‘Poltergeist’: The Real Life Horror Story That Still Haunts The Movies

Poltergeist just got a reboot. Modern-day audiences were treated to a retelling of the bone-chilling tale of a family living in a house haunted by a powerful ghost.

But did you know that both films — the remake and the original — were inspired by actual events?

As the Mirror reports, Poltergeist the movie is loosely based on a series of eerie events that happened to a Long Island family in the 1950s. Out of nowhere, the Hermanns started to see bottle tops and container lids inexplicably flying off. Ornaments would whizz through the air and a heavy bookshelf fell down. A Virgin Mary figurine levitated and crashed into a mirror that was over 10 feet away.

The authorities investigated the Hermann’s complaints of supernatural events. A police officer came to the house but had to duck to avoid being hit by a flying globe. A British press photographer reporting on the story saw his flashbulbs fly off the table.

Scary stuff!

Architectural experts confirmed that there was nothing wrong with the house structurally and priests from different faiths tried to exorcise the home to not avail. The “poltergeist” remained until one day when the haunting just stopped.

The Hermanns, who had grown tired of living in fear, moved away a short time afterwards. They said they believed that the spirit haunting their home was linked to a nearby Native American burial site, a storyline that features heavily in both Poltergeist movies.

But if you that story didn’t creep you out, there’s more.

The 1982 version of Poltergeist has gained a reputation in show business for being the most cursed production of all time. Why? A couple of weeks after the film was released, Dominique Dunne, who played the possessed Carol Anne’s big sister, was strangled by her boyfriend. She died in hospital a couple of days later.

A scene from Poltergeist (1982)
A scene from Poltergeist (1982) Older sister, played by Dominique Dunne was murdered in real life

As for the second movie, actor Julian Beck, 60, who played preacher Henry Kane, died of stomach cancer a short time before the film was released. Will Sampson, who played a shaman, died after undergoing an organ transplant. Author James Khan wrote a book to go with the Poltergeist film. He’s said that after he wrote the line, “lightning ripped through the sky” thunder clapped outside of his home and a lighting bolt pierced the night sky. Then all of the arcade games in the house started playing themselves.

But it’s the story of child actress Heather O’Rourke that really cemented Poltergeist’s reputation for haunted productions. Heather O’Rourke played Carol Anne Freeling, the youngest child who was kidnapped by the poltergeist and taken to another realm. Heather was misdiagnosed with Crohn’s disease. She died the following year after experience a heart attack during an operation on her bowel.

A scene from the Potergeist remake.
A scene from the Potergeist remake.

So far, the only thing haunting the new Poltergeist movie is poor reviews. As of today, the film has a 35 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which means less than half of the people who report that they watched the film said they liked it.

Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick called Poltergeist ” a forgettable diversion, one that may satisfy casual viewers looking for a mildly eerie and sometime’s humorous ghost story. “

Who needs a poltergeist when you can be terrified by horrible reviews?

[Photos via The Mirror]