When you combine a daughter who can communicate with the ghosts that inhabit a television set with a backyard that transforms into a swimming pool of muddy skeletons, a wolf-beast-demon that resides in a closet, and the brilliance of Steven Spielberg, you get the perfect recipe for the blockbuster scariness that you’re looking for.
The first installment of the Poltergeist franchise, which was released in 1982 and was helmed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg, was an instant hit and is regarded as a masterpiece of the American horror film. The plot of the movie revolves around the Freelings, a middle-class family (led by a youthful and dashing Craig T. Nelson) whose life is turned upside down when some supernatural and vicious events occur in their California home, and their daughter Carol Anne is abducted through her bedroom closet by a group of ghosts who are under the control of a monster demon called the “Beast.”
After discovering that their home was built on top of a Native American burial ground, the Freeling family spends their time trying to find Carol Anne while trying to maintain their sanity in the face of constant physical and psychological assault, culminating in being “goobered” on in the bathroom bathtub.
There is a disturbing urban legend that the iconic film Poltergeist is buried in real-life catastrophes, which some people perceive as a curse because of the film’s popularity.
Four cast members died during and soon after the filming of the series
The passing away of several cast members provides the majority of the ammunition for the theory that the show is cursed. During the filming of the series and in the immediate aftermath, four cast members passed away. Two of these terrible deaths came as a complete surprise and left many people scratching their heads, leaving many fans to speculate on the sinister undertones of the trilogy.
Heather O’Rourke was the one who brought to life the role of Carol Anne Freeling, the young protagonist of the series. O’Rourke was only six years old when the first Poltergeist picture was released, but she immediately attracted moviegoers with her bleached-blonde hair, doll-like demeanor, and large, curious eyes. Unfortunately, in 1987, she was diagnosed incorrectly with Crohn’s disease. The next year, O’Rourke experienced another round of illness; this time, her symptoms were chalked up to the flu. The following day, she became unresponsive and went into cardiac arrest. O’Rourke passed away during an operation to correct a bowel obstruction after being transported to a children’s hospital in San Diego. It was later found that she had been suffering from a congenital intestinal condition.
A similarly tragic and unexpected end befell Dominique Dunne, who had previously portrayed Dana Freeling’s older sister in the original film. In 1982, Dunne and her partner, John Sweeney, ended their relationship. In November that year, he went to Dunne’s house and begged her to accept him back. He had been missing since the previous year. Sweeney grabbed Dunne by the neck, choked her until she was unconscious, and then abandoned her to die in the driveway of her Hollywood home after refusing to do as he asked. Sweeney was given a prison sentence of six and a half years, but he was let out after serving only three years and seven months of his time.
Julian Beck and Will Sampson
Although tragic, the deaths of the other two cast members were neither unexpected nor puzzling in the same way. Julian Beck gave his performance as the nefarious preacher Kane in the Poltergeist II film. Beck was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1983, and he passed away shortly after completing the second chapter of the series shortly after he had finished working on it. Will Sampson, who played Taylor, the Native American shaman in the film, passed away after receiving a heart-lung transplant, which had a very tiny chance of success. The same film was greeted with extra tragedy after his passing.
Other strange things happened on set
The deaths of cast members were not the sole factor in the spread of the curse; the film franchise is also associated with several other strange and eerie urban legends. JoBeth Williams, who played mother Diane Freeling in the first two films, asserted that director Steven Spielberg insisted on using actual human skeletons as props to save money on the production (at the time, they were cheaper than plastic skeletons). Williams’ assertion has never been proven true, but to this day, it is still included in the legend surrounding the film’s bad luck.
Sampson carried out an actual exorcism, the real-life medicine man who sadly passed tragically due to the events described earlier after filming for the day had finished on a particular evening. This was done to make everyone involved feel even more uneasy. One can only conjecture what the other cast members were thinking and feeling.
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