Friends and Neighbors Speak Out
For the First
Cottage City, Maryland, is a small working-class community
of around 1,200 residents that quietly sits one mile from Washington, D.C.s
northeast border. Nestled between the towns of Colmar Manor and Brentwood,
Cottage City is located about two miles due east across Rhode Island Avenue
(Route One) from Mount Rainier. Originally laid out in 1904 as a town called
Highlands, the gradual construction of over three hundred one-story cottages
in the subdivision provided for a unique landscape and eventually led to
its current name, with incorporation in 1924. Cottage City has traditionally
been known as a tight-knit family-oriented community that has been home
to blue collar and government workers for decades. Today, like all of surrounding
Prince Georges County, Cottage City is a community in transition.
Nevertheless, I had little trouble locating a number of older residents
who had spent their lives there. I was also able to interview a large number
of former Cottage City residents who had moved away, but still had ties
to their old home. Many of these people from both camps remembered the
Doe family. I was astonished to learn that no other investigator or journalist
had ever questioned any of them about the story behind The Exorcist that
had taken place just up the street in the heart of their hometown.
The bulk of my investigative time spent on this case was directed at interviewing
present and former Cottage City residents who had personally known Rob
Doe and his family. In all, I taped interviews with 102 individuals for
this investigation. Specifically, I located and interviewed members of
five of of the 17 families that resided in the 3800 block of 40th Avenue
in 1949. All of them knew the Doe family. Many of the people I interviewed
were friends of Rob Doe and many had gone to school with him at Cottage
City Elementary and Bladensburg Junior High.
For the record, Rob Doe entered the seventh grade at Bladensburg Junior
High in the fall of 1947, and was removed in the middle of his eighth grade
year in January 1949. He re-enrolled in the eighth grade at Bladensburg
Junior High for the 1949-50 school year, then spent the next four yearsfrom
the fall of 1950 until June 1954at Gonzaga High School in Washington,
Of the dozens of persons I talked with who knew Doe, there seemed to be
an even split between those who were aware that The Exorcist was
based on events that happened to him and those who were not.
One of the first individuals I spoke with was T. Weston Scott Jr., a Cottage
City resident since 1919 and a lifelong member of the Cottage City-Colmar
Manor Fire Department. Having served as the local fire chief for over twenty
years, there was little about his community Mr. Scott didnt know.
He offered his knowledge of the situation without hesitation.
The boy involved was [Rob Doe] and he lived at 3807 40th Avenue,
he stated. I knew the boy but I didnt know too much about what
was going on to be frank. They kept it quiet at the time and later on there
was a lot of stuff about it. The [Does] lived there since the thirties
and they stayed in that house for about 20 years. I think most of the older
neighbors who were around at the time knew about it. Most of them are gone
Cottage Citys current town chairman and police commissioner, William
Hall Sr., moved into his home at 3810 40th Avenue in 1968. His house faces
the former Doe residence and from the day he moved in he had known of the
strange story that had supposedly transpired across the street. He told
I just know what people tell me. Years back I heard the name and it was
[Doe], but I dont personally know him or anything like that. It happened
in the house directly across the street from me at 3807 and that was back
in 1949. When I moved in here, the neighbors knew. When I first moved here
it was still talked about, but now people dont say too much about
it. After the movie some of the older residents called it The Exorcist
House but today it is vacant and no one really comes around talking
about it or anything like that. Most people think it happened over in Mount
Between interviews I sifted through the large pile of The Prince Georges
Post references from the late forties and early fifties that I had
collected and filed on the Doe family. I noticed that time and again this
family had played cards with some neighbors named Kagey, obviously one
of the few families they chose to socialize with. In my travels around
town I was told that a son, Alvin Kagey, was now a dentist in Southern
Virginia and had even been called on to testify as a state dental expert
on the famed Marv Albert trial. In an interview with me, Mr. Kagey revealed
some fascinating insights into this case:
Let me preface this by saying I have not seen [Rob Doe] for probably 45
years but I would still consider him a friend so I dont really want
to betray that. [Rob] is a year younger than me and was a year behind me
at Cottage City Elementary and while I know he had friends, he was in a
sense a little bit of a loner. I dont know of any other word that
I might use that would be more appropriate. He was somewhat sedentary,
somewhat quiet, as his parents were. I dont think he was interested
in sports. The contact that I had with him was through his parents playing
cards. In those days Canasta was the hot game and my parents, along with
the [Does] and the Hodges and the Clarks, played Canasta almost every Saturday
night on a rotating basis. The [Does] were very active members of this
group and it went on for years and back then the parents would just bring
their kids with them and I got to know [Rob] that way.
