It all started when an alumnus from St. Louis University School in Missouri made a post on Twitter in response to the prompt, “Are you the most famous person from your high school?”
Tom Hillmeyer responded to the tweet, writing,
“Not even close. It’s gotta be @JamesGunn, the priest from the real The Exorcist, Sacagawea’s son, the former Unknown Soldier for Vietnam, or the co-inventor of the teleprompter. We SLUH grads are an eclectic group.”
Gunn quote-tweeted the post, explaining The Exorcist reference even further:
“The young priest from the real Exorcist, Walter Halloran, was my theology teacher &, I don’t know what really happened, but he was FUCKED UP from the experience & always drunk. The situation was creepy. I heard he got sober later, but at the time he seemed haunted. Go Billikens.”
Halloran was a Jesuit scholar when he accompanied Fathers William Bowdern and Raymond Bishop, with the permission of Archibishop Joseph Ritter, to perform a formal rite of exorcism of a young boy, Roland Doe, beginning March 16, 1949, according to an article in Strange Magazine.
According to the article, a diary by one of the attending priests served as inspiration for William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist, with some details about the individual who was at the center of the ritual altered —specifically, the subject was changed from a 14-year-old boy to a 12-year-old girl. The 1971 novel was turned into a 1973 film, directed by William Friedkin, and is considered one of the scariest movies ever made.