true haunting

Before The Exorcist scared audiences and broke box office records, a real-life exorcism was aired on TV. In 1971, reporter Carole Simpson interviewed the Becker family about their supposedly haunted house, and filmed an exorcism of the house carried out by a priest. Now the true story is getting the big screen treatment with True Haunting, based on the book of the same name from Becker family member Edwin F. Becker.

Deadline reports Screen Gems is developing the True Haunting movie, with Richard D’Ovidio (The Call) set to write the script. The film, adapted from the book by Edwin F. Becker, tells ” the terrifying true story of the first televised exorcism on NBC in 1971. Millions around the country watched the program. The NBC news segment was a success, the exorcism was not. Instead, it made things worse for the Becker family who lived there. Much worse.”

Spooky! Here’s a more detailed synopsis of Becker’s book:

This is the story of a true haunting. It was the first ever filmed and televised by NBC in 1971. A young couple purchases a building that was built and occupied by a single family that refused to relinquish their hold, even after death. Investigated and verified by experts, this residence brought chaos to the lives of those who chose to reside there. Unlike a horror novel, this chronicles what a real ghostly experience would resemble. Long before the laws of disclosure, a young couple winds up in the midst of strange occurrences prior to the term paranormal becoming a common description.

Only a little known organization came to their aid. Author Tom Valentine, brought in a nationally known psychic, Joseph DeLouise, who then asked assistance of an exorcist from England, Reverend William Derl-Davis. Together, they gave their best effort at exorcising the multiple spirits inhabiting the building and disrupting the lives of the living. Events were filmed by NBC, who sent their most prominent Chicago journalist, Carole Simpson, to cover the event.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve never heard of this, even though I pride myself on learning about all-things spooky and scary. I even had a sneaking suspicion that this was entirely made-up, but no – the televised exorcism really did happen. You can watch it below (but be warned: the quality is kind of terrible).

This has all the makings of a horror hit, and will no doubt attempt to emulate The Conjuring model of taking “true events” and adding a whole bunch of special effects into the works. “Based on a true story!” the opening title card for this movie will read as loud, unnerving music blasts from surround sound speakers. You’re getting creeped out already, aren’t you?

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