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From the diary of the exorcism, Wednesday, March 16: “...Father Bowdern...began the prayers of exorcism...R was awake and the overhead light in the bedroom was kept burning. R kept his hands outside the bed covers...Three large parallel bars were scratched on the boy’s stomach...The most distinct markings on the body were the picture of the devil on R’s right leg and the word ‘HELL’ imprinted on R’s chest...The devil was portrayed in red. The arms were held above his head and seemed to be webbed, giving the hideous appearance of a bat...two letters ‘GO’ and a third pointed away from the crotch, an indication which might have meant that the devil would leave by way of urination or excrement...”

Whatever your preconceived notions of the devil, demonic possession or of an exorcism may be, it’s safe to assume your view has been shaped, at least in part, by Hollywood--“The Exorcist,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Omen.” Believe it or not, the passage above is from the real diary of the only documented exorcism sanctioned by the Catholic Church in the 20th century. The full diary is included in the new edition of Thomas B. Allen’s book, Possessed, about the possession and exorcism performed on this adolescent boy given the pseudonym “Robbie” and sometimes referred to as “R.”

If Possessed leaves you with uncomfortable questions about personal beliefs too difficult to wrestle with, you may want to consider taking Allen’s position--“I believe everything about it was over the horizon. I make the distinction in my own mind. I believe in the inexplicable.”

“...with the aid of a hot discovery, an eyewitness diary of the exorcism...Allen has written an impressively sober and fair-minded book.”

--The Washington Post