You’re by yourself, working late at the office or on set. You leave, walk back to your car and you’re clearly in your own world and not focused on your surroundings. Do you ever have a feeling someone or something is there with you? When you’re home alone, sitting in the dark with only your desk lamp on, do you feel something then? Do you look over into the darkness and think, what if something is in there, watching me?
I would be lying if I said I did not believe in ghosts, spirits, etc. I am a very inquisitive person and I always psyche myself out. Also, I find it interesting to hear stories from people who have had experiences with the paranormal. Specifically, encounters that happen on and off a movie set. I’ve never experienced anything supernatural myself… yet. However, I have to admit, the hairs on my arms stand up when I think about the “what-if” scenarios.
Below are five of Hollywood’s top cursed/haunted set stories that will leave you to wonder. Can an otherworldly encounter strike anytime or anywhere? For some, these creepy happenings has remained with those who have experienced them long after the movie was over. Is there a reason behind the hauntings or is it coincidence?
Number 5: ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968)
This horror classic directed by Roman Polanski is one of the most controversial horror movies and well known for its series of unfortunate events on and off the set. It tells the story of a pregnant woman who discovers that her husband has made a deal with a religious cult and believes that the father of her baby is Satan.
The composer, Krzysztof Komeda, died of a brain clot, a year after the film was released. Coincidentally, this is the same way Rosemary’s friend, Hutch, played by Maurice Evans, dies in the movie.
The more macabre story is the horrific murder of Roman Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate and four others. They were killed in a ritualistic manner by a mass-murdering group led by Charles Manson. Tate was eight months pregnant and stabbed sixteen times. When the bodies were found at Tate’s home in Beverly Hills, one of the killers, Susan Atkins, soaked a towel in Tate’s blood and wrote “PIG” on the front door.
William Castle, a producer on the film, received death threats a year after the film was released. He was taken to the hospital due to kidney failure days later. As he was being admitted, he yelled out, “Rosemary, for God’s sake, drop the knife!” Later, he died of a heart attack.
Lastly, Rosemary’s apartment building was the same building where Beatles star John Lennon was shot and killed. The building has been known to have frequent ghost sightings and strange happenings.
Number 4: POLTERGEIST (1982) – POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE (1986) – POLTERGEIST III (1988)
This horror classic was directed by Tobe Hooper, also known for his other genre masterpieces such as THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and SALEM’S LOT. The story focuses on a family whose home is invaded by malevolent ghosts that abduct the family’s young daughter, Carol Anne.
There were a number of crazy occurrences that happened during and after production. One of the most famous ones involved the films’ producer, Steven Spielberg, deciding to use real skeletons for the muddy pool scene because they were cheaper than using plastic skeletons, unbeknownst to the actors. Actress JoBeth Williams, (who played Diane Freeling) admitted she found out much later on that the scene used real skeletons, which some theorize were also used in the sequels as well.
Also of note, Williams recalled when she would return home after shooting that she would find her pictures hanging crooked on the wall. After straightening them and returning home in subsequent days, she would find them crooked again. Williams stated that this was a common re-occurrence.
Julian Beck, who played Reverend Henry Kane in POLTERGEIST II, was diagnosed with stomach cancer before he accepted his role. Months before the film made its theatrical release, he passed away. Due to his death, post-production brought in voice actor, Corey Burton, to loop some of this lines in the film.
Will Sampson, the actor who played Shaman in POLTERGEIST II went to the set late at night to perform an exorcism, to get rid of the so-called “Poltergeist Curse.” The next day, cast and crew members felt relieved but then, Sampson died less than a year later due to malnutrition and postoperative kidney failure.
Oliver Robins, who plays Robbie Freeling, had a near fatal accident while filming the scene of the clown attacking him. Due to a malfunction in the prop clown, Robins was actually being choked, which everyone thought was just superb acting, until they realized that he was really being suffocated.
One of the two tragic accidents that made headlines was the tragic death of Dominique Dunne, who played Dana Freeling in the film. After the film was released, she was brutally strangled by her ex-boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney, in the driveway of her home. Immediately, she went into a coma and was placed on life support. She never regained consciousness and died five days later at the age of twenty-two. For Sweeney, he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and only served three and a half years in prison.
The second death is one of the saddest and most notable, which is Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Anne Freeling in all 3 POLTERGEIST films. She died at the age of 12 due to cardiac arrest and septic shock caused by a misdiagnosed intestinal issue. For POLTERGEIST III, they needed to use a body double for a reshoot of the finale because her untimely death was several months before the release of the film.
Many say that the deaths of the two young actresses are clear evidence that the POLTERGEIST films are cursed. Other creepy occurrences? An air conditioner was struck by lightening and flew into someone’s back. Richard Lawson, who plays Ryan in the first film, was aboard a flight when it crash landed. Lawson was one of the twenty-seven people out of fifty-one who survived.
