his dream business charting tourists on the new sailboat. He sets sail on it’s maiden voyage with his family only to find out it has a haunted past.

7 Times the Necronomicon Appeared in Cinema

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Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

What is the Necronomicon, you may ask? It’s an ancient tome that sprung from the nightmarish imagination of H.P. Lovecraft, which he encouraged his peers to use in their literature as well–subsequently, it has become a book that symbolizes evil in horror culture. It continues on now, as an icon of what can come from the supernatural and occult influences of, what could be, an unknown origin of our universe.

So now we get to enjoy a plethora of movies that all have something to do with the Necronomicon–to be clear, this isn’t an exhaustive list of where the Necronomicon appears within pop-culture, but these are some of the most memorable!

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

This movie never got rave reviews, but it did add to the pop-culture relevance to the history of the Necronomicon. Despite its blatant 1970s style, it has a sort of creepy charm to it. This particular mystery is taken from Lovecraft’s novel by the same name in which Wilbur Whateley, a seemingly harmless young man, coerces a female virgin from a California University to be the vessel for the spawn of the devil. It’s worth a watch, even if it’s just to learn more about what the Necronomicon can do when it’s in the hands of someone who wants to destroy the world.

The Evil Dead Collection

The Evil Dead Franchise

Yeah, we know, the Evil Dead franchise constitutes four movies, a series, as well as a handful of crossover movies, comic books, and more–but we’re going to count it as one for the sake of this list. As far as the Necronomicon is concerned, it is pretty much contained in the four feature films, as well as the television series. This supernatural horror film franchise was the brainchild of Sam Raimi and revolves around the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, which is referenced as an ancient Sumerian text that systematically targets and possesses its victims. Initially, a group of teenagers who are staying in a cabin overnight, in The Evil Dead (1981); the franchise devolves into a sort of comedic horror hybrid, which suits fans just fine.

The Evil Dead Franchise IMDB Listing

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

The ninth chapter of the Friday the 13th franchise, where we get yet another dose of our favorite supernatural psycho, Jason Voorhees. We see Jason return from the dead in order to possesses the body of a medical coroner–so we realize that even after his death, we can never escape the fate of Camp Crystal Lake. This movie is one of several interesting crossovers that appears with Raimi’s Evil Dead Franchise–as the Necronomicon and the Kandarian dagger appear within the movie, very briefly. Here’s the thing though and Adam Marcus confirmed it later on–Jason Vorhees is now a deadite, after his mother made a deal with the devil to bring her son back.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday IMDB Listing

Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993)

Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1994)

This film is a collection of three terrifying Lovecraft stories brought together as an anthology. In the Cold revolves around a scientist who cannot tolerate warm temperatures. The Drowned tells the story of a man who inherits a dilapidated mansion from his uncle. Whispers concerns two police officers who have to deal with a particular resident of a horrifying subterranean community.

Necronomicon: Book of the Dead IMDB Listing

Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft (1998)

Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft (1998)

This particular movie never made it to the big screen; in fact, the low budget and actors made this a less refined, yet interesting take on Lovecraft’s original creations. We follow the story of a young man who inherits a book–the Necronomicon–from an estranged uncle, and against his better judgment begins to investigate the content of the book quite intently. After reading from the book, he begins to be haunted by disturbing dreams that are reminiscent of the Lovecraft universe, this leads him to become interested in the writings of the father of cosmic horror himself.

Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft IMDB Listing

The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

This anthology of horror features a myriad of inexplicable and terrifying stories; part spiraling insanity, part supernatural exploration, Enola Penny is obsessed with what is thought to be a long-abandoned theatre. Acting upon her impulsive curiosity, she sneaks in one night and what she finds in that dilapidated auditorium is a show she could have never expected. This show features six different stories and while it might not be a huge part of the story, there is one entitled “Mother of Toads” which is based loosely on a story by Clark Ashton Smith, a colleague of Lovecraft’s. Smith’s stories regularly featured the Necronomicon and this one was no exception.

