When do disturbing coincidences fail to explain a pattern that bring only one word to mind: a curse? What if you're working on the set of what turns out to be one of the most chilling movies produced that had the devil as the main villain? These are just some of the so called "accidents" that almost 50 years in retrospect, plagued the set of the film The Exorcist.
In 1973, The Exorcist was released. Linda Blair was cast as 12-year-old Regan, and she recalls a series of unsettling incidents that occurred on the set to actors, or behind-the-scene personnel.
Half way through the film a fire destroyed much of the set, except the part of Linda Blair's bedroom where the major portion of Regan's possession was filmed.
Linda Blair was later to learn that certain disturbing incidents were kept from her in order that she should not be frightened.
Ellen Burstyn, who herself suffered an accident during the film, claimed that there were several other people involved in the film that died.
People die eventually, but what are the odds that so many had ties to a particular film in one way or another?
Jack MacGowran played Burke Dennings the alcoholic director. One weeks after completing his work on the film died from a heart attack that started out as a case of the flu.
Vasiliki Maliros, who played Father Damien's mother, died from natural causes at the age of 89 when the film was still in post-production.
During filming, Max Von Sydow's brother and Linda Blair's grandfather died. Jason Miller who played Father Karras was stunned to find out that his son Jordan was hit by a motorcyclist, who appeared out of nowhere on an empty beach.
It wasn't just actors or extras, but anyone who had some contact with the production. In New York, one of the carpenters accidentally cut off his thumb, and one of the lighting technicians lost a toe while working on the set. The man who refrigerated the studio (kept abnormally cold during the shooting) died, the assistant cameraman's wife had a baby that died, the janitor who took care of the building was shot and killed.
Friedkin asked two priests, one who as was hired as a technical adviser, to bless the set. This stopped all the sinister experiences, but around that time a fire broke out in the Jesuit residence in Georgetown.
Mercedes McCambridge, was the voice of the demon. In November 1987, her son John Markle shot his wife and two daughters after being accused of fraud. According to The Chicago Tribune, he then went to his study and shot himself in the temple. Next to his body, authorities found a white rubber old man mask. Nightmare on Elm Street was in the VCR, and later it was discovered he had used three different guns for the slayings.
The Little Rock Police Department would discover that Markle had been fired the previous Friday (the 13th) for a sophisticated embezzlement scheme that benefited Markle's mother, Academy Award-winning actress Mercedes McCambridge.
In his suicide note he blamed his mother for his decision in killing his family and himself. He cited her two suicide attempts, drinking and failed marriages, and mostly her lack of love for him. The letter contained the following: "Initially you said, 'well, we can work it out' but NO, you refused… You called me a liar, a cheat, a criminal, a bum. You said I have ruined your life… You were never around much when I needed you, so now I and my whole family are dead—so you can have the money…
What better place for a serial killer than a film about the devil? Paul Bateson was an X-ray tech at NYU Medical Center who played in extra in the film as what else, an X-ray technician.
Starting in 1975, several bodies of unidentified, gay men had been found dismembered, placed in bags and tossed into the Hudson River. The only clue police had was their clothing came from a shop in Greenwich Village that catered to the leather subculture.
In September, 1977, Addison Verrill, a reporter was found murdered in his apartment. The police had no suspects.
Village Voice journalist Arthur Bell wrote a piece about the crime, and he received a call from a man who said he'd met "Verrill at Badlands, a gay bar on Christopher Street, where they partied until 3 a.m. After that, they stopped at a gay BDSM club called Minshaft before heading to Verrill's studio apartment." A few days later, Bell received a call from another mystery man who told him Verrill's murderer was Bateson.
Bateson was part of the S&M and leather subcultures of Greenwich Village. He was an alcoholic, drinking at least a quart of vodka a day, which made it difficult to hold down a job. He was fired from the hospital where he worked at, when he was hired to work on the film.
On March 5, 1979, Paul Bateson was found guilty of murdering Addison Verrill who he stabbed and bludgeoned with an iron skillet.
The prosecution attempted to connect Bateson to what was then known as the "Bag Murders", but were unable to do so, even though he did brag about committing them while serving his prison term. He said he'd done it "for fun". Unable to prosecute him for the crimes, detectives were convinced of his guilt. These events inspired the movie Cruising, which technically remains unsolved.
He was sentenced to a term of 20 years to life in prison to be served at Riker's Island. He was released in 2004. He is now said to live somewhere in upstate New York. Coincidentally (or not) these crimes were committed after he worked on the Exorcist film.
William Peter Blatty (1928-2017) who wrote the novel, The Exorcist based it on a true story of a 14-year-old boy from St. Louis who underwent an exorcism in 1949.
The identity of the boy was confirmed recently. He was Ronald Edwin Hunkeler who passed away in 2020. He worked 40 years for NASA as an engineer.
To read more of Hunkeler's story, go here
Source - The Church Militant
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer