House of Exorcism Boy

January 26, 2009 — It was an excellent day for an exorcism. And by excellent I mean rainy and foggy and spooky. And by exorcism I mean visiting the supposed locations of the home of the boy whose exorcism inspired William Peter Blatty to write the novel The Exorcist that inspired William Friedkin to film the movie The Exorcist, which then scared all of us, scarred most of us, and stuck the occupation of exorcist firmly on the bad-ass scale along with such other better-than-yous as astronauts, martial arts movie stars, and these days, I guess, survival television show hosts.

In the late 1940s, a teenage boy in the Maryland suburbs of DC was deemed to have leased body space to an evil spirit after a series of events known in Church Latin as “weird shite” occurred at his home. Eventually, he and his demonic tenant were taken to stay with relatives in St. Louis, MO, where an official exorcism was performed on him.

I know it sounds like the quintessential urban myth, but the facts of the story are actually far from such, with the whole thing being eerily well-documented in newspapers of the day and even the “withheld to protect the innocent” information gradually leaking out over the years. I won’t go into all that, but in case you want to, Google any combination of the following terms: “Father Raymond Bishop,” “Roland Doe,” “Exorcism,” and “Buckaroo Bonzai.” All right, that last one’s irrelevant, but fun.


For 11 years I lived half an hour from the location of the notorious house of Exorcism Boy, but it wasn’t until I moved eight states away that I finally returned to my home state to visit the location. Good thing, too. If I’d of gone back when I lived in the area, I might have ended up at the wrong address.

You see, general lore has always placed the home of the possessed teenager that inspired The Exorcist at 3210 Bunker Hill Road in Mount Rainier, MD. And that's pretty much where I thought it was until a couple of months ago. Then, in planning to visit the spot, I came across an eight-year-old article that changed my life. Well, more like my plans for the day.

The article is called The Haunted Boy of Cottage City and was written by a Mark Opsasnick and published in a periodical called Strange Magazine. Honestly, you’re probably better served skipping over this article and reading Opsasnick’s instead. The only real advantage of staying here, though, is that this article ends in 800 words, whereas Haunted Boy is five parts long.

In the article, the author outlines in detail the research, interviews, and reasoning that led him to firmly believe that the Bunker Hill Road address is not the previous home of Exorcism Boy. Although I didn't double-check any of his research, his idea sounds pretty credible. More importantly, since the house he posits as the correct location is only three minutes away as the Google Maps fly from the Bunker Hill Road location, I could visit both and let God sort it out. Plus that’s a lot easier than double checking 18,000 words worth of research.


I don’t know much about Mount Rainier, other than that it’s inside the Beltway, it’s not a mount, and it has a great name…except on the drizzly day that we visited, when it was just a pun. The spot I wanted to see is located at the corner of 33rd Street and Bunker Hill Road, and I’m suddenly avoiding the use of the word house for the valid reason that there isn’t one there. Hasn’t been one there, in fact, for a few decades. According to Opsasnick, the original house that stood there had gone derelict for a while until it was burned to the ground in 1962 as part of a firefighter exercise. Since that time, it had been a vacant lot, and that was what I was prepared for.

Once again, though, I found I was way behind on my knowledge base. I’m starting to believe that my own personal versions of Al and Ziggy suck. At some point in the past few years, the spot has been turned into a nice gazebo and picnic area. Had I known, I would have brought a lunch to eat there just for style points. Instead, I just stood in the middle of it and thought, “This is going to be a short paragraph if I ever write about it.”

And just like that we were off to the second location. The address that Opsasnick offers for the real location of the previous home of Exorcism Boy is in the very nearby, very small town of Cottage City. In this case, the original house still stands, and though it’s probably a pretty jerky think for me to publish, the address is 3807 40th Avenue. Being called a jerk gives me a sense of identity.

The house is set on a straight, tree-lined road with small, similarly shaped houses along both sides of the road. If most of the streets of Cottage City look this way, the town is well named. At one end of the street, almost directly across from the Exorcism Boy house, is the town hall.


Nothing about 3807 makes it stand out from its fellow cottages. It has no ominous pall of clouds, no mysterious shadows without sources, its features don’t matrix into an evil face. It’s just a small house. I will say that it did seem well-kept, which I assume means lived-in, but you never know. There was an abandoned plastic-wrapped newspaper lying in the driveway, but newspapers are notorious for inflating their subscriber numbers that way.