The Theatre Bizarre IMDB Listing

Color Out of Space (2019) Movie Poster

Color Out of Space (2019)

Loosely based on the short story by Lovecraft, Color Out of Space is possibly the most successful movie to come out of the body of work of H.P. Lovecraft. This isn’t of course due to a flaw in his stories, so much as an inability to capture the cosmic horror sub-genre for which Lovecraft is responsible. This doesn’t follow the short story that Lovecraft wrote specifically, so it can’t be judged based on those merits, but it does capture the essence of Lovecraft’s cosmic horror. This movie focuses on a secluded farm that is struck by a strange meteorite, the consequences of which are quite disastrous for the family who lives there with the potential of it reaching the rest of the world.

Color Out of Space IMDB Listing

8 Hollywood Stars Who Started Their Careers in B Horror Movies

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Featured Scary Movies and Series

We all have to start somewhere and for some of Hollywood’s greats that was acting in B Horror movies. I think you will be pleasantly surprised to find out who of the current Hollywood elite have had parts in some pretty bad B Horror movies. From seductive snake people to genetically altered tomatoe invasions, they have done it all. And by bad I mean totally worth watching as soon as humanly possible.

Lair of the White Worm movie poster

Hugh Grant – The Lair of The White Worm

Yep, you read that right, romcom star Hugh Grant was in a horror movie and a weird one at that. Lair of The White Worm directed by Ken Russel is just plain strange. Grant plays the hero who comes from a long family lineage of battling the noted White Worm(s). Synopsis: When an archaeologist uncovers a strange skull in a foreign land, the residents of a nearby town begin to disappear, leading to further inexplicable occurrences. The investigation leads to a sort of snake cult that ultimately Grant helps to dispatch. If you have never seen a Ken Russel film I say why not start here. It’s a bit odd but it’s also a pretty good time. Your first Grant sighting might throw you off but after a while, you’ll find he plays a convincing hero here.

Mark Ruffalo – Mirror Mirror 2 Raven Dance

Mirror Mirror 2 horror movie poster

Avengers Mark Ruffalo had to start somewhere and in the 1990’s it turns out horror was an option. You’ve probably never heard of this horror movie and well there is a reason for that. In Mirror Mirror 2 Raven Dance – A ghostly mirror is found hidden in a church orphanage, yet few realize its legacy of evil. When an innocent teen discovers that she is being stalked by her evil stepsister, the mirror’s demonic power is again unleashed. As the mirror gains strength from the blood of the damned, the ultimate battle between good and evil begins. This was one of the first few films he was in and he apparently liked it so much he went back for Mirror Mirror 3.

Katherine Heigl – Valentine

Valentine horror movie poster

Valentine’s Day 1980 something: The story starts at the school dance where a geeky Jeremy Melton faces one rejection after another when asking four popular girls to dance with him. A fifth, less popular girl, agrees, and they end up making out under the bleachers. When a group of school bullies catches them, the girl claims that Jeremy attacked her. The bullies proceed to strip off his clothes and beat him up in front of the entire school. Fast forward to 2001 where the students are all now in their 20s. After a disastrous date with a loser, one of the girls, a pre-med student, is murdered by a Cherub-mask wearing killer who sent her a death threat in the form of a Valentine card prior to the attack. After the four remaining girls are reunited at her funeral, they all start receiving similar cards and the slasher mayhem ensues.

Katherine Heigl doesn’t make it more than 8 minutes into this one before she is murdered but her name still appears on the top of the movie poster for obvious reasons.

George Clooney – Return to Horror High/Return of The Killer Tomatoes

Horror high movie poster

George Clooney grabbed two classic B Horror movies for his credits.

Return to Horror High – In 1982, at Crippen High School, a serial killer escapes justice following a murderous rampage. Five years later, Cosmic Pictures comes to town to make a film about the Crippen High murders in the abandoned school where they occurred. However, shortly after filming begins, police are called to the scene to investigate another massacre.

Return of The Killer Tomatoes – The title pretty much sums up this horror comedy franchise but just in case here is a quick rundown. Crazy old Professor Gangreen has developed a way to make tomatoes look human for a second invasion. And there you have it genetically altered tomatoes that attack!

Leonardo Dicaprio – Critters 3

Critters 3 horror movie poster

The critters franchise holds dear to my heart. Although it never went fully mainstream it is a classic in many horror collectors libraries, mine included. Leo is so young in the movie you will barely know it’s him, but there he is in one of his first full length movies.

