The Rite Exorcism True Story Father Gary Thomas
Father Carmine De Filippis The Rite Movie Exorcist

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The Rite (2011)
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue, Alice Braga, Marta Gastini
based on the book "The Rite" by Matt Baglio
Reel Face: Real Face:
Colin O'Donoghue The Rite movie Colin O'Donoghue

January 26, 1981
Birthplace: Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland
real Father Gary Thomas exorcist Father Gary Thomas
November 2, 1953
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, USA
Anthony Hopkins The Rite Anthony Hopkins

December 31, 1937
Birthplace: Margam, Port Talbot, West Glamorgan, Wales, UK
real Lucas Trevant exorcist Father Carmine De Filippis Father Carmine De Filippis
Birthplace: Salerno, Italy
Alice Braga The Rite movie Alice Braga

April 15, 1983
Birthplace: Sao Paulo, Brazil
author Matt Baglio The Rite book Matt Baglio

June 1973
Birthplace: San Diego, California, USA

The book is all true. There’s nothing in that book that’s not true. - Father Gary Thomas (

Questioning the Story:

The Rite Matt Baglio book
Read The Rite book
discover the real story.
Are there really classes about exorcism?
Yes. At the Vatican-affiliated Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum (Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University) in Rome there is a course titled “Exorcism and the Prayer of Liberation”. It was thought up by professor Dr. Giuseppe Ferrari who was assisted by the school’s rector, Father Paolo Scarafoni, to make the idea a reality. - The Rite book

Did the real Michael Kovak take classes in Rome to become an exorcist?
Yes. According to The Rite true story, Father Gary Thomas, who is portrayed by actor Colin O’Donoghue in the movie, attended exorcism classes, among others, during his nine month stay. He arrived in Rome during the summer of 2005.

Did the priest and the journalist work together after meeting in exorcism class?
Yes. Male journalist Matt Baglio and Fr. Gary Thomas met in the class. As the only two Americans in attendance, they quickly bonded. In the movie, the journalist is portrayed as a female named Angeline (Alice Braga).

Did the real Michael Kovak follow a practicing exorcist like Anthony Hopkin’s character, Father Lucas Trevant?
Yes. During his sabbatical in Rome, Reverend Gary Thomas decided it was important not only to learn about exorcisms but to experience them as well. He sought out exorcists in the city to apprentice with during his stay and was accepted by Capuchin Father Carmine De Filippis, the real Lucas Trevant. During their time together, he witnessed approximately 80 exorcisms. -

Vatican Exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth
Exorcist Fr. Gabriele Amorth
Did a woman really spit up nails during an exorcism?
Yes, but the true story behind The Rite reveals that it was not witnessed by Father Gary Thomas himself. According to the book, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio, the incident was told to Father Thomas by a Franciscan priest who was present when a woman vomited seven black nails, one of which he kept after the rest liquefied before his eyes. Fr. Carmine De Filippis, who was the basis for Anthony Hopkin's character Father Lucas Trevant, has not seen this manifestation either. However, the Vatican’s chief exorcist who trained him, Father Gabriele Amorth (pictured at right), has. He has more than 70,000 exorcisms to his name and says that he has seen nails and other objects, including shards of glass and radio equipment parts, vomited by possessed persons. - The Independent

Did Fr. Thomas work in a funeral home?
Yes. While attending a funeral as a teenager, Gary was approached by one of the owners and asked if he wanted to work there part time. At the age of 14, he accepted employment and began working odd jobs at the Nauman Lincoln Roos mortuary.

Was Gary Thomas always a man of the cloth?
No, although he had always considered it. In researching the true story behind The Rite movie, it was discovered that after graduating from Serra High School in San Mateo, California, he attended the University of San Francisco and went on to study mortuary science. He worked in the funeral home business until the age of 25 when he decided to study at St. Patrick’s Seminary. Five years later he became an ordained Catholic priest. - CHNOnline

How many exorcists are there in the United States?
As of February 2011, Priest Gary Thomas estimated there are between 25 and 50 exorcists in the United States. Ideally, it has been suggested that every diocese should have an exorcist, in which case there should be nearly 200. - Catholic Exchange

Has Father Thomas ever witnessed a death due to a possession?
No, not according to The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist book.

Did the frogs really appear?
No, but when investigating The Rite real story, it was discovered that Fr. Carmine did witness a woman vomit a live black frog; soon after it dissolved into liquid. - The Rite book

Father Gary Thomas and Actor Colin O'Donoghue
Father Gary Thomas consulting with the
actor who plays him, Colin O'Donoghue.
Did a car accident bring the real Michael Kovak back to his faith?
No. Unlike in the movie The Rite, he was not a seminarian who had lost his faith. He was a fifty-year-old priest at the time and was asked by his bishop to participate in an exorcism course at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University. The course was titled "Exorcism and the Prayer of Liberation".
- CatholicNewsAgency

Was Father Carmine ever taken over by a demon?
No. Unlike the movie, the real Lucas Trevant, Father Carmine De Filippis, was never possessed by a demon. However, like all exorcists he can be and claims that he is often times attacked by demons.

Did Father Thomas's dad really die after a premonition?
Matt Baglio's book does not support this element of the movie.

Did they really encounter a child with hoof prints on him?
No, not with regard to The Rite true story. However, having marks, letters or signs appear on a victim’s body for no apparent reason is not unheard of. A physical attack which can also include pushing and hitting is categorized as oppression, one of the four types of demonic extraordinary activity.

