The Spanish Steps. The spiral stairs of the Vatican Museums. L’Escalier des amoureux (Lovers’ Staircase) of Paris’s Rue Foyatier. The Potemkin Stairs in Odessa. The Tiled Steps in San Francisco. The Santa Monica Stairs in Los Angeles.
And Georgetown’s own Exorcist Steps.
Thanks to the classic 1973 horror film with a screenplay by Georgetown University alumnus William Peter Blatty (based on his novel), our village possesses a staircase known worldwide.
According to the Lonely Planet guide to Washington, D.C.:
“Across from the Key Bridge is a steep set of stairs that happens to be 1) a popular track for joggers and 2) the spot where demonically possessed Reagan of The Exorcist sent victims to their screaming deaths. Come on foggy nights, when the steps really are creepy as hell, and don’t try and walk them drunk (trust us).”
(The name of the character played by Linda Blair was actually spelled “Regan,” but it’s an understandable mistake.)
On Oct. 30, our famous steps will be officially recognized with a plaque, a screening and other festivities appropriate to Halloween, a holiday for which — in part thanks to the film — Georgetown is a prime location.
To make it easy for residents and visitors to prepare, here, from the screenplay, is the fatal (and, ironically, immortal) scene:
Father Damien Karras: [sees Father Merrin dead on Regan’s bed and gently moves him on the floor]
Regan MacNeil: [looks at Karras and Merrrin]
Father Damien Karras: [beats with great force on Merrin’s breast, checks whether he can hear Merrin’s heartbeat]
Demon: [fakes crying]
Father Damien Karras: [enrages] You son of a bitch!
[beats Regan several times]
Father Damien Karras: [almost strangles Regan] Take me! Come into me! God damn you! Take me! Take me!
Father Damien Karras: [feels the demon entering him]
Regan MacNeil: [freed from the demon, starts to cry]
Father Damien Karras: [falls down, is about to kill Regan, but screams:] NOOOOO! [jumps out of the window and rolls down the steps to his death].