The curse of Poltergeist
Spooky... a scene from 'Poltergeist' (Copyright: Rex)
June 4th sees the 30th anniversary of the release of the first film and it reminded us of the remarkable and quite disturbing reputation that the Steven Spielberg-produced chiller and its two sequels have ('Poltergeist 2' was made four years later and the third followed in 1988). In the movies, a family is haunted by a host of evil ancient spirits, but it seems that many of the people associated with the films were then haunted by awful luck. Was the production really cursed? Let's find out...
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The most remarkable thing about the 'Poltergeist' legacy is the alarming number of cast deaths that occured post-shoot. In the six years between the first movie and the third, four of the main cast had died. Two were slightly older men, so that's perhaps not all that shocking. Will Sampson (who also played the sink-chucking Indian in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest') died in June 1987 from complications of his heart surgery and Julian Beck (Henry Kane in the sequel) died of stomach cancer in September 1985.
The saddest deaths though were those of 22 year-old Dominique Dunne, who played Dana in the original, and Heather O'Rourke, who was little Carol Ann from all three films. Dunne was strangled by her abusive ex-boyfriend John Sweeney (who ended up serving less than four years in prison). Immediately after filming wrapped on the last film, Heather was misdiagnosed with Crohn's disease and died due to toxic shock caused by a bowel obstruction missed by doctors. She was just 12-years-old.
Sinister... 'Poltergeist II: The Other Side' (Copyright: Rex)
It's fair to say that most people would attribute these sad deaths as mere bad luck or happenstance. Some of the people that passed were older and had existing conditions. Plus, a lot of people are involved in a movie shoot (not to mention three), so it's not unimaginable that a number may fall ill or die independently. And with the amount of movies that have been made, sooner or later, there's going to be an 'unlucky' one or two, isn't there? But could there be a more sinister, supernatural explanation? Plenty of superstitious Hollywood insiders think so. Why? For one because the design crew used real human skeletons instead of props in some of the scenes, that's why. Even if that didn't cause the bad luck specifically, it's certainly unsettling!