Top Lawyer Confirms ‘Poltergeist’ Child Actor Killed by Hollywood Pedophile Ring

little girl from poltergeist death

Steven Spielberg with Heather O’Rourke

Heather O’Rourke was murdered by elite entertainment industry pedophilia network

By: Jay Greenberg |@NeonNettle

© press  Star of Poltergeist Heather O’Rourke was killed by a Hollywood pedophile ring

A top entertainment lawyer has confirmed that the child star of movie Poltergeist, Heather O’Rourke, was killed by an elite Hollywood  pedophile ring .

The young actor played Carol-Anne Freeling in all three of Steven Spielberg’s  Poltergeist  films and also had parts in popular TV shows  Webster  and  Happy Days .

Perhaps her most famous moment was her line  “they’re here”  in the first Poltergeist movie.

Heather tragically died in 1988 aged just 12-years-old from intestinal stenosis after a bowel obstruction had caused a fatal infection that brought on septic shock resulting in cardiac arrest.

Now, a top attorney has come forward with evidence that Heather was raped by powerful movie business  elites  on the set of a TV show called  “Rocky Road.”

He claims that it was this attack, which was one of many, that ultimately led to her untimely death.

© press  Heather O’Rourke was famed for her line ‘they’re here’ in the Poltergeist movie

“A bunch of f**king pigs. I had just turned 12 or 13. I was the same age as the actress coming in. Maybe a little older. We had been shooting for months and I was old news. They knew I would do what they wanted, but they always wanted someone new. This was someone new and someone they all knew. They had it set up like a peep show almost.  “She had finished shooting that morning and they brought her out on a stage. The stage was used most of the time for a game show that was taped there. That game show is still on today. I can’t watch it knowing what happened to her there. They brought her out and the front four rows of this theatre were filled with guys who were already rubbing themselves. The girl was wearing a bikini. “The show took place  around  a beach just so they could make these girls wear next to nothing. They had her walk around under the lights. The lights were focused on her and she couldn’t really see out to the audience. She was squinting. It must have been blinding for her. They had her walk back and forth. “Then they had her start dancing. All of these guys were doing what another star at that same studio got busted for. This went on for about 20 minutes. Then three of the guys took her to a different area of the studio.”

© press  There are claims Steve Spielberg has information on Heather O’Rourke’s death

Heather was acting in the eighties and she was not yet a tween, had hit films and television appearances / this matches ENT LAWYER claims this girl was first molested at 5 or 6, Heather was discovered by Steven Speilberg and had her first acting role at the age of 5 in a show called Fantasy Island / this matches The exact television show set that these events occurred on cannot be verified 100% but the clues seem to lead to “Rocky Road” as it was filmed in the same studio as jeopardy (which is still running today) and Pewee Herman (who is alluded to for being busted masturbating in a theater) /this matches or at least makes sense A medic needed to be called because something had been inserted into the girl which ended up eventually killing her / this could match as Heather died of bowel problems

The fact that this poor girl died at such a young age is already heartbreaking but if there is any credibility to these claims it seems at least possible that some foul play was involved in her death.

___ http://www.neonnettle.com/features/1273-top-lawyer-confirms-poltergeist-child-actor-killed-by-hollywood-pedophile-ring

little girl from poltergeist death

In 1988, Heather O’Rourke starred in Poltergeist. Age 12, she died in mysterious circumstances.

Helen Vnuk

As an angelic little blonde girl in 1982, Heather O’Rourke spoke one of the most famous horror movie lines ever: “They’re here.” 

The movie was the mega hit Poltergeist . Heather would go on to star as Carol Anne in the sequel, where she declared, “They’re back.” But in 1988, at the age of 12, before Poltergeist I II came out, Heather died in mysterious circumstances.

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Heather had a classic Hollywood story of being discovered. She was eating lunch with her mum Kathleen, while waiting for her older sister Tammy, who was a dancer in the movie Pennies From Heaven . Steven Spielberg, who was looking for a “beatific” four-year-old to star in his upcoming horror movie Poltergeist , spotted her. He asked her into his office, and tested her acting ability. 

“He wanted me to be afraid of this pink fish and this purple pig and all that,” Heather later explained . 

The next day, Heather was signed on to star in Poltergeist , scoring the role over Drew Barrymore. The movie is about a couple with three children who move into a house inhabited by spirits. The youngest child, Carol Anne, can hear the spirits through the TV set. She is sucked into a portal to another dimension, but later rescued. 

