Are you a believer in curses? Or ghosts? With a True Hollywood Story documentary, totally commercial free and easily downloadable, see it, absorb, and then decide if Poltergeist was cursed, if ghosts really live amongst the living. Forty-five minutes of footage might just make a believer out of any skeptic. Even you.
What connects this string of tragedy and general spookiness? There are those, in the know, who say the supernatural fright fest Poltergeist, Steven Spielberg's story of nightmares in suburbia, is to blame. The hit 1982 movie spawned sequels, a TV show; and, after its stars began dying, an eerie urban legend about powers from beyond.
The E! True Hollywood Story: The Curse of Poltergeist explores the myths and mysteries swirling around a horror movie plagued with freak accidents, untimely illness and violent ends.
E! digs into the creepy connections between the offscreen deaths of little Heather O'Rourke, the iconic blond child warning "They're here...," and Dominique Dunne, who played her older sister. Some say this ghost story conjured something more frightening than coincidence. And what about the deaths of an actor and actress, who appeared with O'Rourke in later Poltergeist flicks?
Look at the evidence, a curious mixture of fact and possibly urban legend. Perhaps even a little, shall we intimate, Hollywood publicity hounding? Was the movie cursed?
Indisputable facts that cannot be denied. Dead bodies tell no lies:
1982: Dominique Dunne, who played eldest daughter Dana Freeling, was strangled by her possessive boyfriend five months after the release of Poltergeist and died five days later. Just 22 years old, she was the daughter of novelist Dominick Dunne and sister of actor Griffin Dunne.
Dunne had been rehearsing lines with an actor friend when her boyfriend showed up, picked a fight and then killed her. To drown out the noise of the two yelling outside, the actor turned up the Poltergeist soundtrack.
1985: Julian Beck who played the 'bad spirit' in Poltergeist II, died of stomach cancer. It was not unexpected as the cancer had been diagnosed in early 1984. Perhaps not unexpected, but in light of all the other deaths, perhaps a bit premature?
1987: Will Sampson who played the 'good spirit' in Poltergeist II, died after receiving a heart-lung transplant. Will was also known as the tall 'mute' Indian in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's nest. His death occurred a year after Poltergeist II was released. This was a believer in the spirit world, for he performed an exorcism on the set of P-II to rid it of 'alien spirits'.
1988: During a hiatus from the filming of Poltergeist III, Heather O'Rourke, 12, who played Carol Anne Freeling in all three movies, died from an intestinal blockage that ruptured. She had been ill for about two years, but her mother claimed doctors misdiagnosed her condition. The movie resumed filming, with stand-ins for O'Rourke's part. O'Rourke was buried in Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, a short distance from Dunne.
Onward to a curious mixture of urban legend and spooky coincidences. And, a little trivia to add spice to the mix.
"Poltergeist" is a German word that translates generally as "noisy ghost."
Although Steven Spielberg received credits for writing and producing the movie, he is also acknowledged as the film's unofficial director and editor.
The credited director, Tobe Hooper, also directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Poltergeist and E.T. were released a week apart in June of 1982. E.T. was Steven Spielberg's vision of a suburban dream, while Poltergeist was his suburban nightmare.
When ghost-hunter Marty looks into the bathroom mirror and sees hands ripping flesh off his face, the fingers actually belong to Spielberg.
James Khan wrote the novelization of the movie. One night, as he typed the words "Thunder and lightning ripped the sky," a blast of lightning hit his building and blew the cover off an air conditioning unit with enough force to hit him in the back. Makes you shiver, even a little. Like someone just walked over your grave.
The movie's initial R rating became a PG after Spielberg and producer Frank Marshall lobbied the ratings board. Forget that it would give kids nightmares for years to come: They said the film deserved the tamer rating, because it contained no nudity or sex and only mild language. No nudity or sex, just the stuff that psychologically mangles a child's reality.
Zelda Rubinstein, who played freaky-voiced psychic Tangina Barrons, is 4 foot 3 inches tall.
Craig T. Nelson, who played the freaked-out family's father, is a full two feet taller than Rubinstein.
During a scene when Robbie Freeling (Oliver Robins) was choked by a clown in his room, something went wrong with the prop and Robins was actually being choked. Spielberg praised him for his authenticity until he caught onto the trouble and saved Robins.
JoBeth Williams, who played mother Diane Freeling, claims she returned home from the set each day to find pictures on her wall askew. She would straighten them, only to find them crooked again the next day.
The scene in which the ghosts stack the chairs on the kitchen table was reportedly done in a single take.
In one scene, the parents' TV set is tuned to the 1943 movie A Guy Named Joe, in which Spencer Tracy starred as a deceased aviator who returns to earth. Spielberg later remade (and reworked) the film as Always.
The house used for exterior shots in Poltergeist, located in the L.A. suburb of Simi Valley, was damaged during the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
Steven Spielberg had the vortex-crumpled model of the home enclosed in clear plastic, and it now sits on his piano.
Poltergeist was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Music. It lost to E.T. in all three categories.
In Poltergeist II, the spirits make contact with Carol Anne through her play telephone. The movie's tagline was "They're back."
A spooky tree that grabs Robbie from his bed in the first film is reminiscent of one that unnerved Spielberg at his home when he was a child.
Drew Barrymore was originally considered for the part of Carol Anne, but Spielberg used her in some other movie instead. She's still alive today.
Parts of Poltergeist are very, very similar to a forgettable 1962 Twilight Zone episode called "Little Girl Lost." In it, a girl rolls under her bed and disappears. Her dog follows. Her parents can hear her but can't find her, so they naturally assume she's in another dimension.
The weird way the family members descend the stairs at the beginning of the film was created by having the actors walk backward up the stairs and playing the film in reverse. The same effect was used later in the movie during the scene showing video playback of the ghosts.
The skeletons used on the set of Poltergeist II: The Other Side turned out to be actual human skeletons, which creeped out the cast members.
Some urban legends about the movie's "curse" claim that all the child actors died, which just simply isn't true.
Poltergeist III was the feature-film debut for Lara Flynn Boyle.
The TV series Poltergeist: The Legacy--it ran on Showtime, then in syndication, then on the SCI FI Channel--followed a crack team of demon hunters. Beyond the name, it had little to do with the movies.
The Misfits recorded a song called "The Shining," with lyrics like this: "Carol Anne, the beast is calling/Carol Anne, Carol Anne, she can hear souls sing/Carol Anne, the beast it needs you/Here it comes, here it comes/Reaching out somewhere from inside your TV."
In 2001, an American Film Institute survey of 1,500 leading figures in the film community named Poltergeist number 84 on a list of the 100 most thrilling American movies.
Thrilling? Definitely. A documentary worth watching? Of course. Totally commercial free,filled with forty-five minutes of intrigue, mystery and the supernatural forces among us,enter the world of that which cannot be seen, but most assuredly is felt.