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The Exorcism of Ronald Hunkeler

Disclaimer: This work has been completed as an educational tool for students of history, religious and paranormal studies. The author wishes to discourage any use of this work in conjunction with paranormal field investigations of demons.

Researched and written by Kyle T. Cobb, Jr.

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A  Case History

Cottage City, Maryland

Rather than residing at the 3210 Bunker Hill Road address, investigator Opsasnick has assembled a compelling case to suggest that the real residence of the boy possessed was 3807 40th Avenue in Cottage City, Maryland (the address was changed from 41 Central Ave., Cottage City, Maryland in the early 1940s). According to his research, the family resided at that location from 1939 until the house was sold by them in 1958.

Ronald Edwin Hunkeler

Ronald Edwin Hunkeler was born 1 June 1935 to an Evangelical Lutheran mother and a non-practicing Catholic father. A German-speaking grandmother, that was also a non-practicing Catholic, also lived in the home. In fall of 1947, Hunkeler was confirmed to be at Bladensburg Junior High.

On January 26, 1949, Ronald’s aunt, called “Aunt Tillie” in the diary but called Harriett in other sources, who had a deep interest in spiritualism and had introduced Roland to the Ouija Board, died of multiple sclerosis at the age of 54.

He was removed in the middle of his eighth grade year in January 1949 and re-enrolled in the eighth grade at Bladensburg Junior High for the 1949-50 school year. From the fall of 1950 until June 1954 he attended Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C.

The identity of Ronald Edwin Hunkeler was confirmed by 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, Scott stated:

The boy involved was [Ronald Edwin Hunkeler] and he lived at 3807 40th Avenue… I knew the boy but I didn’t 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 Hunkelers 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 now, though.

One of Ronald Edwin Hunkeler’s contemporaries and neighborhood friends submitted himself to an interview with Opsasnick to discuss the case under the grant of animity.  JC, as he is referred to by Opsasnick, stated:

No, I don’t think he was ever possessed. I think it was psychological. As far as any real possession or anything like that, I don’t 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 background—I 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 don’t 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.

JC’s brother, called BC in the interview, was for many years the best friend of Ronald Edwin Hunkeler. In discussions with BC, Ronald Edwin Hunkeler was described as being submerged in a household with a fanatically religious mother and grandmother that embraced spiritualism. Hunkeler was hated by his classmates and prone to tantrums. He frequently showed violent tendencies and exhibited sadistic behavior to animals and people around him. In short, may of the traits used to describe the possessed boy had been a fundamental part of his character. JC summed up Hunkeler’s personality with “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.”

JC did recall Hunkeler’s last day in class during the 1948-1949 school year:

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 desk—the 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 “I’m 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 don’t know if he was doing it or what was doing it because I just can’t clear it in my mind.

JC summarized Hunkeler’s character with his own story about life with Hunkeler:

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, [Ron] 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 [Ron]. [Ron] 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 he’d done. He’d done this sort of thing many times before to different kids. I started running like hell because he’d sicked that dog on me. When I got home he called me up and was laughing like hell. That’s what kind of person he was. He did that all the time.

Ronald Edwin Hunkeler was admitted to Georgetown University Hospital under his real name on the morning of Monday, February 28, 1949 and released at 12 noon on Thursday, March 3, 1949.

The first exorcist

According to various reports, Father Edward Albert Hughes (?-1980), was the first priest to attempt an exorcism on Ronald Edwin Hunkeler. The claim is that after an initial session with the boy, Hughes had the boy sent to the Georgetown University Hospital where three days of exorcisms were performed and that Hughes was injured in the process. However, Opsasnick suggests there is no evidence to suggest Hughes ever visited Hunkeler in his Cottage City home or at Georgetown University Hospital. Instead, there seems evidence to suggest Mrs. Hunkeler took her son to a single consultation in February 1949 with Hughes at St. James Church in Mount Rainier, Maryland where he was assigned as assistant pastor. There is also no evidence to suggest that Hughes was ever attacked. On the other hand, Father William Sauders, writing for the Catholic Herald in 1998, asserts firmly that Hughes did conduct the exorcism at the Georgetown University Hospital.

Hughes’s assistant pastor, Frank Bober confirmed that most likely it was Mrs. Hunkeler that initiated the interested of the clergy. According to Bober, “Father Hughes never went to the boy’s home… Basically it was the mother that brought the kid to the rectory and the thing is she’s the one who gave Father Hughes all the information. Everything that I know of that he shared with me took place in the rectory, not at the house.” Bober also stated that Father Hughes had described the Hunkeler boy as having a “dark stare, almost as if there were nothing behind the eyes”. Bober further claims that Hughes experienced an unseen force pressing him against the wall.

Eye Witness to the Exorcism

In an effort to clarify the events surrounding the exorcisms back in 1949, one of the few witnesses willing to go on record was Father Walter Halloran, who was called by Father William Bowdern to assist in the exorcism. When asked if Hunkeler was possessed, Halloran said “I can’t go on record… I never made an absolute statement about the things because I didn’t feel I was qualified. I hadn’t studied the phenomena and that sort of thing. All I did was report the things that I saw and whether I would make a statement one way or another wouldn’t make any difference…” When questioned about reports of the boy speaking other languages, Halloran stated, “Just Latin… I think he mimicked us.” Halloran said there were no demonic changes in the boy’s voice and that when the boy struck him it wasn’t with extraordinary strength.

As far as other extraordinary events that were reported, Halloran noted only two. He said, “I saw a bottle slide from a dresser across the room—there was no one near it. The bed moving… It was on rollers like any bed, but I was leaning on it when it moved one time.” While there was spitting it was not overly unusual. There also was no vomiting or urinating. While Halloran did see markings on the boy’s skin, there were no ascertainable letters or symbols.

