Did you know that a real-life serial killer starred in The Exorcist?
In 1972, director William Friedkin saw Paul Bateson perform a cerebral angiography in the New York University radiology lab. Wanting to keep things as real as possible, when Friedkin was making The Exorcist the next year, he arranged for the same procedure to be filmed in a hospital by real doctors and technicians. Friedkin was impressed by the way Bateson performed the real procedure the year before and invited him to be included in the scene as a radiographer not knowing of his crimes.
Born in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, he was the son of a metallurgist. In the early 60s, he joined the Army and became an alcoholic while serving in Germany. When his service came to an end, he returned to Lansdale before moving to New York in 1964 where he began living a double life, working as a radiologist during the day, and exploring his sexuality and murderous urges at night. Bateson targeted gay men who he would pick up in bars.
After reading an article by Voice writer Arthur Bell, Bateson called Bell and confessed to his crime anonymously. During the conversation, Bateson told Bell that he had met Verrill at Badlands, a gay bar on Christopher Street, where they partied until 3 a.m. They then stopped at a gay BDSM club called Mineshaft before heading to Verrill’s studio apartment where he would be murdered and hacked into pieces.
Something hit me,” the caller stated. “Addison hadn’t been reciprocal. It wasn’t just the sex act itself that wasn’t reciprocal, it was the soul act, too. I wanted a lasting thing, something that would go beyond sex, into friendship, a lover, or marriage.” He continued. “I decided to do something I’d never done before.”
Then I went into a drawer at the right-hand side of the kitchen, removed a knife, and stuck it into Addison’s chest. I plunged it too high. I should have stuck it a bit more toward the center, left.
Bateson was convicted of the murder of Variety journalist Addison Verrill who was beaten and stabbed to death in his own New York apartment in 1979. When the police later arrested him, and he confessed. But police had their suspension there were more victims, for two years prior to Verrill’s murder, trash bags filled with dead, dismembered bodies of gay men had been washing up on the banks of the Hudson River. Bateson was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison.
Bateson later bragged about killing the other men “for fun” while in prison. He also admitted to dismembering their bodies, and throwing the remains he had shoved into bags in the Hudson River. Detectives were sure of Bateson’s guilt, but he was never charged with the murders due to the lack of physical evidence. While in prison, Friedkin visited Bateson and was told by the killer that he was thinking of confessing to six other murders.
Referred to as the “Bag Murders,” the killings later inspired the controversial movie Cruising in 1980, which Friedkin also directed. The cast included Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen, and Richard Cox.
In 2019, Morgan Kelly played the role of Bateson in an episode of the serial killer series “Mind Hunters.” The resemblance was uncanny. Bateson was also featured on an episode of “Criminal Minds.”
In 2003 Paul Bateson was released on parole. He then moved to upstate New York. Some sources say that he died in 2012, but that hasn’t been confirmed.