The 'Poltergeist' Curse: Inside the Mysterious Cast Deaths and Oddities On Set

JoBeth Williams looks on as Craig T Nelson holds Oliver Robins in a scene from the film 'Poltergeist', 1982. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

Released in 1982, the original Poltergeist , directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Spielberg, was an instant success and is considered to be a masterpiece of American horror cinema. The film focuses on the Freelings, a middle-class family (led by a youthful, dashing Craig T. Nelson) whose life is upturned when a number of paranormal and vicious events occur in their California home and their daughter Carol Anne is abducted through her bedroom closet by a group of ghosts who are under the control of a monster demon called the “Beast.”

After learning that their house sits atop a Native American burial ground, the Freelings spend their time attempting to retrieve Carol Anne and all the while stay sane as they get smacked around, terrorized and ultimately, “goobered” on in the bathtub.

With Poltergeist's success came a creepy mystique that the classic film is shrouded in real-life tragedies that some interpret as a curse.

Four cast members died during and soon after the filming of the series

The majority of the fuel for the alleged curse stems from the deaths of multiple cast members. In total, four cast members died during and soon after the filming of the series. Two of these tragic deaths were highly unexpected and puzzling, leading many fans to speculate on the trilogy’s eerie implications.

Heather O'Rourke screams as she is harassed by evil spirits in a scene from the film 'Poltergeist', 1982. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

Heather O'Rourke

Carol Anne Freeling, the young focal point of the series, was played by Heather O’Rourke. Only six years old when the first Poltergeist film was released, O’Rourke captivated audiences with her stark blond hair, doll-like appearance, and big, inquisitive eyes. Sadly, however, she was misdiagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1987. The following year, O’Rourke fell ill again, and her symptoms were casually attributed to the flu. A day later, she collapsed and suffered a cardiac arrest. After being airlifted to a children’s hospital in San Diego, O’Rourke died during an operation to correct a bowel obstruction, and it was later believed that she had been suffering from a congenital intestinal abnormality.

Dominique Dunne

Dominique Dunne, who played the original older sister Dana Freeling, met an equally tragic and unforeseen fate. In 1982, Dunne separated from her partner, John Sweeney. In November of that year, he showed up at Dunne’s house, pleading for her to take him back. When she refused, Sweeney grabbed Dunne’s neck, choked her until she was unconscious, and left her to die in her Hollywood home’s driveway. Sweeney was sentenced to six and a half years in prison but was released after three years and seven months.

Julian Beck and Will Sampson

The other two cast member deaths, while unfortunate, were not as unpredictable or mysterious. The evil preacher Kane from Poltergeist II was played by Julian Beck. In 1983, Beck had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, which took his life soon after he finished work on the second installment of the series. The same film was met with further tragedy, after Will Sampson, who played Taylor the Native American shaman, died after undergoing a heart-lung transplant, which had a very slim survival rate.

Other strange things happened on set

Cast deaths were not the only agents of the curse’s proliferation, as other peculiar and creepy legends surround the film franchise. JoBeth Williams, who played mom Diane Freeling in the first two films, claimed that director Spielberg insisted on using actual human skeletons as props in an attempt to save money (at the time, they were cheaper than plastic skeletons). Williams’ claim has never been verified, but it persists to this day in the lore surrounding the films’ curse.

Finally, in an effort to further creep out everyone involved, Sampson, the real-life medicine man who passed away due to circumstances mentioned above, performed an authentic exorcism after shooting wrapped up one night. One can only imagine how this made the other cast members feel.

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curse of the poltergeist movies

Is the 'Poltergeist' Curse Real?

Superstitious legend holds that a number of strange deaths are connected to a 'curse' on the 'poltergeist' film series., barbara mikkelson, published jan 28, 1999.

Legend

About this rating

What is seen as an unusually large number of deaths have occurred among the former cast of the Poltergeist trilogy. This occurrence has given rise to the rumor the productions were in some way "cursed" due to the nature of the films themselves, as if the evil spirits conjured in the make-believe world of the cinema have since reached out into the real world to claim what they might see as their rightful victims.

A poltergeist in folklore is a noisy and destructive (but usually mischievous, not malicious) ghost held to be responsible for unexplained noises and movement of objects within a home. It is hypothesized poltergeists are drawn to homes in which there are prepubescent children, especially girls. Three horror films based on this form of lore comprise the Poltergeist trilogy:

curse of the poltergeist movies

Poltergeist (1982), Poltergeist II (1986), and Poltergeist III (1988). Each recounts an episode in the lives of the Freelings, a fictitious family who have the bad luck to take up residence in homes inhabited by spirits intent upon kidnapping their children or sending their kids to live in similar places.

Though coincidence is a much more likely explanation than a curse, there have been four deaths among the cast of this set of films: Dominique Dunne (Dana Freeling), Heather O'Rourke (Carol Ann Freeling), Will Sampson (Taylor, a good spirit), and Julian Beck (Kane, an evil spirit). Though two of the deaths were foreseeable (expected, even), two others were not. It's the combination of the two unexpected deaths that lies at the heart of every rumor about a Poltergeist curse.

Dominique Dunne, the 22-year-old actress who portrayed big sister Dana Freeling in the first Poltergeist film (released in June 1982), died on 4 November 1982 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, four days after her boyfriend choked her into a coma from which she never awoke. Weeks earlier, Dunne had ended her abusive live-in relationship with Los Angeles chef John Sweeney, but on the night of 30 October 1982, he dropped by their former shared residence to plead with her to take him back. The conversation did not go as he'd hoped, and the encounter ended with him strangling her for what was later determined to be 4 to 6 minutes, then leaving her for dead in her driveway.

curse of the poltergeist movies

Sweeney was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, sentenced in November 1983, and released in 1986 after serving only 3 years, 8 months of a 6½ year sentence. His short sentence and early release remain subjects of controversy.

Heather O'Rourke, the child actress who played Carol Anne Freeling throughout the Poltergeist series (starting when she was six years old), unexpectedly passed away at the age of 12 when she died of septic shock on 1 February 1988 at the Children's Hospital in San Diego. What had been thought to be a bout of ordinary flu launched her into cardiac arrest during the drive to the local hospital as bacterial toxins set loose by a bowel obstruction made their way into her bloodstream. Her heart was successfully restarted and she was flown by helicopter to the much-larger Children's Hospital, where she underwent an operation to remove the obstruction. The toxins rampaging through her system proved too much, however, and she died on the operating table.

curse of the poltergeist movies

The circumstances surrounding her passing rendered her death even more of a shock than it otherwise would have been, as she went overnight from a little girl who had the flu to a dead little girl who expired during a desperate operation to save her life. It's hard enough to accept that a child can die of an illness, let alone a healthy-looking youngster no one knew anything was wrong with. (That she looked healthy did not necessarily mean that she was. The year before her death she'd been diagnosed as having Crohn's Disease, a lifelong inflammatory small bowel disease which often first manifests in children and young adults.) Of course such an unexpected death would fuel rumors, especially when considered in conjunction with Dominique Dunne's murder only six years earlier.

O'Rourke had appeared in all three Poltergeist movies. Poltergeist III had yet to be released at the time of her death, leading to rumors that she had expired during shooting and a double was used to complete the picture in her place. O'Rourke's family and agent said at the time of her death her scenes for Poltergeist III had been completed several months earlier (back in June 1987), but writer/director Gary Sherman has maintained filming of Poltergeist III had not yet finished when O'Rourke died, necessitating script changes to complete the film in her absence.

The other two deaths connected with Poltergeist were of seasoned actors well into their careers, both suffering from serious illnesses that would in time take their lives. Because their deaths were not unexpected, only rarely is either mentioned in connection with the Poltergeist "curse."

Julian Beck, the 60-year-old actor who played the evil spirit Kane in 1986's Poltergeist II: The Other Side , died of stomach cancer on 14 September 1985 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York seven months before the film's May 1986 release. Unlike O'Rourke's death, his was not unexpected, as he had been battling cancer for 18 months.

curse of the poltergeist movies

Will Sampson, the 53-year-old Native American actor who portrayed the good spirit Taylor in Poltergeist II , died in a Houston hospital on 3 June 1987, about a year after the film's release. Sampson had received a heart-lung transplant six weeks earlier, and the cause of his death was ascribed to severe pre-operative malnutrition and post-operative kidney failure and fungal infection. It has been said he knew his chances for survival were small due to his weakened condition prior to surgery.

curse of the poltergeist movies

Like Beck, Sampson appeared in only one film in the series, Poltergeist II , released in May 1986. He was best known for his portrayal of the Native American psychiatric patient who feigned muteness in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest .

Zelda Rubinstein, the diminutive actress who filled the part of seer Tangina Barrons in all three Poltergeist films and reprised the role in the spin-off TV series Poltergeist: The Legacy , died in 2010. She passed away of natural causes at the age of 76, however, hardly the type of death one associates with a "curse" that supposedly causes unexpected and premature demises.

curse of the poltergeist movies

Although he was not a cast member, English film director Brian Gibson, who helmed Poltergeist II , died of Ewing's sarcoma at the age of 59 in 2004.

In a popular form of the rumor, one of the child actors is said to have come to an untimely end after the making of each film, one murdered, one in a car accident, and one of a mysterious disease. Though it's true actresses Dominique Dunne and Heather O'Rourke have since died, Oliver Robins, the child actor who played their characters' brother Robbie Freeling in the first two films, is still with us. No child actor from the Poltergeist series was killed in a car crash or died just after Poltergeist II was completed.

An extreme version of the "curse" rumor asserts everyone who appeared in these movies is now dead. That news must come as quite a shock to numerous thespians, most notably Craig T. Nelson (Steve Freeling), Jo Beth Williams (Diane Freeling), and Tom Skerritt (Bruce Gardner), all of whom think they're still alive and continue to ply their trade in movies and television shows despite their deceasedness.

The February 2015 release of trailers for the upcoming a Poltergeist reboot/remake (with different cast members) prompted renewed interest in the original trilogy's supposed "curse."

Arnold, Roxane.   "Strangled Actress; Did Slayer's Penalty Fit His Crime?"     Los Angeles Times.   3 December 1986   (p. A1).

Associated Press.   "Poltergeist Actress in Coma After Being Choked on Coast."     The New York Times.   1 November 1982   (p. A17).

Associated Press.   "Dominique Dunne, Actress, Dies After Being Choked."     The New York Times.   5 November 1982   (p. D19).

Associated Press.   "Slayer of Actress Sentenced to 6 1/2-Year Maximum Term."     The New York Times.   13 November 1983   (p. A28).

Folkart, Burt.   "Role in Cuckoo's Nest; Will Sampson, Gentle Indian Giant, Dies."     Los Angeles Times.   4 June 1987   (p. A24).

Folkart, Burt.   "Poltergeist Star Heather O'Rourke Dies at Age of 12."     Los Angeles Times.   3 February 1988   (p. A3).

Freedman, Samuel.   "Julian Beck, 60, Is Dead; Founded Living Theater."     The New York Times.   17 September 1985   (p. B6).

The San Diego Union-Tribune.   "Heather O'Rourke, 12, Dies, San Diego Actress."     2 February 1988   (p. A3).

United Press International.     2 February 1988   California; Regional News.

By Barbara Mikkelson

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  • Entertainment

Is the Poltergeist Movie Franchise Cursed? The Myth, Explained

Updated on 10/28/2022 at 1:25 PM

Poltergeist movie franchise curse

From " Halloween " to "A Nightmare on Elm Street," there's no shortage of iconic horror movies from the '70s and '80s that launched long-running franchises. Still, "Poltergeist" stands out among the rest because of its cult following — and many of those fans believe the Poltergeist franchise is actually cursed.

A reboot of the classic 1982 horror film "Poltergeist" came out in 2015, but let's be honest: nothing could compare to the original. While no horrific accidents occurred on the set of the most recent movie (that we know of, anyway), there are plenty of rumors of a curse on the original film trilogy's cast .

The movie revolves around a suburban family who moves into a new home and begins to notice strange things involving their 5-year-old daughter, Carol Ann. Turns out, menacing spirits are haunting the house, and while their interactions seem harmless at first, their true evil nature is soon revealed when Carol Ann goes missing, and her desperate parents turn to an exorcist for help.

Read on to find out about the mysterious events that have made people speculate that the Poltergeist movie franchise may be the most cursed series in Hollywood.

It All Began With Human Skeletons

One of the most famous scenes features JoBeth Williams's character, Diane, falling into the family's pool filled with skeletons. What you might not know is that those skeletons are actually real — at least the "Poltergeist" cast didn't. "In my innocence and naiveté, I assumed that these were not real skeletons," Williams said in a 2006 episode of TV Land's "TV Myths and Legends." "I assumed that they were prop skeletons made out of plastic or rubber . . . I found out, as did the crew, that they were using real skeletons because it's far too expensive to make fake skeletons out of rubber."