As you can see from the picture, a truck was parked in the driveway when we visited. However, that truck and another one across the street both bore construction company names. So either somebody lives there and is having the house remodeled, or somebody doesn’t live there and is having the house remodeled to sell. Or, I guess, someone lives there and owns a construction company. Whatever the case, I’m sure they’re probably annoyed by the kind of attention people like me give it.


I realize that anytime I just walk past a house for pictures, it’s going to be a pretty boring article, but add that to the fact that it involves a subject I’ve already written about two other times for this site (see below), then you’ve got not just anti-climax, but anti-start and anti-middle, as well. However, in a bid to salvage the first of those three glaring flaws in this piece, I’ll end on a final, hilarious-to-me note.

In his article, Opsasnick puts forth evidence in the form of interviews with a childhood friend of Exorcism Boy that the teenager wasn’t anywhere near possessed, but was just a Michael Oliver-style problem child in a pre-pill society. That such might even be close to the truth cracks me right in half. One kid acts up, and we get butterfly-effected into a cinematic milestone the repercussions of which are still rippling outward six decades later.

Thank you, Mr. Ronald Hunkeler, wherever you are or are buried.

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Read about my visit to the Exorcist Stairs in Washington, DC, where the climactic scene of the movie was filmed, or my visit to the bust and ashes of Jason Miller in Scranton, PA, who starred in it as Father Damien Karras.











19 comments:

  1. i think Ronald Hunkeler lives in laurel,Maryland
    i am not sure if he is still married i know that he named his first child Micheal after saint micheal who drove the demon out of him in 1949 i do believe he was possessed how can a child or anyone for that matter fake being possessed i wonder how he feels when he hears people say that he faked it and did it for attention

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  2. Nope, he wasn't possessed. Did a local investigation on the story and blogged about it. Check out http://mikesbigblogorainydayfunexorcistkid.blogspot.com

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  3. The truth is we'll never know for sure. I read a lot on this subject myself and found that there are many possible explanations. Mental problems are certainly viable, but that depends on whether you believe in the existence of darker forces at all.

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  4. The bedroom scenes of The Exorcist were filmed at Fordham College.
    They MAY tell you the name of the dorm, but rumor has it that they weill NEVER tell you exactly which room.

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  5. If this were a lie I don't think the Catholic Church would have allowed the LIE to run for so many years let alone a MOVIE. A documentary featuring a relative of the boy did confirm that the possession existed. Also the great niece of the priest that dealt heavily in the exorcism reconfirmed what was said. I have a copy of the diary that was sent out with the purchase of the documentary and boy was it really detailed. Nothing like the movie but a very horrific real version and lengthy exorcism. People...it happened. If good can happen...I believe Evil gets its fair shot as well.

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  6. The very first name I encountered for the possessed boy, back during the 1950s (I was in high school) was "Douglass Deen."

    George Wagner (Old Time Radio)

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  7. The bedroom scenes in The Exorcist were actually filmed at the now-demolished CECO Studios on West 54th Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan, and not at Fordham University.

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  8. Actually guys this case was never a recognized exorcism and the Vatican never approved other than a sort of spiritual shock treatment of sorts, the prove? the priests running the "exorcism" were all jesuits...the actual Roman Catholic Exorcists are all dominiques, actually, the actual Pope is an exorcist!

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  9. indeed he was possessed by the devil yes
    the more we fear this is the reality and the fact that all the demons among us
    we have to be careful that we do not play cuz everything is god
    he mecheu a demonic amulet that neither he knew for serving - he had entam CONCLUSIONS pessadas priests did not have the power to strip the demons of his body because priests were not pure with the glory of God, he knows the truth so that the Catholic church does not want to tell the truth to the world. A pastor had there in the season he had taken the demon's body.

