Legion (Blatty novel)

Legion is a 1983 horror novel by American writer William Peter Blatty, a sequel to The Exorcist. It was adapted for the film The Exorcist III in 1990. Like The Exorcist, it involves demonic possession. The book was the focus of a court case over its exclusion from The New York Times Best Seller list. Blatty based aspects of the Gemini Killer on the real life Zodiac Killer,[1] who in a January 1974 letter to the San Francisco Chronicle had praised the original Exorcist film as "the best satirical comedy that I have ever seen".[2]

Blatty Legion.jpg
Trade hardcover
AuthorWilliam Peter Blatty
CountryUnited States
PublisherSimon & Schuster
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback)
Pages248 (original hardcover)
813/.54 19
LC ClassPS3552.L392 L4 1983
Preceded byThe Exorcist 


The title is derived from the Bible. The Gospel of Luke describes Jesus traveling in the land of Gadarenes, where he encounters a man possessed by demons:

Jesus asked him, saying, "What is your name?" And he said, "Legion", because many devils had entered him (Luke 8:30).

The more common quotation of the incident, sometimes called the Gerasene Demoniac, comes from The Gospel of Mark:

And he asked him, "What is thy name?" And he answered, saying, "My name is Legion: for we are many". (Mark 5:9)


The storyline of the novel mixes horror and whodunnit. A police detective, Lieutenant Kinderman, investigates a series of murders that have all the hallmarks of a long dead serial killer who was shot by police; the body was never recovered. The slayings have a blasphemous side to them, including a child being crucified and a priest's beheading. Kinderman's investigations lead him to a mental asylum, where there are a number of suspects, including a psychiatrist and one of his patients. There Kinderman begins to find links between the victims and events in the previous novel, the exorcism of the twelve-year-old girl, Regan.

Kinderman entertains philosophical thoughts, trying for instance to work out how the concept of evil relates to God's plans for Humanity. Kinderman often alludes to his own favorite novel, Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, and both Shakespeare and Nietzsche influence the dialogues between him and a mysterious patient.

Plot summaryEdit

The story opens with the discovery of a twelve-year-old boy who has been murdered and crucified on a pair of rowing oars. Kinderman already sees that the boy is mutilated in a way identical to the victims of a serial killer known as the Gemini Killer, who was apparently shot to death by police fifteen years previously while climbing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. A priest is later murdered in a confessional, once again bearing the mutilations distinctive of the apparently deceased killer. The fingerprints at the two crime scenes differ, however. Further victims soon follow, including one of Kinderman's friends, Father Dyer (from The Exorcist), who is slain in a hospital, his body drained of blood before being killed. Yet again the Gemini Killer's mutilations are present.

Investigations lead Kinderman to the psychiatric wing of the hospital where his friend was slain. Here he finds a number of suspects:

  • Dr. Freeman Temple – a psychiatrist who has a dismissive and even contemptuous attitude towards his patients.
  • Dr. Vincent Amfortas – another doctor at the hospital. He is mysterious and not very talkative, and seemingly apathetic toward everything since the recent death of his wife. The name "Amfortas" is the name of the Fisher King in Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal, which itself is derived from "Anfortas", the name of the character of the Fisher King in the Middle High German medieval Grail romance Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach. Dr. Amfortas, like his literary and operatic namesakes, is a type of the Wounded King or Maimed King, a role traditionally occupied by the character of the Fisher King in medieval romances related to the Holy Grail legend, whose literary and mythological roles are discussed in detail by Jessie Weston in her 1920 examination of the Grail tradition, From Ritual to Romance.
  • Patients – there are a number of elderly people at the hospital with senile dementia. The fingerprints of different senile patients are found at murder scenes, but interviews with the patients make it clear they are seemingly incapable of carrying out the elaborate killings and mutilations.
  • Tommy Sunlight – a mysterious patient, found wandering aimlessly eleven years ago dressed as a priest, who brags of being the Gemini Killer reincarnated and claims to have carried out the recent murders, even though he logically could not have done so, being secured in a locked cell in a straitjacket. At one point he claims the doctors and nurses let him out to kill. He also looks identical to Damien Karras, a priest who supposedly died in The Exorcist by falling down a flight of stairs.
  • James Vennamun – the actual Gemini Killer himself, whose body was never found, suggesting that he may have survived and resumed his crimes.

