Lucye Rafferty/The Hoya Georgetown University alum and author of “The Exorcist” William Peter Blatty discusses supernatural phenomena in ICC Auditorium Thursday night.

For a man who claims he was never meant to write horror flicks, William Peter Blatty (CAS ’50) has had quite a bit of real-life experience with the supernatural.

Blatty wrote and produced The Exorcist, a classic horror book turned film that forever changed the face of the genre when it was released in 1972.

“Terror has never been my day job,” Blatty told an audience of 100 people, mostly students, in ICC Auditorium on Thursday evening. “When I was writing [The Exorcist] scaring people was the furthest thing from my mind,” Blatty said.

Blatty said he was driven to write The Exorcist after becoming disillusioned with the practical approach science takes in explaining the nature of human beings. Refusing to believe that human beings were made solely of matter, Blatty wanted to show that people were also “spiritual beings.” Writing The Exorcist, a book that depicts religion as the most effective means to eradicate evil in humanity, gave him the perfect opportunity to relay this message.

After describing his motivations for writing The Exorcist, Blatty spent the better part of his lecture recounting a number of encounters with the paranormal. When he was a young child, he had dreamt about telling his mother to play specific numbers in the lottery. Sure enough, she won two weeks in a row.

And then there was the time he and his wife were in an old alumni house in Georgetown. Preparing to write, they sat and watched bewildered, as Blatty’s wife’s typewriter moved by itself and typed three lines of gibberish.

Blatty then recounted the time he was in a sauna where he was told upon entering to remove a medal that he regularly wore around his neck. The medal had belonged to his deceased mother. The following morning, Blatty awoke to a strange clinking sound.

“I noticed that I was wearing two medals: mine and another that was identical to the one my mother had been buried in.” Though it looked as if it had been worn recently, no one at the sauna claimed the medal.

Blatty said that his supernatural experiences also extend to those who have had contact with him. During a dinner party at the home of comic Richard Pryor, a large painting fell, causing commotion among dinner guests. Days later, Blatty noticed that a clock in his home kept dropping on the floor for no apparent reason. Even after he affixed the clock to the wall with a large nail, the problem persisted, Blatty said.

Blatty explained that his extraordinary tales were evidence that “we are souls that survive this life.” Throughout Blatty’s storytelling, there was a marked silence, as audience member appeared captivated by the writer’s otherworldly encounters.

“His stories were fascinating. Everyone was into it,” Gavin Hoffman (COL ’06) said. Hoffman was excited about seeing Blatty because of The Exorcist’s close ties to Georgetown. “Watching the movie is a big Halloween tradition,” he said.

A number of scenes in The Exorcist were filmed at Georgetown, including shots of Dahlgren Chapel, Healy Hall and of course, the infamous “Exorcist Steps,” the 74 stone steps near the Car Barn that offer Hoyas a convenient shortcut to M Street.

A number of Georgetown students were featured in the film as extras, each paid over $100 a day.

Blatty last visited Georgetown in 1989, when The Exorcist 3 was filmed. On returning to campus, Blatty said, “It’s like coming home. I’ve always considered Georgetown my home.” Asked when he would bring another film to the Hilltop, Blatty replied, “I wish it could be soon.”

The Lecture Fund sponsored William Peter Blatty’s lecture. Noah Riseman (COL ’04), who introduced the speaker and helped organize the event, said Blatty was invited to speak partly because Lecture Fund “wanted to bring more non-politicians to campus.”

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