The Poltergeist Curse: deaths and supernatural events 40 years after its premiere

4 actors died between the premiere of the first film and the third. The original, was it directed by Tobe Hooper, or was it really Steven Spielberg?

From the idea of Steven Spielbergfor a question that gnawed at him as a boy (was there something on the television when the transmission ended, and the static rain began?) to the final result of Poltergeist several unknowns, secrets and… curses mediated.

The deaths of various members of the cast of the saga (there were three films), including that of little Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Anne in all three, and which occurred after the filming of the latter ended, at 12 years, or who was, if Tobe Hooper or Spielberg, the true filmmaker, are myths and questions that over the years have had their answers.



“Poltergeist” was the highest grossing horror film of 1982. Photos Archivo Clarín

Now that the 40th anniversary of the premiere of Poltergeistwhich in Argentina was known by the subtitle of devil gamesand that will be released in a restored and digital copy, we are going to reveal (?) some issues surrounding the film.

The “Curse” and deaths

  • The “Poltergeist Curse” It is an urban legend based on the fact that there were several unfortunate deaths of actors in the saga, as well as strange events. There were four deaths in a space of six years, between the premiere of the first and the premiere of the third.
One of the terrors that Spielberg had as a child: a tree, near his window, whose branches moved with the wind.


One of the terrors that Spielberg had as a child: a tree, near his window, whose branches moved with the wind.
  • In the middle of filming Poltergeist III, Heather O’Rourke contracted giardiasis, a disease she contracted from being exposed to lake water. She was misdiagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, and she continued filming. She passed away a few months before the film’s premiere, on February 1, 1988.
Heather O'Rourke died at the age of 12, shortly before it premiered "Poltergeist III".


Heather O’Rourke died at the age of 12, shortly before “Poltergeist III” was released.
  • Dominique Dunne (Dana Freeling) and Heather O’Rourke (Carol Anne Freeling) are buried in the same cemetery: Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles. On October 30, 1982, Dominique was murdered by her ex-boyfriend when he strangled her after she rejected her reconciliation attempt. She was in the driveway of her house in West Hollywood. She never regained consciousness and died on November 4 at the age of 22. On February 1, 1988, O’Rourke died of intestinal stenosis. She was 12 years old.
Dominique Dunne (Carol Anne's older sister) was strangled to death by an ex-boyfriend. Her body and O'Rourke's are in the same cemetery.


Dominique Dunne (Carol Anne’s older sister) was strangled to death by an ex-boyfriend. Her body and O’Rourke’s are in the same cemetery.
  • The other two were the result of chronic illnesses: Julian Beck (the Reverend Kane in Poltergeist II: The Other Side, 1986) died in 1985 of stomach cancer; Will Sampson (Taylor in Poltergeist II: The Other Side) died from complications of a heart-lung transplant.
  • JoBeth Williams had a supernatural experience while filming the movie. Every time she returned to her house, the images on the walls of her house were crooked. She would fix them, and they would be crooked again.
The medium. She is played by Zelda Rubinstein, who had real psychic abilities, and had visions.


The medium. She is played by Zelda Rubinstein, who had real psychic abilities, and had visions.
  • Zelda Rubinstein (the medium Tangina) also had an experience, when she had a vision of her dog saying goodbye to her. A few hours later, her mother called her and told her that her dog just died. Rubinstein supposedly had genuine psychic ability. Even so, she had to go through four auditions to keep the role of the medium.
  • And then Lou Perryman (Pugsley, the construction worker who steals Diane’s cup of coffee and tastes sauce) was hacked to death by a 26-year-old man in Austin, Texas on April 1, 2009. He was 67 years old.
Spielberg wondered, as a child, what was behind the static on the TV when the broadcast ended at midnight...


Spielberg wondered, as a child, what was behind the static on the TV when the broadcast ended at midnight…
  • Spielberg saw Heather O’Rourke when she and her mother were having lunch. The girl auditioned, and Spielberg failed her, because she couldn’t stop laughing, even when they asked her to show that she was afraid. He gave her another chance, but asked her to bring a book of horror stories. He also asked her to scream, which Heather did until she started crying. She thus got the role of Carol Anne.
  • Drew Barrymore auditioned for the role of Carol Anne, but Spielberg felt he wanted someone more angelic. It was that Barrymore audition that landed him Elliott’s little sister in ET the alien (1982).
The girl fell when they filmed the scene in which she is "absorbed". What Spielberg did, who was on the set.


The girl fell when they filmed the scene where she is “absorbed”. What Spielberg did, who was on the set.
  • Heather O’Rourke kept with her the pet goldfish that Carol Anne has in the film.
  • While the shoot included some horrifying scenes, only one scene scared Heather O’Rourke: the one where she had to hold on to the headboard of her bed as a wind machine blew toys into the closet. She fell, and Spielberg stopped everything, took her in his arms and told her that he wouldn’t have to do that scene again.
Neither Spielberg nor Tobe Hooper (listed as the director) wanted too familiar faces to play the Freeling family.


