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The Curse Of Poltergeist


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The best part about horror movies is leaving the movie theater and knowing that it was all pretend. But for one movie, real life was as terrifying as the film. This movie was the early 80’s movie Poltergeist. This blockbuster horror movie was directed by Tobe Hooper and written and produced by Steven Spielberg it instantly became a cult classic because of what happened on and off set. Within 10 years four of the characters in the movie ended up dead.

The movie revolves around a middle-class family, The Freelings. Parents Steve and Dianoa, teenage daughter Dana, eight-year-old son Robbie, and 5-year-old daughter Carol Anne start seeing creepy and mysterious things in their California home. Their daughter Carol Anne ended up getting abducted through her bedroom closet by a group of ghosts who are under the control of a monster called the “beast”. 

The once thought-friendly ghosts Dana was communicating with through their TV set started to turn menacing. Upon learning that their house sits on a Native American burial ground, the Freelings spend their time trying to receive Carol Anne while being terrorized by spirits and demons. The mixture of creepy clowns, swimming pools of skeletons, deadly spirits, and demons make the perfect horror movie. But the horror did not end there. 

The most surprising death of all was the main character Heather O’Rourke who played Carol Anne in the movie. Her death is what people say made the poltergeist curse true. The young actor starred in all three Poltergeist movies and played the main character Heather Pfister in Happy Days. She was only 6 years old when she was in the movie and she instantly became a fan favorite with her with her stark blond hair, big eyes, and doll-like appearance. 

Sadly Heather was misdiagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1987. Then a year after she got sick with her symptoms being like the flu. A day later she fell and suffered from cardiac arrest. She was then airlifted to a San Diego Children’s Hospital. She then died during surgery when trying to repair an acute bowel obstruction. They say it was thought to be from a lifetime fight with Crohn’s Disease. The actress was officially pronounced dead after suffering septic shock, on February 1, 1988. Alone this might just seem like a tragic death but it was not the only one. 

The other more tragic death was the death of the actress Dominique Dunne who played the older sister Dana Freeling. In the year 1982 Dominique separated from her abusive husband John Sweeney. He was even so abusive that when Dunne played the character of an abused teenage mom she did not even have to fake her bruises and scars. In November the same year, he returned to Dominique’s house where Dunne was rehearsing with co-star David Packer where he went to ask her to take him back. But Dominique refused. Sweeney did not take that answer well. 

Sweeney then took Dunne by the neck and choked her for 4-6 minutes until she was unconscious and left her to die on her driveway. Responding officers then found Sweeney standing over her dead body after Packer heard screams and called the police. Sweeney was then sentenced to six and a half years in prison but then got out after three years and seven months. 

2 other cast members also died but their deaths were not as mysterious as the rest, one of which was Julian Beck. The actor of the evil preacher Kane from Poltergeist II was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1983 and passed away two days later. Soon after that, the film was surrounded by more tragedy when actor Will Sampson who played Taylor the Native American shaman died after having a heart and lung transplant which had a small survival rate. 

Even after all these tragic deaths, there were still even more freaky and mysterious things to happen. Something freaky that scared the whole cast, especially JoBeth Williams who plays the mother of the Freeling family is that real skeletons were used in the famous scene where Williams is in a muddy swimming pool full of skeletons. Writer and producer Steven Spielberg bought real-life skeletons because back then making fake ones was just too expensive. For the five takes Williams had to take she had to swim and be right next to real dead bodies. 

To creep everyone out even more, actor Oliver Robins who played the son of the Freeling family had a near-death experience in the film. One of the most famous scenes in the movie is the scene where Robin is in bed and his clown doll diapers and when the camera turns around it grabs Robin by the neck and starts to choke him. The people working on the set have a hydraulic system to wrap around his neck. But the system became a tad tight and ended up actually choking the young actor. Stephen Spielberg thought this kid was really good at improv so they did not stop anything. They did finally catch on and turned it off just before things could have really gone downhill. 

Even with the so-called curse and deaths of Maney the movie still went on to be called the scariest horror movie out there. Poltergeist went on to get 3 Oscar nominations and won the BAFTA Award for Best Special Visual Effects. The youngest actor Heather O’Riurke also got nominated for the Best Young Actress award and ended up winning once. Some may believe this movie is cursed and some may say it was a tragic coincidence but no matter what you believe it is still one of the creepiest mysteries out there.

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  • J

    Juliet WestonOct 27, 2023 at 12:45 pm

    Nice Article! (I love you Imme)

  • W

    Wendy CruzOct 27, 2023 at 12:41 pm

    Amazing Story!

  • N

    NatalieOct 27, 2023 at 12:29 pm

    This is really intersting. I personally have never watched the movies but I want to watch them now.