Film Facts
It was plagued with freak accidents, untimely illness and violent ends. The 1982 hit movie that spawned sequels, a TV show and, after its stars began dying, an eerie urban legend about powers from beyond. Coincidence or perhaps something far more spooky? The following are some things you may not know about POLTERGEIST:

  • 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.

  • During a break from the filming of POLTERGEIST III, Heather "They're Here" 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.

  • Actor Will Sampson, a Creek Indian and actual shaman, performed an exorcism on the set of POLTERGEIST II to rid it of "alien spirits." A year after POLTERGEIST II was released, Sampson died of complications from a heart-lung transplant.

  • A few months after filming wrapped on POLTERGEIST II, actor Julian Beck died after a long battle with stomach cancer.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • James Khan who wrote the novelisation of the movie claims that 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. (oh please!)

  • The house used for exterior shots in POLTERGEIST, located in the L.A. suburb of Simi Valley, was damaged during the 1994 Northridge earthquake.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.


  • POLTERGEIST is a German word that means "noisy ghost."

  • Director, Tobe Hooper (no not Steven Spielberg!), also directed THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

  • POLTERGEIST is a film conceived, co-written and produced by Steven
    Spielberg. A clause in Spielberg's contract with Universal for E.T. THE
    EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL forbade him from directing POLTERGEIST and E.T. simultaneously. So Spielberg hired up-and-coming horror film director Tobe Hooper to helm the picture.

  • When ghost-hunter Marty looks into the bathroom mirror and sees hands ripping flesh off his face, the fingers actually belong to Spielberg.

  • 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.

  • The scene in which the ghosts stack the chairs on the kitchen table was reportedly done in a single take.

  • 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.

  • Drew Barrymore was originally considered for the part of Carol Anne, but Spielberg used her in E.T. instead.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

from: eonline.com