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Possessed Paperback – September 15, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In 1949, a teenaged boy in suburban Washington, D.C., exhibited signs of demonic possession. His desperate family moved him to a relative's home in St. Louis, where they persuaded a team of Jesuit priests to perform an exorcism (a practice unheard of at the time). William Peter Blatty noticed a news article concerning the incident, which provided him with the inspiration for his novel and screenplay The Exorcist. Allen, coauthor with Norman Polmar of several American histories, based his work on a secret diary of one member of the exorcism team and personal interviews with another. His account is horrific, and he will succeed in forcing even highly skeptical, worldly readers into doubting their preconceived ideas about the "medieval" notion of demonic possession. Recommended for most collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/93.
- Richard S. Watts, San Bernardino Cty. Lib., Cal.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

The 1949 exorcism that inspired William Blatty to write The Exorcist, recounted in admirably restrained and documented fashion by an unlikely source: military-expert Allen (Merchants of Treason, 1988, etc.). Unlike Blatty's possessed teenage girl, 14-year-old Robbie Mannheim (a pseudonym) of Mt. Ranier, Maryland, doesn't swivel his head like a top or levitate. But when fruit and then a vase fly through the air in his presence, his middle-class parents call on an M.D., a psychologist, and finally a minister for help. The minister suspects a poltergeist, but when bloody scratches appear on Robbie's body, the reverend tells the family, ``You have to see a Catholic priest. The Catholics know about things like this''- -advice that leads the Mannheims to a local priest whose exorcism of Robbie aborts when the boy slashes him with a mattress spring. The distraught parents take their son to St. Louis, where they meet Fr. William S. Bowdern, a 52-year-old Jesuit attached to St. Louis University. It's Bowdern who conducts the successful weeks-long exorcism, involving nightly incantations by the priest and several assistants as Robbie--who claims to be possessed--spits, urinates, writhes, cackles, and manifests words in blood (``HELL''; ``CHRIST'') on his body until the ``demon'' departs shortly after Easter. To his credit, Allen reports the more sensational aspects of Robbie's ordeal with a poker face, focusing instead on the spiritual and emotional issues involved, providing brief histories of the Jesuits, poltergeists, and possession. In an afterword, he weighs--without judging--the likelihood of Robbie having been possessed, and he discusses his sources, including one eyewitness and, crucially, a hitherto unrevealed daily journal of the exorcism kept by one of Bowdern's assistants. One can't blame Blatty for sleazing up Robbie's plight, but it's good to have Allen's levelheaded account, which allows the apparent facts of this influential case to speak for their own--and compelling--selves. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse; Revised edition (September 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0595132642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0595132645
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I have been writing since my teen years, when I covered high school sports for my hometown newspaper, The Herald, in Bridgeport, Conn.
I continued working at the paper while I was in college. In the mid-1950s I began working for The New York Daily News, writing feature stories. In 1963, I left The News, going to Chilton Books in Philadelphia, and then to the National Geographic Book Division. I began freelancing in 1981, but I continued contributing to Geographic publications.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 16, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, I had always heard that the movie "The Exorcist" was based on a true story that happened to a boy in the Washington area. I recall as a young teenager being blown away by an article I read in The Washington Post, about a Mount Rainier exorcism many years ago, and the spooky series of unfortunate events that befell the Mount Rainer neighbors. That article was on the front page of The Washington Post, May 6, 1985, at the bottom. I was amazed, I had never read anything like it before. In the May 1985 article there was a reference to the original article back in 1949. I went to the University of Maryland, got out the microfilm from 1949, and proceeded to look up this original WP story. There on the top of the August 20, 1949 issue was the story: "Boy Reported Held in Devil's Grip." I read it, printed it out, read it again a few times. This was the article that the author of "The Exorcist", William Blatty read while an undergraduate at Georgetown University, and was the basis of his fictional account. This story really stuck with with me for a number of years. Then in 1993, out-of-the-blue, appears this full-length book on the subject. While the articles I had read back in 1985 made quite an impression on me, the whole story came alive in Thomas Allen's book. The impressive research combined with the descriptive writing really made this book an experience. There are a number of events that still haunt me to this day, as well as theological questions related to certain facts in the book (e.g., what was the connection between the Ouija board and demonic possession? why didn't the Lutheran baptism take?). This was an absolutely fascinating book and I and other readers are in Mr. Allen's debt for writing it.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Vanissa W. Chan on December 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
I became curious about the 1949 exorcism after viewing the re-release of "The Exorcist" on Halloween. After a little research online, I discovered this book by Allen, and purchased it (though it was difficult to find a bookstore that had it in stock). After receiving the book, I literally disappeared from my routine life for a few days.
