In the early 1990s, a blonde little girl with a sweet face and a fresh name burst onto the Hollywood scene. She sat in front of a static laden television set, placed her hands on the screen, turned toward the camera and with just two simple words, made her place in history.“They’re here” became a household phrase and one that is still used today.
Poltergeist will easily go down in history as one of the most lucrative and recognizable horror/ paranormal movies ever. That’s pretty amazing for a six-year-old little girl who was discovered while having lunch with her mom—and offered the job on the spot, beating out an already seasoned actress, Drew Barrymore. Maybe some movies should never see the light of day…There are many different stories about The Poltergeist Curse, but the only one easily proven is that four actors who worked on the Poltergeist project, would inevitably meet an untimely fate.
The causes of death for two of the actors were natural, but for two of the actors, death would not come quietly.In 1982, just after filming for the first Poltergeist movie, Dominique Dunne met and later moved in with John Thomas Sweeney, a chef living in the LA area. The relationship between the two was sometimes violent, and it wasn’t long before Dominique severed ties with Sweeney. Dominique was scheduled in a new television mini-series titled V with actor David Peck. While in the midst of rehearsals, Sweeney confronted Dunne in the driveway of her home. He hoped to make his pleas for reconciliation with the woman he loved, but it did not go well. When Dunn refused to consider the reconciliation, Sweeney dragged her into the backyard of the home next door and strangled her until she was unconscious. Later reports revealed that Sweeney confessed to strangling Dominique for four to six minutes as best he could remember. Dominique Dunne was declared brain-dead, and slipped into a deep coma where she remained for five days before being removed from life support on November 4, 1982. She was just twenty-two years old.
Dominique would be the first whose tale would start the whispers, but it would be JoBeth Williams’ statements about “paranormal/unexplainable” activity in her trailer during filming that would send the Hollywood community reeling. Then the curse would be even more validated when the beautiful little girl known as Carol Ann met an untimely and mysterious death.
Heather O’Rourke was born December 27, 1975, and was just six years old when she was cast for the Poltergeist film. Heather would be the feature player and star in all three Poltergeist movies. She would not however, make the premiere for the final film.
O’Rourke became extremely ill in 1987 and was misdiagnosed by Kaiser Permanente Hospital as having Crohn’s disease. She was prescribed medicine to treat the disease, but on January 31, 1988, O’Rourke became ill again. The next morning, Heather collapsed while preparing to leave for the hospital. Her stepfather then called emergency services. O’Rourke suffered a cardiac arrest en route to the hospital. She was revived and then was airlifted to Children’s Hospital and Health Center in San Diego, where she died later that day.
Hospital spokesman Vincent Bond announced Heather’s death. She died during surgery to repair an acute bowel obstruction which later caused septic shock and ultimately poisoned her system beyond repair. Later reports changed the cause of death to cardiac arrest caused by septic shock brought on by the intestinal stenosis.
O’Rourke was interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery on February 5, 1988. Heather’s final resting place is now a popular stop on the “Haunted Hollywood” tour.
Considered one of the scariest movie of all time, The Exorcist was released in theaters in 1973 and won two Academy Awards, one for Best Adapted Screenplay, and one for Best Sound. Written by William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist opened to scathing reviews, but horrified viewers and generated more excitement than had been seen in the film world in quite some time. No one had ever seen a movie like this before. Rumors swirled around the production about a young girl who was invaded and taken over by demons. In the fifteen-month filming period, there were numerous unexplained fires, set crashes, injuries, and even a rumored “breakdown” of lead actress Linda Blair. Jack McGowen had wrapped up filming his small part for the film when he died of a heart attack. In one of the more famous scenes from the film, Regan—Blair’s character—says to a group of adults, “You’re gonna die up there.” She would be right. One of the actors from the small group later died of unexplained causes.
There were other deaths, and with them came more whispers of curses and tragedy.
Max Von Sydow lost his brother and Linda Blair lost her grandfather during filming. A
night watchman for the set, a crew member that refrigerated the bedroom for the exorcism
scenes, and a cameraman’s newborn baby were also victims of the alleged curse. Many
people gave their opinion on the film, including evangelical preacher Billy Graham who was quoted as saying, “There is an evil attached to the film, in the very fabric of the film itself!”
There were also things happening at screenings that were just too creepy to overlook. From people vomiting, fainting, or having full-on nervous breakdowns, The Exorcist has evoked some of the strangest audience reactions ever documented. Adding to the mystery and fear, the death tolls began to rise after the movie was released in the area surrounding Georgetown, where The Exorcist was filmed. Add to all this, a lightning strike in Italy during the premiere of the film which destroyed a four hundred-year-old cross, and what you are left with is a film with a stigma attached to it. Although there were no accidents or deaths on the film’s sequels, the original director for the prequel, Exorcist: The Beginning, died before filming ever started.