In what appears to be a cross between Critters and The Towering Inferno, the residents of a shoddy L.A. apartment block are chased up to the roof by hoards of the eponymous hairy horrors. These little cryptids went on for 2 more movies with the latest Critters movie being 2019. Maybe more stars will be born before they are done!

Brad Pitt – Cutting Class

Cutting class horror movie poster

Another Hollywood super star who kicked it off in Horror. Brad is as Brad as ever in this one so it’s no surprise that he went on to greatness afterwards. He never fully left the genre though as he has more credits back in horror notably with the movie Seven.

Synopsis – High school student Paula Carson’s affections are being sought after by two of her classmates: Dwight, the “bad boy”, and Brian, a disturbed young man who has just been released from a mental hospital where he was committed following the suspicious death of his father. Soon after being released, more murders start happening. Is Brian back to his old tricks, or is Dwight just trying to eliminate the competition?

Tom Hanks – He Knows You’re Alone

He knows you're alone horror movie poster

Tom Hanks!?! Yep even Tom Hanks put in his horror time with this 80’s slasher flick.

Synopsis – A reluctant bride to be is stalked by a serial killer who stalks and kills brides and well anyone around them. While her friends get whacked one by one, a hard boiled renegade cop whose bride had been killed years before tries to hunt him down before it is too late. Meanwhile, the bride has to figure out if it is all in her imagination or not, aided by her ex-boyfriend.

Jennifer Aniston – Leprechaun

Leprechaun horror movie poster

If this were a top ten list Leprechaun with Jennifer Anniston would likely be #1. This 90’s gem has become a classic for any horror lover. I mean who wouldn’t love a murderous tiny Leprechaun running amok? If you watch this beware that Lucky Charms will never be the same!

Synopsis – When Dan O’Grady returns to the U.S. after stealing some Irish leprechaun’s pot of gold, he thinks he can settle down and enjoy his newfound wealth. He thought wrong. The leprechaun followed him and O’Grady barely gets away with his life, having locked the little monster in his basement. Ten years later, J.D. and his spoiled daughter Tory (Anniston) move in. By accident, the leprechaun is released and almost immediately the murderous creature starts to look for his gold, not displaying any respect for human life.

We here at Puzzle Box Horror spend most of our time looking into the history and lore of horror. From ghosts and hauntings, authors, and movies to strange creatures you have never heard of this is what we do. Stop by anytime to learn more about the roots of horror.

A Samurai Faces His Demons in a Short Film Based on Classic Japanese Mythology

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Indie Horror Scary Movies and Series

Have you ever had a dream that felt so real….

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In it’s short 6 and 1/2 minutes ONI takes you on an adventure through a dream, demon awakened from a cursed samurai sword, and a sword fight. It’s beautifully done and worth every second. Bravo to the creators who did this with next to nothing in their budget.

“Oni” is the latest from Anthony Pietromonaco, co-produced by Manifest Film LLC and Louvard Entertainment, and sponsored by Samuraiswords.store. Actors Toru Uchikado (Castlevania, Heroes Reborn, Westworld) and Masashi Odate (The Last Samurai, Letters from Iwo Jima) are the leads.

Original character design by Jaremy Aiello (Star Trek, Annabelle, Mortal Kombat) and Tanner White (Bone Tomahawk).

The film follows a young man, the real-life descendent of the hero “Momotaro” from the classic Japanese folktale, as he confronts a demon trapped within a cursed sword.

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“We wanted to figure out a way to make a classic folktale (one known to nearly all Japanese people) present in modern-day western culture, ” says Pietromonaco. “The basic premise is that the historical figure “Momotaro” used an ancient sword to seal the gateway to a Japanese demon world. Thousands of years later, an American soldier finds the sword amidst the rubble of a temple during WW2 and brings it home to the states – not knowing what it really is. His grandson inherits the sword, and demons (Oni) within start to wreak havoc in an attempt to escape once again.”

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The film was made as a proof of concept with an extremely limited budget, a cast/crew of less than 10 people, and was a labor of love for all involved. The film features some impressive visuals from the same team behind the starwarsdarklegacy.com fan film.

You can view the complete film here – https://youtu.be/zI9In0EvpH0