‘Poltergeist’ cast: How the haunted movie became a real-life horror
Hollywood is a deeply haunted place, whether you believe in the paranormal or not. You can’t step a foot in Tinseltown without hearing stories about death or ghosts or mysterious happenings. It’s always interesting stories, an urban legend perhaps great enough for its own movie. Unsurprisingly, some films also have their own supernatural lore surrounding it. Poltergeist gets mentioned a lot.
Why wouldn’t Poltergeist get a shout out? Mysterious happenings on set? Check. A rash of deaths linked to the cast? Check. It’s a wild story for those who haven’t heard about the strange happenings for those who worked on the original Poltergeist films.
Many fans who try to trace the root of the hauntings and the curse believe one possible explanation is that, well, real human skeletons were used in filming the movie. In Poltergeist, Diane (JoBeth Williams) falls into a pool. It’s a pool full of skeletons. It was cheaper to use real skeletons than fake ones. Either way, they were really, really there.
In an interview with TVLand, Williams said, “In my innocence and naiveté, 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 far too expensive to make fake skeletons out of rubber.”
Many believers in the paranormal say that by using the skeletons, the filmmakers tempted fate by using the bones of the dead in such a way.
Fast-forwarding to the sequel Poltergeist II: The Other Side, an exorcism was conducted on the set of the film. Will Sampson, who played shaman Taylor in the movie, was very concerned about the use of skeletons in the first film.
Sampson was reportedly so concerned that he offered to perform an exorcism on the set. No one knows what happened during the exorcism as Sampson did the ceremony alone in the dead of night. The next morning, however, the cast and crew reportedly felt “relieved”, which means that it was a success.
The Poltergeist Death Curse
Of course, it’s time to talk about the most famous part of this real life horror story: the supposed death curse. There are definitely a lot of deaths associated with the film. Not just natural deaths either, these can be pretty brutal or painful ways to go for the Poltergeist cast members who have succumbed to it.
The big two of the curse are Dominique Dunne, who played the eldest daughter Dana in the first film, and Heather O’Rourke, who played the youngest daughter Carol Anne.
Dunne died shortly after the release of the first film in 1982. Dunne was strangled by an abusive ex-boyfriend before dying five days later. The ex was convicted of manslaughter for his role in Dunne’s death, serving six years.
O’Rourke became ill about four months before the release of Poltergeist III and was taken to the hospital. She would die of cardiac arrest and septic shock from an undiagnosed Crohn’s disease. O’Rourke was 12 at the time of her death and Poltergeist III was four months away from release.
Others who died from the death curse are said to be Julian Beck of stomach cancer (though he had cancer when he accepted his role) and Will Sampson of complications of a heart-lung transplant. A more recent addition to the death list is Lou Perryman, who played the role of Pugsley in the 1982 film. He was brutally murdered by an ex-convict.
One actor who was almost taken by the death curse is Richard Lawson, who played Ryan. Lawson was on USAir Flight 405, which crashed into Flushing Bay in 1992. While 27 out of the 51 passengers on board tragically lost their lives, Lawson survived.
“undiagnosed gastrointestinal issue”March 11, 2020
Heather O’Rourke died during the filming of the 3rd installment due to the lack of attention and seriousness of the symptoms and pain she was going through. They had to rewrite and reshoot several scenes to finish the film. In the last scene where they are holding ‘Caroline’, you never see her face because, it’s not Heather. Her death was a tragedy! If they had just taken her to a real Doctor in a hospital and not on set, she would most likely still be alive today.June 14, 2020
It’s Carol AnneOctober 17, 2020
This movie may be a spooky walk down giggle street but I agree with the author. This curse is no joke. I had expected much more in the way of scary stuff when I started watching this movie and ended up wondering if I had just watched a hot take on planes trains and automobiles! I wonder how many curses came about because of this can you believe she was in that sludge with a real skeleton?!?! I don’t even know what to say!!RIP TO THE YOUNG GIRL, and I hope the man who killed that older sister sees his day in court and the judge has no mercy.October 17, 2020
Still one of the best horror films. Yeh i saw it when it came out in drive in. I can not recall i guess i only learned of the bad curses maybe after the 3rd one. I saw poltergeist 2 was unaware about Dominique passing. Well who knows it curse or just coincidence. But what ever was tapped into when they made these moives has a far reaching effect. Though most of the actors are still alive why some are still here why many died is mystery. But curse seems to be quiet now. The parents are getting old now.November 1, 2020