William Peter Blatty (CAS ’50), the writer and producer of the 1973 horror film “The Exorcist,” died yesterday at the age of 89, according to the Associated Press.
The cause of death was multiple myeloma. Blatty died at a hospital in Bethesda, Md., according to the AP.
Blatty initially rose to fame after the publication of “The Exorcist” in 1971, a novel detailing the demonic possession of 12-year-old Reagan MacNeil, and its subsequent Oscar-winning film adaptation. The novel was inspired by a case of an exorcism Blatty learned about in a class at Georgetown.
Georgetown and the surrounding area featured prominently in the film. The film includes shots of Dahlgren Chapel, Healy Hall and “The Exorcist Steps,” the 97 steps located next to Car Barn where a priest is possessed to jump from a window and tumbles to his death in the film.
The steps were officially commemorated in a ceremony in October 2015, featuring Blatty, the film’s director William Friedkin, Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and University President John J. DeGioia.
Blatty launched a petition in October 2013 calling on the Vatican to strip Georgetown of its Catholic and Jesuit labels, claiming that the university did not uphold Catholic morals. The Vatican rejected the petition, which garnered over 2,000 signatures, in May 2014.
Blatty said in a 2003 Lecture Fund address at Georgetown that he wrote “The Exorcist” to further explore the spiritual side of human beings.
“Terror has never been my day job,” Blatty said. “When I was writing [“The Exorcist”] scaring people was the furthest thing from my mind.”
A full obituary will be published next week.
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