In 1973, “The Exorcist” and its story of a young girl possessed by the devil terrorized audiences and left an indelible mark on the world. Not only did it become a global blockbuster, but it won two Oscars and sparked countless cultural conversations about religion and the nature of evil (although sales of pea soup have never recovered).

While the world may be a very different place 50 years later, the Oct. 6 release of “The Exorcist: Believer” raises many of the same questions that have always fueled humanity’s interest in the supernatural. What is it about demonic possession that’s especially horrific — and fascinating? To find out, we checked in with Arranne Rispoli, a doctoral student in the UCLA Department of History who studies the intersection of race and religion in early America.

In this special October installment of the UCLA College video series, “Silly Questions, Smart Bruins,” Rispoli shares a spooky story of possession from early America, describes what constituted horror imagery for U.S. colonists and reveals what Cotton Mather, a Puritan minister during the Salem witch trials, feared most.

(Watch the previous installments of “Silly Questions, Smart Bruins.”)