Months After the Release of the First Film, a Star Was Murdered

"Poltergeist" was released in June 1982, and in November of that year, 22-year-old Dominique Dunne, who played Dana (the family's older daughter), was murdered. Dunne was strangled in her own driveway by her abusive ex-boyfriend and was removed from life support five days later.

An Exorcism Was Performed on the Set of the Sequel

Concerned about the use of real skeletons on the set of the first film, Native American actor and "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" star Will Sampson performed an exorcism on the set of the second film in 1984. According to Williams, he went to the set late at night by himself to do it. The next day, the cast supposedly felt relieved.

2 Cast Members Died Within Years of the Sequel

Julian Beck, who starred as Kane in "Poltergeist II: The Other Side," died of stomach cancer at age 60. He was diagnosed before he accepted the role, and he died in September 1985, months before the film came out in theaters. In June 1987, Sampson, the actor who performed the exorcism, died of malnutrition and postoperative kidney failure at age 53. While their deaths may not seem so unusual, some fans still believe they're connected to the curse.

Poltergeist's Young Star Died at 12

Poltergeist's iconic young star Heather O'Rourke (aka Carol Anne, who said the famous "They're here" line) was incredibly young when she died of cardiac arrest and septic shock caused by a misdiagnosed intestinal issue. She died in February 1988 at 12, several months before the release of "Poltergeist III," the final chapter in the original series.

A Cast Member Barely Escaped Death

Richard Lawson was aboard USAir Flight 405 when it crashed into Flushing Bay in March 1992. A total of 27 people (out of the 51 on board) were killed. Lawson survived, but the event is yet another reason people claim the movie brought bad luck to its cast.

In 2009, a Second Cast Member Was Murdered

Lou Perryman played the small role of Pugsley in the original film. He was 67 years old when a recently released ex-convict killed him in his own home with an ax.

What do you think — is it a curse or simply a series of terrible events?

  • Poltergeist
  • True Stories

The Tragic Real-Life Story Of The Poltergeist Cast

The Freelings frantically search for Carol Ann in 'Poltergeist' (1982)

"They're heeeeere !" Who can forget those chilling words from little Carol Ann (Heather O'Rourke) as ghostly apparitions projected out of a television and into the Freeling family household in the classic 1982 horror film  Poltergeist ? "The TV People" led by the evil Reverend Kane (Julian Beck) would go on to terrorize audiences (as well as the Freelings) in three movies, including 1986's Poltergeist II: The Other Side  and the final film in the trilogy, 1988's Poltergeist III .

All three films are filled with memorable, spine-tingly moments such as the hideous clown doll that pulls Robbie Freeling (Oliver Robins) under his bed, or perhaps the nightmarish tree that smashes through his bedroom window and literally tries to devour him. Another etched-in-brain scene for many is from the second film, when Steve ( Craig T. Nelson ) swallows a possessed worm while guzzling a bottle of tequila, which leads to him eventually vomiting out an H.R. Giger monstrosity. What happens in these movies is truly the stuff of nightmares, but to many, it's what happened in real life to some of the cast members that's far more tragic.

Even if you're just a casual moviegoer or horror fan, you've probably heard of "the Poltergeist curse." It's been the subject of many online articles, TV specials and mini-documentaries, including E! True Hollywood Story: Curse of the Poltergeist and most recently, episode three of Shudder's Cursed Films . Sadly, four lead actors from the trilogy all suffered deaths within a six-year span following the original film's release, leading many to believe that the movie sets were somehow cursed. This led to other various myths and exaggerated claims about what happened on the set — but before we get into that, let's look at the four main deaths that paved the way for the now infamous curse.

Dominique Dunne

Perhaps one of the most grisly and tragic deaths was that of 22-year-old actress Dominique Dunne, who played the eldest sister in the first film, Dana Freeling. Her character was mentioned in Poltergeist II as being off to college, but the reality was, any ideas screenwriters might have had for her character in the sequel had to be scrapped entirely due to Dunne's untimely death just months after the original movie was released. 

On the evening of October 30, 1982, Dunne was brutally strangled by an aggravated ex-boyfriend. The assailant, identified as sous chef John Sweeney, showed up at her West Hollywood home in hopes of repairing their relationship and moving back in with her. An argument erupted on Dunne's driveway, where the deadly attack took place. When police arrived at the scene, Sweeney was quoted as saying "I've killed my girlfriend!" 

At the time, Dunne was still alive; she was rushed to Cedar's-Sinai Medical Center, where she remained in a coma for five days and never regained consciousness. On November 4, 1982, just three weeks before what would have been her 23rd birthday, she was removed from life support and pronounced dead. Dunne was considered a rising star at the time and had just landed the role of Robin Maxwell in the 1983 science-fiction miniseries  V , which she was rehearsing for the night she was assaulted.

Julian Beck

Arguably one of the creepiest villains in horror history is Reverend Henry Kane, the human form of "The Beast" played by thespian Julian Beck. He's the gaunt, 19th century-looking cult leader who spends most of Poltergeist II trying to infiltrate the Freeling residence and abduct Carol Ann — and yes, he's also the same dude who possessed the aforementioned tequila worm. Even though he completed principal photography of the film, Beck would never live to see the theatrical release of Poltergeist II since he passed away on September 14, 1985 — during the film's post-production period and a full eight months before its premiere. 

Unlike Dominique Dunne's shocking murder, Beck passed away after a long battle with stomach cancer, something he had been diagnosed with in 1983 . So while his death is certainly unfortunate, it also definitely wasn't out of left field. Beck was dying of stomach cancer during the production and the entire crew was well aware of his diagnosis. Some believe it even influenced his chilling final performance in a film.

Will Sampson

Some remember actor Will Sampson as Chief Bromden from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , but horror fans know him as Taylor, the Native American shaman from Poltergeist II . Sampson passed away due to post-operative kidney failure following a heart and lung transplant. Again, this is another death of a cast member that eerily occurred not long after the release of a Poltergeist movie. Sampson passed away on June 3, 1987 , but much like Beck's situation, he had a preexisting medical condition. Sampson suffered from scleroderma, a chronic degenerative condition that caused him severe malnourishment and other complications with his heart, skin, and lungs. He was only age 53 at his time of death.

Heather O'Rourke

The most well-known death that sparked and fuels the " Poltergeist curse" fire to this day was the shocking loss of Heather O' Rourke, who played Carol Ann — the young, angelic face of the entire franchise. During production of Poltergeist III in 1987, O'Rourke was undergoing treatment for Crohn's disease, which would turn out to be a misdiagnosis. In the third episode of  Shudder's   Cursed Films docuseries, director Gary Sherman shares several memories and speaks very fondly of the young actress, saying that, aside from O'Rourke's "chipmunk cheeks" — a side effect caused by the bowel inflammation medications she was taking at the time — she remained in high spirits and overall seemed physically fine and enjoyed her time on the set. Little did he know or anyone else know that something fatal was brewing within. 

Fast forward to January of 1988, when O'Rourke became severely ill and her health started deteriorating at an alarming rate. On February 1, 1988, she was rushed to the hospital, where she  ultimately died due to septic shock caused by undetected intestinal blockage. This blockage ruptured and the toxins released in her body proved to be too much. During an operation the 12-year-old O'Rourke was undergoing the same day of her death, it was also revealed that she did not have Crohn's disease, but an acute bowel obstruction due to a congenital stenosis — something that could've been surgically corrected had it been detected sooner. With only four months until the film's release, her death caused the studio to force Sherman to shoot an entirely new ending using a double, something the director was strongly against. He preferred that the movie not be released at all, but MGM ultimately had its way. O'Rourke's tragic end would be the fourth death of a Poltergeist major cast member in a six-year span.

Lou Perryman

While the deaths of Dominique Dunne, Julian Beck, Will Sampson, and Heather O'Rourke are seen as part of the supposed "curse," there is another death that some fans like to bring up to further pile on the evidence, but it happened 17 years after the release of the original movie and it's very likely someone you don't recall seeing. Actor Lou Perryman, who had a very minor role as a construction worker named Pugsley, was gruesomely murdered in his home by Seth Christopher Tatum — an ex-con with a history of mental health problems. On April 1, 2009 , Tatum was on the run after a violent altercation with his mother's ex-boyfriend when he randomly came across Perryman's home (the two had never met) and killed him. His reason? Just to steal his car. The case was settled two years later when the killer, who'd stopped taking his medication for bipolar disorder shortly before the murder, was sentenced to life in prison .

Oliver Robins is alive and well

It's apparent there's a lot of real-life death surrounding the Poltergeist movies, and while some like to believe it has to do with a curse, others believe it's simply a string of unfortunate coincidences. You might also hear other false or exaggerated Poltergeist myths, such as all three kids from the original film died, which is totally untrue. Robbie Freeling, played by Oliver Robins, is alive and well. In a 2015 interview with the Daily Mail , when asked about the strange deaths surrounding the franchise, he told them he believes there is no curse. "To be completely honest, I don't think anyone that was involved in the movie ever really took the curse seriously. There is no curse — it is just tragic coincidences," he said. "People may try and connect the dots and make something out of it, but they are possibly going to make connections that probably aren't there. They do make for great spooky stories, but at the end of the day, they really aren't true."

Did real human skeletons cause the curse?

If there is a Poltergeist  curse, what caused it? One widely-discussed theory is the fact that real skeletons were used by the effects crew in the first two movies, most notably in the muddy swimming pool scene from the original with Diane Freeling, played by JoBeth Williams. Desecration of human remains plays a big role in the first film as the probable cause of the Freelings' pesky poltergeist problem. How ironic would it be if these real skeletons somehow jinxed the cast? This theory doesn't exactly hold up, though — Williams is still alive and well, as is daddy Freeling himself, Craig T. Nelson.

One man who is strongly against the notion that these real skeletons led to the deaths of the actors is special make-up effects artist Craig Reardon, who worked on Poltergeist . "The subject of the skeletons that were used in Poltergeist , to my utter amazement has created sort of an online mythology, and not a pretty one," said Reardon when interviewed for Shudder's Cursed Films . "Apparently, there's a contingent of people out there who believe that the fact that real human skeletons were used are some kind of pretext to 'explain' why two actresses that worked in the film subsequently died, which is not only just conceptually ridiculous, but is personally offensive to me."

As Reardon went on to point out, "human skeletons have been used in movies for years and years." Examples cited in his interview include  House on Haunted Hill  and the 1931  Frankenstein.  "No low-budget B film is gonna pay anybody to sculpt a human skeleton when all you had to do was go to a biological supply house and get a human skeleton. You know, wake up and small the budget. That's really the way it worked," he added. "The idea of having a few of them on the set of Poltergeist and killing two lovely young girls is a pretty pernicious idea."

Zelda Rubinstein slams the curse

Perhaps one of the most famous Poltergeist characters of all, arguably only second to Carol Ann, is the clairvoyant ghost-vanquisher Tangina "This house is clean" Barrons, played to perfection by Zelda Rubinstein, who passed away at the age of 76 in 2010 due to complications that followed a mild heart attack. Most never consider her death part of the curse due to her age, cause of death, and how far removed it was from the close string of deaths between 1982 and 1988. And that's likely how she would want it. Much like Oliver Robins, Rubinstein always felt the idea of a Poltergeist  curse was just superstitious nonsense. In fact, you might even say she found it to be downright preposterous. 

In a 1988 interview during a Showbiz Today segment on CNN, she candidly spoke about the curse in her signature gracious manner but ended it on a classy yet blunt note. "I owe it to Heather to present her case, as most honestly and lovingly as I can. I loved this child very much and I am still very grieved at her passing," said Rubinstein. "Heather died because of an undetected, congenital, anatomical defect. Julian Beck died from cancer in his mature years. Will Sampson passed away after receiving a heart and lung transplant. It's my understanding he had an environmental disease. And Dominique Dunne died at the hands of an extremely ill-directed, passionate boyfriend. These are reasons, I do not call this a jinx. I think that it's pretty much a courtesy to put to an end this superstitious crap ."

The Poltergeist Curse: Exploring The Horror Franchise's Tragic Real Life Legacy

The true tragedies associated with the horror classic.

Heather O'Rourke in Poltergeist

One of the most terrifying haunted house movies of all time is the 1982 favorite from producer Steven Spielberg and director Tobe Hooper, Poltergeist – in which a family is forced to contend with malevolent spirits that have infiltrated their home and abducted their young daughter into the netherworld. Even more unsettling than the bizarre supernatural events that take place in the classic horror movie and its sequels are the real-life tragedies that have affected multiple people involved with the films.

