14 Hidden Details You Never Noticed In The Exorcist


The Exorcist is, to this day, considered one of the scariest horror movies of all time. The film was immensely popular and incredibly successful when it debuted. It was considered so disturbing at the time of its release in 1973 that audiences were even given barf bags to help get through it.

Since its release, it has served as an inspiration for countless movies and the horror genre at large. The original film spawned several sequels and even a television show. Fans may have heard about how the film supposedly had a haunted set, but there are lots of other hidden details about The Exorcist audiences might not have heard about before.



The Exorcist is a perfect film to revisit during the spooky season and has helped to define the horror genre. However, looking back on the movie, it’s easy to find even more hidden details about how it was made and how these elements interacted with the story, whether they were subliminal messages or not.

An Experimental Theme

Everything about The Exorcist was designed to be unsettling, just like some of the best horror films of all time. Even the music needed to be something that would put audiences on edge. Just like the techniques being used in the film, it had to be unusual in its design and its sound.

Intriguingly, the music actually came from an experimental album called Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield. The music produced on the record was certainly intense, but the premise of creating a unique piece of art from an unusual source really matches the ethos of the movie itself.

The Ancient Dig Site

The movie opens with a dig site; a series of mysterious ruins that help to propel the narrative forward. While it’s easy to imagine that the location was completely fictionalized, it is actually partially based on a real area, where the film was actually shot.

For those who know their geography, they’ll be familiar with the location as Nineveh in Hatra, Iraq. It’s an ancient city which holds secrets of its own, which once served as the capital to a whole kingdom. While the mythology of the area may not match that of The Exorcist, it is still a location rich in both storytelling and undiscovered mysteries adding a sense of wonderment to the movie in a way a movie set couldn’t.

An Extended Cut

Fans might not be aware that there are actually multiple iterations of The Exorcist. If they are watching on streaming or perhaps when the movie comes on TV, it might not be the original incarnation of the film they are actually viewing. The Director and Extended Cuts are also out there ready to view.

Each one contains scenes that didn’t make the edit in the first version because they took too long or even because they didn’t fully match the rest of the movie. One sequence, for instance, involving the demonic child moving in an erratic way has some element of wire work that wasn’t removed in the scene. It’s hidden moments like those that can be spotted in those later editions if viewers look closely.

A Specific Bracelet

For those looking out for all the details that can be found in the costume work, there is a very specific choice that’s actually quite curious. The character Chris MacNeil constantly wears a bracelet with a horseshoe on it. Usually, the symbol would indicate good luck.

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Of course, it’s laughable that the character would be defending themselves against Hell itself with simple luck, which ensures that MacNeil looks completely out of her depth as she attempts to survive the events of The Exorcist. It’s a clever piece of character design and acts as a subliminal message.

Demonic Transformation

The first Exorcist movie involved some truly special prosthetics and practical effects to really bring this demonic possession to life. It’s one of the strengths of the movie, with its aesthetic helping to genuinely sell the narrative being told. But it was so complicated to put together.

The sequel to The Exorcist involved another possession, but this time the child involved did not look monstrous. In reality, it was because it would be far easier to shoot without all the makeup, but in the story, it seemed as if the demons were evolving to stay hidden when needed. It’s a great combination of plot development and practicality, considering Linda Blair herself even spoke of how the prosthetic glue had burned her face.

Moving Crucifix

This might be evidence of a flub in filmmaking or an issue with continuity, but before the infamous crucifix scene involving Regan, it’s easy to see the crucifix located elsewhere in the house.

It can be spotted in the living room. The viewer doesn’t see how it makes its way up to Regan’s bedroom. Most likely, this was a technical error. Or it could just be more indication of Regan’s supernatural ability to make objects move on a whim.

Pazuzu Statues

Pazuzu is the central antagonist in the classic horror movie. He is considered the king of demons and the demon that ultimately wound up possessing Regan. There are images and statues of Pazuzu hidden in the movie.

If fans look carefully, they will see them stashed away in certain frames and moments of the movie. It was done by the film crew to add a sense of dread into the film and create subliminal messaging, something that is done frequently in The Exorcist.

Based on Real Diaries

The original novel written by William Peter Blatty was loosely based on the case of a real exorcism of a 14-year-old boy dubbed Roland Doe. Per The Guardian, the case occurred in the 1940s, and supernatural activity and unsettling side effects supposedly began when Roland became possessed and began to act out.

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Blatty used this case as inspiration when writing the story, and therefore The Exorcist film also took things from the actual case because it was adapted from the novel.

One of Regan’s Clay Sculptures Winds Up Somewhere Strange

One of the mysteries of The Exorcist is about who killed Burke Dennings. He helped direct a student film and was a babysitter for Regan one night. Unfortunately for poor Burke, he winds up dead by being tossed out a window.

It is never 100% confirmed who killed him, but viewers might notice that one of Regan’s clay sculptures wound up buried beside Burke. It is heavily implied that Pazuzu killed Burke while possessing Regan, which seems like the most obvious answer.

Subliminal Background Noise

In order to add to the strange and frightening atmosphere of the film, the film director, William Friedkin, added extra noises in the background of certain scenes. He has talked about adding the sounds of buzzing bees and more to enhance the horror (via Entertainment Weekly).

While fans might not be able to pick these sounds out individually, they are layered over each other to create unique and otherworldly noises during some of the movie’s scariest moments. Even more terrifying is the fact that Regan’s demonic noises were created by the sounds of pigs squealing before being slaughtered, the kind of technique that would be copied in the sequel.

Interesting Wall Art

There is some interesting art on Regan’s bedroom wall, and anyone familiar with fairy tales might have picked up on the strange and dark fairy tale paintings hanging there.

One in particular depicts Hansel and Gretel attempting to escape the witch. The witch and Regan are dressed in the same colors when audiences see it there. Another shows the Big Bad Wolf dressed as the grandma, meaning the wolf has already infiltrated the house. All of this alludes to the fact that Regan has already been possessed by Pazuzu.

Creating the Demonic Voice Was A Brutal Process

Accomplished radio actress Mercedes McCambridge was responsible for voicing Regan while she was possessed. The voice is enough to give audiences the chills, but creating it wasn’t an easy process.

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Per Film School Rejects, McCambridge would drink raw eggs, alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and more to achieve the gritty, raspy quality. It definitely wasn’t healthy for her or her vocal cords, but it did work in achieving what is now considered an iconic voice role and perfectly executed the terrifying dialogue.

That Neck Snapping Sound Is Actually A Wallet

There are tons of iconic scenes in The Exorcist, but perhaps the most memorable is when Regan’s head turns around completely. It’s one of those moments that burns itself into the viewer’s mind and is as disturbing today as it was when the movie first came out.

The chilling sound that accompanies it comes from an unlikely source. According to Birth. Movies. Death. they actually used an old, cracked leather wallet that had cards in it. Then they ran credit cards across it and twisted the wallet up close to a microphone to make that fateful sound.

White-faced Demon

If viewers pay close attention while watching the movie, they might notice that a strange white-faced demon pops up from time to time in a subliminal image. The original image was never meant to be used in the film, as it was created as a make-up test to do Regan’s ultimate demon make-up.

However, the image was so sinister and creepy that they decided it might be fun to splice the image into the film to add to the sense of uneasiness. The Exorcist has quite a bit of subliminal messaging through creepy sounds, hidden imagery, and small details that fans might not notice until they’ve seen the movie several times through.

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