Greetings my fellow creatures of the evening, this week I decided to bless your little eyes with a story. The story of an iconic film series that is considered by many to be one of the great kick starters for the supernatural horror genre and the curse that’s long been associated with the series of films known as The Poltergeist series. This film series emerged as a product of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer during the 1980s with the first film in the series reaching the big screen in 1982.
The original Poltergeist, was followed by Poltergeist II: The Other Side, in 1986 and Poltergeist III, in 1988. The original was directed by Tobe Hooper and co-written Steven Spielberg and it focuses on the Freeling family, who live in a California housing development called the Cuesta Verde, which ends up becoming haunted by spirits. The family consists of Steven, who is played by Craig T. Nelson, Diane (JoBeth Williams), Dana, portrayed by Dominique Dunne, Robbie (Oliver Robins) and Carol Anne, who was played by Heather O’Rourke.
The spirits communicate only with young Carol Anne through the family television and are under the control of a demonic force known simply as “the Beast.” Throughout the original film we are treated to many scares from possessed dolls, children being sucked into appliances, and trees attempting to eat members of the cast. The film culminates into a showdown between the family and their ally, a medium named Tangina, played by Zelda Rubinstein, and the spirits that have abducted young Carol Anne.
The sequel Poltergeist II: The Other Side, released in 1986 features a rekindling of the conflict between Carol Anne and “the Beast”, who we learn is the spirit of a deceased zealot named Henry Kane, who trying to possess Carol Anne to wreak havoc on the living through his followers. The final film in the original series Poltergeist III, marks the final conflict between Kane, his followers, and Carol Anne. It culminates with the combined efforts of Carol Anne and a returning Tangina to push Kane into the Light and end his hold on the world of the living. The final efforts of Carol Anne and Tangina are enough to bring the original series to an end following Tangina’s sacrifice, but they aren’t enough to preserve the lives of those tied to the original film series.
This film series has garnered some haunting notoriety by way of a curse that’s been attributed to it. In the six years between the releases of the first and third films in the original series two of the young original cast members died. Dominque Dunne, who played Dana died November 4, 1982, after being strangled by her former boyfriend John Thomas Sweeney.
Sweeney would be convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to a six-year sentence that he only served three and half years of before being paroled. The more shocking death, however was the death of the star Heather O’ Rourke, who played Carol Anne in all three of the original films. She died at the age of 12 on February 1, 1988 due to complications from an acute bowl obstruction. The talk of curses began before the deaths of these two young stars, after JoBeth Williams was informed that the skeletons used on set were real.
According to rumors passed around by crew members following the first film, members of the crew were so concerned about the implications of desecrating actual skeletons that they requested an exorcism be performed on the set of the second film, which was performed. Following the release of the second film, Julian Beck who played the role of Henry Kane died in September of 1985 of stomach cancer. He had accepted the role after his diagnosis and would pass months before the film was released.
In June of 1987, Will Sampson the actor, who had supposedly performed the exorcism on the set died of malnutrition and postoperative kidney failure. He had struggled with scleroderma and during his bout with the illness he would drop from two hundred and sixty pounds to one hundred and forty. With so many deaths associated with the film series many have claimed the series is cursed and so it should come as no surprise that with the release of the reboot in 2015, discussion of the curse abounded.
Is the series cursed? Did bringing real skeletons onto the set lay a curse on all those who participated in the films? Or did these actors simply fall prey to death’s cruel design on their lives? We may never know the answers to these questions, but we do know this signing up for a Poltergeist film, could be a grave mistake.