In 1974, Linda Blair became a household name for her portrayal of possessed child Regan in The Exorcist. It was a controversial role that she would never escape, but these days it gives her an opportunity to promote the work of her animal welfare foundation. She talked to FT about her most famous role, her odder experiences and her spiritual beliefs.
There have been a lot of stories about things happening on the set of The Exorcist and people dying and so on. I was a child at the time, and a child's perception is different from an adult's. An adult has some preconceived ideas they've already formulated. They may be looking for something, and a child is not. I was told when I was young that children can sense things, but I never did. I never felt anything was weird on the film shoot; it was always a job and it was very difficult. And the fact that you work on something for a year and a half – well, somebody's relative is going to pass away; a carpenter might have a carpentry accident... The electrical fire that happened on the film – well, was it because of something that was plugged into the electricity that should not have been? I never felt anything out of the ordinary. It is true that they had priests come in and bless the set, but I wasn't there.
Ghosts and spirits
When I was nine or 10, I was playing with my sister and her friend near our house in Connecticut. In those days, we still had so-called haunted houses – you know, houses that were way back in the woods. You don't really find them any more because so much time has gone by and every plot of land has been developed. But back then, there were still places where you could find one of these houses...
This one in particular was very old, with vines growing everywhere, and we went investigating. We slowly went up the old staircase – the floors were so rotten there were holes in them. We were on the second floor and looking through things and just as we opened the bedroom door, we heard footsteps down below. They were absolutely footsteps... you just sort of knew that they probably weren't made by a human. We ran down the stairs as fast as we could – only I was smallest, so I was last. As we got to the big, heavy front door, my sister and her friend flew out and the door closed in front of me. Oh my God! That scared me! And then I turned around and I saw these figures – but then the door opened and I was gone! That's the only thing that ever happened to me. Nobody was threatening me, but that was the only thing happened to me that was like a ghost story situation.
We did have a strange experience within the family, though. Timmy would have been my cousin – he was my aunt's son – and on his 16th birthday, a year or two before I was born, my grandfather gave him the car to go to the store and enjoy his birthday; Timmy was 16, so he could now drive legally. But then the car stalled on the train tracks – the old cliché that you can't believe. I mean, what is the chance of that happening just as the train is coming? Why not a different moment, half an hour before or three hours later? So, Timmy died in this terrible, violent crash – but that wasn't the end.
My sister was the one who actually used to see him the most. I talked to my family about it, and they said: "Yeah, we see Timmy all the time." They said he appeared outside, coming towards the window in what I suppose you would call a ghostly form. I never saw him myself.
I do know that spirits exist; for me, there's no doubt about that. I mean mostly those who have died violently, who were not allowed to pass on into the next life. You have good ones that are here, too, that you pray to and say: "If you can help in any way, please do so"; but I don't believe they can really do much to help. They're just sort of there. The idea of trying to make contact with someone deceased is not a good one. Ouija Boards and so on... Nope! I won't touch them! We know what those particular situations are supposed to conjure up, so why – unless out of curiosity – would you be willing to enter that arena? My feeling is that you're going to attract other, negative things. I would never do that. People have even brought Ouija boards to me to sign at appearances, and I'm like, "Oh no, I won't touch that!" If I don't like a certain object, I definitely won't sign it.
I try to look at these experiences scientifically as well as spiritually. Spiritually, can that person be there touching you? Why not? On the other hand, scientifically, did something just manifest in the experiencer's mind? The human mind is so fragile; it can manifest a voice, or something you think you actually saw... and there is no scientific proof behind any of it, because it is always just a fleeting moment. Some people choose to be believers, and some say: "No. Because I can't prove it scientifically, it's not possible!" That's a little too hard-core for me.
Angels, animals and The Exorcist
One of things that might surprise people, coming from me, is that I feel there are angels on Earth. Everybody always wants to talk about ghosts and spirits... everyone wants to talk about negative things, but there are many of us who choose to see the beauty, find the good and recognise when there is angelic work around us. I have felt that throughout my life yet nobody ever asks me about it!
The whole Exorcist thing has been very strange. First of all, for me to be the one who was picked to do the film seemed very odd. I think about the fact that I made the film and it became so controversial, and I had to go through that whole experience and constantly fight for who I was. I had to live life to prove who I was. I had always wanted to be a veterinarian. Now I'm able to affect thousands upon thousands of animals, hopefully because I have a good platform, and that came from the movie. So I respect The Exorcist for giving me a platform to talk about issues that I'm passionate about – environmental issues and animal welfare.
The animals teach me so much about life, compassion, death, sadness, happiness, contentment... they teach me constantly to smell the flowers, to see the beauty of the world. It's about living your life every day, no matter how difficult it is, and treating others the way you would like to be treated. I have always felt that angels are around me. If you ask me what I believe, then I believe that animals are angels hidden in animal suits. I believe that cats and dogs are angels in animal suits, and come Judgement Day you will be judged by them for how you treated them. I think many people will be quite surprised!
You can support Linda Blair's WorldHeart Foundation at: www.lindablairworldheart.org
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