Because there have been so many heartbreaking deaths related to the hit horror movie franchise – not to mention a few claims of unexplainable circumstances on set – fans have speculated that the films are hexed by what has come to be known as the “ Poltergeist Curse.” We would like to make it clear that we do not believe in such a thing, but also cannot deny that the Poltergeist movies have a very sad and strange legacy associated with them. The following is a timeline of this genuinely haunting history, starting with a few unusual details that some say are the cause.

The Alleged Origins Of The Poltergeist Curse

In one of the most iconic moments from the original Poltergeist , Diane Freeling (JoBeth Williams) falls into her unfinished swimming pool and struggles to climb herself out as rotting, human remains from the cemetery her house was built upon rise out of the muddy waters and surround her. As Williams would recall in a 40th anniversary retrospective by Vanity Fair , it was not until after she was finished shooting the already stressful sequence when she learned that the skeletons she was sharing the pool with were real.

This behind-the-scenes horror movie fact is certainly shocking by today’s standards, but using real cadavers was actually a common practice in Hollywood at the time, considering they were cheaper to purchase than fake ones were to build. However, as discussed in the docuseries Cursed Films — one of the best TV shows on Shudder — fans have theorized that real, angry spirits were attached to those skeletons and would become the cause of eerie things that happened on set and after production.

For instance, in an episode of E! True Hollywood Story that explores the legacy of the “ Poltergeist Curse,” crew members recall facing unusual mishaps while filming 1986’s Poltergeist II: The Other Side , which continued the use of real skeletons. Craig T. Nelson, who reprises the role of Steve Freeling in the sequel, also describes in the episode how his co-star, Will Sampson, sensed that there was a malevolent presence disturbing the production and personally conducted an exorcism on the set. The Incredibles star claims that the production did not suffer any further setbacks from that moment on.

The Death Of Dominique Dunne

Poltergeist is also remembered as the first feature-length film to star Dominique Dunne (younger sister of Academy Award nominee Griffin Dunne) as the Freelings’ oldest daughter, Dana. Unfortunately, it would also be her last film, as the actor was murdered only a few months after the movie was released.

As the New York Times reported in November 1982, the 22-year-old had been strangled into an unconscious state, and she was held on life support for five days before she passed. Dunne’s former boyfriend, then-26-year-old chef John Sweeney, admitted to investigators that he was the one who choked her in response to an argument over moving back in together. The following year, Sweeney was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, which the actor’s father, frequent Vanity Fair contributor Dominick Dunne, mentioned in a 2008 article for the magazine in detailing his account of the trial.

Julian Beck Died Shortly After Finishing Poltergeist II

In Poltergeist II: The Other Side , a movie our own Rich Knight was terrified of as a child , the Beast who taunted the Freelings in the first film takes the form of a preacher calling himself Reverend Henry Kane – which is easily the most iconic film role by Julian Beck. Unfortunately, according to the New York Times , the villainous part would also mark his last big screen appearance, having passed away at the age of 60 just a few months after the sequel wrapped in 1985.

While some theorists have often considered the theatre actor’s death to be further evidence of the curse, the Los Angeles Times ’ report of his passing mentions that he had previously been diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1983. Knowing that he was near the end of his life and suffering from a painful illness while portraying the decrepit Kane makes his already chilling performance even more unsettling.

Poltergeist II Star Will Sampson Succumbed To Various Health Complications

Julian Beck was not the only Poltergeist II star who passed away not long after working on the film. The aforementioned Will Sampson, who played a Native American shaman who tries to help the Freelings named Taylor, died in June 1987 at the age of 53. 

According to the Herald Journal (via Google News ), the actor – who had previously been diagnosed with scleroderma – passed 43 days after an otherwise successful lung transplant. He was suffering from malnutrition, a post-operation infection, and kidney failure of an unknown cause that lapsed him into a 10-day coma. Sampson made his major acting debut as part of the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest cast as “Chief” Bromden in 1975 before going on to star opposite Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales the following year and in the 1977 creature feature Orca .

Heather O’Rourke Passed Away At 12 Years Old

Easily the most memorable character of the Poltergeist franchise is the malevolent spirits’ young, primary target, Carol Anne Freeling – played by Heather O’Rourke. The child actor’s promising career was sadly cut short after her doctors failed to detect a long-standing bowel obstruction that led to the 12-year-old’s death in 1988, according to the Los Angeles Times .

Similar to her Poltergeist II co-star Julian Beck, O’Rourke had finished shooting the third installment of the franchise, 1988’s Poltergeist III , shortly before her passing. However, the sequel’s director was reluctantly forced to reshoot many of her scenes with a double, as he recalled in Cursed Films , which can be viewed with a Shudder subscription .

In 2015, MGM released a remake of Poltergeist that – as director Gil Kenan admitted in a Reddit AMA thread – experienced a few on-set electrical problems, but has no tragedies associated with it (unless you count its not-so-favorable reviews ). Therefore, we believe there is no quantifiable reason to suspect that any unfortunate events remotely related to this franchise are the result of a curse and the films are perfectly safe to enjoy today... if you are not too scared, that is.

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Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.

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Cursed Films: Inside the ‘Poltergeist Curse’

We speak with Cursed Films documentarian Jay Cheel about getting to the truth behind the grim 'Poltergeist Curse' legend.

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Poltergeist Movie

As a child of the ‘80s, the so-called Poltergeist curse looms largest in my memory amongst films supposedly plagued by supernaturally bad luck. And as a paranormal pop culture researcher, the fact real skeletons were used in the finale’s swimming pool scene makes the notion of a curse all the more compelling. As purely a storytelling device, a curse would make sense; it tracks. Of course there is most likely no truth to it either.

To be sure, there is indeed tragedy connected to the film. Most notable is the murder of 22-year-old actress Dominique Dunne in November 1982–five months following the film’s June release–and the death of 12-year-old Heather O’Rourke during the filming of Poltergeist III due to complications from an undetected bowel obstruction.

The premature deaths of the two were enough to create the notion of a cursed franchise, which was only exacerbated by the revelation of the skeletons… plus the 2002 E! True Hollywood Story account of these events.

“[ Poltergeist ] was a film on heavy rotation in my household,” says Jay Cheel, the director and executive producer of Cursed Films , the new documentary series on horror streaming service Shudder. “And hearing about the death of Heather O’Rourke was a powerful thing, because I was a kid when I was watching those films.”

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Throughout the course of five episodes of Cursed Films , Cheel explores the odd coincidences and mishaps of Poltergeist , The Exorcist , The Omen , The Crow , and Twilight Zone: The Movie . He also examines the belief of curses, and speaks with religious experts, folklorists, film historians, and even an alleged exorcist and self-proclaimed witch.

Perhaps even more noteworthy though are Cursed Films ’ interviews with people directly associated with the movies. In the case of Poltergeist , that includes special effects makeup artist Craig Reardon–a man who has borne the brunt of blame for the alleged curse because he used human skeletons in the film.

Cheel says the notion of a Poltergeist curse is very personal to Reardon because he was in charge of those makeup effects. But the interview almost didn’t happen.

“When I first reached out to [Reardon], he was definitely not interested,” says Cheel. “His initial response was that he would sue me personally if we even mentioned his name in the series.”

Cheel explains that Reardon had taken part in the E! True Hollywood Story: Curse of the Poltergeist , and had a bad experience with that. According to the filmmaker, Reardon felt his interview was taken and shaped in a way to suggest that this curse was real. The artist agreed to the Cursed Films interview once Cheel explained the intent to have an honest conversation about his feelings toward the idea of Poltergeist being cursed.

“When people are suggesting choices he made could have potentially led to the deaths of actors involved in the production, he takes extreme personal offense to that,” says Cheel.

The resulting interview is impactful, impassioned, and rare because Reardon points out that using human skeletons on movie sets is part of a long tradition in Hollywood. He also emphasizes it is gratuitous, and ghoulish even, to trivialize the deaths of two people by connecting their tragedy to a curse.

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“I think he saw it as some cathartic opportunity to just lay it all out there,” reflects Cheel, as opposed to other interviews about the “curse” where interviewers are “more interested in all of the crazy stuff that happened on these sets, and lining all of those incidents up in a row so that it suggests something supernatural.”

However, while Cursed Films does not reinforce the notion of curses, it does explore it seriously. And some films, such as Poltergeist , tend to attract legends especially when the plot somewhat mirrors the curse stories.

“The more incidents attached to a film, the more power the story has,” he says, but adds that with Poltergeist , there is a source to the curse–at least for believers. The human skeletons used on set during filming led to the bad fortune.

“That mirrors the idea in the actual film of the Freeling family moving into this home that was built on top of a burial ground.”

“That is what gives it the most power and makes it the most interesting for people,” he adds. “That gets back to the idea of this weird fantasy of the stories we’re seeing on the screen bleeding off the screen into our reality and affecting us in strange ways.”

The Poltergeist franchise is most likely not cursed, but Cursed Films nevertheless offers a balanced perspective. By delving into the stories, and the untimely deaths of Dunne and O’Rourke, Cheel actually succeeds in lifting a curse of sorts, and allowing people like Reardon to finally have his say on the legends.

Aaron Sagers

Aaron Sagers | @aaronsagers

Aaron Sagers is a New York City-based journalist, author, and researcher of the weird, pursuing the cross-cultural connections of the paranormal across the globe for more…

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What Is The 'Poltergeist' Curse? Is Spielberg's Beloved Horror Film Truly Hexed?

Why have so many actors featured in the "Poltergeist" franchise suffered from mysterious deaths?

curse of the poltergeist movies

A house built on an ancient Native American burial ground. A child who travels to the great beyond. Spiritual mediums battling the forces of evil. And most bizarrely of all, a handful of mysterious deaths.

Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg's 1982 film "Poltergeist" is a beloved horror classic. Using inventive special effects and compelling character development, the movie is frequently ranked amongst the greatest entries into the genre of all time. "Poltergeist" would go on to spawn several sequels (and a critically reviled reboot) — but each attempt at continuing the franchise is met with considerable fear. That's because many fans of the film believe these scary movies, in reality, are cursed. So what is the "Poltergeist" curse... and is it true?

The original "Poltergeist" trilogy tells the story of the Freeling family and their terrifying encounters with the supernatural. Gifted with a magical essence, the youngest daughter of this average suburban household, Carol Anne, is relentlessly pursued by a cavalcade of malicious spirits, including that of a sadistic doomsday cult leader named Kane.

curse of the poltergeist movies

JoBeth Williams looks on as Craig T. Nelson holds Oliver Robins in a scene from the film "Poltergeist," 1982. Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images

The legend of the so-called Poltergeist Curse began the same year the first movie was released. Actress Dominique Young, who made her debut in "Poltergeist" as the elder sister of Carol Anne, was strangled to death by her former boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney, in the wake of an argument between the two. According to a New York Times article at the time , Dunne was put on life support after the attack from her former beau but passed away five days later. Sweeney would go on to be found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, sparking outrage amidst the perpetrator's family, who had hoped less serious charges would be pursued, according to a 1983 article from The Freelance Star .

Next in the string of spooky deaths was that of Julian Beck, who played the aforementioned apocalyptic prognosticator Kane in "Poltergeist II." Beck would not live to see the release of the sequel, which would be his final film: He passed away at the age of 60 after a battle with stomach cancer on September 14, 1985, according to The New York Times .

A third death of an actor associated with the film started rousing spectral suspicions. Will Sampson had played a kindly ghost named Taylor who protected Carol Anne in the second film of the series. He died on June 3, 1987, after a lengthy illness caused by a chronic degenerative condition, according to The Herald Journal . He was 53 years old.

Not long after that, Heather O'Rourke, the young actress who played protagonist Carol Anne in all three films, would pass away rather suddenly. Doctors had been attempting to repair an acute bowel obstruction caused by congenital stenosis of the intestine, but could not save the young thespian in time, according to the LA Times . O'Rourke was pronounced dead on February 1, 1988. She was 12 years old.

There was one other death as well: actress and activist Zelda Rubinstein, who played the plucky, diminutive psychic in the three original films, passed away from natural causes at the age of 76, according to CNN . Her death is not usually connected to the so-called curse, as she was not exactly cut down in her prime.

The shocking nature of O'Rourke's death solidified for many that something suspicious was afoot. Rumors about which members of the cast would die next began swirling about (and were more difficult to debunk before the advent of the internet): For a time, some mistakenly believed that Oliver Robins, the actor who played Carol Anne's brother Robbie Freeling in the first two films, had died in a car crash or had been mistakenly strangled by the mechanical clown doll in the first movie, according to Snopes , a fact checking website that covers urban legends, and Bloody Disgusting , a website that covers horror films. A more extreme version of the rumor had some claiming that every actor who played a main character in the film had died. This, also, is patently untrue: Craig T. Nelson (Steve Freeling), Jo Beth Williams (Diane Freeling), and Tom Skerritt (Bruce Gardner) are all very much alive.