The best thing about Allen (who is a self-declared agnostic) is that he's honest, and he provides numerous references for every event that occurs. Why this is crucial is because diabolical possession is a subject that faces heavy criticism. I take it as blind faith - you either believe in it, or you don't (although it was the book that convinced me of that). Others, as I am known to be a skeptic as well, need more - and thus why it is critical that this report comes from someone who neither believes or disbelieves.
Most other books on diabolical possession are written either by the exorcists themselves, or by people who have had hands-on experiences with demons or spirits, or by priests who have known exorcists. While several of them I have read are incredibly well-written and are testaments to the belief that Satan and his legions are real, I can see how they can be more susceptible to criticism under the skeptic's eye. The intention behind those books and this one also differ - they are written for the people who already believe and are curious about investigating further into diabolical possession. Allen wrote the book for the same reason the reader chose to read it - to satiate the curiosity of a mystical phenomenon and to either be convinced by the evidence provided, or to be convinced that it is all a hoax.
The book presents more than an account of diabolical possession.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Purchaser on November 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
Whether or not Allen misses and distorts some of the historical information contained within his narrative, this work is still ultimately entertaining. It provides an extensive look at traditional demoniac psychology/experience, which is invaluable regardless of whether or not we believe in possession.
It also provides an interesting look at Christianity's handling of demons and exorcism over the centuries, and even if there are historical inaccuracies, this aspect of the book is undeniably valuable.
I am also impressed with Allen's style; he makes no attempt at sensational, horrific, "scary" language. It seems to me that Allen's goal is to provide an honest, impartial account. He leaves the reasoning to us.
Whether you're a skeptic or a believer, this book has something to offer.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By rareoopdvds VINE VOICE on February 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Excorcist had such a powerful impact on the American psyche at the release in 1973, that it is difficult for the average person to separate those images of Regan from anything else related to the idea of "possession." Thomas B. Allen comments upon this fact, however, does little to differentiate it as well. The thrust of the book is a well documented "biography" of the events that led "Robbie" into a frenzied state later defined as demonic possession. While some of the facts are interesting, and much can be brought out of this book, it is generally a slow and dry read. Allen illuminates the mysteries that have surrounded this story that occured sometime in 1949, where a little boy began ranting and raving with maniacal noises of a beastly nature, as well as paranormal events of either psychic or poltergeist in nature. Allen does a good job explaining the most well developed and studied cases of demonic possession of psychologist T. K. Oesterreich. Essentially there are 3 stages, which seemed to be present in this case of Robbie: 1)infestation, usually of sounds, rappings, in the environment, 2) obsession, where the subject inherits the spirit, and 3) possession, the take over, or new identity. In Robbie's case, all of these elements seem to be in place, and once the biological, mental and paranormal were exhausted as a possible cause, then one had to look to the spiritual, in which we need an exorcist. This is the story that inspired William Peter Blatty's now classic horror 'The Exorcist.' While the latter has much more to offer in the way of entertainment, it is in exaggerated form. Some elements of, say, voice distortion, physiological changes, markings on the body are present in the case of Robbie, they do not go to the extremes of Regan of a full-blown physical make over.
Thomas B.
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