E is for Exorcism

Babysitters came to our house frequently when I was a kid. When Mom ended the day with a shower and twenty minutes of hair curling, when she pulled out a Swanson’s TV dinner for my sister and me to bake for supper, we knew a babysitter was on her way.

Sabrina made my nose wrinkle. I got the impression she did not babysit kids much. She wasn’t that fun. She got hired out of convenience–her parents brought her over to watch us when they picked up my mom and dad.

This was the late 1970s. After an evening of my sister and I entertaining ourselves, all three of us gathered in the living room. Sabrina sat on her heels, turning the knob on the TV to flip channels. She stumbled on The Exorcist. After a few scenes, she got entangled in the plot and my sister and I had to keep watching.

In the movie, a single mother, Chris, is working and raising her twelve-year-old daughter, Regan. Regan plays with a Ouija board, and soon after, shows signs of being possessed–making strange noises, using swear words, and showing abnormal strength. Chris consults doctors who can’t find anything wrong. They recommend an exorcism. But, the demon, Pazuzu, is not going to leave just because a priest deems it so. The movie continues with a fight of wills and lots of destruction.

I sat on the side of couch farthest from the TV, hugging one of Mom’s throw pillows. I covered my eyes at the sight of a little girl writhing her bed, screaming profanities. When the girl, possessed and altered from the demon, spouts off to one of the priests and throws up green slime on his face, Sabrina laughed. She laughed!

In another scene, the Regan spins her head on its spine and turns her eyes white and curses at the priests; she uses her powers to crack plaster, break windows, toss furniture around the room. I screamed. I said, “I’m scared. I don’t want to watch this.”

Sabrina said, “Oh, stop being such a baby.”

Even this photo gives me the creeps.

Even this photo gives me the creeps.

I was young, but old enough to know a few things. This wasn’t a show for kids. Being called a baby was not nice. And it didn’t feel very good to be scared. I wished my parents to speed home and for Sabrina to go away.

The movie earned 10 Academy Award nominations. It was the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture. It grossed $441 million, earning a place in a list of highest grossing films of all time. With stats like this, I think I should re-visit this film and see what the fuss is all about. But I won’t.

Sabrina did not help these matters. She baptized me into the genre of horror without a lot of guidance. I want to be brave enough to laugh at a priest being doused in green slime, but my mind dwells on the possibility that Pazuzu is real. I am still the kid worried demons will appear.


Inspired by the letter E in the A to Z Challenge for the month of April. Scroll past the social media buttons to comment on this post.

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