When "Poltergeist" was rebooted in 2015, some wondered whether the stars would be safe. Although the movie was widely panned , it turns out no one has perished (yet!) as a result of their involvement. That being said, director Gil Kenan noted some paranormal phenomena during filming.

"Lights that could turn on anywhere else in the neighborhood would blow out the second you’d try to light them on [the set],” Kenan wrote in a Reddit AMA . “Also, I used a lot of aerial drone photography in the film, and the drone-pilots were never able to lock in the GPS signal in this field. We would have to move 10 feet away to launch the craft."

“The house that I rented during filming was straight-up legit haunted by a female spirit dressed in black,” Kenan continued. “And I became aware of her within the first few days of staying in the house. And only after I left did I receive a call from the previous owner, who had moved back in, who was terrified by the goings on in the house, and wanted to see if I had experienced any of it. So it was an incredible real-life inspiration for filming that followed me home.”

A series of relatively explainable deaths does not a curse make, but superstitions run wild in Hollywood, where the span and scope of the "Poltergeist" legend has grown in the audience's imaginations. In a series about the terror of the afterlife, fans have obviously let their fears run wild into the real world.

[Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images]

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Inside the real-life curse behind one of the world’s scariest movies

‘poltergeist’ was inspired by a true haunting of a suburban home, but annabel nugent discovers it was also beset by terrifying behind-the-scenes chaos, both during and after filming. here, she asks, was it all a morbid coincidence or was something scarier at work, article bookmarked.

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Stranger than fiction: the real-life events surrounding Tobe Hooper’s release were more harrowing than the film itself

O ver four decades since its release, Poltergeist remains a Halloween go-to. Come spooky season, horror devotees in search of sure-fire scares inevitably reach for Tobe Hooper ’s movie about a picture-perfect family tormented by malevolent spirits. Between the swimming pool of skeletons, a cackling clown doll, and a portal in the closet, there are plenty of frights to go around. Dodgy CGI notwithstanding.

Off camera, though, murder and illness led to real-life deaths far scarier than anything seen on screen – and before the cameras even began rolling, tensions were reportedly running high.

The nature of Hooper’s involvement in the film has been debated since its 1982 release. Many have claimed that Steven Spielberg had a hand in directing the movie that his official credits – as co-writer and co-producer – don’t account for. While the question of directorial authorship is yet to be answered (after the film’s release, Spielberg published an open letter publicly crediting Hooper for his work and thanking him for his “openness”), such reports of a power struggle on set only fed rumours of the film’s gruelling production, which involved accidents, tragic cast deaths and the use of actual human remains. The fact Spielberg apparently based his harrowing story on real-life events did not help to dispel rumours of a so-called curse on the film.

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Poltergeist's Haunting Real-Life Curse Explained

Poltergeist

There are many things you can do in life that may drastically decrease your life expectancy. Hanging out around nuclear waste or flavoring your dinners with lead-based paint chips are just a few examples. But one thing most people wouldn't put at the top of their "avoid at all costs" list is "star in a movie." After all, how dangerous could it be to stand in front of a camera and act for a living? Of course, there are plenty of examples in Hollywood that go against this assumption, and the cast members of the Steven Spielberg-written and Tobe Hooper-directed film "Poltergeist" might also feel differently about the riskiness of their jobs. After all, this famous supernatural flick has long been thought to be the subject of a very nasty — and deadly — curse .

The original "Poltergeist" came out in 1982. It tells the story of the Freelings, an average family who move into a new home in California. They quickly realize that the house is not as cozy and inviting as it first seemed, and their youngest daughter Carol Anne begins to communicate through the television with an otherworldly entity. This entity is, of course, a poltergeist (title alert!), and it starts to cause a whole lot of problems for the Freelings, eventually leading to the kidnapping (but safe return) of their daughter and total and utter destruction of their brand new home. There's a lot going on in the story involving cursed burial grounds and undeveloped swimming pools, but one of the most interesting and infamous things about the film is the curse that seems to have followed its cast and crew members from the moment Hooper yelled, "Action!"

Tragic Deaths

The most shocking thing about the "Poltergeist" curse is the number of deaths that occurred amongst the cast members. None of the deaths mentioned here happened during filming, but the simple fact that many of them happened at all is kind of hard to wrap your mind around. One of the most infamous deaths is that of Heather O'Rourke, who played the youngest daughter Carol Anne throughout the entire "Poltergeist" trilogy. Her death occurred after the third film wrapped. O'Rourke, who was 12 years old at the time, was wrongfully diagnosed and treated for Crohn's disease, but eventually succumbed to complications from an undiagnosed intestinal abnormality. Her death was tragic and unexpected.

A few years prior to O'Rourke's death, her co-star and older sister on screen, Dominique Dunne, was brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Angry about their break-up, he went to her house one night to talk about the situation and ended up strangling her. She was 22 years old, and her death should never have happened. Dunne is not the only cast member to be murdered, however. Lou Perryman, who starred in the minor role of Pugsley in the original film, was murdered with an ax in his home by a young man recently released from prison. The killer had no previous connection to Perryman, and he claimed to be intoxicated and no longer taking his prescription medications at the time, which caused him to go into a murderous rage. 

Other cast members died from various pre-diagnosed illnesses. These deaths feel a little less "curse"-driven since they were known about before filming, but that doesn't change the fact that their lives ended shortly after working on the films. There were also a few near-death experiences by cast members. Ryan Lawson, who played the part of Ryan in the first film, was in a horrific plane crash that killed 27 of the 51 people on board, and Oliver Robbins, who played the brother Robbie Freeling,  was nearly strangled to death by that terrifying clown that actually malfunctioned on set. If it wasn't for Steven Spielberg's quick thinking , Robbins may not be here to tell the story today. That's a whole lot of death and trauma associated with one spooky movie. Poltergeist or no poltergeist, this famous film franchise definitely seems cursed.

The Curse Lives On

Cursed film sets are more common than one might think. The sets of "The Exorcist," "Rosemary's Baby," and "The Omen," have all been said to harbor nasty amounts of bad luck. Usually, these "curses" tend to occur on the sets of horror movies, leaving one to wonder whether or not playing around with the stories of ghosts and possessions and death is really such a good idea. Of course, a lot of these so-called curses are probably nothing more than just really bad luck that also happens to have exceptional timing. But it is interesting to wonder about supernatural possibilities that may be at play. 

The "Poltergeist" curse is a tragic one — so many people lost their lives in brutal and devastating ways — and it also seems to have followed the franchise onto the set of the 2015 remake. Bloody Disgusting reports  that while this version of the curse is mild compared to the one that terrorized the trilogy's original cast, it still had some spooky things up its sleeves. The house where filming took place was apparently haunted (and chosen by the director Gil Kenan for this particular reason, so, in some ways, he was asking for weird stuff to happen), and Kenan also claims to have lived in another haunted house for the duration of the shoot. In a Reddit AMA, he said that "the house that [he] rented during filming was straight-u p legit haunted by a female spirit dressed in black." Take that along with everything that happened to the original "Poltergeist" cast and crew, and I'd say that the curse is still alive and waiting for its next big blockbuster to haunt. 

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The Real-Life Poltergeist "Curse" Is Way More Terrifying Than the Movies

By Lynsey Eidell

With the Poltergeist reboot hitting theaters this past weekend, horror fans are busy comparing how its frights stack up againt the 1982 original. But scarier than any of the cult horror films—remakes or originals—is the alleged "curse" surrounding the franchise: There's been skeletons, exorcisms, and multiple deaths all tied to the films. Here's a breakdown of all the creepy happenings, but read on only if you dare...

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If you thought the first iteration of this horror film was terrifying, imagine all the same frightening spooks and evil spirits—but in 3-D. (Yikes!) One thing not to be afraid of, though, is this reboot ruining the original: Sam Raimi's version does it super-scary justice. In theaters May 22.

Dominique Dunne, who starred in the original Poltergeist as Dana, is strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend on November 4, 1982 —exactly five months to the day after the first movie premiered. She was only 22 years old at the time of her death.

Since Dunne's death, five more cast and crew members from the Poltergeist trilogy have died. Including:

Julian Beck, who played Henry Kane in Poltergeist II , died on September 14, 1985, of stomach cancer. He was 60 years old. Will Sampson, who played Taylor the medicine man in Poltergeist II , died on June 3, 1987, from post-operative complications and kidney failure. He was 53 years old. Brian Gibson, the director of Poltergeist II , died on January 4, 2004, from Ewing's sarcoma, a form of cancer. He was 59 years old. Lou Perryman, who played Pugsley in the first film, was murdered on April 1, 2009. He was 67 years old.

But the most suspicious of the deaths was that of 12-year-old Heather O'Rourke, who played Carol Anne in all three original Poltergeist films. The young actress came down with a mysterious illness in 1987, which the doctors misdiagnosed as Crohn's disease. On February 1, 1988, she fell into cardiac arrest and died on the operating table due to septic shock caused by a blocked intestine.

There was also a Final Destination -esque close call for Richard Lawson, who played Ryan in the first film. He was on board a U.S. Air flight in 1992 that crashed soon after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport and killed 27 people. According to The New York Times , he was originally assigned a seat in row six, but the ticket attendant recognized him and bumped him up to the first row of the plane. Lawson later learned that at least one person in his original row had died in the crash.

Legend attributes the curse to the fact that Steven Spielberg opted to use real skeletons in the infamous pool scene. According to JoBeth Williams, at least, who told TV Land: "In my innocence and naivete, I assumed that these were not real skeletons. I assumed that they were prop skeletons made out of plastic or rubber.... I found out, as did the crew, that they were using real skeletons, because it's too far too expensive to make fake skeletons out of rubber."__

And not even a real-life exorcism could get rid of the curse. Will Sampson, one of the Poltergeist actors who died, performed an actual exorcism ceremony after filming the second movie in an attempt to banish the curse. He would pass away less than a year later.

Do you believe in the Poltergeist curse? For more real-life scary stories, check out the truth behind Annabelle .

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Poltergeist Movie Curse True Story

Is the poltergeist movie franchise cursed the myth, explained.

curse of the poltergeist movies

From " Halloween " to "A Nightmare on Elm Street," there's no shortage of iconic horror movies from the '70s and '80s that launched long-running franchises. Still, "Poltergeist" stands out among the rest because of its cult following — and many of those fans believe the Poltergeist franchise is actually cursed.

A reboot of the classic 1982 horror film "Poltergeist" came out in 2015, but let's be honest: nothing could compare to the original. While no horrific accidents occurred on the set of the most recent movie (that we know of, anyway), there are plenty of rumours of a curse on the original film trilogy's cast.

The film revolves around a suburban family who moves into a new home and begins to notice strange things involving their 5-year-old daughter, Carol Ann. Turns out, menacing spirits are haunting the house, and while their interactions seem harmless at first, their true evil nature is soon revealed when Carol Ann goes missing, and her desperate parents turn to an exorcist for help.

Read on to find out about the mysterious events that have made people speculate that the Poltergeist movie franchise may be the most cursed series in Hollywood.

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It All Began With Human Skeletons

One of the most famous scenes features JoBeth Williams's character, Diane, falling into the family's pool filled with skeletons. What you might not know is that those skeletons are actually real — at least the "Poltergeist" cast didn't. "In my innocence and naiveté, I assumed that these were not real skeletons," Williams said in a 2006 episode of TV Land's "TV Myths and Legends." "I assumed that they were prop skeletons made out of plastic or rubber . . . I found out, as did the crew, that they were using real skeletons because it's far too expensive to make fake skeletons out of rubber."

Months After the Release of the First Film, a Star Was Murdered

"Poltergeist" was released in June 1982, and in November of that year, 22-year-old Dominique Dunne, who played Dana (the family's older daughter), was murdered. Dunne was strangled in her own driveway by her abusive ex-boyfriend and was removed from life support five days later.

Is Netflix's The Guilty a True Story?

An Exorcism Was Performed on the Set of the Sequel

Concerned about the use of real skeletons on the set of the first film, Native American actor and "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" star Will Sampson performed an exorcism on the set of the second film in 1984. According to Williams, he went to the set late at night by himself to do it. The next day, the cast supposedly felt relieved.

