A Look into the Poltergeist Curse

This is a horror movie with an even more horrifying backstory. The Poltergeist curse. The Steven Spielberg-written and Tobe Hooper-directed classic is one of the very best horror movies of the haunted house variety, one with a terrifying story that reaches far beyond the cinematic world. One of the most interesting things about this film is the infamous “curse” that plagued the franchise.

There are quite a few people in the world who believe that the Poltergeist films were stricken with a curse due to the string of deaths that took place in all three films. But it’s not just the deaths that have people convinced that this curse is the real deal, as there were many incidents on the set of the film itself. Spooky.

In the first film, Jobeth Williams (who plays the Mother) was extremely nervous about shooting the swimming pool scene because of the many electrical hazards surrounding the water. So being the calming presence that he is, Spielberg jumped into the pool with her to assure her that everything was safe. Of course, the scene went totally fine and no one got hurt, but there was something lurking in that water that may have been the root of this so called curse.

Those freaky as shit skeletons you see in the pool during one of Poltergeist‘s scariest moments were not the plastic movie props that you would expect—they were real human skeletons. The reason they used real skeletons was simple, they were cheaper than the plastic ones. The superstitious type believe that this was the very start of the curse that would go on to afflict the franchise. But not only did they use real skeletons in the first film, they also used them in the sequel as well. The man who played the shaman in Poltergeist II: The Other Side was played by Will Sampson, who is said to have been a sort of medicine man in real life, apparently attempted an exorcism one night following a shoot in hopes to get rid of the curse. He died less than a year later after complications from a kidney transplant.

Before his role in Poltergeist, Richard Lawson’s curse can be traced back way before the first film. Apparently this man is impossible to kill because he has stared into the eyes of death on five separate occasions, and that isn’t even including his premature birth. Lawson served in Vietnam and although there is no doubt that every day was a rather dangerous one, on his 21st birthday he was involved in a violent firefight and just barely avoided a bullet. Only a few years later, he was extremely close to being hit by a car while crossing the street. His next brush with death came when he was in a car accident where his body was bent in half and if it wasn’t for his window being rolled down he would have likely died. Shortly after the release of Poltergeist, Lawson almost killed himself in an overdose with cocaine. Because of yet another near death experience, he became sober soon after the drug incident. Ok so where are we? Number five, and this one is absolutely ridiculous. In 1992, Lawson was on a commercial plane that crashed just minutes after takeoff into a lake. How did he survive? Well, before getting on the flight, the ticket agent noticed that Lawson was an actor so they graciously upgraded his ticket to the first class cabin. The man who ended up in Lawson’s original seat died. Wait… what!?

But the origins of the true myth of this curse started with the tragic fates that came over the young actors that played the children in Poltergeist. The oldest daughter in the film was played by Dominique Dunne who was strangled to death by her abusive boyfriend only months after the release of the film—she was only 22-years-old at the time of her death. The boyfriend only served three years in prison.

Heather O’Rourke’s character was easily the most important in the film as the young Carol Anne. Everyone can remember her cries coming through the television which was truly creepy even to this day. O’Rourke suddenly became extremely ill in 1988. What started as stomach cramps soon took a turn for the worse and she went into cardiac arrest where she was immediately rushed into surgery. She suffered from septic shock and died on the operating table. She was only 12-years-old.

The middle child in the film, Robbie, played by Oliver Robins is still alive today despite many people claiming that he died an untimely death as well. He did however have a near fatal accident on the set while filming the scene where he gets attacked by the clown. You remember that nasty clown with a grin from ear to ear? After there was a malfunction with the mechanical clown, it nearly choked the boy to death. Everyone on set just thought he was doing a great performance and it wasn’t until he began turning blue that they realized something was wrong. Had they waited much longer the boy could have been strangled to death.

There you have it, the curse that many people believe to have haunted the Poltergeist films and its actors. Regardless if you believe this to be some curse that all started with real human skeletons, you have to admit that it is a bit strange that so many horrible things happened to some of the people involved.

So what do you guys think? Is there really a curse that follows the Poltergeist films or is it all just a big coincidence?


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Source: Fearnet

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34 thoughts on “A Look into the Poltergeist Curse

  1. Great post! I am so glad you wrote about this! I’ve always been fascinated by it, and I think there has got to be something to this whole curse thing. I mean, honestly, how can that be a coincidence? I think it probably has something to do with the real human skeletons that were used. It’d piss me off too, if someone used my body without permission in a horror movie! LOL Excellent post, this is such interesting material!:-D

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! It is most definitely a really interesting topic that not a lot of people realize exists. That is why a lot of people believe the film to be cursed is because it’s hard to accept that all of this is just a coincidence. Another weird thing that I didn’t mention in the post was that Tobe Hooper, the director, also used a real human skeleton in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 8 years before Poltergeist. Maybe the curse started there???

