The Exorcist Stairs

Washington DC, District of Columbia (DC)

The centerpiece of the dramatic climax of the greatest horror film ever made and the place where both Father Karras and the demon Pazuzu met their end, the exorcist stairs are an iconic site of cinema history.

- © Dmitry K

'Take me! Come into me! God damn you! Take me! Take me!' Father Karras screams at the end of the Exorcist.

The demon Pazuzu obliges. It leaves the girl, Regan, alone and enters Karras.

There is a struggle. Karras realises there's no way he can beat the demon, but there is a way they can both lose. He glances at the window. He throws himself through it and clatters down the steep, stone staircase beneath, killing both of them and immortalising the staircase in cinema history.

Where Are The Exorcist Stairs?

The real-life staircase is in Georgetown, Washington DC and can still be seen today, complete with the exorcist house at its summit. The 1950s house isn't quite as it was in the film however. So as to have Karras fly straight from the window and onto the steps, the film's director, William Friedkin, had a temporary extension made. This is gone now and the house sits a few feet back from the staircase. It is nonethless instantly recognisable from the film's poster.

As in the film, the exorcist stairs are perilously steep and long (97 steps long for those who count). In fact, for the aforementioned climatic scene they had to be padded in half-inch thick rubber so as to offer a softer landing.

When Were The Exorcist Stairs Made?

The roads either side of the staircase, Prospect St NW at the top and Canal Rd NW at the bottom, are far from exceptional. So much so that one might wonder why the staircase was made in the first place.

The answer to this question lies, at least in part, in the car barn that used to be next to its summit. Both the staircase and the barn were built in 1895, suggesting the stairs were made as a cut-through for the barn's workers.

Landmark Status

Over 40 years after the film's release, the exorcist stairs were made an official DC landmark on Halloween, 2015. A plaque was unveiled at their base, recognising their importance to film history, by the mayor of DC. The event was attended by both William Friedkin and the film (and novel)'s screenwriter, William Peter Blatty.

- © Eddie Codel

Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our DC Scavenger Hunts - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of Washington DC.