As the 2015 reboot of Poltergeist nears its release date next month, stories about the Poltergeist curse plaguing film sets have again begun to spread across Hollywood and throughout the internet.
For those unfamiliar with the legend of the Poltergeist curse, here’s a brief summary of the events that originally led to the belief in the curse. The primary source of the Poltergeist curse comes from the fact that four deaths occurred throughout the filming of the original Poltergeist trilogy. The four deaths in question were Dominique Dunne, who played Dana Freeling in Poltergeist (1982); Heather O’Rourke as Carol Ann Freeling in all three Poltergeist films; Will Sampson, starring as Taylor in Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986); and Julian Beck as Kane, also from Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986). While that number may not seem particularly high, and certainly two of those deaths may even have been foreseeable, the nature of the other two deaths caused the gossip among casts and film crews that led to the idea of a Poltergeist curse targeting the trilogy’s film sets.
The death of Dominique Dunne is as unnerving as it is tragic. Ms. Dunne had broken off a romance with live-in boyfriend John Sweeney, a Los Angeles-area chef, during the filming of Poltergeist (1982). On the evening of October 30, 1982, Sweeney stopped by Dunne’s residence, allegedly to convince Dominique to reconsider her decision to terminate the relationship. When events failed to proceed as Sweeney had hoped, he grew irate and ultimately choked Ms. Dunne in the driveway of her home for four to six minutes, before fleeing the scene and leaving her for dead. Although Ms. Dunne did survive the initial assault, the strangulation left her in a coma until she was pronounced dead on November 4, 1982 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
The death of Heather O’Rourke, star of all three Poltergeist films, is perhaps even more shocking, due to her young age and outwardly healthy appearance. At the age of 12, Heather developed what everyone believed to be a normal case of the flu, but events quickly turned for the worse. As she was being transported to a nearby hospital, a bowel obstruction released toxins into her bloodstream, which then triggered cardiac arrest. Her heart was successfully restarted, once she arrived at the hospital and she was immediately flown to a larger hospital, so that surgery could be performed to remove the obstruction. The toxins overwhelmed her system and she passed away on the operating table on February 1, 1988.
There is also the unconfirmed story that Oliver Robins was strangled by that mechanical clown in the original Poltergeist film, due to a malfunction.
As mentioned earlier, Will Sampson and Julian Beck are also connected to the Poltergeist curse, but, because both men suffered from prolonged illnesses, their deaths are sometimes considered unconnected to the Poltergeist curse by theorists.
It seems that, while those first two deaths may cause suspicion and may even lend credence to the idea of the Poltergeist curse, the fact that nothing more has happened has let the rumors of the curse die away. Some may even think the idea of a Poltergeist curse is mere fantasy. This particular urban legend may have been left in the past, except that in an Ask Me Anything session hosted by Reddit, Gil Kenan, director of the Poltergeist reboot, was asked to respond to the idea of a Poltergeist curse.
“This is a 2 part answer. The first part is that the location for the house, during shooting, I chose because it had a strange and unnecessary field that the houses of this particular community were built around. And we found…lights that could turn on anywhere else in the neighborhood would blow out the second you’d try to light them on this plot…the drone-pilots were never able to lock in the GPS signal in this field. We would have to move 10 feet away to launch the craft. I was too afraid to find out what the land used to be. We filmed outside of Toronto, somewhere between Buffalo, New York, and Toronto, Ontario, in a town called Hamilton.”
“The second part of that answer is that the house that I rented during filming was straight-up legit haunted by a female spirit dressed in black. And I became aware of her within the first few days of staying in the house. And only after I left did I receive a call from the previous owner, who had moved back in, who was terrified by the goings-on in the house, and wanted to see if I had experienced any of it. So it was an incredible real-life inspiration for filming that followed me home. Well, I mean, she definitely was there. It didn’t follow me back to Los Angeles, but it followed me from set back to where I was sleeping during filming.”
It could just be that Kenan is trying to drum up publicity for the new Poltergeist film or it could be that the curse only re-emerges, as people begin spreading the rumors. What do you think? Is there really a curse connected to Poltergeist?
[Image from 20th Century Fox]