Inside Destination America’s “Exorcism: Live!”

Tremendous! Entertainment's Shannon Keenan Demers and Discovery Communications' Henry Schleiff and Jodi Tovay explain how they're investigating the spirits of an infamous house for Exorcism: Live!.
October 29, 2015

In the quaint, tree-lined neighborhood of Bel-Nor, a suburban village northwest of St. Louis, Missouri, bizarre occurrences began enveloping a teenager under the pseudonym of Roland Doe throughout much of 1949.

Following the death of his Aunt Harriet, with whom Doe was especially close, the family allegedly witnessed the boy speaking in tongues, his bed inexplicably shaking, furniture moving and levitating on its own accord, and inexplicable words such as “evil” etched onto the boy’s skin.

After a medical evaluation at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington DC, it was deemed that malevolent spirits possessed Doe, and a number of exorcisms followed suit at his residence, later inspiring William Friedkin’s 1973 supernatural horror The Exorcist.

Now Destination America will revisit the St. Louis home on its 66th anniversary, with a live televised exorcism in the home on October 30 at 9 p.m. EST/PST.

Produced by Tremendous! Entertainment, Exorcism: Live! will feature the cast of the network’s paranormal series Ghost Asylum – the Tennessee Wraith Chasers – as they use state-of-the-art technology to investigate and document the home’s paranormal activity.

“I don’t think there’s any way we can’t have insane activity taking place just knowing about this house.”
- Tremendous! Entertainment’s Shannon Keenan Demers

That information will then be shared with psychic medium Chip Coffey, who will perform a séance in an attempt to communicate with spirits living within the residence, before Archbishop James Long of the United States Old Catholic Church conducts the exorcism to rid the house of its evil spirits.

A team of medical professionals will be standing by on-set to evaluate and monitor the situation.

“It’s been over a year in the preparation and making of this one night,” Henry Schleiff, group president of Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel and Destination America, tells realscreen.

That year-long prep period was a meticulous endeavor to ensure all variables would be accounted for during the live transmission. The network, Schleiff says, worked diligently to verify the viability of an otherworldly encounter while ensuring the correct auspices were involved and the right cast – including host Chris Jacobs – was assembled for the two-hour live event.

Key technical information of the home’s layout was also sought in order to best position the six fixed cameras – one in each room with the most activity – set to live-stream the experience across Destination America’s website. In addition to eight manned cameras, the mounted cameras will allow viewers the opportunity to track and report any mysterious anomalies throughout the special, says Jodi Tovay, a series producer and senior manager of development and productions at Discovery Communications.

“What we’ve learned with our paranormal audience is that they love to be interactive and they’re going to be watching online and tweeting at us,” she explained. “The exciting thing about the live show is that…if we get 40 messages on Facebook and Twitter that we need to go to the attic because something’s happening on camera, we will go to the attic.”

Exorcism Live

The St. Louis bedroom in which Roland Doe was exorcised.

The home’s current inhabitants – a young family expecting their first child – have said there have been several unexplained occurrences since moving in, an observation also made by the Ghost Asylum team and Coffey during their daytime sweeps through the residence. In one recorded instance, according to Tovay, a laminate prayer card mysteriously soared from the hands of Coffey and across the room.

“Our hope is that what’s typically happening in this house happens tenfold for the two hours that we’re there,” says Shannon Keenan Demers, senior VP of production and creative for Tremendous! Entertainment. “I don’t think there’s any way we can’t have insane activity taking place just knowing about this house.”

Regardless, Keenan Demers and Schleiff both have acknowledged the very real possibility that everything could certainly go awry once the cameras start rolling.

“I think everybody wants to avoid the ‘Geraldo-Rivera-Al-Capone-nothing-in-the-vault’ syndrome,” Schleiff jokes. “But in the parlance of ghost chasers, we think the house is very ‘hot.’ We think, based on the research, [an encounter] is more likely than not.”

“The beauty of live [television] is you get all the right people in place, you plan it to the best of your very ability, but then you’ve got to be ready to throw it all out the window,” added Keenan Demers. “At the end of the day, we’re really going to let the house lead us.”

  • Exorcism: Live! premieres on Friday (October 30) at 9 p.m. EST/PST on Destination America.
About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.