I asked Mr. Kagey if he was aware of Rob Does alleged possession.
It sure must have put a damper on the card games. He responded:
It was never really discussed. I know that [Rob] somehow, Im going
to use the term became sick and if I remember the facts he
and his mother went out to St. Louis for treatment. They were
Lutheran and at some point there was a conversion to Catholicism. I remember
during that time his father telling my father something about how [Rob]
was acting funny or strange or something and there were some other things
they talked about as well. Possession was not used at all.
I heard about that when it was going on and the next time I heard about
it was probably 1974 when the movie came out and I was down here in Virginia
and this friend of mine, I told him where I was from and he said Oh
have you seen the movie Exorcist?, and he said that it happened
in The Mount Rainier and started telling me about the movie and
I thought Uh-oh, I know where that happenedand it was not Mount
Rainier! I knew it had really happened in Cottage City and not Mount
Rainier so I went to my father who had neither seen the movie nor read
the book and I talked to him and went through the whole thing about the
movie and he said, Thats [Rob Doe]. My father absolutely
had no knowledge of the movie or the book or anything. It was just what
he knew from the [Doe] family. The [Doe] family had lived in Cottage City
for as long as I can rememberthey never lived in Mount Rainier, but
I dont think people really knew anything about what had happened.
We lived differently then. It was as though it never happened in Cottage
City and I dont think it was covered up. I just dont think
it was general knowledge. I never heard it discussed in town. My parents
were the only source and that came right from [Mr. Doe].
As I tapped into a growing pool of valuable Cottage
City sources, the name of one family in particular surfaced repeatedly.
Three brothers from this household had grown up in the town and were well-known
for their community involvement. One of the brothers in particular was
said to have been Rob Does best friend and constant companion for
a number of years. The two boys were born just days apart and developed
a unique relationship at a very early age that lasted throughout their
teens. Two of the brothers from this family agreed to speak to me, but
only on the condition that they be granted anonymity. Their testimony puts
them right at the heart of the Rob Doe saga. The older brother, J.
C., was born in 1926. He recounted his memories of what happened
just up the street from his home in 1949:
Im aware of the story and I know a lot of people who followed the
story and, well, yes I knew him. There were very few people that knew about
it at the time. We have kept very quiet about it over the years deliberately
because it didnt happen in Mount Rainier. He and my younger brother
were very close friends and they were very precocious, if you know what
Im saying. In every neighborhood kids pair up and this is the kind
of thing that happened, these two paired up and were virtually inseparable.
They were loners who found each other and they caused a lot of mischief.
There was a close relationship there, a very close relationship.
I asked J. C. if he knew any specifics about the possession that was allegedly
taking place to their friend up the street. He responded:
I knew something was going on before the first article ever came out.
It was developing over a period of time and you could see this condition
building up. You could say I was in the house and witnessed these things.
I attended the local premier of that video [In the Grip Of Evil] and they
exaggerated so many things that happened. One of the things that they tried
to emphasize in that show was the thing about the boy spitting. Well, with
this pair, I noticed that one of the common bonds between them, they found
this very clever way of doing it, they could spit with great accuracy up
to ten feet. It was a common thing. Theyd keep their mouths closed
and raise their lips and spit through their teeth and they somehow developed
a way to do that. I saw them do that all the time. Another thing was with
the bed moving about. In those days the beds had wire springs and were
on wheels and it was not too hard at all to make the bed bounce and move
aboutit was harder to keep it in one place and his bed was like that.
A lot of these things can be exaggerated to make a story and that is exactly
Since J. C. was one of the very few who actually knew that Rob was going
through this phase at the time and was able to observe the situation firsthand,
I asked him if he thought the boy was actually possessed by the devil,
and he responded:
No, I dont think he was ever possessed. I think it was psychological.
As far as any real possession or anything like that, I dont think
so. There are some interesting psychological aspects to it. They were German
Lutherans and he was an only child and I think the grandmother is actually
the central figure. She played a very influential role in all of this.
You had this old world religion superstition and the mother got caught
up in it and the father just kind of stayed in the backgroundI think
he could see what was going on which is why he is never mentioned. The
true story is much more intriguing from a psychological point of view.
The basis of the real thing could be a damn good story, no doubt about
it in my mind. The rest of it I can run a parallel. You had these two mischief
makers that had a strong tendency to take advantage of people who were
weaker than themselves. They were a pair of connivers and they had their
act down. In pairs like that they compete with each other and they dont
get along well and they have to keep doing something to retain their relationship
and all the time this is mischief in one form or another. They were trying
to outdo each other.
