Truth is Stranger than Fiction

By: Ameila Cox

Much to the dismay of my sister, who has a love of all things creepy and scary, I long refused to watch horror movies, especially gory ones. I fell asleep from fear (an unexplainable family trait that my sister and I share) when I had to watch Alien vs Predator in a Science Fiction class in high school. So when I took “Film as Literature” (I know) from the same teacher, and one of the genres on our syllabus was Horror I was about ready to abandon ship. But watching Poltergeist changed my life in the way only an eighties horror flick can.

Poltergeist has everything a good horror movie should: it has a creepy kid, ghosts, zombies, and the scariest clown puppet in the universe. My teacher highly recommended the sequel, mentioning that one of the characters in the movie was so convincing as a villain because he was dying of cancer during filming. This, of course,  peaked my interest so I jumped on the internet right after school to search for information about the actor. What I found blew my mind.

Poltergeist is well known as being cursed, similar the John Wayne film The Conqueror, which was filmed on a test field for nuclear bombs, but much less cut and dry. Dominque Dunne, who plays the oldest child, Dana, in the Freeling family, the protagonists in the Poltergeist films, was strangled by her abusive ex-boyfriend in her driveway days after she left him; she died later in the hospital.  Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Ann, the youngest of the Freelings, died during surgery to correct the problem causing her toxic shock syndrome at age 12. There is even some question surrounding whether or not filming was actually completed at the time of her death, which led to speculation running rampant about her body-double filming the last of her scenes. And Will Sampson, who played opposite Julian Beck (who died of stomach cancer before Poltergeist II was released), died after surgery for a heart and lung transplant due to complications pre- and post-operation.

The Poltergeist Curse is undeniably sad, four people, two of them very young, died quickly if not unexpectedly. But there is just something about the possibility of a curse that adds to the experience of a film, and it really makes you wonder if these were just freak incidents or coincidences.


7 thoughts on “Truth is Stranger than Fiction

  1. Yikes, that makes watching this movie way more creepy. This reminds me of the scene in “The Crow” in which they show how a character dies. They meant to use a prop gun for this scene but due to negligence, the gun was live and when fired actually killed Brandon Lee, the actor. After hearing this and your story, I do not understand how people want to continue to act in horror movies. Also, I would have stopped filming the Poltergeist trilogy after all of these coincidental deaths.

  2. I’ve heard this before too and it’s super freaky. It reminds me of The Exorcist too. I read somewhere that during the scene they shot of the girl convulsing and whatever breaking her back, actually did break her back during the filming of the scene. I believe that there was more that happened, but I’m really just too scared to look it up right now. Maybe filming such scary movies isn’t such a great idea seeing these instances happening to the actors in the movies.

  3. This weekend was my first time watch Poltergeist. I didn’t expect to be scared while watching the movie. Usually scary movies scare me in the beginning, and then I am fine throughout the rest of the movie. I think this movie was so creepy because the fear was intertwined with a lot of joy. I am glad I was unaware of this curse while watching the movie because this only makes it much, much scarier. After class today, I wonder if the curse was caused by using real skeletons or if there is another reason. It’s also possible that these are just freak coincidences, but I don’t really believe in those. Do you?

  4. I’ve watched Poltergeist before. However, I never knew that this movie was the same as the movie I had seen because I never saw it from the beginning, and I never knew the name of them film until it was assigned for class. I recognized that I had seen the film when I heard Tangina calling Carol Anne’s name. It’s something about her voice that is so creepy to me. I think I was more freaked out rather than scared of the film. Older scary movies don’t scare me for some reason. But I’ve never heard of any of this before you mentioned it. Where did your teacher get this info from? Do you really think the curse is real?

  5. The reality of this idea of a curse makes the horror of the movie increase extremely. I watched this movie when I was younger with my dad and then again this past weekend, but everything seemed fake to me. However, when thinking about this curse, everything about the movie becomes so real. I wonder how many other horror movies have weird curses such as this one? I’d be interested to find out and I also wonder if this is really just a coincidence or if it’s because they in some way messed with horror by filming the movie?

  6. The idea of a curse on a scary movie is actually terrifying. I would be interested to hear more about possible curses on other films, because just Poltergeist on its own isn’t enough to completely convince me. I think these deaths are potentially just coincidences especially because cancer and a heart transplant aren’t really “freak” accidents or unexplained deaths. Neither is an abusive boyfriend. The one that kind of creeps me out is the death from Toxic Shock Syndrome.

    I kind of have the urge to google more about curses on scary movies right now, but I also am hesitant after reading Dionaea House and watching Slender Man. Maybe you don’t actually have to have worked on set to be subject to the curse. Maybe you just have to be curious enough…

  7. This really raises concern over what is behind horror films. It makes you wonder if they are dangerous to watch because and if you believe that they are in fact cursed then can that curse transfer to you from watching? It is spooky to know. I wonder if I had known before watching that the film was cursed if I would have still watched or thought differently while watching the film. It is a creepy outlook that I almost just wish to ignore.

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