Poltergeist is often recognized as the most cursed production in cinematic history, and there’s a good reason for it: the damned production seemed extremely cursed!
We can just start with real skeletons. Yes, real skeletons. Apparently Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper were too cheap to get a crew in to manufacture some gruesome props, so they went grave-robbing (I’m making that part up, as I have no idea how the skeletons were acquired) and chucked some actual skeletons into the pool. It sure did shock actress JoBeth Williams, who had no idea what she’d gotten herself into.
“I assumed that they were prop skeletons made out of plastic or rubber . . . I found out, as did the crew, that they were using real skeletons, because it’s far too expensive to make fake skeletons out of rubber.” Williams stated in an interview with TV Land.
But those skeletons were only one of many serious issues on the set.
Dominique Dunne, who played Dana, the eldest Freeling daughter, was murdered by her abusive ex-boyfriend just five months after the film’s release. As insane as it sounds, Dunne would only be the first of the Poltergeist gang to pass.
Native American actor, Will Sampson, concerned with the turmoil of the first flick, decided to perform an exorcism on the set of the sequel, Poltergeist II: The Other Side. While the act would leave the cast feeling more at ease, the curse had not yet completed its course. On June 3rd, 1987, almost exactly one year after the release of Poltergeist II, Will Sampson passed away, a result of complications from heart and lung transplant surgery.
Two years prior, in 1985, before Poltergeist II had been released, Julian Beck, who played the menacing Kane, also died. A preexisting case of stomach cancer ended his life.
And finally, what may be the saddest loss of life directly related to the Poltergeist franchise, we have the passing of Heather O’Rourke, the show-stealer who coined the chilling phrase, “they’re heeere!!” O’Rourke was just 12 years old when she died of cardiac arrest and septic shock.
Was Poltergeist truly cursed? I wouldn’t claim with confidence that it wasn’t, I can say that.