2 Cast Members Died Within Years of the Sequel

Julian Beck, who starred as Kane in "Poltergeist II: The Other Side," died of stomach cancer at age 60. He was diagnosed before he accepted the role, and he died in September 1985, months before the film came out in cinemas. In June 1987, Sampson, the actor who performed the exorcism, died of malnutrition and postoperative kidney failure at age 53. While their deaths may not seem so unusual, some fans still believe they're connected to the curse.

Poltergeist's Young Star Died at 12

Poltergeist's iconic young star Heather O'Rourke (aka Carol Anne, who said the famous "They're here" line) was incredibly young when she died of cardiac arrest and septic shock caused by a misdiagnosed intestinal issue. She died in February 1988 at 12, several months before the release of "Poltergeist III," the final chapter in the original series.

A Cast Member Barely Escaped Death

Richard Lawson was aboard USAir Flight 405 when it crashed into Flushing Bay in March 1992. A total of 27 people (out of the 51 on board) were killed. Lawson survived, but the event is yet another reason people claim the movie brought bad luck to its cast.

In 2009, a Second Cast Member Was Murdered

Lou Perryman played the small role of Pugsley in the original film. He was 67 years old when a recently released ex-convict killed him in his own home with an axe.

What do you think — is it a curse or simply a series of terrible events?

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Documentary to explore ‘poltergeist’ movie curse.

'The Curse of Poltergeist' will attempt to unravel the mystery that surrounds the spooky franchise.

By Mia Galuppo

Mia Galuppo

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'Poltergeist' Movie Curse: Documentary to Explore Actor Deaths

The ghosts weren't the only scary things in Steven Spielberg 's Oscar-nominated screenplay.

Producer and filmmaker Adam Ripp wants to get to the bottom of the supposed curse that has plagued the cast of the Steven Spielberg -produced Poltergeist film series.

Ripp is directing The Curse of Poltergeist , which his company, Vega Baby, is financing and producing alongside Indonesia-based MD Pictures. He’s set to start shooting in November.

The documentary will focus on the life and experiences of Poltergeist actor Oliver Robins , who played Robbie Freeling in the first and second installment of the franchise, as a way to explore the tragedies that have befallen those involved with the films.

“It will be a journey into the unknown as I attempt to understand the meaning behind the tragedies surrounding the movie,” said Robins, of the The Curse of Poltergeist. “It’s something that will hopefully bring closure to a dark chapter in my life.”

Many of the actors involved in the project have met dreadful ends, including Dominique Dunne who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, and young star Heather O’Rourke , who died at the age of twelve of acute bowel obstruction right before the third film was released.

In 2002, the curse was the focus of an  E! True Hollywood Story .

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How the Poltergeist Curse Continues to Haunt People in Real Life

Is the new movie in danger of getting the infamous curse?

Image via Complex Original

Not Available Lead

Poltergeist may be even more terrifying off-screen than it is on-screen. The horror franchise—launched in 1982—birthed two sequels (in 1986 and 1988) as well as a recent reboot (out May 22), starring Sam Rockwell. But what's even scarier than the premise of angry ghosts haunting an innocent family is the strange real-life occurrences that happened around the filming of the original trilogy.

Whether or not you believe in curses, and particularly this one—famously dubbed the Poltergeist Curse—you have to admit the odd happenings are more than just a little eerie. Young actress Heather O'Rourke, who played Carol Anne (a.k.a. the little girl sitting in front of the TV in the iconic image), met her maker too soon, when she died at the age of 12 from cardiac arrest caused by septic shock. She passed away on Feb. 1, 1988, just four months before Poltergeist III, her final film, was released. Dominique Dunne, who played Carol Anne's older sister in the first Poltergeist , was strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend five months after the release of the film. In 1985, actor Julian Beck, who played Kane, the evil reverend in the second Poltergeist , died of stomach cancer, while Will Sampson, who played Taylor the Medicine Man, passed away in 1987 from post-operative kidney failure. Between 1982 and 1988—the six years during which the three films released—the Poltergeist franchise saw four deaths from its cast members.

Though not often cited as part of the Poltergeist Curse, the gruesome death of actor Lou Perryman, who had a small part as Pugsley in the original Tobe Hooper/Steven Spielberg film, reignited interest in the curse in 2009. He was murdered with an axe in his own home. It's not unusual for a movie 33 years old to have cast member deaths, but the abnormal manner of Perryman's death was worthy of note among the unfortunate events surrounding the film. 

curse of the poltergeist movies

Many people have cited the skeletons in the film for the curse—later revealed to be real dead bodies, because they were apparently cheaper than fake ones. In an effort to cleanse the set of evil spirits, actor Will Sampson (who is also a shaman) performed an actual exorcism after shooting one night. Actress JoBeth Williams, who plays the mom, Diane Freeling, has said that during filming, she would always come home to find pictures on her wall crooked, even if she'd straighten them every day. Spooky, right?

With the release of the new Poltergeist , horror buffs are wondering, Is the curse back? Was it ever real, or all just terrible coincidence?

curse of the poltergeist movies

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In a recent Reddit AMA , director Gil Kenan of the new Poltergeist detailed some unnerving events during filming: "The location for the house, during shooting, I chose because it had a strange and unnecessary field that the houses of this particular community were built around," he wrote. "And we found—throughout production—that we had persistent and repeatable equipment field only on that strange plot of land. For instance, lights that could turn on anywhere else in the neighborhood would blow out the second you'd try to light them on this plot." It's unclear whether this is spooky for reasons other than something totally normal and logical. Plus, considering Kenan has been "trying to catch a curse since [he] was 11," it's possible some of the oddities have been amplified in his head.

But here's the scariest and latest chapter of the mysterious curse: Just last month, a family in Sacramento claimed to have experienced horrifying events after purchasing the Cabbage Patch Doll that once belonged to Heather O'Rourke. The details of the case can be found here , along with the email the couple sent paranormal investigator Paul Dale Roberts (co-owner of Halo Paranormal Investigations). The husband, Dusty, said that since he and his wife Jamie-Lynn are huge fans of Poltergeist, they excitedly bought the doll off eBay, but terrible things started happening shortly thereafter:

The doll arrived on the 30th of October. We were in awe. Halloween day, we left for our anniversary trip to Reno. Our anniversary is Nov 1. While in Reno, we got a call that my wife's step brother had been in a terrible accident while playing soccer. He ended up with a ruptured spleen and broken ribs. Due to internal bleeding, he was hospitalized for 5 days. 3 days later, my father-in-law became ill. Within 2 days, he was in a coma. He was diagnosed with encefalitis. He remained in a coma for 5-6 days and we almost lost him. Miraculously, he woke up and was released after a 9 day stint. He is still in rehab for brain damage. We thought we could be back to our lives after a very trying few weeks. On Dec 2nd, my wife found out her childhood friend, John had committed suicide by gunshot. Dec 8th, our good friend Dawn died of heart failure...she was 33. Shortly after, my mother was having agonizing pain in her hip. She ended up having surgery. On Jan 7th, my wife's Uncle Jeff (not a blood relative, he was her best friend's father who took my wife in on more than one occasion as a child) passed away from a heart attack. He had no known medical conditions. January 26th, my wife was hospitalized for the night with a rare intestinal infection. The end of January, I left my job for a new company. On Feb 12, I was let go. Feb 14th, we had to put our dear dog, Zeus down. Early March, our 4 year old Pomeranian lost a tooth.  Shortly after, my wife was told something was wrong with her heart and they suspended her driver's license. She has had to wear heart monitors for 24 hours twice and they still don't know what is wrong. On March 27th, due to an error, Kern County Child Support levied my account right before a bunch of debit purchases and auto drafts cleared. This left us with a negative account balance of almost $2,000. My car broke down two days prior. Last week, the doctors notified my mother that her surgery not only failed, she had a fracture in her hip. She had a hip replacement April 8th. On top of all of this, my wife and I have not gotten along. There is constant tension in the air and the topic of divorce has come up more than once.

curse of the poltergeist movies

I called up the paranormal investigator on this case to hear his take on this curse, and if there have been any follow-ups with the doll owners. Paul Dale Roberts has worked on thousands of cases since he started in 2006, and he does indeed believe the Poltergeist Curse exists. "Yeah, I believe that negative energy can be thrown upon something. It can be thrown upon any inanimate object and stay there. When a person gets around this negative energy, something bad could happen to them. They may get sick, someone close to them can get sick, there can be a death."

He believes the doll was responsible for Dustin and Jamie-Lynn's recent misfortunes as well. He explained: "There was some type of curse on it. I mean, it has the history. It goes all the way back to The Poltergeist movie. Steven Spielberg supposedly used human bones from India, which upsets the spirit world, which caused the curse. So yeah I believe that the curse was manifesting from the doll and when it was trying to prevent the cleansing, which caused me to become dizzy." He and his wife Deanna Stinson, a psychic, work on cases together; she confirmed an evil spirit attached to the doll.

When he tried to cleanse the household, he felt a resistant spirit. "I felt very, very dizzy," he says. "I fell off-balance. It was almost like something was trying to prevent me from cleansing the doll." He believes the cleansing was successful though. The couple still owns the doll, but now keeps it in a blessed glass case. "Things are calm now," he says.

So is the latest  Poltergeist  in danger? Roberts doesn't think so. "No, even though this movie is a remake of  Poltergeist , I don't think it has a connection to the curse," he tells Complex. "I think everybody is relatively safe." Whew. Perhaps we can all go see the new  Poltergeist  without fear of IRL repercussions. 

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Terror Behind The Scenes: The Victims Of The Poltergeist Curse

Melissa Brinks

Poltergeist is one of the most beloved horror movies in American history. It's also rumored to be cursed. Many of its stars and cast members have met with unfortunate accidents after filming, and some have even died. While it's not the first movie in history to be followed by such rumors, the Poltergeist curse carries more weight because of its unique origins.

Horror movies are often connected with frightening circumstances, but the Poltergeist movie curse actually ties into its story. The film follows the Freeling family, who are assaulted by a collection of nasty spirits disturbed by their home because it was built on an old cemetery. But that's not the only place that the dead were being desecrated - according to people who worked on the film, the skeletons used in the iconic pool scene were actual human remains.

Because the story is explicitly about the problems that arise from disrespecting the dead, there's a pretty compelling argument for why Poltergeist would be cursed . With celebrity deaths, strange accidents, and even exorcisms taking place over the film's 30-year history, Poltergeist 's curse is easily one of the most interesting rumors in Hollywood.

Dominique Dunne Suffered An Early, Violent Death

Dominique Dunne Suffered An Early, Violent Death

Dominique Dunne (who played Dana, the older sister of the Freeling family) was the first of the cast to die in an untimely fashion. Dunne broke up with an abusive boyfriend, who later returned to her house to pressure her into getting back together with him. She refused and an argument ensued. As the argument escalated, the ex-boyfriend choked her until she passed out and ultimately fell into a coma.

Even worse, the ex-boyfriend was released after serving less than four years . Like Heather O'Rourke, Dunne's untimely death has made many people believers in the curse.

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Heather O'Rourke, The Film's Carol Anne, Died Of An Unexpected Illness

Heather O'Rourke, The Film's Carol Anne, Died Of An Unexpected Illness

Heather O'Rourke, who played Carol Anne in the film franchise, is one of the people most commonly said to be a victim of the Poltergeist curse. She'd been diagnosed with Crohn's disease earlier in life, but that turned out to be a misdiagnosis. In fact, O'Rourke had a bowel obstruction that caused septic shock. Unfortunately, the symptoms of the shock were incorrectly attributed to the flu and not immediately treated, and she died at just 12 years old as the obstruction released toxins into her bloodstream.

O'Rourke's character was the one most frequently targeted by the film franchise's many spirits and demons. Though she wasn't the first person to die during Poltergeist' s lifespan, the unexpected, shocking nature of her death made many believe that the curse was real.

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Julian Beck's Long Battle With Cancer Ended In Death

Julian Beck's Long Battle With Cancer Ended In Death

Like Will Sampson, Julian Beck's death is not usually attributed to the Poltergeist curse. Beck had been battling cancer all through the filming of Poltergeist II , in which he played the evil preacher Kane. He died a few months before the film premiered.

Still, Beck adds to the number of untimely deaths. If he were the only person to die after appearing in the franchise, it wouldn't seem to be connected. But because he, like many others who acted in Poltergeist , suffered from an illness or incurred other misfortune, he's often counted as evidence nonetheless.

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Richard Lawson's Near-Death Experience Lends Credence To The Curse

Richard Lawson's Near-Death Experience Lends Credence To The Curse

Richard Lawson, who played Ryan in the original Poltergeist film, is believed to be another victim of the curse. Lawson is still alive and well, but in 1992, he boarded flight 405 to Cleveland. Many passengers on board reported feeling uneasy before the flight . Lawson was bumped up to first-class after a flight attendant recognized him - a chance encounter that probably saved his life.