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Oliver Robbins, who played Carol Anne’s brother Robbie, says he and Heather were like “brother and sister” on set. 

“She was precocious and a very intelligent girl for someone who was only five years old,” he told Daily Mail Online in 2015. 

Following the massive success of Poltergeist , Heather was offered other roles, guest-starring in classic '80s shows Webster and CHiPs and scoring an ongoing role in Happy Days as the daughter of Fonzie’s (Henry Winkler) girlfriend. Her manager, Mike Meyer, said she had the ability to memorise a 60-page script in an hour. Heather’s earnings meant that her family could move from a trailer park to a three-bedroom house in the woods in Big Bear, California. 

Poltergeist II came out in 1986. It was in 1987 that Heather started getting sick. After numerous trips to the doctor, she was told she had the parasite giardia, probably picked up from the well water at her house in the woods. She was treated for that, but later diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and put on cortisone. It gave her a “chipmunk cheeks” look that she was self-conscious about. 

That same year, Heather shot Poltergeist III . Director Gary Sherman tells the Shudder documentary series Cursed Films that he “absolutely adored” her.

little girl from poltergeist death

Once Heather had finished shooting, the family went on a road trip to Disney World. Kathleen described it as “the vacation of a lifetime”. 

On February 1, 1988, Heather woke up feeling unwell but insisted she wanted to go to school. Her symptoms worsened. She couldn’t swallow, her fingers and toes started turning blue and her breathing became heavy and fast. She collapsed on the floor, and Kathleen called an ambulance. She was in septic shock. 

Kathleen told Heather, “I love you,” and Heather replied, “I love you, too.” 

Those were the last words she spoke. She suffered cardiac arrest in the ambulance. At the hospital, doctors resuscitated her, but she had suffered brain damage. They performed surgery and found she had a bowel obstruction caused by a birth defect, rather than Crohn’s disease. But it was too late to save her. She was pronounced dead that afternoon. 

Dr Daniel Hollander, head of gastroenterology at the University of California medical centre, told AP that Heather’s death was “distinctly unusual” because she hadn’t shown prior symptoms of the bowel defect. 

“I would have expected a lot of [digestive] difficulties throughout her life and not just to have developed all of a sudden,” he explained. 

Another gastroenterologist, Dr Hartley Cohen, also found Heather’s death unusual. 

“It just doesn’t seem to quite make sense,” he said. 

Heather’s funeral was held three days later. Her Poltergeist and Happy Days  co-stars attended. Reverend Dennis Estill told the mourners there were two things Heather had wanted in her life. 

“She wanted an Academy Award. She wanted a Rolls Royce.”

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Heather was buried in an open casket, wearing a chain that said “friend” around her neck. Kathleen wore the matching chain that said “best”.

“Heather gave me these for Christmas,” Kathleen told People . “She used to tell her friends that I was her best friend and not just her mum.”

Kathleen said after Heather’s death she had to force herself to get up and to eat. 

“I couldn’t cook in the kitchen anymore. Heather loved pies, cakes and cookies, and I used to make them for her. In the beginning I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I thought, ‘Why go on?’”

In May that year, Kathleen filed a wrongful death suit, claiming that Heather would still be alive if she had not been misdiagnosed.

Meanwhile, Sherman had been planning to re-shoot the ending of Poltergeist III . But without Heather, he felt her couldn’t – and he didn’t want to, anyway. 

“I can’t go back into the cutting room or watch this film with this dead 11-year-old in it,” he remembers thinking. 

But he tells Cursed Films that he had to. 

“Afterwards, the board at MGM just said to us, ‘You’re going to finish the film. We’ve got a lot of money invested in the film.’”

He had to come up with an ending that didn’t involve Heather.  

“So we came up with the idea for the stupid ending that’s on the film now and used a double for Heather. That was the creepiest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life.”

The rumours that the  Poltergeist  films were cursed had started long before Heather’s death. Dominique Dunne, the 22-year-old actress who played Carol Anne’s older sister Dana, was strangled by her ex-boyfriend in her driveway just months after Poltergeist  was released. She never regained consciousness and died five days later. 

Two stars of Poltergeist II passed away not long after they finished shooting. Julian Beck, who played Kane, died of cancer before the film was released, while Will Sampson, who played Taylor, died of post-operative kidney failure the following year.

When Heather died, the rumours went into overdrive. Someone came up with the theory that the curse was caused by real skeletons having been used in the making of Poltergeist , and that theory took off.  

