Ronald Edwin Hunkeler was a NASA engineer who patented a special technology to make space shuttle panels resistant to extreme heat, helping the Apollo missions of the 1960s that put US astronauts on the moon in 1969.
But Hunkeler also had another claim to fame: He was the secret real-life inspiration for the demon-possessed kid in “The Exorcist.”
His identity has been kept under wraps since a series of exorcisms he underwent as a young teenager in Cottage City, Md., and St. Louis, Mo., in 1949.
For decades he was known only by the pseudonyms “Roland Doe” or “Robbie Mannheim.” His identity has been something of an open secret among the community of Jesuits who were close to the priests who participated in his exorcisms and a handful of academics and reporters who studied the phenomenon beginning in the mid-1970s.
But he lived in fear of more people finding out the truth.