In 2000, "The Exorcist" was re-released in theaters.
A group of my college friends and I piled into a couple cars and headed to a midnight showing.
I had only seen bits and pieces of the movie before this outing, and most certainly not on the big screen. I don't know if I fed off the nervous energy of my more squeamish friends, or if it was just the thrill of being a geeky 19-year-old without a car, and finally being off campus, but the movie scared the living shit out of me.
Or maybe it was the legend that the initial stages of the exorcism depicted in the movie took place on my college's campus, DIRECTLY ACROSS FROM WHERE MY DORM WAS SITUATED.
The 1949 exorcism of a young boy (not a young girl, like in the movie) occurred in three major St. Louis locations: the boy's North St. Louis home, the rectory behind the College Church on the Saint Louis University campus, and a hospital in South St. Louis. Them's the basic facts.
The legend is that the boy also occupied a room in DuBourg/Verhaegen Hall, the oldest building on campus -- the one directly across from my dorm. Students whisper that a light is left on 24/7 in DuBourg, and that the room that the light occupies is only unlocked to change the light bulb. It is otherwise sealed. I've also heard that the room's walls turned completely black and it has a foul excrement-type odor in it, supposedly consistent with demonic entities.
There were dead pigeons on the floor. There was paint peeling off the wall. We could only go up the steps one at a time…
There was a handprint on the ceiling and what looked like blood streaks on the wall.
I don't know if there's much truth to the DuBourg/Verhaegen exorcism room rumors that float around SLU's campus. Saint Louis University is open about its involvement in the exorcism, but has denied most of the rumors about the DuBourg/Verhaegen room.
Personally, I believe most of what SLU says about where the boy stayed. It seems like a weird thing to cover up -- the rectory versus DuBourg/Verhaegen Hall.
However, in the year that I lived in Griesedieck Hall (say it with me "grease-a-dick"), I could look out my seventh floor window -- day or night -- and see a light on in one of the top floor rooms of DuBourg.
Was this most certainly the "Exorcist Light"? I don't know for sure. Was I just hallucinating this constant light (it was college after all)? No. My very skeptical roommate remarked on it as well, and, at least when I was there, it was common, if mysterious, knowledge among the students.
The night after we saw "The Exorcist," my roommate and I returned to our dorm room where she promptly ditched me to stay the night with her boyfriend. I whimpered as she left our room.
So I spent the night ALONE with all the lights on, our tiny TV/VCR combo playing taped episodes of "Felicity" on repeat, and the curtains drawn so as not to see the light across the quad.
I've since rewatched "The Exorcist" and while parts of it still scare me (the part where Regan sees the Devil's face flash before her eyes for a split second gets me every time), I have an almost nostalgic affection for it -- it reminds me of a thrilling, if not unsettling, time in college.
I don't know what it is about schools, maybe it's because so many people pass through them, with hormones and emotions turned up to 11, but they are a hotbed for scary stories.
So, tell me, do you have any spooky stories from where you went to college? High school? Even elementary? Any urban legends that claim to originate at your school? Tell me! And hopefully your roommate won't ditch you tonight.