Craig Reardon, the makeup special effects artist for Poltergeist , tells Cursed Films that this is “conceptually ridiculous” and “personally offensive”. He says human skeletons have been used in movies for years. 

“The idea of having a few of them on the set of Poltergeist and killing two lovely young girls is a pretty pernicious idea,” he says. “It’s an insult to the memory of a very sweet little girl, Heather O’Rourke, and it’s worse that than to Dominique Dunne, who was strangled to death by her [ex-] boyfriend, which had f—k-all to do with a skeleton.”

Feature image: Getty.

The 'Poltergeist' Curse: Inside the Mysterious Cast Deaths and Oddities On Set

JoBeth Williams looks on as Craig T Nelson holds Oliver Robins in a scene from the film 'Poltergeist', 1982. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

Released in 1982, the original Poltergeist , directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Spielberg, was an instant success and is considered to be a masterpiece of American horror cinema. The film focuses on the Freelings, a middle-class family (led by a youthful, dashing Craig T. Nelson) whose life is upturned when a number of paranormal and vicious events occur in their California home and their daughter Carol Anne is abducted through her bedroom closet by a group of ghosts who are under the control of a monster demon called the “Beast.”

After learning that their house sits atop a Native American burial ground, the Freelings spend their time attempting to retrieve Carol Anne and all the while stay sane as they get smacked around, terrorized and ultimately, “goobered” on in the bathtub.

With Poltergeist's success came a creepy mystique that the classic film is shrouded in real-life tragedies that some interpret as a curse.

Four cast members died during and soon after the filming of the series

The majority of the fuel for the alleged curse stems from the deaths of multiple cast members. In total, four cast members died during and soon after the filming of the series. Two of these tragic deaths were highly unexpected and puzzling, leading many fans to speculate on the trilogy’s eerie implications.

Heather O'Rourke screams as she is harassed by evil spirits in a scene from the film 'Poltergeist', 1982. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

Heather O'Rourke

Carol Anne Freeling, the young focal point of the series, was played by Heather O’Rourke. Only six years old when the first Poltergeist film was released, O’Rourke captivated audiences with her stark blond hair, doll-like appearance, and big, inquisitive eyes. Sadly, however, she was misdiagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1987. The following year, O’Rourke fell ill again, and her symptoms were casually attributed to the flu. A day later, she collapsed and suffered a cardiac arrest. After being airlifted to a children’s hospital in San Diego, O’Rourke died during an operation to correct a bowel obstruction, and it was later believed that she had been suffering from a congenital intestinal abnormality.

Dominique Dunne

Dominique Dunne, who played the original older sister Dana Freeling, met an equally tragic and unforeseen fate. In 1982, Dunne separated from her partner, John Sweeney. In November of that year, he showed up at Dunne’s house, pleading for her to take him back. When she refused, Sweeney grabbed Dunne’s neck, choked her until she was unconscious, and left her to die in her Hollywood home’s driveway. Sweeney was sentenced to six and a half years in prison but was released after three years and seven months.

Julian Beck and Will Sampson

The other two cast member deaths, while unfortunate, were not as unpredictable or mysterious. The evil preacher Kane from Poltergeist II was played by Julian Beck. In 1983, Beck had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, which took his life soon after he finished work on the second installment of the series. The same film was met with further tragedy, after Will Sampson, who played Taylor the Native American shaman, died after undergoing a heart-lung transplant, which had a very slim survival rate.

Other strange things happened on set

Cast deaths were not the only agents of the curse’s proliferation, as other peculiar and creepy legends surround the film franchise. JoBeth Williams, who played mom Diane Freeling in the first two films, claimed that director Spielberg insisted on using actual human skeletons as props in an attempt to save money (at the time, they were cheaper than plastic skeletons). Williams’ claim has never been verified, but it persists to this day in the lore surrounding the films’ curse.

Finally, in an effort to further creep out everyone involved, Sampson, the real-life medicine man who passed away due to circumstances mentioned above, performed an authentic exorcism after shooting wrapped up one night. One can only imagine how this made the other cast members feel.

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Heather O' Rourke in Poltergeist

For a lot of Generation X kids, the 1982 movie " Poltergeist " was an introduction to horror films. The idea that a mischievous supernatural entity could communicate with a child through a snowy television and ultimately pull her inside somehow, into an invisible world, gave every kid pause. The movie also related the notion that a tree outside your window could get you, or the toy clown in your room could be controlled by a demonic spirit. It was enough to ensure the companies that made nightlights back then were going to stay afloat. 