The events

While a number of the events are detailed in the diary excerpt included above, there are also a number of other sources claiming to have witnessed the events. One witness was Dr. Alvin Kagey, who attended school with Hunkeler. According to Kagey, Hunkeler was withdrawn, unpopular and not very athletic. Kagey also claims that in 1949, his father was visiting the Hunkeler house, and witnessed Ronald being thrown several feet from the chair in which he was sitting.

While the diary entries above provide an overview of the case, here are the events in summary.

< Back

Ronald Hunkeler 4

3807 40th Avenue in Cottage City, Maryland

1954 Gonzaga High School yearbook photo of a Ronald Edwin Hunkeler

Father Edward Albert Hughes

Father Walter Halloran

Alexian Brothers Hospital



15 January 1949

  • A dripping noise was heard in his grandmother’s bedroom by the boy and his grandmother.
  •  A picture of Christ on the wall shook and scratching noises were heard under the floor boards.
  • Scratching heard every night from 7 p.m. until midnight for 10 days. This was attributed to a rodent at the time

26 January 1949

  • Aunt “Tillie”/Harriet dies of multiple sclerosis in St. Louis.
  • Waves of air reportedly strike the grandmother
  • 3 knocks are heard on the floor.
  • Mrs. Hunkeler asks, “If you are Harriet, tell me positively by knocking four times.” Four knocks were heard.
  • Scratchings on Hunkeler’s mattress.

28 January 1949

  • After 3 days of silence, nighttime “squeaking shoes” on Hunkeler’s bed heard for 6 nights.

17 February 1949

  • Hunkeler spends the night with Lutheran minister Schulze.
  • Reportedly Schulze heard scratching noises, and witnessed:
  • bed vibrations;
  • a chair in which Hunkeler sat tipping over;
  • and, the movements of a pallet of blankets.

  • Schulze has family take Hunkeler to Mental Hygiene Clinic of the University of Maryland for testing.
  • After two rounds of testing, nothing abnormal was discovered.
  • Schulze also contacted J.B. Rhine, the founder of the parapsychology laboratory at Duke University. Rhine and wife, Louisa Rhine, drove up from North Carolina to evaluate the boy but saw no activity.

26 February 1949

  • Scratches or markings appeared on the boy’s body for 4 consecutive nights.


27 February 1949

  • Words began to appear on the boy’s body and seemed to be scratched by claws.
  • Father Edward Albert Hughes of St. James Catholic Church in Mount Rainier is called upon to review the case. Hughes suggested the family use blessed candles, holy water, and special prayers.
  • Hughes reportedly witnessed:
  • Unassisted movements of a telephone and other objects in his office.
  • Hunkeler make obscene and blasphemous remarks at him in a strange, diabolical voice.
  • And the room became unexplainably cold.
  •  Father Hughes was convinced that Hunkeler was possessed and requested Cardinal Patrick A O’Boyle at authorize exorcism.

28 February 1949


3 March 1949

  • Hunkeler is a patient at Georgetown University Hospital.
  • This is the point that the alleged first exorcism took place.
  • Mother sees the bloody word “Louis” scratched on Hunkeler. When the boy is asked if word “Louis” means “St. Louis.” The word “Yes” is said to appear.
  • Family departs for Normandy, Missouri, near St. Louis to stay at the home of an aunt.

8 March 1949

  • The shaking of the mattress and scratching resumed at aunt’s home in Normandy.

9 March 1949

  • Father Raymond J. Bishop of St. Louis University sees Hunkeler for the first time.
  • Bishop  witnesses the scratching of the boy’s body as well as the motion of the mattress.

11 March 1949

  • Father William S. Bowdern of St. Francis Xavier Church asked to meet Hunkeler.
  • Father Bowdern read the Novena prayer of St. Francis Xavier, blessed the boy with a relic and placed a crucifix under the boy’s pillow.
  • After everyone has left the room, a loud noise was heard and, reportedly, a large book case had moved about. A bench was turned over and the crucifix had been moved to the edge of the bed.
  • The mattress was also reported to shake.

16 March 1949

  • Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter gave Father Bowdern permission to begin the formal rite of exorcism.
  • The first of the second series of exorcisms is performed at the Normandy, Missouri home.
  • A number of priest were in attendance including:
  • Bowdern as chief exorcist,
  • Rev. Walter Halloran as the assistant exorcist (but he was removed before the final exorcism)
  • Father Lawrence Kenny
  • And Father Charles O'Hara of Marquette University.
  • During the exorcism:
  • Hunkeler becomes violent, spits at the priests, with howls and growls.
  • The bed shakes.
  • Allegedly, word such as “Satan” and “devil” appear on chest as scratches.

  • Proving too violent for the exorcisms to be performed in home, the exorcisms were moved to the rectory at St. Francis Xavier Church.
  • When this proves to be too dangerous, Hunkeler is transferred to the Alexian Brothers Hospital and placed in the psychiatric ward.
  • Exorcisms continue at the hospital.

1 April 1949

  • Hunkeler is baptized Catholic.

4 April 1949

  • In brief trip back to Maryland by train, Hunkeler becomes violent and attacks Father Bowdern, kicking him in the testicles.


9 April 1949

  • Hunkeler is returned to St. Louis and briefly stays at “White House,” a Jesuit retreat along the Mississippi near St. Louis. Hunkeler attempts to commit suicide by throwing himself over the bluff into the river but is prevented from doing so by Halloran.
  •  Hunkeler is then returned to the Alexian Brothers Hospital and placed in the psychiatric ward where he is restrained.
  • Communion was refused.


18 April 1949

  • Final exorcism

St. Francis Xavier Church