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Dark Destinations > Locations - E > The Exorcist (1973): The MacNeil House

The Exorcist (1973): The MacNeil House currently has a travel advisory in effect.
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Availability: Closed to the Public
Filed Under: Movie Locations > The Exorcist Series
Added By: TheCabinet
Added On: April 29, 2008 - 03:52 PM UTC
Last Modified: August 28, 2008 - 07:26 PM UTC
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3600 Prospect St NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA (Washington, District of Columbia)
The MacNeil House
Though this private residence may appear much smaller than its cinematic self these days, this was indeed the infamous home of Chris (Ellen Burstyn) and Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) in the 1973 horror film, The Exorcist. The house was used solely for the exterior shots, while the interiors (and the exorcism itself) were shot primarily in the Ceco Studios in New York. At the time, the house was owned by Florence Stephenson Mahoney; a major advocate for national health research and programs, whose normal guests included Washington politicians and scientists who debated the top issues of the day inside the house's dining room.

There is a good reason that the house appears much smaller than it did in the film. The house is situated some twenty or so feet from the similarly infamous Exorcist steps and was lacking the attic described in the book written by William Peter Blatty. To alleviate this, director William Friedkin had a faux-extension built on the left side (facing the house) of the structure to stretch it towards the staircase that bordered the property and a Mansard-style roof to cap it off. The additions morphed the house into a closer representation of how Blatty described it in the book and corrected the logistical distance from the house to the stairs, to fulfill two of the film's pivotal sequences. At the same time, the crew had to customize the sets so that sunlight was allowed to reach Mahoney's garden.

One of the most famous scenes from The Exorcist was shot in front of the house. The scene in question involved Father Merrin's (Max von Sydow) arrival by taxi and stopping at the gate to peer up at the house and evil within. The shot turned out to be one of the most memorable moments from the film and even adorned the posters and promotional adverts for the film itself, but it was not shot without problems. In order to capture the classic juxtaposition image of the good guy in black peering at the ominous, evil white light from the windows above, the production had to block off three blocks around the house and run several fog machines. The proper permits had been filed so the Georgetown/D.C. area were well aware of the shoot that night, but not the state of Virginia across the river. Aside from the wind that created havoc with the piped-in fog, the filmmakers had to deal with the arrival of Virginia-based firemen who had seen the billowing "smoke" and thought Georgetown was on fire.

After The Exorcist's Release
Reportedly, Mahoney was less than thrilled with all of the attention her house received after the release of the film. When Hollywood came calling to shoot there once again for a climatic scene in the movie's sequel, The Exorcist II: The Heretic, Mahoney quickly refused. The house and the connecting stairs were instead constructed on a studio backlot in California for the sequel. Mahoney continued to own the house until her death in 2002.

The House Today
The house remains a private residence to this day and a dark privacy fence has been built along the border. It is safe to assume that the new residents value their privacy and do not wish to be disturbed. Besides, only the exterior was used in the film so there is no chance of getting a look at the chilly bedroom where the film's exorcism took place anyways.
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O.T.I.S.(Odd Things I've Seen): MacNeil House - From: O.T.I.S. (03/15/09, 05:59 PM UTC)
Article excerpt from O.T.I.S. (Odd Things I've Seen): "At the top, a short sidewalk ramp connects the stairs to Prospect Street, where the author o...More
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See Also on
Blog: The Exorcist and The Terminator (08/29/08)
Blog: The Exorcist and the Academy Awards (04/02/09)
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O.T.I.S. at the MacNeil House
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The above content is for informational purposes only. Before making any travel arrangements, it is highly recommended that you contact those in charge of the property to check for updated availability and hours of operation. While we do our best to keep this information updated, we cannot guarantee that it is completely valid and up to date. Any destination marked "Closed to the Public" is marked that for a reason and we discourage any visits or attempts to gain access to that facility. Similarly, take note of any "Travel Advisory" that may be associated with a destination. Finally, treat any location and its local residents with respect. Any vandalism and/or unruly behavior is completely despicable and only ruins the experience for future visitors.

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