A lot of things stand out about Steven Spielberg's classic film, "Poltergeist," but one of the most integral to the story is that of the character Carol Anne Freeling, the little girl who was coveted by the scary spiritual entity in the family's home. She was played by a cherubic Heather O'Rourke, who also starred in two more Poltergeist sequels.  

It was Carol Anne sitting in front of the static-laden television, telling her family, "They're heeeeerrre," — Carol Anne's long platinum blonde hair coming out from under a football helmet as an invisible force slid her across the kitchen floor — Carol Anne, or rather, O'Rourke's voice calling for her mommy from the beyond — finding the strength to go into the light to get back to her family. 

But in real life, O'Rourke did not get a scripted happy ending. Six years after the first Poltergeist came out, she died at only 12 years old. 

Heather O'Rourke had an undiagnosed birth defect

According to Heather O'Rourke's death certificate , she died from a tragic combination of an acute bowel obstruction, suspected septic shock, and cardio-respiratory arrest on February 1, 1988, just a few weeks after her 12th birthday. The Associated Press reported three days after she died that one doctor said the young actress' sudden death was "distinctly unusual," because the issue that caused the bowel obstruction was believed to have been a birth defect which would cause nausea, vomiting and severe abdominal pain, but said O'Rourke never experienced those symptoms. Yet that seems unlikely because according to Biography , O'Rourke was misdiagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 1987. 

Regardless, O'Rourke died at Children's Hospital in San Diego after 36 hours with the bowel obstruction, six hours of septic shock, and 30 minutes in cardio-respiratory arrest, per the death certificate. O'Rourke's manager told the AP, ″It's weird. She was completely healthy Saturday, they thought she had the flu on Sunday, and she was dead on Monday.″

In May of 198,  The Los Angeles Times reported that O'Rourke's mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her daughter's doctors for misdiagnosing O'Rourke, whose real cause of death was only discovered after she died. According to The Los Angeles Business Journal , O'Rourke died from Intestinal Stenosis, which she was born with, but which could have been treated with surgery if only they had known, likely saving the girl's life. The lawsuit was settled out of court.

Mysterious death of 80s childstar Heather O'Rourke and the 'Hollywood curse' surrounding it

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Child actress Heather O'Rourke died in 1988. Photo / Supplied

A 1980s classic became known as Hollywood's most "cursed" film following the untimely death of a 12-year-old actress.

Not only is Steven Spielberg's Poltergeist regarded as one of the most terrifying horror films of all time, it's also known as the most "cursed" film in Hollywood.

Shrouded in superstition following a handful of mysterious cast deaths, the 1982 film's grim history has followed it through decades – even casting fear over the critically reviled 2015 remake.

Heather O'Rourke died suddenly after filming the third instalment of the Poltergeist franchise. Photo / News Corp Australia

The "Poltergeist curse", as it's become known, came about after four of the cast members died of mysterious circumstances – the most shocking being that of Heather O'Rourke – the cherubic 12-year-old childstar who played protagonist Carol Anne in all three Poltergeist films, as well as Heather Pfister in Happy Days.

THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY

Set in a house built on an ancient Native American burial ground, the original Poltergeist trilogy told the terrifying story of the Freeling family and their encounters with the supernatural.

Gifted with a connection to the spiritual world, the youngest daughter, Carol Anne (O'Rourke), was haunted by the malicious spirits buried beneath her home, including that of a sadistic doomsday cult leader named Kane.

Heather O'Rourke played a child harassed by evil spirits in Poltergeist. Photo / Getty Images

It was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on June 4, 1982 and was a commercial success, grossing $1.13 million in the United States, making it the highest-grossing horror film of 1982 and eighth overall for the year.

The film's special effects – inventive for its era – makes it frequently ranked among the greatest horror films of all time.

BEGINNINGS OF "THE CURSE"

Many believe the "Poltergeist Curse" began the same year the first movie was released.

Actress Dominique Young, who made her film debut in Poltergeist as the elder sister of Carol Anne, died a violent death shortly after its release in 1983.

She was strangled to death by her boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney.

According to a New York Times article, Young was put on life support after the attack but passed away five days later.

Sweeney was later found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, according to a 1983 article from The Freelance Star.