The plane crashed into a bay after a failed takeoff, with its passengers trapped in their seats. Twenty-seven of those people died, including someone in Lawson's original assigned row. If he hadn't been bumped up to first class, it might have been him in that seat instead.

Lou Perryman Was Murdered In A Random Attack

Lou Perryman Was Murdered In A Random Attack

Though Lou Perryman didn't play a lead role in Poltergeist, he is often considered to be a victim of the curse nonetheless. Perryman played Pugsley, a construction worker, in the first film, and was known for his roles in other horror films, too.

In 2009, Seth Christopher Tatum, who was on the run from police, entered Lou Perryman's home and attacked him with an ax. Tatum, who later turned himself in, said he'd attacked the man because he needed his car and some other items from his home .

Oliver Robins Was Attacked By A Clown On Set

Oliver Robins Was Attacked By A Clown On Set

Oliver Robins (who played the middle Freeling child, Robbie)  was reportedly attacked on set by a mechanical clown . In a scene in which he was supposed to be struggling with the creepy clown, it malfunctioned and choked him. Because the scene was meant to show a struggle, many members of the cast allegedly thought his reaction was acting and it wasn't until he began to turn blue that they intervened.

Robins survived the attack and is alive and well today. He's  involved with the production of a documentary about the many deaths connected with the franchise as a means to lay the tragedies from this time of his life to rest.

Will Sampson Performed An Exorcism On Set

Will Sampson Performed An Exorcism On Set

Though Will Sampson (who played Native American shaman Taylor in the second Poltergeist film) did die after the film's release, his death was probably unrelated to the curse. Sampson had a  degenerative condition called scleroderma  which caused him to lose weight rapidly and become malnourished. His poor health caused a heart and lung transplant to be riskier than usual, and Sampson died after the surgery.

But whether his death was caused by the curse or not, Sampson played a crucial role in its popularization. He reportedly performed an exorcism on set  to clear the bad energy many felt connected to their use of real human remains. After the exorcism, members of the cast claimed to feel better.

JoBeth Williams Reported Strange Events At Her Home

JoBeth Williams Reported Strange Events At Her Home

JoBeth Williams, who played the mother of the Freeling family, acted in the infamous scene with the reportedly real human skeletons. Though tragedy or accident didn't befall her in the same way that it did many of her costars, Williams did report odd incidents during the filming.

Specifically, Williams recalled an odd, nervous feeling on set that dissipated after Sampson performed the exorcism . Further, she said that she'd often return home from a day's shooting to find all of the pictures in her house tilted. After straightening them, she'd return the next day to find them all crooked again.

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Writer James Kahn Experienced A Frightening Lightning Strike

Writer James Kahn Experienced A Frightening Lightning Strike

James Kahn wrote the novelization of Poltergeist , so he wasn't involved with the film's production. But that doesn't mean he was exempt from strange occurrences. In fact, Kahn reported that, right after writing the line, "Lightning streaked the sky," a freak lightning bolt struck his building .

While that might be just a very strange coincidence, Kahn said that his lights went out and that video games in his house turned on and started playing.

Gil Kenan Sought Out The Poltergeist Curse - And He Found It

Gil Kenan Sought Out The Poltergeist Curse - And He Found It

The Poltergeist curse did not end with the original three films. Gil Kenan, who directed the 2015 franchise reboot, was actually looking for the curse . According to Kenan, he found it - the film was plagued by strange equipment failures on one plot of land, and the director also reported that the house he stayed in while filming was haunted by a female figure in a black dress.

The figure, he said, would follow him to and from set, though it thankfully did not return to Los Angeles with him when filming wrapped.

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E! True Hollywood Story (1996)

An in-depth look at Steven Spielberg's blockbuster movie "Poltergeist". An in-depth look at Steven Spielberg's blockbuster movie "Poltergeist". An in-depth look at Steven Spielberg's blockbuster movie "Poltergeist".

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Is the 'Poltergeist Curse' real? The child star of the 1982 horror favorite weighs in.

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Poltergeist has been haunting ’80s kids — and their descendants — for 40 years. But the 1982 blockbuster, directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg, has been haunted itself by the so-called " Poltergeist Curse ," an urban legend that's taken root since the deaths of four cast members from the original film and its two sequels.

Those cast members include two members of the Freeling family, the suburban clan headed up by Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams , whose home is invaded by angry spirits. Five months after the film's release, Dominique Dunne — who played the eldest Freeling daughter, Dana — was murdered by an ex-boyfriend. And in 1988, her younger onscreen sibling and Poltergeist's literal poster child , Heather O'Rourke, passed away at age 12 following a serious case of intestinal stenosis. (The other oft-cited curse victims are Julian Beck and Will Sampson, both of whom appeared in the 1986 sequel, Poltergeist II : The Other Side .)

As the last Freeling sibling standing, Oliver Robins — who played middle child Robbie — has naturally thought a lot about the " Poltergeist Curse," and how it ties into the legacy of the haunted house franchise. "I hope there isn't a curse, because I'm still around," the child actor-turned-filmmaker tells Yahoo Entertainment.

"I do believe in the paranormal to some degree, but I don't think there's a curse because those deaths can be explained," Robins continues. "You had these tragedies happen, but they were going to happen whether [the actors] were in the movie or not. Like with Heather, she had a medical condition for which she wasn't treated. So I don't think they are interconnected."

That said, as a fixture on the horror convention scene, Robins knows that the " Poltergeist Curse" is one of the reasons why the movie still attracts new viewers who might otherwise skip it in favor of more recent frightfests. "I really believe that if you've heard about the curse and it gets you to see the film, you're not going to be on the edge of your seat because of curses — it's because it's a great movie. I like to look at the positive side of even the darkest thing."

Robins is also happy to dispel another myth that's long surrounded Poltergeist : that Spielberg actually directed the film rather than Hooper . The E.T. director did co-write the screenplay and was an active presence on set, to the point where some crew members have credited him as being its primary creative voice. But Robins insists that Hooper was always calling the shots, at least when he was on-camera.

"Tobe directed me in all my scenes," he says of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre auteur, who died in 2017. "Steven was there every day and wrote the original screenplay, so it was from his heart. Tobe was following Steven's vision and if people say it's a Spielberg movie, that's because we're following a script by Steven Spielberg. But at the end of the day, Tobe told me where to stand, where the camera should be placed and everything else. So he truly was the director."

Robins does credit Spielberg with recognizing and encouraging his youthful interest in filmmaking, though. "I used to make these Super-8 movies while we were shooting," he recalls. "I brought them in for Steven to see, and he said, 'Wow! I have a gift for you Oliver.'" That gift turned out to be an upgraded film camera with all sorts of bells and whistles. "You could do anything with it: wind it back, double exposures, shooting sound. So I got to know Steven in a different capacity as an aspiring young filmmaker."

To celebrate 40 years of Poltergeist , we spoke with Robins about some of the film's classic scares, and his own real-life close encounters with the paranormal.

It's always wild to me to think that Poltergeist and E.T. came out within a week of each other back in 1982. Both movies are great genre pieces, but they're also really relatable portraits of families. You even have your own "penis breath" moment where you and Heather are trading insults at the dining table!

Yeah, that truly was the Spielberg summer. It sounds a little arrogant, but we knew that Poltergeist was gonna be fantastic. Even when we were shooting it, they were already talking about sequels because we were having such a great time. We just wanted to stay together, and it was so sad when we ended production on the first one. What's so interesting about that scene with Heather is that Tobe was like, "Just be a kid. Do what you would do and ad-lib all those lines." So half of those lines in the scene — like where I call her a barf bag and she calls me a doggy bag — were just us being kids. We forgot the crew was there! [ Laughs ]

You hadn't been in a lot of films prior to making Poltergeist . Did they tell you off the top how scary the movie was going to get?

No, they really didn't and they kept everything really secret, too. When we auditioned, we had some sides, but they didn't tell us the story. I had trouble learning to read and my mom said, "I'm not going to read the script to you. If you want to learn to read, read the screenplay for Poltergeist ." So that's actually how I learned to read! And that's the first time I learned the movie was scary at all.

What did you think as you were reading all those scary moments on the page?

I was amazed by it, and I didn't know how they were gonna do it. [Producer] Frank Marshall was so great on the set, and he made it feel like it was gonna be a game every day. He would say, "OK, we have this great tree, and this is what you're gonna do." I was a rough-and-tumble kid, so for me it was like being at an amusement park. A lot of people don't know this, but in the final scene at the Holiday Inn , there's a sign that says, "Welcome Dr. Fantasy & Friends." Frank's nickname was Dr. Fantasy! He does magic tricks and is a great magician himself.

Did that make it difficult to act scared during those scenes when in reality it was so much fun for you?

I really credit JoBeth Williams, because I had so little acting experience and Tobe expected me to come to set prepared. I said to her, "What do I do?" She talked me though those scenes, and told me to tap into something I was personally really afraid of. Believe it or not, I thought that I grew up in a haunted house. We lived in this townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in the 1970s and there was this one room that still had red velvet walls left over from the 1860s when it had been a whorehouse right after the Civil War. That room was dark and scary, and I always used to think that I could hear people walking up the stairs at night. My mom would say, "No, that's just the house settling." But to this day, I believe I heard people walking up the stairs. So I channeled those feelings [into Poltergeist ], thinking about those ghosts and feeling like there's no one there to protect me.

Did you have any other paranormal experiences in that house?

No, I never really saw anything — it was just that gut-wrenching feeling. I do remember that I had a little playhouse in my room, and I always thought that someone in that playhouse was waiting for me! I'd sit in my bed and pull the covers up over my head. If there was a ghost there, I have to credit it with my performance! [ Laughs ]

A few years ago, I went to this [haunted] sanitarium in Kentucky with a couple of actors [from other horror movies]. We were all thinking, "This is kind of a joke," but we ended up seeing things that we can't understand to this day — like we saw things darting from door to door. So you have to keep an open mind. I think science will eventually explain everything that we call the paranormal, but there are certainly things we don't get in this world.

You mentioned the tree scene earlier — how was that stunt accomplished?

Well, that involved two weeks of being covered in molasses and being hit with sugar glass and rain! People have to understand that there wasn't CGI back then, so all of the effects were practical. Basically, they had three or four different trees: one that looked really big, another one for the arms and another one to swallow me. That was a heavy duty special effect. I was standing on a platform and Tobe said, "We need to simulate you getting eaten, so you need to pull away like you're struggling to get away from the tree."

But in fact I had to actually lower myself down, so they could add all the special effects. So I would lower myself on the platform and scream, "It's eating me!" Every shot took a lot of time to do, and they had to make it very safe. I remember when the tree's arms were coming into the room, the stunt coordinator, Glenn Randall, told me: "Oliver, I want you to cover your eyes, because we want to shoot sugar glass at you." I never got hurt or anything like that. I do remember that the arms once came through and knocked me off the bed because they didn't have them at the right angle. But they were incredibly cautious. It just goes to show you that if you rush something or don't have the right people on set, that's when errors happen and people get hurt in the process.

For the scene where Heather's voice is coming out of the television and you're all trying to find her, did they actually play her voice on set?

No, we would find our places on set and they'd have a stick, and would tell us to follow the stick because that's where her voice was. All the voiceover and ghost effects were done months later, so in every scene we're truly acting against nothing. I remember asking Tobe, "What exactly am I screaming at?" And this is what Tobe told me: "We don't know Oliver, but it's the scariest thing you can possibly think of." [ Laughs ]

The "monster in the closet" scene is one of my favorites. How difficult was that to film?

That scene was shot in what they called "the Gimbal Room." It was on the same MGM stage where they filmed all of Fred Astaire's dances. I remember that the room actually rotated to the left, and the camera was positioned below me. And then we had these wires that were attached to the wall, and we had to act like we were being sucked into the closet. We were given various eyelines for where to look while we were holding onto the bedposts. It was my understanding that they had to blow up each frame and have effects artists paint out the wires. We didn't see the creature's esophagus at all. That was an optical illusion that they put in later. They also had fish tanks that they reflected the light through and a big wind blower that would blow our hair. I didn't know what it was going to look like until I did ADR on the film!

As you're running out of the house after that scene, all these skeletons start popping up in your way. Was that all carefully choreographed?

Oh yeah, it was very choreographed. The ground of the set would open up and they'd pop a coffin through, so he had to hit a specific mark. There were so many things you could fix today in post-production, but back then you couldn't fix them and would have to re-shoot. At a minimum, we would do 12 takes on any given shot to make sure we had it. And I was actually scared during that sequence. When there's a coffin popping up in front of you, it doesn't take that much acting to be terrified! I asked the prop guys, "Are the skeletons real?" They said they were, but I don't know if they were just trying to scare me. I don't know if this is true, but later on I heard they did use real skeletons. [ Both Williams and some of the film's crew members, have since said that several of the skeletons featured in that scene were real. ]

What was your favorite scene that you weren't on set for?

