The Poltergeist Curse
Curse Attached to the Poltergeist Motion Picture Series and its Stars

The Poltergeist Curse
Curse Attached to the Poltergeist Motion Picture Series and its Stars

The "Poltergeist curse" is the rumor of a supposed curse attached to the Poltergeist motion picture series and its stars.

The rumor is superstition largely derived from the fact that four cast members died in the six years between the release of the first film and the release of the third, with one dying during production of the second film.

Two of them died at young ages, 12 and 22.

It is not clear that these particular films are atypical in the number or nature of the deaths of their actors, and at least two of the supposed victims had serious health problems before becoming attached to the film series.

The actors who are supposed victims of the curse include:

Dominique Dunne
, who played the oldest sibling Dana in the first movie, died on November 4th, 1982 at age 22 after being strangled by her jealous boyfriend.

In 1982, after completing work on Poltergeist, Dunne met and later moved in with a Los Angeles chef, (John Thomas Sweeney born and raised in Hazleton,PA), who was sous-chef at the restaurant Ma Maison.

The relationship was abusive, and after a short while Dunne ended it. A few weeks later, on October 30, Sweeney strangled Dunne in the driveway of her home after she refused to reconcile with him.

She fell into a deep coma for five days. She died on November 4, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, less than 20 days before her 23rd birthday.


Julian Beck
, 60-year-old actor who played Kane in Poltergeist II: The Other Side, died on September 14th, 1985 of stomach cancer diagnosed before he had accepted the role.

Beck co-directed the Living Theatre until his death. The group's primary influence was Antonin Artaud, who espoused the Theatre of Cruelty, which was supposed to shock the audience out of complacency.

This took different forms. In one example, from Jack Gelber's The Connection, a drama about drug addiction, actors playing junkies wandered the audience demanding money for a fix.

The Living Theatre moved out of New York in 1974, after the Internal Revenue Service shut it down when Beck failed to pay $23,000 in back taxes. After a sensational trial, in which Beck and Malina represented themselves, they were found guilty by a jury.

Will Sampson
, 53 years old, who played Taylor the Medicine Man in Poltergeist II, died as a result of post-operative kidney failure and pre-operative malnutrition problems on June 3rd, 1987.

In an interview in TV Ontario's series Film 101, “Hollywood Asylum, Explored or exploited?”, film actor Brad Dourif (who played Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) stated that Sampson had been imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.

After he was pardoned, after serving ten years, his release came without apology or compensation. Sampson reportedly observed the cast on set and noted, based on behavior, that only he and Dourif truly understood what it meant to be institutionalized.

Heather O'Rourke
, who played Carol Anne in all three Poltergeist movies, died on February 1st, 1988 at the age of 12 after what doctors initially described as an acute form of influenza but later changed to septic shock after bacterial toxins invaded her bloodstream.

At the time, she had suffered acute bowel obstruction, initially diagnosed as Crohn's disease, which may have been the cause of death.

O'Rourke became ill in early 1987 and was misdiagnosed by Kaiser Permanente Hospital as having Crohn's disease. She was prescribed medicine to treat the disease, which allegedly "puffed up [her] cheeks." On January 31, 1988, O'Rourke suddenly became ill again, vomiting and unable to keep anything down.

The next morning she collapsed while preparing to leave for the hospital and her stepfather called paramedics. O'Rourke suffered a cardiac arrest en route to the hospital, and after resuscitation was airlifted by helicopter to Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego, where she died later that afternoon.

Speaking to reporters, O'Rourke's manager David Wardlow initially announced that it was believed O'Rourke died of influenza. However, hospital spokesman Vincent Bond announced that O'Rourke died during surgery to repair an acute bowel obstruction (caused by congenital stenosis of the intestine) complicated by septic shock; this report was corroborated by the San Diego County coroner's office on February 3, two days after her death.

Later reports changed the specific cause of death to cardiac arrest caused by septic shock brought on by the intestinal stenosis.

Zelda Rubinstein
, who played Tangina in all three Poltergeist movies, died on January 27th, 2010 at the age of 76 after being on life support for both kidney and lung failure. After a month-long stay at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, her close companion and family decided to take her off life support.

Rubinstein became active in the fight against AIDS/HIV in 1984. She appeared in a series of advertisements, directed towards gay men specifically, promoting safer sex and AIDS awareness.

Rubinstein did so at risk to her own career, especially so shortly after her rise to fame, and admitted later that she did "pay a price, career-wise". She attended the first AIDS Project Los Angeles AIDS Walk.