JULIAN BECK

It was the actor who played Carol Anne's most intimidating spirit, doomsday cult leader Kane, who died next.

Julian Beck, who played Kane in Poltergeist II sadly did not live to see the release of the sequel.

He was 60 when he lost a battle with stomach cancer on September 14, 1985, according to The New York Times.

WILL SAMPSON

The third in the spooky string of deaths associated with the film was of the man who portrayed a friendly ghost named Taylor in the second Polergeist film, Will Sampson.

Sampson died on June 3, 1987, aged 53, after of an illness caused by a chronic degenerative condition, according to The Herald Journal.

HEATHER O'ROURKE'S DEATH

It was the unexpected nature of Heather O'Rourke's death which led many to believe the "Poltergeist Curse" was real.

Known for adorable, blue-eyed angelic looks and her creepy delivery of the line; "They're here" in the first film of the series, it was largely O'Rourke's chilling performance that made the film iconic.

At 12 years old, she passed away suddenly.

The actress died in surgery when doctors were attempting to repair an acute bowel obstruction, caused by what was believed to be a long battle with Crohn's disease, the LA Times reported.

The young address was tragically pronounced dead after suffering septic shock, on February 1, 1988.

Heather O'Rourke rose to fame in the first film of the Poltergeist trilogy. Photo / Supplied

HOW THE "CURSE" AFFECTED THE 2015 REMAKE

When Poltergeist was rebooted in 2015, superstitious film buffs were quick to unearth rumours of the "curse" surrounding the film.

Starring Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt, the movie may have been widely panned, but no cast members died.

In a Reddit AMA, however, director Gil Kenan recalled "paranormal activity" during filming.

"Lights that could turn on anywhere else in the neighbourhood would blow out the second you'd try to light them on (the set)," Kenan wrote.

"Also, I used a lot of aerial drone photography in the film, and the drone pilots were never able to lock in the GPS signal in this field. We would have to move 10 feet away to launch the craft."

little girl from poltergeist death

Heather O’Rourke, ‘Poltergeist’ Child Star, Dies

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Heather O’Rourke, the terrified youngster sucked into a spectral vacuum by supernatural spirits in the film “Poltergeist,” is dead at the age of 12, it was learned today.

The blonde ingenue, who finished filming “Poltergeist III” last summer, starring as Carol Ann Freeling for the third time, died Monday.

The Associated Press said she had been pronounced dead at Children’s Hospital in San Diego. United Press International quoted her agent, Bob Preston, as saying she “passed away on the way to the hospital” where her parents had called after she fell seriously ill.

Her family, who lives in Big Bear, was not available for comment.

A spokesman for Metro Goldwyn Mayer, where the “Poltergeist” films were produced starting in 1981, said the studio would issue a clarifying statement later.

Heather, also seen regularly on television’s “Happy Days,” “Webster” and “Still the Beaver,” brought two catch phrases into the language after Poltergeists I and II. The first was “They’re heeeere!” which she screamed after coming into contact with strange forces while peering into an apparently blank TV screen. The second was “They’re baaaack!” featured in the sequel.

Heather came to films when she was 5 and sitting in the MGM commissary. Steven Spielberg saw her and asked if he could talk to her. She replied that she didn’t talk to strangers.

But she got permission and that led to her role in “Poltergeist.”

Heather is the second actress from the “Poltergeist” movies to die at a young age. Dominique Dunne, was strangled in October, 1982.

Dunne, then 22, who played Heather’s older sister, had tried to break off her relationship with her boyfriend. Los Angeles chef John Sweeney was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced in November, 1983, to the maximum 6 1/2 years in prison.

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Mysterious death of 80s childstar Heather O’Rourke and the ‘Hollywood curse’ surrounding it

A 1980s classic became known as Hollywood’s most “cursed” film following the untimely death of a 12-year-old actress.

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Not only is Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist regarded as one of the most terrifying horror films of all time, it’s also known as the most “cursed” film in Hollywood.

Shrouded in superstition following a handful of mysterious cast deaths, the 1982 film’s grim history has followed it through decades – even casting fear over the critically reviled 2015 remake.

Heather O'Rourke died suddenly after filming the third instalment of the Poltergeist franchise. Picture: Supplied.

RELATED: The five most cursed movies of all time

RELATED: 12 Horror films on Netflix Australia with the highest Rotten Tomatoes scores

The “Poltergeist curse”, as it’s become known, came about after four of the cast members died of mysterious circumstances – the most shocking being that of Heather O’Rourke – the cherubic 12-year-old childstar who played protagonist Carol Anne in all three Poltergeist films, as well as Heather Pfister in Happy Days .

THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY

Set in a house built on an ancient Native American burial ground, the original Poltergeist trilogy told the terrifying story of the Freeling family and their encounters with the supernatural.

Gifted with a connection to the spiritual world, the youngest daughter, Carol Anne (O’Rourke), was haunted by the malicious spirits buried beneath her home, including that of a sadistic doomsday cult leader named Kane.

Heather O'Rourke played a child harassed by evil spirits in Poltergeist. Picture: Getty Images.

It was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on June 4, 1982 and was a commercial success, grossing $1.13 million in the United States, making it the highest-grossing horror film of 1982 and eighth overall for the year.

The film’s special effects – inventive for its era – makes it frequently ranked among the greatest horror films of all time.

BEGINNINGS OF “THE CURSE”

Many believe the “Poltergeist Curse” began the same year the first movie was released.

Actress Dominique Dunne, who made her film debut in Poltergeist as the elder sister of Carol Anne, died a violent death shortly after its release in 1983.

She was strangled to death by her boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney.

According to a New York Times article, Dunne was put on life support after the attack but passed away five days later.

Sweeney was later found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, according to a 1983 article from The Freelance Star.

JULIAN BECK

It was the actor who played Carol Anne’s most intimidating spirit, doomsday cult leader Kane, who died next.

Julian Beck, who played Kane in Poltergeist II sadly did not live to see the release of the sequel.

He was 60 when he lost a battle with stomach cancer on September 14, 1985, according to The New York Times.

WILL SAMPSON

The third in the spooky string of deaths associated with the film was of the man who portrayed a friendly ghost named Taylor in the second Polergeist film, Will Sampson.

Sampson died on June 3, 1987, aged 53, after of an illness caused by a chronic degenerative condition, according to The Herald Journal.

HEATHER O’ROURKE’S DEATH

It was the unexpected nature of Heather O’Rourke’s death which led many to believe the “Poltergeist Curse” was real.

Known for adorable, blue-eyed angelic looks and her creepy delivery of the line; “They’re here” in the first film of the series, it was largely O’Rourke’s chilling performance that made the film iconic.

At 12 years old, she passed away suddenly.

The actress died in surgery when doctors were attempting to repair an acute bowel obstruction, caused by what was believed to be a long battle with Crohn’s disease, the LA Times reported.

The young actress was tragically pronounced dead after suffering septic shock, on February 1, 1988.

Heather O'Rourke rose to fame in the first film of the Poltergeist trilogy. Picture: Supplied.

HOW THE “CURSE” AFFECTED THE 2015 REMAKE

When Poltergeist was rebooted in 2015, superstitious film buffs were quick to unearth rumours of the “curse” surrounding the film.

Starring Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt, the movie may have been widely panned, but no cast members died.

In a Reddit AMA , however, director Gil Kenan recalled “paranormal activity” during filming.

“Lights that could turn on anywhere else in the neighbourhood would blow out the second you’d try to light them on (the set),” Kenan wrote.

“Also, I used a lot of aerial drone photography in the film, and the drone pilots were never able to lock in the GPS signal in this field. We would have to move 10 feet away to launch the craft.”

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‘Poltergeist’ Heather O’Rourke Took Her Last Breath at Just 12 — the Extremely Unusual Circumstances of Her Passing

Titi Dokubo

In 1987, Heather O'Rourke fell very ill. The first symptoms were nausea, and the hospital insisted that she had the flu. During the filming of "Poltergeist III," the child star began to undergo the first treatment for her condition even though it made her face puff.

The disease remained unknown to the public until February 1, 1988, when Heather was rushed to the hospital following an illness where the hospital found that she had developed an acute intestinal obstruction.

Although she underwent an emergency operation, she died of complications caused by septic shock resulting from the occlusion and subsequent sepsis. The third film opens with a dedication to her memory.

Pictures of Heather O'Rourke | Photo: Getty Images, youtube.com/ScreamFactoryTV

Pictures of Heather O'Rourke | Photo: Getty Images, youtube.com/ScreamFactoryTV

ABOUT HEATHER O'ROURKE

On December 27, 1975, the child star from San Diego was discovered by director Steven Spielberg while having lunch in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios with her mother and her older sister. Her older sister Tammy O'Rourke was working as a dancer in the film "Pennies from Heaven."

