Anybody interested in the paranormal ought to consider the Booth Brothers’ portfolio. For the past several years, these flamboyant twin filmmakers (Christopher and Philip) have turned themselves into virtual paranormal archaeologists, traveling to some of America’s most distressed locations to turn over rocks that may be holding down nasty supernatural secrets for documentaries like SPOOKED and CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE. They’re at it again with THE HAUNTED BOY: THE SECRET DIARY OF THE EXORCIST, which just made its DVDebut, and they provided Fango a few exclusive images.
Author William Peter Blatty wrote his classic novel THE EXORCIST with the infamous 1949 case of “possessed” child Robbie Mannheim in mind. THE HAUNTED BOY utilizes a diary kept by Raymond J. Bishop, one of the priests who was witness to the events, like a map, as it guides the Booths (who also created the fact-based feature film DEATH TUNNEL) from relatives of the priests and Robbie—who is still alive and well—to a variety of locations, from churches to the home where the symptoms first started.
“These are the real people, telling the real stories,” Philip tells Fango of the project, which took two and a half years to complete. Adds Christopher, “We were very lucky to realize that nobody has ever gone into the real house—never mind done a paranormal investigation.”
The brothers’ previous documentary THE POSSESSED touched on Robbie’s ordeal, but the brothers decided to delve deeper with THE HAUNTED BOY. “It was just too strong a subject—we thought it would hurt THE POSSESSED and that THE POSSESSED would water down the exorcist story,” Philip explains. “We thought, ‘Let’s separate the two,’ and started getting more footage, more interviews, more research—and we said, ‘Oh my God, look at this story.’ And of course, the diary came into it.”
Forensic psychiatrist Thomas Sachy got his hands on Bishop’s journal some time ago, when it was authentically and legitimately copied for him to use as professional reference material. “Chris got access to the diary from [Sachy], who uses it as an example for basically trying to judge whether something is physically wrong in somebody’s brain, as opposed to mentally,” Philip says. “When we got a copy and read that diary, we thought, ‘This really makes the original movie with Linda Blair seem pretty tame.”
Excerpts from the diary are woven throughout the documentary, though it isn’t necessarily the primary focus. THE HAUNTED BOY features a wealth of interviews, from Ouija-board victims (yes, it’s relevant here) to priests to demonologists. There are also scenes utilizing EVP in the Alexian Bros. Hospital, where Robbie’s exorcism was completed and where the diary was originally found. Exorcism aficionados will be interested to learn that several sound clips heard in the film were pulled from an “actual exorcism audio archive,” allowing viewers to hear the cries and wails recorded during various rituals. Most upsetting is learning that some of these recordings derive from the tragic “exorcism” of Anneliese Michel, whose story inspired THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE. Christopher explains that the brothers were granted access to this material by priests, but with a stipulation attached.
“We were not to play the part where they call out the devil by name,” he says, the reasoning being that the priests believed that widely broadcasting direct attention to a force of evil was an unnecessary risk—there was no need to provide such a spirt with any form of mass acknowledgement. Philip adds, “They allowed us [access] but they begged us—‘advised’ is a better word—not to play the part where they address the demon by name. We couldn’t play that, because we felt very strongly that if we were going to put it in the show, we could use the groaning and the moaning and that guttural sound—chilling. So we just said, ‘That’s a good idea—we don’t want to put on a show that promotes evil. We just want to tell the story.’ ”
The DVD includes behind-the-scenes material, featurettes, deleted scenes and other bonuses, and those who order the first 1,000 copies will also receive a copy of Bishop’s diary. Head to the film’s website to learn more at www.thehauntedboy.com