Roland Doe (aka Robbie Mannheim), is a name that most people might not be familiar with, but his story is truly one that is important in the living realms of true-life horror history. His story can be read for free. It is documented in a diary left by Father Raymond Bishop; his Exorcist.
But before Roland Doe’s story can be told, another one should be examined first.
In 1919, William Fuld purchased the copyright to a mysterious parlor game that could apparently contact the dead through the fingers of the living; the Ouija board.
After an aggressive marketing campaign, Fuld enjoyed revenue from the success of the Ouija, or “talking board”. The popularity of the game among social circles at the time, made it an acceptable and respectable gift to give family members curious to see who, or what, it could contact.
Such is the case with the well-meaning Aunt Harriet who gave a board to her nephew Roland Doe in 1949. Harriet died and thereafter a series of events threatened the life of her 13-year-old nephew in what would arguably become the most terrifying first-hand account of demonic possession ever documented.
After Aunt Harriet’s death, it is suspected that Roland Doe tried to contact her through the Ouija board. But in his efforts to do so, he may have contacted a more sinister paranormal parasite that took refuge in the boy’s soul.
From that point, reports of alleged poltergeist activity in the family’s house in Cottage City Maryland soon made the local papers. News of flying blankets lifting up into mid-air and hovering across the room, beds shaking uncontrollably on their own, and pictures of Christ shaking powerfully against the wall, made for good, but unbelievable reading.
Roland was also becoming more affected. His mother reported that Roland was getting scratched and lacerated by unseen claws. Concerned, the Doe’s took Roland to several hospitals where, according to documented evidence by staff members, the phenomena continued.
Vibrating beds, mysterious rashes on Roland’s abdomen that spelled out the word “Hell”, incredible strength and speaking in foreign tongues, Roland’s actions became so bizarre that Father Hughes of St. James Catholic Church performed a perhaps unapproved and unsuccessful exorcism.
With her son in and out of hospitals, Mrs. Doe moved to St. Louis Missouri hoping that the change of location would cure him of his “illness”. However, Roland’s seizures continued and even in their new environment paranormal phenomenon continued to plague the Doe family.
An astute cousin decided to take action and recommended that Roland see a professor from St. Louis University. Enter Father Raymond Bishop. He arrived at the home and became witness to the scratches forming on Roland’s skin, the objects thrown across the room by an invisible force and furniture trembling beneath the boy.
Finally, the Catholic Church allowed Father Bishop to perform another Exorcism. With Father William Bowdern and Jesuit scholar Walter Halloran by his side, Father Bishop begins the rite of removing the demon from Roland’s body.
Excerpt from Father Bishop’s Diary:
“Monday April 11: The evening gave every reason for expecting quiet. While the Fathers were reciting The Rosary R [Roland] felt a sting on his chest, but upon examination only a blotch of red was observable. The Rosary was continued until R was struck more sharply by a branding on his chest. The letters were in caps and read in the direction of R’s crotch. “EXIT” seemed quite clear. On another branding, a large arrow followed up the word “EXIT” and pointed to R’s penis. The word “EXIT” appeared at three different times in different parts of R’s body.”
According to the diary, the exorcism continued inside a room at the Alexian Brother’s Hospital of St. Louis until Roland himself saw a vision of St. Michael who produced a divine sword and demanded the demon vacate its tormented host. Some accounts say that Roland was taken to a Catholic Church in the last stage of the exorcism, and some say he stayed in the hospital.
Those that say he was remained in the hospital ward recall a huge clap that could be heard throughout the building; the demon fled and Roland was free from its rule. A few weeks later, Roland left the hospital, with no further signs of turmoil.
The staff reported that the room in which Father Bishop performed the exorcism never felt the same after Roland left, and it was locked for good. It remained sealed for many years and nobody dared wander inside.
Cold and wreaking of a foul-smelling odor, the exorcism room and it’s wing, were set to be demolished in 1978. However, just before the room was destroyed, workers found a copy of Father Bishop’s diary in which the story of Roland Doe was detailed.
Father Bishop’s diary was the basis for William Peter Blatty’s novel “The Exorcist” and William Friedkin’s film of the same name. Although Hollywood has taken its liberties with the story, the fact that Father Bishop documented his experience and it was corroborated by other witnesses gives it some merit.
This diary can be read here:
From William Fuld’s mass production of the Ouija board in 1919, to Aunt Harriet’s presentation of one to her nephew Roland in 1949, and finally Father Raymond Bishop’s diary, the story of Roland Doe has been told and retold through the years with some variations.
Perhaps the power of the Ouija board lies not only in how much power its users wish to give it, but also in how much power it wishes to give its users. Either one of those aspects affected the life of Roland Doe and the history of horror itself.