NEW YORK — Novelist and filmmaker
Blatty died Thursday at a hospital in
Inspired by an incident in a Washington suburb that Blatty had read about while in college, The Exorcist was published in 1971, followed two years later by the film of the same name. Blatty's story of a 12-year-old-girl inhabited by a satanic force spent more than a year on The New York Times fiction best-seller list and eventually sold more than 10 million copies.
It reached a far wider audience through the movie version, directed by
"RIP William Peter Blatty, who wrote the great horror novel of our time,"
Even those who thought they had seen everything had never seen anything like the R-rated The Exorcist and its assault of vomit, blood, rotting teeth, ghastly eyes and whirlwind head-spinning — courtesy of makeup and special effects maestro Dick Smith. Fans didn't care that
From around the world came reports of fainting, puking, epileptic fits, audience members charging the screen and waving rosary beads, and, in England, a boy committing murder and blaming The Exorcist. The
"I was standing in the back of a theater in New York at the first public press screening of the film, too nervous to sit down," Blatty told
Named the scariest movie of all time by Entertainment Weekly, The Exorcist topped $400 million worldwide at the box office, among the highest at the time for an R-rated picture. Oscar voters also offered rare respect for a horror film: The Exorcist was nominated for 10
"When I was writing the novel I thought of it as a super-natural detective story, and to this day I cannot recall having a conscious intention to terrifying anybody, which you may take, I suppose, as an admission of failure on an almost stupefying scale," Blatty told The Huffington Post in 2011.