So, the Cards lost last night and with the game also the series. I am disappointed, but not distraught. As one of the codgers at work told me today, “It’s only a game.” Then he went on to explain that baseball is really just a mechanism for generating statistics and anecdotes. This year’s series was certainly good for that. While we were commiserating, another co-worker joined us and explained his coping strategy for dealing with the Cardinal’s declining fortunes through the course of this year’s World Series. He would only watch the portion of the game where Saint Louis was at bat, because when Boston was up, nothing good could ever come of that. A third colleague admitted to not watching the series at all. He had tuned in briefly during one of the NLCS games. There was no score yet, but immediately after starting to watch the game the Dodgers got a run and went on to win that game. He claimed to have the stupid superpower of being able to jinx the home team. He preferred to acquire his baseball news postmortem. It would have been nice to win the World Series, but it was not to be. How long until spring training?
If the devil can convince us he does not exist, then half the battle is won.
While Cardinal fever gripped the city, Saint Louis University was commemorating a victory on a different plane. Timed to coincide with Halloween, a symposium was held this week on the fortieth anniversary of the release of the film, The Exorcist. This movie, based on William Peter Blatty’s novel, was in turn based upon events that occurred here, in Saint Louis. In 1949 a teenage boy, given the pseudonym Robbie, was brought by his Lutheran mother from DC to Saint Louis to seek help. Saint Louis Cardinal Ritter gave permission to the SLU Jesuits to perform an exorcism, at Alexian Brothers Hospital.
Fill your servants with courage to fight that reprobate dragon. – From the Church’s exorcism handbook
A key member of this symposium’s panel was Thomas B. Allen, author of Possession, his 1993 nonfiction account of events. Allen interviewed the two pinciples involved in the exorcism. In the winter of 1949, Father William Bowdern led the two-month long exorcism ritual. He remained publicly silent about the events unto his grave. Allen claims that Bowdern told him nothing, except to say that it was real. Bowdern died in 1983. Assisting Bowdern was Father Walter Halloran. Halloran spoke openly about the events and expressed some skepticism of any supernatural involvement. “He talked more about the boy, and how much he suffered, and less about the rite,” Allen said, “Here was a scared, confused boy caught up in something he didn’t understand.” After the exorcism the boy was OK. He had no memory of the events. He grew up and has led a normal life. “He [Halloran] told me, ‘I simply don’t know,’ and that is where I leave it,” Allen added. Halloran died ten-year ago. Allen also a skeptic admitted that the underlying questions here are fundamentally questions of faith. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.