The classic 1982 horror film “Poltergeist” sees ghostly apparitions projecting out of a TV and into the Freeling family household. All three films are filled with memorable, spine-tingly moments, like the clown doll that pulls Robbie under his bed or the possessed worm that Steve swallows.
Even if you're just a casual moviegoer or horror fan, you've probably heard of "the ‘Poltergeist’ curse." Sadly, four lead actors from the trilogy died within six years of the original film's release, leading many to believe that the sets were somehow cursed.
Dunne played the eldest sister, Dana Freeling, in the first film, and her absence in the second film is explained as the character being in college. On the evening of October 30, 1982, just months after the first film’s release, Dunne was attacked by her ex-boyfriend, dying five days later.
Reverend Henry Kane, the gaunt, 19th century-looking cult leader who appears in “Poltergeist II,” is arguably one of the creepiest villains in horror history. Sadly, actor Julian Beck passed away eight months before the film’s premiere, following a long battle with stomach cancer.
Some remember Sampson as Chief Bromden from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,” but horror fans know him as Taylor, the shaman from “Poltergeist II.” Sampson passed away on June 3, 1987, at age 53 of scleroderma, a chronic degenerative condition.
During production of “Poltergeist III” in 1987, O'Rourke, who played youngest daughter Carol Ann, was undergoing treatment for Crohn's disease, which would turn out to be a misdiagnosis. She ultimately died of septic shock caused by intestinal blockage, due to undiagnosed congenital stenosis.
One other incident that fans bring up as evidence of the curse is the death of Lou Perryman, who played the construction worker Pugsley in the first film. Perryman was murdered on April 1, 2009, by a man who randomly came across his house and wanted to steal his car.
You might also hear other false or exaggerated myths, such as all three kids from the original film dying, which is untrue. Oliver Robbins, who played Robbie Freeling, is alive and well, and he doesn’t believe in the curse.
One widely discussed explanation of the curse is that human skeletons were used in the first two films. However, make-up effects artist Craig Reardon says the theory that they cursed the production is “ridiculous” and “offensive,” as prop departments use real skeletons all the time.
One of the most famous “Poltergeist” characters is Tangina Barrons, played by Zela Rubinstein. Most don’t consider her death in 2010 at age 76 as part of the curse, and she was adamantly against believing in it, saying that there were clear explanations for all of the deaths.