Number 3: The Omen (1976)
This horror classic directed by Richard Donner tells the story of a young child, Damien Thorn played by Harvey Spencer Stephens, who was adopted at birth by a wealthy family. Soon thereafter, the husband and wife are surrounded by ominous deaths, unaware that their child is the Antichrist.
This has to be one of the most talked about films because of the many mysterious incidents surrounding it, some of which delayed the film in production. Screenwriter David Seltzer’s plane was struck by lightening. Similarly, this happened to Gregory Peck, who plays American Ambassador Robert Thorn, father to Damien. Peck cancelled his reservation for his flight to find out later, it had crashed and killed everyone on board.
The IRA bombed the hotel where director Richard Donner was residing during production. Dogs that were hired for the film attacked their trainers. In addition, the baboon scene that takes place at the safari park – an animal handler was attacked and reportedly eaten alive by a lion, the day after the crew finished filming the scene.
On the first day of filming, some crew members got into a head-on car crash. Luckily, no one was harmed in this incident.
After creating an elaborate and macabre scene where a character dies from decapitation, some of the people behind that gag were victims of an automobile accident. Special Effects Supervisor, John Richardson and his assistant, Liz Moore, were both involved a head-on crash that left Moore sliced in half, which was similar to how Richardson created the scene for one of the characters to perish in the film. The accident happened on Friday the 13th and very creepily, on a road sign that read, “Ommen, 66.6 km.”
Several weeks before filming, the son of Gregory Peck, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. Unfortunately, the reason is unknown. Today, THE OMEN is not only popular for its plot and place in horror cinema, but for the so-called creepy incidents that surround the film known as the “Curse of the Omen.”
Number 2: THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979) – THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (2005)
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg and known as one of the many horror films based on a true story, AMITYVILLE HORROR is about a real-life family who was shot and killed by their eldest boy, Ronald DeFeo. What many can only speculate about is what exactly lead Ronald DeFeo to commit this heinous crime? Some say that he was possessed and heard voices, but to what extent does that drive a person to kill his own family? The story behind the Amityville Horror still bewilders people to this day.
Actor James Brolin, who plays the father, George Lutz in the original film, was hesitant about accepting the role. After reading the novel, he arrived to a very tense part when suddenly, his pants fell off a hanger, causing him to jump out of his chair in terror. After this occurrence, he agreed to take the role, believing that there was “something” to the story.
One night, Ed and Lorraine Warren (the real life couple who inspired THE CONJURING movies) investigated the scene by placing cameras all around the house. They found in one of the pictures, a young boy with glowing white eyes. Many have said that the boy is the ghost of John Matthew DeFeo, the youngest of the children. There are many conspiracies on whether it’s John Matthew, a photographer or a demon revealing itself as a human or something else entirely. To this day, there’s still no confirmation.
While the Warrens were investigating at the Amityville house, they came home to horror in their own home. One night, Ed was in his office, the latch at the end of the passageway snapped open and he heard heavy footsteps approaching his office.
In the 2005 remake, Ryan Reynolds, who plays George Lutz, reported that he and other crew members kept waking up at 3:15 am every day, which was the time that Ronald DeFeo murdered his parents and four siblings. This happens to Ryan’s character in the film. Just before filming began, a dead body washed up on shore by the film set, which was completely bizarre. Today, the house is for sale with a different address and some structural changes, but many will always remember the terrifying history that remains with the house.
Number 1: THE EXORCIST
One of the most acclaimed horror films of all time is also one of the most terrifying. Directed by William Friedkin, THE EXORCIST was adapted from the novel written by William Peter Blatty. It tells the story of a young girl’s demonic possession and her mother’s desperation to get her back from the clutches of evil. This was also loosely based on a true story.
Surrounding the film are nine deaths from the cast and crew. A crew member and technician both died during production, but as far as what happened to them has been unreported.
The brother of Max Von Sydrow (Father Merrin in the film), passed away, as did Linda Blair’s grandfather.
Before the film was released, Burke Dennings, played by Jack McGowan, died of flu complications. Father Damien Karras’ mother, played by Vasiliki Maliaros, died after her participation with the film but before the film was released.
During the original release, it affected many audiences so strongly that paramedics were called to treat people who fainted. One man fainted and broke his jaw on the seat in front of him.
A mysterious fire despoiled the set while no cast or crew members were around, which caused a six-week delay in production. There was only one room that went untouched, which belonged to Regan, played by Linda Blair.
Religious zealots sent death threats to Blair because they believed the film “glorified Satan.” Blair had bodyguards protecting her for six months after the film’s release.
Lastly, Blair had a mental breakdown during filming and attacked her on-screen mother. The scene where Regan throws her mother, Chris MacNeil, played by Ellen Burstyn, across the bedroom resulted in a permanent spinal injury. Though she was on a harness, it broke and she landed on her coccyx. Today, that take is used in the film due to Chris’ scream being too real and convincing.