J. C.s brother B. C. was said to
be Rob Does best friend throughout childhood. I was warned by several
that talking with him would be difficult due to his close relationship
with the subject of this article. I obtained his address andwithout
forewarningI knocked on his front door at 1:00 p.m. on the afternoon
of January 20, 1998. Warily he invited me in and proceeded with an intense
and detailed description of his childhood relationship with Rob Doe in
Cottage City. Because of the sensitive nature of the subject, I cannot
reveal much of what was discussed that day. I can say that B. C. provided
a detailed profile of an only child who went through anything but a normal
childhood: smothered by his obsessively religious mother and grandmother
who held deep interests in spiritualism and Ouija Boards; shunned by his
classmates at school; prone to tantrums and even violent outbursts towards
his family and his few friends; exhibiting cruel and at times even sadistic
behavior towards other children and even animals. It was evident that elements
of the alleged possession had always been there, going back years and years.
Dysfunctional would be the word modern-era psychiatrists would
use to describe the boys home life and upbringing.
B. C. was frank with me right from the beginning:
Since the movie came out Ive never said his name in front of anyone,
not even my wife. We were playmates and classmates. We were playing together
from the time we first moved in here when I was three years old and we
went all the way through school togetherCottage City Elementary throughout
the 40s into Bladensburg Junior High. They always lived at 3807 40th
Avenue so I dont know where that Mount Rainier crap came from. People
ask what he was like back then and I can tell you that he was never what
you would call a normal child. He was an only child and kind of spoiled
and he was a mean bastard. We were together all the time and we used to
fight all the time.
Overcoming an initial reluctance to directly discuss the details of the
case, B. C. eventually opened up and offered some interesting accounts:
One thing happened regarding all of this and I have a hard time clearing
it in my mind. We were in eighth grade, it was the 48-49 school
year and we were in a class together at Bladensburg Junior High. He was
sitting in a chair and it was one of those deals with one arm attached
and it looked like he was shaking the deskthe desk was shaking and
vibrating extremely fast and I remember the teacher yelling at him to stop
it and I remember he kind of yelled Im not doing it and
they took him out of class and that was the last I ever saw of him in school.
The desk certainly did not move around the room like that book [Possessed]
said, it was just shaking. I dont know if he was doing it or what
was doing it because I just cant clear it in my mind. I put everything
together. It was very closed-mouth in the neighborhood at firstno
one knew anything. I hadnt seen him for some time and I was wondering
what happened to him. I would still see his father around and I remember
going to his house and his German grandmother came out and she could barely
speak English and she told me he was in St. Louis visiting relatives and
he would be there for a while. He hadnt been in school and from what
I saw I knew something strange was going on but I didnt know what.
When that Washington Post article came out later that summer I
knew from the details that was him. No one else around Cottage City knew
that it was him, then, a year or so later his mother told one of the ladies
at a local ladies club meeting and that was like broadcasting it over a
loudspeaker. The story went out in Cottage City but then it died out shortly
B. C. had some odd theories on what may have happened regarding the possession:
The reason behind it, youre going to laugh but I dont care.
There was this dog that ran around the neighborhood at that time
It was half-red cocker spaniel and it looked like it was half-chow. This
dog was mean and nobody ever knew who owned it. It just came out of nowhere.
Well, [Rob] basically adopted that dog. That dog was really his best friend,
not me. That dog hated everyone and everything and would bite anyone in
sight but he loved [Rob]. [Rob] would feed it and bring it in the house
with him. One time he called me up and told me to come over and I never
really trusted him because he was sneaky and a real mean little bastard.
I was going over there and he was looking out from the basement window
and when I got to his house I heard the back porch door slam and I knew
right away what hed done. Hed done this sort of thing many
times before to different kids. I started running like hell because hed
sicked that dog on me. When I got home he called me up and was laughing
like hell. Thats what kind of person he was. He did that all the
time. Hed always sic that dog on anyone who came around
could tell you many, many other stories like that.
B. C. has been thankful all of these years that the true story had never
been revealed by anyone. Prior to the release of the video In The Grip
Of Evil he had always been protective of Rob Does real identity.
With a sarcastic laugh he continued:
A friend of mine drives me by the spot where the house stood on Bunker
Hill Road in Mount Rainier and tells me Thats where The
Exorcist story happened and I just play dumb and look at him
and act surprised and say Oh is it really? How interesting.
And to myself Im saying, Thank God nobody knows the real story.
Theyre all looking in the wrong place. Theyre all looking at
Mount Rainier and St. James and Father Hughes and its not there.
Its always been in Cottage City and you are right on the money and
everyone else is wrong.
I left B. C.s home at 4:45 p.m., my head reeling
from the character reference given by the best childhood friend the haunted
boy ever had.
THE CONCLUSION Truth and Consequences
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