I would have liked to have seen JoBeth in the pool where all the skeletons are popping up out of the water. That was not in an actual backyard, but on a soundstage, too. I loved being on set, but the labor union was like, "You gotta go home," so they had to drag me off. Otherwise I would have hung out and watched that scene.

I thought you might have picked the face peeling moment.

I actually was there for that one! Believe it or not, those are Steven's hands. Tobe was directing him, saying, "OK Steven, your hands have to go here." So he was the actor and those are his hands and he's actually tearing at his face. I think it was Rick Baker who created that mold and the only had one of them so that they had to get it right.

I remember Poltergeist II being even gnarlier than the original movie. Was that the plan — to have the movies get scarier as they went along?

You know, I wasn't privy to that information. It was probably just commerce. I was 14, and didn't have the best working relationship with [director] Brian Gibson on that set. My understanding is that MGM was in financial difficulty at that point, and wanted to shut down production, so he was under duress the entire time, which made it really tough. And I was a precocious, obnoxious teenager with a mind of my own, so I really talked back to him. Poltergeist II didn't really have the same energy or vibe as the first one, and I think that was beyond anyone's control. We didn't have that family element because we were under duress from all these exterior forces. As a filmmaker myself, it's hard to ignore those things as much as you might want to.

Was there ever any discussion about you returning for Poltergeist III ?

They never contacted me, so I didn't really know about it. I probably would've done it, but at that point, I wanted to go to USC film school so I was really focused on my studies. If I had been told that I had to skip a biology final to focus on acting, I would have been like, "No, biology has to come first." [ Laughs ]

Heather's death was a big shock to everyone: Was it hard to lose her that way?

It really was. I hadn't really lost that many people in my life at that point, and I was so close with her. She was my buddy, and used to stay over at my house. I didn't know anything was wrong with her. It was such a horrible tragedy, and I honestly didn't know how to deal with it. It was kind of a turning point in my life where it made me wake up to that reality that life is finite and every day is truly precious.

You mentioned that you're not necessarily a believer in the paranormal, but do you feel her presence when you rewatch the film?

I do feel her that she's there, although that could just be part of my mind. She was such a great actress, and so smart and precocious. I've worked with children as a director since that time, and you kind of take for granted how amazing she took to it. I've directed kids that don't listen and can't take direction, but Heather was like a little adult when she was on set. She was very special, and that's why Steven and Tobe hired her for that role.

When you go to horror conventions now, what's the reaction you're always happy to hear from fans?

The thing that always sticks with me is when fans that are grown-ups like me bring their kids and try to express to them why this movie is great, and they use me for that moment. They're trying to share that moment when they were 10-years-old watching Poltergeist with their own 10-year-olds and when the kids meet me, it all comes alive. I like to be a part of that, and I love talking about Poltergeist with fans. When the movie came out, I always wondered what people where thinking when they saw it, and now I get to hear all those stories. The key thing is that the film itself is a wonderful movie that obviously has staying power, because we're still talking about it 40 years later.

Poltergeist is currently streaming on HBO Max

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What is the ‘Poltergeist’ curse?

Is the 'Poltergeist' curse fact or fiction?

poltergeist

Poltergeist is considered by many to be one of the scariest movies ever made. That has everything to do with not only the quality of the storytelling itself, but the creepy mythology that exists outside the film, too. Similar to The Exorcist , a specter of misfortune is said to haunt the cast and crew members who were involved with the making of the 1982 film, in what is known as the Poltergeist curse.

The curse in question doesn’t just apply to the first installment, but the entire Poltergeist franchise, to boot. As Snopes explained in their article about the curse, in which they gave the claim a “Legend” rating,

“What is seen as an unusually large number of deaths have occurred among the former cast of the Poltergeist trilogy. This occurrence has given rise to the rumor the productions were in some way ‘cursed’ due to the nature of the films themselves, as if the evil spirits conjured in the make-believe world of the cinema have since reached out into the real world to claim what they might see as their rightful victims.”

In total, four actors died who have been featured in the three films Poltergeist , 1986’s Poltergeist II , and 1988’s Poltergeist III . The deceased actors included Dominique Dunn, Heather O’Rourke, Will Sampson, and Julian Beck.

Untimely deaths

When it comes to Beck and Sampson, both of their deaths were somewhat unsurprising given the context in which they occurred. For Beck, who played Kane the evil priest in Poltergeist II , he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1983 and passed away from the disease shortly after finishing filming on the second movie, as Biography pointed out. Sampson, who played the Native American shaman Taylor in Poltergeist II , was also given a low chance of survival when he had to undergo a heart-lung transplant and died following the procedure. But it is the other two more mysterious and unexpected deaths that have continued to fuel the legend all these years later.

Dominique Dunne, who played Dana Freeling in the first film, died in 1982 at the hands of her ex-boyfriend when he showed up at her house, begged her to take him back, and then choked her and left her to die when she refused. Heather O’Rourke, who played Dunne’s on-screen younger sibling, Carole Anne Freeling, and was the platinum blonde actor most associated with the original Poltergeist , also died unexpectedly related to an illness that became a medical mystery. O’Rourke, who also starred in Poltergeist II and Poltergeist III , was incorrectly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1987, which may have been the first domino to fall in a series of events that ultimately ended in her demise. As Biography explained,

“The following year, O’Rourke fell ill again, and her symptoms were casually attributed to the flu. A day later, she collapsed and suffered a cardiac arrest. After being airlifted to a children’s hospital in San Diego, O’Rourke died during an operation to correct a bowel obstruction, and it was later believed that she had been suffering from a congenital intestinal abnormality.”

Shudder-inducing production

The original Poltergeist film was produced by legendary Jaws director Steven Spielberg and directed by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre ‘s Tobe Hooper. It followed the story of the Freeling family who starts to experience strange events after purchasing a new home in California. This all culminates in the revelation that the home was built on a Native American burial ground and that the family is apparently being haunted by a malevolent ghost.

Unsurprisingly, other creepy details on the production side of the Poltergeist franchise have also emerged over the years, adding even more mystique to the curse and its legend. For instance, JoBeth Williams, who played Diane Freeling in the first two movies, has claimed Spielberg chose to use actual skeletons from human beings in a scene where she was submerged in an open pit in the ground filled with water. Supposedly, this was due to the fact that using real human remains was actually cheaper than plastic skeletons at the time. What’s more, Sampson apparently performed an exorcism, for real, at the end of one of the day’s filming for Poltergeist II .

A legend that keeps on growing

The Poltergeist curse is such a prominent part of the zeit geist (pun intended), that the sole surviving cinematic sibling from the franchise has commented on what he thinks about it. “I hope there isn’t a curse, because I’m still around,” remarked Oliver Robins, who played middle child Robbie Freeling in the first two movies. Robins elaborated on his thoughts about the curse with Yahoo Entertainment :

“I do believe in the paranormal to some degree, but I don’t think there’s a curse because those deaths can be explained. You had these tragedies happen, but they were going to happen whether [the actors] were in the movie or not. Like with Heather, she had a medical condition for which she wasn’t treated. So I don’t think they are interconnected.”

Robins meets horror fans frequently due to being a common presence at conventions. He said the Poltergeist curse still draws new viewers to the film to this day, which he said is one “positive side” to the legend since it is such a “great movie.”

If you’re currently in the mood for some considerable scares — and possibly a curse — you can check out the original Poltergeist on HBO Max now or buy or rent it from wherever you make digital media purchases.

Cursed Movies: Poltergeist and Other Deadly Productions

From on-set tragedies to alleged curses, Hollywood is full of mystique, wonder, and lore regarding many of cinema’s most famous and infamous pictures.

From on-set tragedies to alleged curses, Hollywood is full of mystique, wonder, and lore regarding many of cinema’s most famous and infamous pictures. Sometimes the often fatal productions of these films can attract more attention and intrigue than the finished products themselves , with many people believing them to be ominously cursed.The entertainment industry has certainly had its fair share of scandals, misfortunes, and conspiracies, many of which are forever associated with these noteworthy projects. While such notions can oftentimes be easily written off as merely a coincidence, some examples of curses and calamity in film are a little harder to rationalize.Notorious horror flicks like Poltergeist and The Omen were plagued with bizarre and heartbreaking occurrences, while the shocking on-set death of Brandon Lee during production of the original 1994 version of The Crow stunned both the world and show business. The incident mirrored the more recent 2021 Rust shooting involving Alec Baldwin and cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, in which the actor accidentally killed the artist after firing a prop gun.The death of Hutchins sparked a debate on occupational safety in the film industry and the use of real guns as props. Let’s take a closer look at Poltergeist and other seemingly cursed, deadly movie productions.

7 The Conqueror

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Dick Powell’s 1956 epic film The Conqueror stars cinema legend John Wayne as the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, as he battles against Tartar armies and for the love of their princess Bortai. The picture was shot near St. George, Utah, which is 137 miles downwind from the U.S. government’s Nevada National Security Site where 11 nuclear weapons tests occurred in 1953. Following the completion of The Conqueror, cancer ran rampant among both the cast and crew members and would continue to affect those a part of production for years to come. Of the 220 crew members for the film, 91 developed cancer during their lifetime with 46 dying from it.

Director Dick Powell died of cancer in 1963, seven years after completion of the product. John Wayne died in 1979 from stomach cancer, though he himself blamed the diagnosis on his six-pack-a-day cigarette habit. Susan Hayward and Pedro Armendáriz both succumbed to cancer and cancer-related illnesses, with Hayward passing away in 1975 from brain cancer and Armendáriz taking his own life when he discovered he had terminal neck cancer.

Filmmakers were aware of the hazardous set and famed producer Howard Hughes felt so guilty he bought every print of the film for $12 million and kept it out of circulation for many years. Controversy still exists whether radiation from the nearby nuclear site is to blame or if simple statistics and odds were at play.

6 Twilight Zone: The Movie

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The 1983 sci-fi horror anthology film Twilight Zone: The Movie features four segments inspired by the iconic Rod Serling TV show. Its production and overall legacy is marred by the tragic helicopter accident that claimed the lives of lead star Vic Morrow and child actors Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen around 2:30 a.m. on July 23, 1982.

The two illegally-hired children were in violation of California law, which prohibits them from working at night or in proximity to explosives; the segment’s director John Landis had been on set during the accident. The night scene called for Morrow to carry the children across the river while being chased by American soldiers in a hovering helicopter, but a rotor failed which caused the low-flying helicopter to spin out of control; Morrow, Lee and Chen were killed instantly.

In addition to the deaths of the three actors, six helicopter passengers were injured in the traumatic accident. Director John Landis, associate producer George Folsey Jr., the production manager, helicopter pilot, and the explosive specialist were all tried and acquitted on charges of manslaughter in a nine-month trial that lasted from 1986 to 1987. Producer and co-director Steven Spielberg was so disgusted and outraged by the handling of the situation that he ended their friendship and publicly called for the termination of the New Hollywood era, where directors had almost complete control over film. Following the tragedy, new procedures and safety standards were imposed in the movie industry.

John Belushi

Arguably one of the most bizarre and spine-tingling alleged film curses is that of Atuk , a screenplay for a fish out of water comedy. It was intended to be a film adaptation based on the 1963 Mordecai Richler novel The Incomparable Ark, which tells the story of a proud and fierce Inuit hunter who tries to adapt to life in the fast-paced New York City.

The script was written by Tod Carrol and the project had been circulating since the 1970s, with many Hollywood producers and studios showing interest in the film. An urban legend has been linked to Atuk, with an alleged curse having killed all the actors who have expressed interest in the lead role. Four of the actors attached to the comedy all met untimely ends: John Belushi, Sam Kinison, John Candy, and Chris Farley.

The first “victim” of the curse was Saturday Night Live legend John Belushi, who read the script in 1982 and was extremely interested in portraying the character. He was set to headline the project just months later but on March 5, 1982 the beloved funnyman died from a drug overdose at 33. Following the death of Belushi, the ribald comedian Sam Kinison got his hands on the script and was set to star but was fired over rewrites and creative control; he passed away in a car accident on April 10, 1992.

Related: Best Films Based On SNL Skits, Ranked

The charming John Candy and Chris Farley later became attached to the project but died before production began; Candy from a heart attack and Farley a drug overdose. Screenwriter Tod Carrol dismissed rumors of a curse in 1999. Coincidence or not, the so-called urban legend is quite eerie and Atuk remains in production hell.

the-crow-brandon-lee

Son of martial arts icon and film star Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee portrays a murdered musician who is resurrected to avenge the deaths of himself and his fiancé in 1994’s The Crow . Tragedy struck production when the 28-year-old Lee was fatally wounded during a scene in which his character Eric Draven is shot after witnessing his fiancé being assaulted.