Neither Spielberg nor Tobe Hooper (listed as the director) wanted too familiar faces to play the Freeling family.
  • Oliver Robins (Robbie) had a worse time: when the clown is strangling him, the doll’s arms tense up and the boy begins to choke. He yelled “I can’t breathe!”, but Spielberg and Tobe Hooper thought he was improvising and motioned for him to look at the camera. It seems that when Spielberg saw Robbins’ face turn purple, he ran over and pulled him free from the clown’s arms around his neck.
  • Robbie is precisely terrified of the same things that Steven Spielberg had when he was a child: the fear of clowns and a tree that he saw nearby, from his window.
Another of Steven Spielberg's fears, shared by Robbie: clowns.


Another of Steven Spielberg’s fears, shared by Robbie: clowns.
  • The house where it was filmed exists, and it is in Simi Valley, California. The family that owned it sold it in May 2009.
  • Real human skeletons were used in the pool scene, as it was too complicated and expensive to make fake ones. JoBeth Williams didn’t find out until she finished filming the scene.
JoBeth Williams in the pool. Only when she finished filming the scene did they tell her that the skeletons were real.


JoBeth Williams in the pool. Only when she finished filming the scene did they tell her that the skeletons were real.
  • The scene where Diane is attacked in her bedroom by an invisible force was filmed in a rotating box with a fixed camera, making it appear as though she was being dragged up the wall and across the ceiling.
  • The first scene to be filmed is the one in which Diane opens the bedroom door and meets the Beast. And the last one, that of Marty, who hallucinates in the bathroom and his face begins to crack.
The last scene that was filmed: Marty has a hallucination, and his face is gross.


The last scene that was filmed: Marty has a hallucination, and his face is gross.
  • Spielberg hired Tobe Hooper after being impressed with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). She first offered him the script for ETbut when Hooper refused, Spielberg offered him to write the one for Poltergeist.
  • Steven Spielberg worked on this film and on ET almost continuously. The locations were 20 minutes away. filming of Poltergeist finished in August 1981, took a few weeks off, and began working on ETwhile Tobe Hooper spent 10 weeks in the editing room.
Spielberg scores, Hooper watches, and Craig T. Nelson pays attention. who directed "Poltergeist"?


Spielberg scores, Hooper watches, and Craig T. Nelson pays attention. Who directed “Poltergeist”?
  • But Spielberg oversaw the visual effects for both films simultaneously (which were produced on George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic). It is that already in the post-production stage of PoltergeistIn early 1982, Spielberg was in complete control: editing, sound mixing, and choice of composer, Jerry Goldsmith.
  • In fact, Spielberg wanted to direct it, but a clause in his contract stated that while he was still working on ET I couldn’t do another. Several members of the cast, and the crew – even producer Frank Marshall – have said that Spielberg chose the cast, directed the actors and designed the storyboards. The DGA opened an investigation, and found no reason for Spielberg to have co-director credit. So it’s a puzzle.
The film aspired to three Oscars, including special effects and music: in both categories it lost with... "ET"by Spielberg.


The film aspired to three Oscars, including special effects and music: in both categories it lost to… “ET”, by Spielberg.
  • Special effects and music Poltergeist They were nominated for an Oscar, but lost to ET the alienin both categories.
  • If you look closely, the cemetery Steve and Teague are talking in front of has a tree identical to the one that tried to eat Robbie. The first clue that the Freeling house was built on a graveyard.
The graveyard scene: revealing...


The graveyard scene: revealing…
  • The original script was very different from the one that was filmed. Carol Anne was going to be killed in the first act, to later haunt the house. It seemed too dark to them, and they decided to have her kidnapped by the entities. In fact, in Poltergeist there is only one death: that of Tweety the little bird.
  • It is also supposed that Poltergeist Y ET They started with a common bond. The film was going to be titled Night Skies, and would be about a family in the countryside terrorized by evil aliens. But one of the aliens befriended the youngest son of the family, and would rebel against his own species.
  • Well, in the end, the stories separated, and there was on one side the good alien, who then leaves, and on the other the family terrified by supernatural forces.
The original ending had the girl Carol Anne being possessed by ghosts, abandoned by her family and... dying.


The original ending had the girl Carol Anne being possessed by ghosts, abandoned by her family and… dying.
  • Writers Mark Victor and Michael Grais insisted that a family member had to die, and when Spielberg asked which one, they chose Carol Anne. The original ending had Carol Anne possessed by ghosts and abandoned by her family and left to die as the house burned down.
  • Stephen King He was tempted to write the script, and if he accepted it would have been the first original for the cinema. They couldn’t agree.
Oliver Robins is Robbie: when the clown chokes him, in truth, he nearly suffocated to death.


Oliver Robins is Robbie: when the clown chokes him, in truth, he nearly suffocated to death.
  • Believe or burst I: Robbie has a poster in the room he shares with Carol Anne of Superbowl XXII, which wouldn’t be done for another six years. Heather O’Rourke died in San Diego the day after the 1988 Superbowl Sunday…which was also played in San Diego.
  • Believe or Burst II: When Carol Anne sits in front of the TV in her parents’ bedroom, the time on the TV is 2:37. Tribute to hotel room number 237 of The glow…?
  • It was the highest-grossing horror film of 1982 and the eighth-highest-grossing film of the year. And come back.

look also

The Poltergeist Curse: deaths and supernatural events 40 years after its premiere