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Was Fort Bragg the location of an exorcism in the 1980s?

By RACHAEL RILEY | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: November 30, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — Hollywood producers are planning a movie about a military exorcism that may have taken place on Fort Bragg.

In late September, Variety broke the news that director Osgood Perkins is teaming up with Lionsgate for the film known as "Incident at Fort Bragg."

Perkins previously directed "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," Variety reported.

The Variety article states the film is based on the true story of Malachi Martin, claiming Martin "was brought in by the U.S. government to perform a sanctioned exorcism" on a Fort Bragg soldier.

The Observer attempted to reach out to Fort Bragg's Religious Services representatives and other spokespeople to talk about the movie and Hollywood's portrayal of exorcisms in the Catholic faith, but a spokesman said chaplains declined to comment.

It is unknown when or where the movie will be filmed.

Lionsgate hasn't pushed out any official news releases about the movie, but Flynn Picture Company, which Variety named as the producers of the film, has shared a link of Variety's story to its Instagram social media page.

Here's what we know about the film and its subject matter:

  • Martin died in 1999 at the age of 78. He started working in the Vatican as a Jesuit priest in 1958, then left the Jesuits in 1965 to move to the United States. He would later write 15 books, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time of Martin's death.
  • Martin's book "Hostage to the Devil" specifically addresses the topic of exorcisms and recounts five cases he said he participated in. None of the cases in the book reference Fort Bragg.
  • Martin's life is the topic of a Causeway Pictures and Underground Films documentary, also called "Hostage to the Devil." It's featured on Netflix.
  • The documentary features filmed and radio interviews with Martin. It does not reference a military exorcism, but does include Martin's overall views on exorcisms. "The real horror of what hurts in possession is the presence of the evil one, and when we start an exorcism, within the first 20 minutes we know whether it's genuine or not," Martin said in one of the interviews shown in the documentary.
  • The documentary also includes interviews with friends who knew Martin, including Robert A. Marro Jr.
  • Marro told the documentary's producers he was introduced to Martin through a fellow Catholic priest they knew in New York. Marro said he later drove Martin to sites where Martin conducted exorcisms.
  • The documentary states Marro was a Central Intelligence Agency agent after graduating from college in 1984 until 1997. It shows Marro's former CIA identification. "The government can train you to do all kinds of things, but for the things that are in the world that we cannot see, they don't train you for that," Marro said in the documentary.
  • The Times UK has reported that Marro is the one who told producers about Martin's exorcism at a military installation.

Marro told the publication he is unable to speak about Martin or the potential movie.

Marty Stalker, a director on the "Hostage to the Devil" documentary, told the publication that Marro was unhappy with the script for the new movie but can't make changes because of contracts.

Another one of Martin's acquaintances told the publication he knew about the case but wasn't involved in it.

Stalker said Marro didn't write the movie's script but wrote about what happened, claiming the U.S. military was involved in "psychological warfare" in the 1980s.

Specifically, the publication said the claim was that Special Forces soldiers started "exhibiting signs of possession" by speaking in different languages and having "superhuman" strength.

The publication states "one incident" involved a female officer.

The UK Times reported that producers changed the location of the "unnamed military base" to Fort Bragg.

The Fayetteville Observer's online archives, which date to the 1980s, do not reference any exorcisms happening at Fort Bragg.

Before identifying Fort Bragg as the military installation where the supposed exorcism took place, Variety reported in 2016 that actor Mark Wahlberg was identified as a potential star for the movie.

In a 1990 edition of the "Special Warfare" professional bulletin of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, then Lt. Col. David Decker provided a review of one of Martin's books, "The Jesuits: The Society Of Jesus And The Betrayal Of The Roman Catholic Church."

Decker wrote that "military thinkers" should reflect on Martin's work "with great care."

The book caused Decker to raise questions that included, "Are we being subjected in the process to a Soviet disinformation campaign in our own country meant to confuse us in terms of the realities of the conflict?" Decker asked.

"'The Jesuits' may prove to be the most eloquent and well-documented warning concerning a relatively new Soviet global strategy which has successfully incorporated Marxist revolutionary thought, Third World nationalism and disinformation in the West to the ultimate demise of our system of government," Decker wrote.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that exorcism is "directed ... to the liberation from demonic possessions."

The Catholic Code of Canon Law states an exorcism may not be performed without the permission of the local order, or without the permission of a bishop.

In the "Hostage to the Devil" documentary, the Rev. Cesar Truqui, an exorcist, said cases of psychological illness should be ruled out before performing an exorcism. Truqui said there should be four signs to show someone is demon possessed. Those signs include extraordinary strength, knowledge of ancient languages, fear of sacred things, and knowledge of hidden things such as personal details of someone in the room that the possessed person wouldn't otherwise know.

In an interview with Martin shown in the documentary, Martin spoke about the movie "The Exorcist," and said he did not think it accurately portrayed an exorcism.

"It makes out exorcism to be a sort of combination of Frankenstein and Dracula with a lot of green goo and windows breaking and bodies flying, and it's much more terrible and lethal than that," Martin said.

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(c)2019 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)
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