Paramedics and holy water were standing by, but “Exorcism: Live!” would have benefited more from No-Doz.
The stunt, staged by the Destination America cable channel to drive demons from the house in Bel-Nor where the boy whose story inspired “The Exorcist” once lived, built up the spooky atmosphere for two long hours.
“What you are about to witness is a live presentation that may contain graphic and disturbing scenes,” Destination America warned. “Our experts are trained professionals equipped to deal with dangerous situations. Do not attempt this at home. Viewer discretion is advised.”
The only disturbing scenes, though, were cheesy re-creations. And although some viewers, following along on Twitter, reported being frightened, any real tension was quickly diffused by repeated commercial breaks.
Members of the Tennessee Wraith Chasers team from the channel’s “Ghost Asylum,” asked how the “Exorcist” house ranked among “scariest places in America,” declared it “No. 1, especially with demonic activity. We’ve never experienced this level of demonic hopping.”
“We’ve rassled with some demons before, but this is the Devil,” one said.
But the special was all talk and no action. Viewers were asked to believe that Wraith Chasers felt the presence of evil and heard a female voice in the attic. Psychic medium Chip Coffey, who entered the house with a Ouija board for a seance, reported “fast communication” with the spirit world, and a flickering candle flame. He shut the seance down just as it might have become interesting.
“In your opinion, were you communicating with whatever took over Roland Doe back in 1949?” host Chris Jacobs asked Coffey. “Something dark tried to bully its way in,” Coffey responded.
Perhaps most disappointing was the failure of the so-called “devil’s toy box,” a ghost trap assembled in the basement of the house. Steven “Doogie” McDougal, co-founder of Tennessee Wraith Chasers, climbed into the box and tried to lure demons, but all he reported was pressure on his chest.
Many of those involved reported chest pressure, and cold hands, but reports of “feeling weird” can’t really be considered evidence of anything.
The special ended with Bishop James Long of the U.S. Old Catholic Church (which is not a part of the Roman Catholic Church), in clerical garb, entering the house with Coffey and a large crucifix to pray in the bedroom. Like an awards show, the special ran long when part of the ritual had to be repeated.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis had warned in advance that “any attempt to use the solemn Rite of Exorcism as entertainment exposes all participants to the danger of future hidden satanic attack.” Luckily, “Exorcism: Live!” turned out not to be entertainment at all.