Is It Real? The Exorcist House in Washington, DC, Facts vs Fiction

If you’re a horror fan like us, then you’ve already watched (and rewatched) all the major classics, which include The Shining, Halloween, The Thing, and last but not least, The Exorcist

Now, there are a lot (and we mean A LOT) of movies out there related to exorcisms, but William Friedkin’s 1973 epic is undoubtedly the best. The movie marked various firsts: it was the first horror movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, and the first movie to elicit some very disturbing reactions from audiences, including fainting, vomiting, heart attacks, and “cinematic neurosis.” For horror fans, however, The Exorcist triggered nothing but positive reactions, and consequently the movie, its soundtracks, and its locations have earned cult status over the years. 

The Exorcist original movie poster (via IMDB)

The Exorcist house origin story

William Peter Blatty was attending Georgetown University in 1949 when he first heard about the story of Ronald Edwin Hunkeler, a story that would change his life forever. Hunkeler was a 14-year-old boy living at 3807 40th Avenue in Cottage City, Maryland, who had been experiencing a nasty case of ‘demonic possession.’ After numerous attempts to fix the boy, the Hunkelers moved to live with relatives at 8435 Roanoke Drive in St. Louis, Missouri. This location would become known as the ‘original’ Exorcist house, even though in reality, it wasn’t. Hunkeler’s exorcism didn’t even take place in the house, but at a hospital in South St. Louis.

Blatty was fascinated with the story and decided to write a book about it in the early 1970s. The Exorcist became an instant best-seller, and Hollywood didn’t take long to respond. Just two years after Blatty’s book came out, he wrote the screenplay for The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin and starring Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair. The rest is, as they say, history. 

The Exorcist house in William Friedkin’s movie

Nowadays, we think of The Exorcist as a horror classic, an unsettling masterpiece that aged incredibly well throughout the decades. Nonetheless, when it was first released onto the big screen in 1973, it caused quite a stir. 

We won’t go into all the unpleasant scenes in the movie, because we bet you’re already uncomfortably familiar with them. Audiences in 1973 were definitely not prepared; there were reports of people fainting, vomiting, screaming, and storming out of cinemas. Ironically, these reports only fueled interest in the movie, and it became a major hit, earning not only the admiration of horror fans, but also 10 Academy Award nominations. 

Given the success and cult status of the film, it’s no wonder that the filming locations also attract horror fanatics on a regular basis. The house used in the film, located at 3600 Prospect Street NW in Georgetown, Washington DC is probably one of the most (in)famous movie locations in the history of cinema. And the 75 steep stairs right beside it, which lead down from Prospect…

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