In the end, Sunlight tells Kinderman that the demon from the earlier novel (The Exorcist) aided him to possess the body of Damien Karras immediately after Karras's death in an act of revenge for having been driven out of the little girl. Sunlight spent many years trying to gain control of the body, which had suffered from injuries, during which time Karras was held in a mental hospital. He lacked any identification and was nicknamed Sunlight because he sat in the sun's rays as it passed through the window of his cell. Upon finally gaining control of Karras' body, the Gemini occasionally left it to possess the bodies of the patients with senile dementia, and as they were in an open ward with access to the outside world, he could use them to go out and commit murders. Thus the fingerprints of several senility patients were found at the crime scenes; their bodies carried out the murders, but the Gemini Killer was in control of them.

The Gemini's motive originally was to shame his hated father, a preacher. When his father dies of natural causes, the Gemini Killer feels his mission is over and he has no reason to remain in possession of Karras' body. Feeling compelled to explain everything to Kinderman, he summons the detective and succeeds in demanding that Kinderman tell him he believes he, Sunlight, really is the Gemini Killer. He then effectively wills himself to die from heart failure.

Dr. Temple suffers a stroke and ends up mentally disabled. Dr. Amfortas dies in a home accident after being repeatedly terrorized by a possible evil Doppelgänger of himself (although he was terminally ill in any case, from a disease he refused to treat so that he could join his deceased wife).

The final chapter of the novel, an epilogue, has Kinderman at a burger bar with his faithful partner Atkins. Kinderman explains to Atkins his thoughts and musings on the whole case and how it relates to his problem of the concept of evil. Kinderman ends by concluding that he believes the Big Bang was Lucifer falling from heaven, and that the entire universe, including humanity, are the broken parts of Lucifer, and that evolution is the process of Lucifer putting himself back together as an angel.

New York Times best-seller list court caseEdit

In 1983, the author William Peter Blatty sued the New York Times for $6 million, claiming that Legion had not been included in The New York Times Best Seller list either from negligence or from intentional falsehood, when it should have been included based on sales figures.[3] The Times countered that the list was not mathematically objective but was editorial content and thus protected under the Constitution as free speech. Blatty appealed it to the Supreme Court which declined to hear the case, so that the lower court ruling stood: the list was editorial content, not objective factual content, and the Times had the right to exclude books from the list.[3]

Film, TV and theatrical adaptationsEdit

Legion was adapted into a film, The Exorcist III, in 1990, directed by Blatty and starring George C. Scott as Lieutenant Kinderman and Brad Dourif and Jason Miller alternating as Sunlight (although the name Sunlight is not actually given to the character in the film; he is referred to as simply "the man in Cell 11" or "Patient X"). James Vennamun's surname is slightly altered to Venamun with a single n in the theatrical version.

Both the novel and film ignore the events of the 1977 film Exorcist II: The Heretic, a theatrical sequel with which Blatty had no involvement and which he panned.

On 15 March 2010, WildClaw Theatre in Chicago premiered the theatrical version. It was directed by Anne Adams and adapted by Charley Sherman.[4]


  1. ^ "The Exorcist III Info, Trailers, and Reviews at MovieTome". Movietome.com. Archived from the original on 28 September 2009. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  2. ^ "Zodiac Killer: The Letters - 01-29-1974". SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle). 2 December 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  3. ^ a b Laura J. Miller (2000). "The Best-Seller List as Marketing Tool and Historical Fiction". In Ezra Greenspan (ed.). Book History. Vol. Three. Penn State Press. pp. 286–304. ISBN 0271020504.
  4. ^ "The Gemini Killer Heads to the Theatre in Legion". 13 August 2012.