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Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Anyone who enjoys scary movies has undoubtedly seen the classic horror film, “The Exorcist.” Frankly, even those who prefer not to watch anything more frightening than “Finding Nemo” are probably at least passingly familiar with “The Exorcist” or at least its head-spinning, green-vomiting, backwards speaking horrors. The film has come to be considered a classic and a must-see for anyone who enjoys a side of terror with their popcorn. In addition to being a popular film, the place where one of the movie’s best known scenes was filmed might become a popular tourist destination.

Some people are arguing to make a historic landmark out of the steep, narrow flight of 75 stone stairs in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C. where Father Karras falls to his death at the climax of “The Exorcist.” Andrew Huff, who works in community relations at a local university, has spearheaded the effort to have the stairs reclassified as a landmark.

“[The stairs are] deserving [of landmark status,]” Huff said. “When I have friends visiting, I…bring them here…[The stairs] have become a tourist attraction for the city.”

This is not the first time Huff has emphasized the film history of the stairs. In 2015, he organized a small ceremony that mounted a plaque noting the staircase’s role in “The Exorcist.” The ceremony was attended by both William Friedkin, director of “The Exorcist,” and William Peter Blatty, the author of the book “The Exorcist” on which the film is based.

The desire to officially designate the staircase as a landmark is not simply out of love for the film or nostalgia. There is concern that the construction of new condos will encroach on the famous stairs that earned their place in history through Friedkin’s film and the stuntman’s dedication.

“The scene [where Father Karras hurls himself down the stairs] had to be shot three times,” Huff said. “Even if the steps were covered with half an inch of rubber, it was still a long way down for the stuntman.”

The filming of “The Exorcist” was filled with similar dangerous and damaging stunts. Two famous shots of actresses being flung about by demons actually injured the actresses, and their screams of real pain were used in the movie. Despite such questionable practices, the film is still regarded as one of the best horror movies ever made. Whether or not the use of the stairs in the movie will be enough to designate them as a historic landmark in a city already overflowing with monuments is unclear, but a decision from the D.C. historic preservation board is expected on November 15, 2018.

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