Actor Michael Massee’s character Funboy fires a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 629 at the actor as he walks into the room; the prop assistant was unaware of the rule for inspecting all firearms before and after any handling so that the barrel was not checked for obstructions. A bullet from the dummy round was trapped in the barrel and caused the .44 Magnum bullet to be fired virtually with the same force of a live round. Lee was struck in the abdomen and succumbed to his injury after six hours of unsuccessful emergency surgery.

Michael Massee was traumatized by the accident and took a year off from acting, never seeing the film. Twelve years later during an interview in 2005, the actor revealed he still had nightmares over Lee’s death and the event, saying “I don’t think you ever get over something like that.” The heartbreaking death of Brandon Lee mirrors that of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who died when a gun being used as a prop was fired by Alec Baldwin on the set of the Western film Rust. After the shooting, Lee’s family tweeted, “Our hearts go out to Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on Rust . No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period.”

3 The Misfits

Long-Lost Marilyn Monroe Nude Scene from The Misfits Gets Unearthed

John Huston’s 1961 American Western The Misfits centers on a divorcee who falls for an aging cowboy struggling to maintain his romance-free lifestyle in the Northern Nevada desert in 1960. The picture famously stars Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift and was based on the screenplay by Arthur Miller, Monroe’s husband at the time. Production was plagued by 100 degree Fahrenheit heat, constant script revisions, and the breakdown of the playwright and movie star's marriage.

Despite not being a commercial success upon release, The Misfits was critically lauded for its gifted leads’ performances and unique script; despite such a warm reception the Western’s reputation was marred by the deaths of its three beloved stars, each of which died shortly after production was completed.

Related: These Are the Best Marilyn Monroe Movies

“The King of Hollywood” Clark Gable died on November 16, 1960 at the age of 59 from a heart attack, just 12 days after finishing The Misfits. Though the silver screen legend had been an avid smoker since his teenage years, his wife Kay Williams believed the film’s intense production and on-set tension was a big factor in his death. The blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe notoriously hated the picture, having disliked that Miller based the role partly on her life as well as his frustrating constant re-writes. The twentieth century pop culture icon died from an accidental barbiturate overdose on August 4, 1962 a year-and-a-half after filming; The Misfits was both her and Gable’s last completed film.

Montgomery Clift passed away just six years later on July 23, 1966 from a heart attack among other health issues. His live-in personal secretary Lorenzo James revealed that The Misfits was on television the night he passed and asked if he would like to watch, to which Clift firmly replied, “Absolutely not!”

2 Poltergeist

Child Heather O'Rourke puts her hands on the blue television set in Poltergeist

Tobe Hooper’s 1982 supernatural horror flick Poltergeist follows a suburban family whose home is invaded by malevolent spirits that abduct their daughter, and was written and based on the screenplay by Steven Spielberg (with one of the best horror movie trailers ever ). The classic picture has a lot of darkness associated with it, as two of its promising young talents met heart-wrenching untimely deaths.

hild star Heather O’Rourke shined as Carol Anne Freeling in the freaky horror installments, but sadly passed away from septic shock before the release of Poltergeist III; she was just 12-years-old. Her on-screen big sister Dominique Dunn was tragically strangled-to-death by her ex-boyfriend, dying at 22 from her injuries five days later on November 4, 1982.

Related: Poltergeist Curse Exposed in New Documentary

Aside from these heartbreaking deaths, Poltergeist was plagued by weird incidents and revelations, such as the fact that real skeletons were used in a frightening water scene involving JoBeth Williams’ character. Many superstitious fans of the film believe that is how the Poltergeist “curse” originated. In the first film, Oliver Robins was nearly strangled by the animatronic clown that tormented his character Robbie; Steven Spielberg saw what was happening and managed to free Robins just in time.

Actor Richard Lawson survived a plane crash in 1992 that claimed the lives of 27 of its 51 passengers; he was gifted a first class seat after giving his autograph which ultimately saved his life, as the person in his original seat died. The prodution got so spooky that Poltergeist II actor Will Sampson, a real-life shaman, performed an on-set exorcism to rid the place of “alien spirits.”

20th Century Fox, The Omen

Being a film depicting the Antichrist , it’s no wonder that the 1976 supernatural classic The Omen was marred by scary and downright blood-chilling incidents; it is arguably one of the most cursed pictures of all time. Lead actor and revered cinema star Gregory Peck experienced a devastating family tragedy right before production began, with his eldest son dying by suicide. When Peck took off for London in September 1975 for the film, his plane was struck by lightning that caused an engine to catch fire and almost made it come dangerously close to crashing.

Ominously, a few weeks later executive producer Mace Neufeld’s plane was also struck by non-fatal lightning, and screenwriter David Seltzer was just barely missed by a lightning strike in Rome. Even more frightening, Neufeld and his wife were staying at the Hilton Hotel in London when the Irish Republican Army blew it up; thankfully they were not in the hotel at the time.

Undeniably the most eerie and distressing occurrence to plague The Omen was when special effects designer John Richardson was driving with his assistant Liz Moore in Holland while working on the film A Bridge Too Far, when his car crashed. Liz Moore was disturbingly beheaded in a manner that was chillingly similar to the death scene Richardson helped create special effects for in The Omen. More sinisterly, the crash occurred on Friday the 13th, and after crawling from the wrecked car, Richardson reportedly saw a Dutch road sign near the accident that read: Ommen, 66.6 km. Talk about cursed.

/Film

The Correct Order To Watch The Amityville Horror Movies

O n November 13, 1974, at 112 Ocean Ave. in Amityville, New York, a young man named Ronald DeFeo woke up in the middle of the night, took up a shotgun, and went from room to room in his home, systematically murdering six members of his family. DeFeo was apprehended by the police. At first, DeFeo claimed the murders were mob-related, but he later confessed to committing the crimes himself. He was sentenced to 25 years to life for his crimes. DeFeo died in prison in 2021. 

DeFeo's murders became notorious with the publication of Jay Anson's nonfiction book "The Amityville Horror" in 1977. After the killings, the Lutz family moved into 112 Ocean Ave., and they claimed to experience a panoply of paranormal phenomena. Flies mobbed the building, and the entire Lutz family reported hearing eerie voices. George Lutz, the family patriarch, claimed to be possessed by a demonic presence that was driving him to kill his family. The Lutzes called in a priest, who claimed to experience stigmata while blessing the property. 

The book was such a hit that director Stuart Rosenberg adapted it into a feature film in 1979. The film, too, was a hit, and the Amityville haunting made its way into popular paranormal lore. Even Ed and Lorraine Warren, the ghost hunters made famous by "The Conjuring" films, visited the house on Ocean Ave. to suss out the ghosts that might be living there. A follow-up book was written, and many movie sequels came out over the years. It wouldn't be until much later that the Lutzes would come forward and say that "The Amityville Horror" was a deliberate hoax on their part. 

That hasn't stopped Hollywood, however. Indeed, as of this writing, there are 60 movies based on the Amityville haunting. 

For God's sake, read below. 

Read more: The 50 Scariest Horror Movie Monsters Ranked

The Release Order

The first eight movies below might be considered part of the original "master" continuity. The second film is a prequel to the first, telling a fictionalized version of the DeFeo murders, while the first and third describe the Lutz affair and its aftermath. The 2018 film "The Amityville Murders" was more or less a remake of "Amityville II: The Possession," and even saw the return of actress Diane Franklin from that film.

The fourth through the eighth chapters saw haunted objects from the Amityville house being distributed around the country, spreading mayhem. Lamps, mirrors, clocks, etc. In 2005, MGM remade the original movie during the widespread glut of horror remakes that dirtied up the decade.

After that, enterprising filmmakers realized that the name "Amityville" was in the public domain, and the notorious quarter-circle windows on the Ocean Ave. house couldn't be copywritten. By the late '10s, filmmakers began churning out "Amityville" films on what seemed like a bi-monthly basis. As such, there are many, many, many films based on "The Amityville Horror." 

  • "The Amityville Horror" (1979)
  • "Amityville II: The Possession" (1982)
  • "Amityville 3-D" (1983)
  • "Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes" (1989)
  • "The Amityville Curse" (1990)
  • "Amityville 1992: It's About Time" (1992)
  • "Amityville: A New Generation" (1993)
  • "Amityville Dollhouse" (1997)
  • "The Amityville Horror" (2005)
  • "The Amityville Haunting" (2011)
  • "My Amityville Horror" (2012)
  • "The Amityville Asylum" (2013)
  • "Amityville Death House" (2015)
  • "The Amityville Playhouse" (2015)
  • "Amityville: Vanishing Point" (2016)
  • "The Amityville Legacy" (2016)
  • "The Amityville Terror" (2016)
  • "Amityville Toybox" (2016)
  • "Amityville: No Escape" (2016)
  • "Amityville Exorcism" (2017)
  • "Amityville: Evil Never Dies" (2017)
  • "Amityville Prison" a.k.a. "Against the Night" (2017)
  • "Amityville: The Awakening" (2017)
  • "Amityville Clownhouse" (2017)
  • "Amityville: Mt. Misery Road" (2018)
  • "The Amityville Murders" (2019)

Hang on. We're not done. We still have 34 to go. 

The Release Order (Cont.)

To continue apace:

  • "Amityville Island" (2020)
  • "Amityville Vibrator" (2020)
  • "Witches of Amityville Academy" (2020)
  • "The Amityville Harvest" (2020)
  • "An Amityville Poltergeist" (2020)
  • "The Amityville Moon" (2021)
  • "Amityville Cult" (2021)
  • "Amityville Cop" (2021)
  • "Amityville Vampire" (2021)
  • "Amityville Scarecrow" (2022)
  • "Amityville Scarecrow 2" (2022)
  • "Amityville Uprising" (2022)
  • "Amityville Gas Chamber" (2022)
  • "Amityville in Space" (2022)
  • "Amityville Hex" (2022)
  • "Amityville in the Hood" (2022)
  • "Amityville Karen" (2022)
  • "Amityville Christmas Vacation" (2022)
  • "Amityville Thanksgiving" (2022)
  • "Ghosts of Amityville" (2022)
  • "Amityville: The Resurgence" (2022)

Only five of the above films were theatrically released: the 1979 original, "The Possession," "3-D," the 2005 remake, "The Awakening," and "The Amityville Murders." Curiously, "The Awakening" took a metanarrative approach, as the characters in the movie watched the original 1979 film and read Anson's book. 

Despite the glut of Amityville movies, none of them have been terribly well-received. Even the 1979 original only has a 31% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The high-profile 2005 remake with Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George topped out at 24%. "The Awakening," starring Bella Thorne and Jennifer Jason Leigh, has the dubious honor of opening 60th at the box office with a three-day total of only $742. 

The Release Order (Ad Nauseum)

The rest of the "Amityville" movies were all released since January of 2023. Because they are coming out at such a rapid clip -- most of them on streaming services like Tubi -- this list may be dated in a week's time. As of this writing, however, the following films are available: 

  • "Amityville Death Toilet" (2023)
  • "Amityville Elevator" (2023)
  • "Amityville Emanuelle" (2023)
  • "The Amityville Curse" (2023)
  • "Amityville Shark House" (2023)
  • "Amityville Apocalypse" (2023)
  • "Amityville Ripper" (2023)
  • "Amityville: A Origin Story" (2023)
  • "Amityville Job Interview" (2023)
  • "The Last Amityville Movie" (2023)
  • "Amityville Ride-Share" (2023)
  • "Amityville Bigfoot" (2024)
  • "Amityville Apt." (2024)

"My Amityville Horror" and "Amityville: An Origin Story" are documentaries on the DeFeo murders and the Lutz hoax that followed.

Several of the Amityvilles are also clearly horror spoof movies; there is a vibrator and a death toilet in there. "Amityville Emanuelle" (a deliberate misspelling of "Emmanuelle") blends haunting conceits with the notorious softcore sex film series from the '60s and '70s.

As one might be able to determine from the titles, the bulk of the more recent "Amityville" films are cheap cash-ins, trying to equate the word "Amityville" with "haunted" or "ghostly." No one has seen every single one of the above movies, so I cannot say for sure if they all adhere to the details of Anson's book or the DeFeo murders. The above list doesn't even include the many "Amityville" based student shorts and unauthorized titles that one can dig up on IMDb. Some of those may not exist. 

The above list is the most authorized one might be able to determine.

Read the original article on SlashFilm .

The Amityville Horror 1979

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