In The Exorcist, why does the demon that possesses Regan react to the “fake” holy water sprinkled by Father Karras?

It’s hard to believe that the demon mistakes the tap water for water blessed by a priest. It certainly makes the entity that much less frightening.

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    I think the demon was fooling around with the father. – Mistu4u May 3 '13 at 6:57
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    Great question. That part always confused me. None of the explanations in these posts help. Did the novel explain it better? I never read it. – user8856 Mar 30 '14 at 2:56
  • It raises the question - is it a demon, messing with the father, is it a child in the throes of a non-magical episode where she is acting out what she believes to be a demonic possession? It's supposed to make you wonder. – PoloHoleSet Aug 31 '16 at 19:21

It may be the case that the demon is cunning and wanted to make a doubt in the mind of Karras, already having a lack of faith in demons and ghosts. As we have seen that demon plays with Karras' emotions related to his mother too.

The demon reads on mind and emotions so it's not possible that he got fooled by tap water at all.

  • I agree with that assessment, but Holy Water is a myth in itself, as water is a good conductor of energy, the act of passing positive energy onto a negative body is more the association it would hold, so by the simple act of touching the water a person of "light" would make it a weapon, the blessings Catholicism make on water to make it "Holy" are just like a mantra that focuses the state of the "Blesser" to that "light" condition. – Raytrek Mar 30 '14 at 10:20
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    @Raytrek I do not believe it is a good idea to make a myth out of the Holy Water. I do not mean to make assessments on all beliefs here, but the Orthodox Church(and I am almost sure it also applies to the Catholic Church - they are very similar) considers that the water is made holy by the action of the Holy Spirit, called by the priest's prayers. So it is not the energy of the priest, it is the doing of God(the Holy Spirit). So, because the film seems to be taking religious beliefs seriously, your comment seems to be inadequate in this case. It is a point of view, but not applicable here. – Dragos Mar 31 '14 at 11:54
  • Some people believe the Holy Spirit is a distinct individual, others consider it an active force that moves those touched by it to the work of God. It is really just semantics. – Raytrek Mar 31 '14 at 17:26
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    @Raytrek, I believe Dragos was commenting on this statement of yours "...but Holy Water is a myth in itself" – bobbyalex Apr 2 '14 at 2:12
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    A Holy Man, like Father Karras, however could feasibly be an actual container of Holy Spirit, and even in a case where he had no faith in the Holiness of the water, his faith still existed in God, and despite the water being mere tap water, it was still capable of conducting his faith and therefore weaponising the water. This is just a theory I am suggesting, as I said I like the previous answer of the Demon tricking Father Karras in order to undermine his faith. – Raytrek Apr 2 '14 at 23:00

Father Merrin answers this question for us when he arrives at Regan's house and speaks to Father Karras prior to starting the exorcism. He says to Father Karras, "He's a liar. The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us, but he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us."

So whoever it was that pointed out the fact the demon was probably faking it when he comes in contact with the fake holy water in order to confuse Father Karras and cause doubt to avoid exorcism was also correct.


According to Damien Karras, the demon's reaction to the tap water could mean that the possession is not genuine. This would therefore weaken his case for an exorcism. So, it could be that the demon was deliberately reacting to the tap water so Karras would not get permission to perform the exorcism.

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