What are the signs of a possessed being?
Former exorcist Father Gabriele Nanni cites four accepted signs of possession, which include “speaking in unknown languages, showing a disproportionate physical strength beyond one’s natural capacity, the repulsion to sacred things such as a crucifix and prayers, and knowledge of events that have happened far away, in terms of times and places.” - Belief Net

Father Carmine De Filippis
Exorcist Fr. Carmine de
Filippis (middle)
How does a demon present itself during an exorcism?
Each case is different. Exorcists have seen a wide variety of indicators that vary depending on the severity of the possession. In mild cases, the victim often coughs uncontrollably, screams, swears, drools, tremors, yawns, winces, belches, hisses, grunts, growls, froths, fidgets and/or pushes away. Sometimes possessed beings' actions escalate to hitting, throwing things such as a chair they are in, spitting and flailing, as well as having their eyes roll back into their heads. In the most severe cases, objects have been vomited, people have seizure-like movements, a mysterious dark liquid has appeared in the area, the victim has spoken in unknown languages, marks appear on their skin, jaws dislocate, they contort into unnatural positions, muscles tense until they are unrecognizable, or they will take on snakelike mannerisms including sticking out their tongues and coiling up (CNN). As pertaining to The Rite movie true story, Father Carmine himself is said to have witnessed a victim vomiting up buckets of human sperm. - The Rite book

What is the process of an exorcism?
Each exorcist has their own touches but all follow The Ritual. This book, originally referred to as the Roman Ritual, was published in 1614 but has been revised a few times throughout its history. The current text is known by its Latin name, De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam (Of Exorcisms and Certain Supplications) in the Revised Ritual from 1998. They begin with a blessing and sprinkling of holy water on the afflicted. Often times the exorcist will place their hand on the person's head and begin the rite, including prayers, homilies and psalms; some of which are standard while others can be chosen by the conductor. At the end, the priest will usually bring the person out of the trance by tapping their head.

Author Matt Baglio and Actor Colin O'Donoghue
Actor Colin O'Donoghue reviewing
notes with The Rite author Matt Balgio.
Can anyone become possessed?
According to Priest Gary, "A demon doesn't show up. He has to be invited in. The involvement in pagan, satanic, or occult practices are the classical ways" (Catholic Herald). While less common, it is understood that others can invite them in without your participation, such as by cursing or having a past family member promise a child to the devil. To be safe, he would suggest, "Stay close to God in prayer, and refrain from being involved in things that would be considered to be the New Age — rituals of the New Age, rituals of the occult, things such as Wicca, or tarot cards, Ouija boards, superstitious practices, black magic, white magic, anything that would really be idolatrous." - Busted Halo

How many exorcisms has the real life priest done since completing training?
In his first five years doing this work, he has performed over 40 exorcisms on five people. -

How many hoaxes does Fr. Thomas typically encounter?
An Exorcist Tells His Story Father Gabriele Amorth book
Read An Exorcist
Tells His Story
firsthand accounts.
The real Reverend Gary Thomas does not consider any person seeking help as a hoax. While many people truly believe they are in need of an exorcism, few actually do. It is for this reason that everyone requesting the service is put through a variety of tests conducted by his team, which includes a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, physician, two additional priests, and occasionally other professionals like therapists, who together help him determine a course of action. This process is referred to as discernment. If everyone is in agreement, the request is made to the bishop who gives the final word (Busted Halo). Hollywood has put people under the impression that an exorcism is a onetime event that frees the person from a demon, but that is not how it works. The afflicted undergo numerous exorcisms, resulting in temporary liberations which eventually can cause a demon to flee. The Vatican's chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, explores these factors as well as his experiences and the history of exorcism in his book An Exorcist Tells His Story (available at right). Some of Priest Gary's favorite prayers to use during an exorcism can be found at the back of this book.

Has Fr. Gary Thomas ever witnessed anything similar to the infamous scene in the movie The Exorcist?
Despite the fact that the story was based on a real exorcism that took place in the Washington D.C. area, he says there are no spinning heads, spewing pea soup or levitating bodies like Linda Blair's character experienced in the 1973 film (CNN). "The Exorcist was very Hollywoodesque; this one [The Rite] is much more true to life and genuine," says Father Thomas. - USA Today

Reverend Gary Thomas and Actor Anthony Hopkins
Reverend Gary Thomas behind the
scenes with actor Anthony Hopkins.
Does participating in this movie open up the actors to demonic possession?
When asked that question by two of the actors and the producer of the film The Rite, Priest Gary could only respond, "Possibly." - Catholic News Agency

Where does Father Gary Thomas work now?
He is a priest at the Sacred Heart Parish Church in Saratoga, California, as well as the mandated exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose.

How much of his time is spent performing exorcisms?
The real Father Michael Kovak, Priest Gary Thomas, estimates that about 6 hours a week or 15% of his work hours on average are spent doing exorcisms. - BustedHalo

The Rite Interviews & Related Video

Watch Father Gary Thomas interviews and other video exploring the true story behind The Rite. Highlights include interviews with Reverend Gary discussing exorcisms, the Vatican's chief exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth showing where he works, and video of Fr. Gary talking about The Rite movie and ways to avoid opening yourself up to demonic possession.