Spielberg, who produced movies from the "Poltergeist" franchise, cast her after the audition in which she did the "scream" test even though she was only five years old. The film was infamous for the mysterious deaths of four of its characters.

Heather was born to Kathleen and Michael O'Rourke. Her mother worked as a seamstress, and her father as a construction worker. Her parents were divorced in 1981, and her mother married part-time truck driver Jim Peele in 1984 while living in a trailer park in Anaheim, California.

Heather's success later allowed the family to purchase a home in Big Bear Lake, California. In between acting jobs, Heather attended Big Bear Elementary School. At the time of her death, her family lived in Lakeside, California, a suburb in San Diego.

HEATHER'S ILLNESS

In early 1987, the little girl fell ill with what was eventually misdiagnosed as Crohn's disease and subsequently underwent medical treatment during the making of "Poltergeist III."

The film's shooting lasted from April to June of that year, with June 1988 being the expected date for the film's release, and Heather was able to finish her part.

In reality, she suffered from giardiasis , which remained unknown until the morning of February 1, 1988, when Heather fell ill and was rushed to the hospital. They found that she had developed acute intestinal obstruction, and she died at the age of 12.

Evils spirits attempted to capture Heather O'Rourke in a scene from the film "Poltergeist," 1982 | Photo: Getty Images

Evils spirits attempted to capture Heather O'Rourke in a scene from the film "Poltergeist," 1982 | Photo: Getty Images

HEATHER'S "UNUSUAL DEATH"

In January 1988, Heather began showing flu-like symptoms. The next morning, she collapsed at her home and was rushed to El Cajon Community Hospital. During the trip, she suffered cardiac arrest, but paramedics managed to restore her heartbeat.

They later flew her to the Children's Hospital of San Diego, where they discovered that she had an intestinal blockage and went for emergency surgery. Mike Meyer, the actress' manager and lawyer, said a section of her intestine bursted after ballooning to four inches in diameter.

Heather O'Rourke in "Happy Days" | Photo: Getty Images

Heather O'Rourke in "Happy Days" | Photo: Getty Images

Her cause of death was congenital stenosis of the intestine complicated by septic shock. Daniel Hollander, the chief of gastroenterology at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, said her death was "quite unusual" because she lacked previous symptoms of the bowel defect. He said ,

"I would have expected a lot of (digestive) difficulties throughout her life and not just to have developed a problem all of a sudden."

However, he also said it is possible for congenital bowel to narrow down, causing sudden symptom-free death if an infection had caused the bowel to rupture though it was very rare for the disorder to kill a child who's older and lacked initial symptoms.

Heather O'Rourke in "The Woman In White" | Photo: Getty Images

Heather O'Rourke in "The Woman In White" | Photo: Getty Images

He further speculated that her bowel narrowing might not have been congenital but could have developed suddenly due to inflammation. This is because the defect usually is apparent at birth. After all, it causes severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and nausea.

Dr. Frank Sinatra, head of gastroenterology at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, stated that congenital bowel narrowing could cause sudden death after years without symptoms if the infection caused the bowel to rupture or become perforated.

Heather O'Rourke in "Second Time Around" | Photo: Getty Images

Heather O'Rourke in "Second Time Around" | Photo: Getty Images

Also, Dr. Paul Hyman, chief of pediatric gastroenterology at Harbor-University of California, Los Angeles, Medical Center, stated that moderate bowel narrowing at birth might not cause symptoms, but a lack of symptoms before age 12 ″would be distinctly unusual.″

Meyer went on to say that it was weird as everything had happened too quickly. He said: ″It's weird. She was completely healthy Saturday, they thought she had the flu on Sunday, and she was dead on Monday." Another doctor, Dr. Hartley Cohen, a USC gastroenterologist, said, "It just doesn't seem to quite make sense."

Heather O'Rourke in "Happy Days" | Photo: Getty Images

KATHLEEN ON HER DAUGHTER'S DEATH

Furious over her daughter's death, in May 1988, Kathleen filed a wrongful-death suit to California Superior Court in San Diego County. She claimed that her daughter's illness was misdiagnosed, and this eventually caused her death.

The primary defendants of the suit were the Kaiser Foundation Hospital and Southern California Permanente Medical Group, a plan in which a rotating staff treats patients.