      1. Perhaps! Perhaps it did all start with Tobe Hooper! It is so intriguing, and I love that you wrote about it! It always made me sad that the two actresses playing the daughters (O’Rourke and Dunne) died in such awful ways…I could definitely understand the curse theory! Great job!

  2. Great post, I do think there is some kind of supernatural thing going on. I have always believed in that sort of thing and think people should be careful when messing around with things they don’t understand. And using real skeletons sure seems a good way to get yourself in trouble with all that….and by the way that clown still creeps me out to this day.

    1. Thanks! A lot of people feel the same way man and it is extremely strange how all of this stuff happened. It is pretty hard to deny thats for sure. You are right, that damn clown has to be one of the creepiest clowns in cinema!

  3. That movie was so terrifying I think it’s the reason I rarely watch horror films. I’m not sure if I’ve seen one since then. I’d like to know where Spielberg got cheap human skeletons because the reverse is true today–real ones are hard to get and plastic are cheap–we own one, which was used as a prop in a play my husband directed (strangely enough, he has a comedy murder mystery company).

    1. Totally understandable, Poltergeist is a true horror film and easily one of the best. I know they used real human skeletons in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (also directed by Tobe Hooper) and he got them over seas so I would assume Spielberg did the same thing. Although,it IS Steven Spielberg so if he wanted some real skeletons I doubt it was very hard for him to get them 🙂 You husband sounds like he has a cool job! Thanks for stopping by.

    2. At the time it was easy to get them from India where they were supplied for medical use in what was a largely unregulated practice. It’ disgusting to think of someone’s loved one being used as movie prop in that way. it is unethical and undignified and the people involved should be ashamed of such disgraceful actions.

  4. I heard about the curse with Carol Ann bit didn’t know its full extent! Thats crazy! I wonder if anything weird will happen when they do the remake! The human skeletons is so creepy, that definitley could have had something to do with it :s

    1. When are they doing a remake? I hadn’t heard of this! Do you all think they’d dare use real human corpses again? When is this supposed to be filmed? Or come out?

  5. I was aware of the curse, but had no idea that real skeletons were used in the pool scene! HOW did Spielberg pull that off?? And I’d definitely be more comfortable swimming in a pool surrounded by electrical hazards than a pool full of REAL-LIFE skeletons!

    1. hey i found a record of the poltergeist but i think i should throw it away know that i hear about this curse what do u think i should do

  6. I honestly believe it! No telling what other spiritual stuff was going on that shouldn’t have been. The spiritual world is nothing to play with, and people who play with it, will get it at some point. Very serious biz!

  7. I think this movie is so realistic because it wasn’t overdone like so many movies today. The family is so believable as a real family. I’ve visited heather o rourkes grave…so sad…also creepy..that stupid clown.. IM watching it right now and it’s sitting there..ugh he

    1. You’re spot on about the family Matthew. Very believable, just you’re everyday family. In my eyes it’s one of the most perfect horror films ever made. Also, creepiest clown ever!

  8. Here’s something else a little creepy. We are watching the first movie. It gets to the part where Carol Anne gets sucked into closet with ghosts. As they look for her the screen goes blank then a child abduction alert comes on..a blue eyed blonde headed little boy has been abducted.. Very weird timing.

  9. If the movie was really cursed, then how the hell did Steven Spielberg become a billionaire and the “bees knees” of Hollywood? Wouldn’t the disturbed spirits go after the decision maker in this type of scenario? I am a believer of spiritual beings, but I think this curse theory has more to do with the fate and coincidence.

  10. All of the others seem odd but when you see the behind the seens and the interviews with the actors you will see that Will Sampson was already dying. He was a great actor and was already very sick and as a favor and last hurah he agreed to play this role. However, I am a believer of the strange.

  11. This is some crazy stuff! I believe there was a curse. I mean they disrespected someone’s remains! I believe that the spirit that the skeleton belonged to got angry and wanted their revenge.

  12. poltergeist is such a great movie that people want to believe its more than just a scary film. there is no curse, but its fun to pretend I suppose.

  13. Because I’ve loved this movie since I can remember, I’ve never done any research into it’s background. This is really interesting. Will definitely add another dimension to the screening next time I sit down to watch it. Thanks!

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