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  10. Wow - look at the stupidity and ignorance of people. First of all, IF you believe in the Bible - ANYONE can EASILY cast out spirits just invoking the name of Jesus - you do not need the Pope, a rubber hose, nor a cattle prod. However, there has never been, nor ever will be a documented case of someone being possessed. Look at the evidence which clearly points to someone seeking attention and warped by his strict grandmother and mother. DUH! The truth is that we DO know that it was fake. If you losers look at how many Ouija boards are sold, and even if one percent of those people open up a gateway to possession or hell, there should CERTAINLY by a plethora of cases to investigate. Yet I can find THOUSANDS of links of people performing exorcisms and killing people that were NEVER possessed because stupid believers like you have no comprehension of the scientific method and how the human mind works and that these people were never possessed. In regards to evil, I suggest you look at nature and science. Many of these "serial" killers who are "evil" and have no empathy have their brains wired differently. No different than survival of the fittest. There is ALSO NO devil or Satan. The image of the pitchfork and horns comes from the old testament when a "false" god was picked as the image of satan. Lucifer, if he exists is an ANGEL that had a disagreement with God. BTW, angels and humans are a separate "race" so people do not become angels - provided you believe the Bible - a book written by MAN.

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  12. Not withstanding the non-believer in the previous post, I think the researcher, Mark Opsasnick, author of 'The Haunted Boy of Cottage City' got the location part wrong. I was the City Manager of Mt. Rainier from the fall of 1983 till the fall of 1984. I knew all of the city employees, a former city manager who trained me, council members, and met a number of citizens during my year there in the little slum of Mt. Rainier.

    While I don't remember exactly who told me about the house at 3210 Bunker Hill Rd, which sits on the NW corner of 33rd and Bunker Hill, I heard the story from more than one person. The story I was told was that after the family moved out following the exorcism, other families tried to live in the house but couldn't because of the eerie sounds and 'spirits' that were in the house. None could live there for more than a few weeks or months before fleeing. Eventually, it was abandoned by the owner and stood derelict until it was burned down in 1962. The lot was vacant when I worked there, and sometime in the 1990's the city built a gazebo and put some playground equipment on the site.

    Mark Opsasnick sites numerous contemporary newspaper articles from three newspapers in Haunted Boy placing the site as Bunker Hill Rd in Mt. Rainier with two exceptions, one placing the location in Brentwood and one placing the location as Cottage City. (They are both adjacent to Mt. Rainier and their city boundaries are close to the 40th Avenue address). As far as I can tell, Mark bases the Cottage City location on the word of one man, the brother of the Father Raymond Bishop. While I don't question the integrity of the brother of the exorcist, he was obviously an old man when he was interviewed by Mark in the 1990's. Memories do have a way of getting fuzzy with age, especially some 45 years after the fact. Additionally, the brother was not directly involved in the exorcism. Mark further states that he could not find any 'old timers' who remember the family in Mt. Rainier. (Nor does he mention any 'old timers' in Cottage City who do remember them) This is not surprising as Mt. Rainier probably had somewhere between two to four thousand residents in 1949. (7500 when I worked there, 8000 today) It's an urban area where everyone is not going to know everyone else, then or now. I would bet that you can't find any 'old timers' who remember me from thirty years ago either.

    Having worked in the city for a year, I would put my money on 3210 Bunker Hill Rd. as the actual site of the exorcism. Otherwise, Mark Opsasnick's research makes for good reading. I learned many things I didn't know before.

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  13. He lives near Howard County Murray Hill Middle School and also at Cross Creek, Calverton

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  14. If only the rest of us had one-tenth of the intelligence that Timothy has we would be so much better off. Goodness, how does he even get through his day with all the ignorant people like us? Thank you Timothy for setting the record straight. Maybe one day I could reach your level. No, wait....I shouldn't even hope to achieve such heights. Alas, I will accept my limitations and try to get through life knowing I will never be as smart as Timothy. I am just always going to be an ignorant person of faith. One word Timothy...humility.

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  15. Didn't happen in Mt. Rainier. I've lived here 33 years a stone's throw away from both Mt. Rainier AND Cottage City alleged sites. It happened in Cottage City. I've researched Opsasnick's research and found it very accurate.

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  16. The gazebo is NOT built on the former house/lot -- the actual site of the faux-Hunkeler house is about a hundred feet up the road. All that's left is a low wall and stairs. I was just there yesterday.

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    1. ekm - did you take any pics?

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  17. I grew up on 34th street in Mt.Rainer in my grandmothers house. My grandmother knew the family and the Lutheran priest who helped the family befor the Catholics got involved. She, my grandmother, almost never spoke about what happened but about a year befor she died she told me the story. I know first hand that some weird stuff happened and the house was right where ekm says. A low wall and stairs is all that's left. Once and for all it was Mt.RAINER not cottage city.

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  18. If you look up his high school yearbook, it says 40th Ave, Cottage City. Of course I also read that his family moved shortly after the exorcism.

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