Destination America Tries to Scare Up Viewers With a Live Exorcism

Using a house familiar to horror fans

Discovery may have gotten out of the outlandish-TV-stunts business, but its sister networks didn't get that memo.

Destination America will televise what it's calling the first live exorcism in U.S. history, airing Exorcism: Live! on Oct. 30.

A house, not a person, will be the subject of the exorcism, which will take place at the same suburban St. Louis home where an exorcism was performed on Roland Doe in 1949. That event inspired William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel The Exorcist and its iconic 1973 film adaptation, which starred Linda Blair.

During the telecast, paranormal investigators the Tennessee Wraith Chasers from the network's Ghost Asylum, along with psychic medium Chip Coffey, "will explore each crevice of this terrifying home, from the attic to the basement, to find whatever or whomever has scared Americans to death for decades," said Destination America in a release. (Anyone else having flashbacks to Geraldo Rivera's ill-fated, but highly-rated 1986 live special on Al Capone's vault?)

"By actually exorcising this iconic house live, Destination America will do what it does best—bringing never before seen experiences to television," said gm Marc Etkind in a statement.

The audience can also monitor live camera feeds from around the house on Destination America's website and "track and report any mysterious anomalies they may see on their own screens throughout the special," the network said.

While Exorcism: Live! seems like an odd fit for a channel that bills itself as "the only network to celebrate the people, places, and stories of the United States," Destination America does air several supernatural-themed programs—including Ghost Asylum, Project Afterlife and A Haunting.

But the special, announced at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Los Angeles, calls to mind a vow made by Discovery Communications' flagship network, Discovery, at TCA's winter press tour. New president Rich Ross said his network would forego silly stunts like December's Eaten Alive special, in which wildlife writer Paul Rosolie was not ingested by an anaconda as viewers had been led to believe.

"I don't believe you'll be seeing a person eaten by a snake during my time," Ross said at the time.

That edict, however, apparently did not extend to Discovery's other networks.  

While this might be the first live exorcism, it's not the first one to be televised. In 1971, NBC aired an exorcism that had been recorded in Chicago. Two decades later, 29 million people tuned in to see an exorcism on 20/20, giving the program its highest ratings in 10 years.