Poltergeist is an American horror film, directed by Tobe Hooper, produced by Steven Spielberg, and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on June 4th, 1982.

It is the first and most successful of the Poltergeist film trilogy, and was nominated for three Academy Awards.

The franchise is often said to be cursed, because several people associated with it, including stars Dominique Dunne and Heather O'Rourke, died prematurely.

"The Poltergeist Curse" has been the focus of an E! True Hollywood Story.

The film was ranked as #80 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments and the Chicago Film Critics Association named it the 20th scariest film ever made. The film also appeared on American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Thrills, a list of America's most heart-pounding movies.

Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)
Some Things Have to be Believed to be Seen

Steve and Diane Freeling live a quiet life in a California suburb called Cuesta Verde, where Steven is a successful realtor and Diane is a housewife who cares for their children Dana, Robbie, and Carol Anne.

Carol Anne awakens one night and begins conversing with the family's television set, which has started transmitting static following a sign-off. The following night, a violent earthquake strikes the house, to which Carol Anne announces "They're here."

Bizarre events begin to occur the following day, such as glasses and utensils that spontaneously break or bend and furniture that moves on its own accord.

The phenomena seems benign at first, but quickly begins to intensify. The gnarled tree, which stands in the backyard, comes animated and grabs Robbie through the bedroom window.

While Diane and Steven rescue Robbie, Carol Anne is cornered and sucked through a portal in her closet. The Freelings realize she has been taken when her voice emanates from a television.

A group of parapsychologists from UC Irvine, Dr. Lesh, Ryan, and Marty, come to the Freeling house to investigate, who determine that the Freelings are experiencing a poltergeist intrusion.

They discover that the disturbances are caused not by a single ghost, but by a horde of them. Steven also finds out in an exchange with his boss, Lewis Teague, that Cuesta Verde is built where a cemetery used to be located.

After Dana and Robbie are sent away for their safety, Dr. Lesh and Ryan call in Tagina Barrons, a spiritual medium. Tagina states that the spirits are stuck between dimensions, unable to enter the "Light."

Attracted to her life force, the spirits believe that Carol Anne will help lead them into the Light. Tangina then adds that among the ghosts inhabiting the house, there is also a demon known as the "Beast," who has Carol Anne under restraint in an effort to manipulate the rest.

The assembled group discovers that while the entrance to the other dimension is through the children's bedroom closet, the exit is through the living room ceiling. Diane passes through the entrance, tied by a rope that has been threaded through both portals. Diane manages to retrieve Carol Anne and they both emerge through the living room ceiling. Tangina announces that the spirits are gone.

Shortly thereafter, the Freelings prepare to move elsewhere. During their last night in the house, Steven attends a meeting with Teague and Dana goes on a date, leaving Diane, Robbie, and Carol Anne alone in the house. The Beast then ambushes Diane and the children, attempting a second kidnapping.

Diane rescues the children and they flee from the house to discover coffins and rotting corpses erupting out from the ground throughout the neighborhood.

As Steven and Dana return home to the mayhem, Steven realizes that the cemetery relocated for the development of Cuesta Verde only had its headstones moved and the bodies left behind, desecrating the burial grounds.

The Freelings flee from Cuesta Verde while the house itself implodes into another dimension, to the astonishment of onlookers. The family checks into a Holiday Inn for the night and Steven shoves the room's television outside.

The Poltergeist Series Curse

The Poltergeist series is considered by some to be
the most famous of a handful of movies and television series said to have been cursed.

The movie Poltergeist was one of the scariest of its time.

But did anyone ever wonder what it was really based from?

Many say that this movie was not based on a true story since it was produced by Steven Spielberg but others claim that the movie was actually based on true incidents that did occur.

In 1980 the Williamses, middle-aged parents of three married daughters, bought a lot and built a house in the Newport subdivision of Houston.

Soon after they moved in, odd things began to happen, involving not only Ben and Jean Williams but most of those close to them.

Besides what could be called poltergeist activity (e.g., the repeated flushing of a toilet), there emerged more serious troubles. Every time they came to visit, the Williams daughters and their husbands, presumably happily married, would quarrel; all three marriages ended in divorce.

Five family members died. The Williams' pets behaved strangely, and the family weathered virtual plagues of ants and snakes. Their neighbors, without exception, encountered similar freak events.

When it was discovered that their homes were built over a cemetery, some members of the community sued the developer and lost, but the case was recently reopened. For their part, Ben and Jean Williams stayed until 1987, then moved to Montana.

Ghost Evidence