Heather O'Rourke held by JoBeth Williams in a scene from "Poltergeist" | Photo: Getty Images

Heather O'Rourke held by JoBeth Williams in a scene from "Poltergeist" | Photo: Getty Images

She stated that she had received a letter—dated March 30, 1987—from Dr. James Tipton of L.A.'s Kaiser Foundation Hospital saying there was "conclusive radiographic evidence for Crohn's disease [a chronic inflammation of the bowel]."

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The lawsuit pointed out that the operation performed on Heather on the day she died at Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego conclusively established that she did not have Crohn's disease but congenital stenosis that led to an acute bowel obstruction.

Heather O'Rourke photographed at a photo studio session in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

Heather O'Rourke photographed at a photo studio session in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

Kathleen argued that it was an intestinal blockage that had probably been present since birth. If they looked at the X-rays properly, it would have disclosed that the condition should have been treated surgically and not with medications only.

However, the Kaiser spokesman Alan Mann maintained that they had reviewed the case extensively and were satisfied that the diagnosis and the care provided were accurate.

Heather O'Rourke in "Happy Days" | Photo: Getty Images

In her lawsuit, the Beverly Hills attorney Sanford Gage, Kathleen's lawyer, revealed that she sought unspecified damages. "It covers both the personal loss [the emotional stress suffered by Heather's mother] and the economic loss."

For Kathleen, the loss was tremendous, and she remembered that she had told Heather, "I love you," and Heather replied, "I love you, too." These were their last words to each other before Heather passed on.

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The Tragic Real-Life Story Of The Poltergeist Cast

The Freelings frantically search for Carol Ann in 'Poltergeist' (1982)

"They're heeeeere !" Who can forget those chilling words from little Carol Ann (Heather O'Rourke) as ghostly apparitions projected out of a television and into the Freeling family household in the classic 1982 horror film  Poltergeist ? "The TV People" led by the evil Reverend Kane (Julian Beck) would go on to terrorize audiences (as well as the Freelings) in three movies, including 1986's Poltergeist II: The Other Side  and the final film in the trilogy, 1988's Poltergeist III .

All three films are filled with memorable, spine-tingly moments such as the hideous clown doll that pulls Robbie Freeling (Oliver Robins) under his bed, or perhaps the nightmarish tree that smashes through his bedroom window and literally tries to devour him. Another etched-in-brain scene for many is from the second film, when Steve ( Craig T. Nelson ) swallows a possessed worm while guzzling a bottle of tequila, which leads to him eventually vomiting out an H.R. Giger monstrosity. What happens in these movies is truly the stuff of nightmares, but to many, it's what happened in real life to some of the cast members that's far more tragic.

Even if you're just a casual moviegoer or horror fan, you've probably heard of "the Poltergeist curse." It's been the subject of many online articles, TV specials and mini-documentaries, including E! True Hollywood Story: Curse of the Poltergeist and most recently, episode three of Shudder's Cursed Films . Sadly, four lead actors from the trilogy all suffered deaths within a six-year span following the original film's release, leading many to believe that the movie sets were somehow cursed. This led to other various myths and exaggerated claims about what happened on the set — but before we get into that, let's look at the four main deaths that paved the way for the now infamous curse.

Dominique Dunne

Perhaps one of the most grisly and tragic deaths was that of 22-year-old actress Dominique Dunne, who played the eldest sister in the first film, Dana Freeling. Her character was mentioned in Poltergeist II as being off to college, but the reality was, any ideas screenwriters might have had for her character in the sequel had to be scrapped entirely due to Dunne's untimely death just months after the original movie was released. 

On the evening of October 30, 1982, Dunne was brutally strangled by an aggravated ex-boyfriend. The assailant, identified as sous chef John Sweeney, showed up at her West Hollywood home in hopes of repairing their relationship and moving back in with her. An argument erupted on Dunne's driveway, where the deadly attack took place. When police arrived at the scene, Sweeney was quoted as saying "I've killed my girlfriend!" 

At the time, Dunne was still alive; she was rushed to Cedar's-Sinai Medical Center, where she remained in a coma for five days and never regained consciousness. On November 4, 1982, just three weeks before what would have been her 23rd birthday, she was removed from life support and pronounced dead. Dunne was considered a rising star at the time and had just landed the role of Robin Maxwell in the 1983 science-fiction miniseries  V , which she was rehearsing for the night she was assaulted.

Julian Beck

Arguably one of the creepiest villains in horror history is Reverend Henry Kane, the human form of "The Beast" played by thespian Julian Beck. He's the gaunt, 19th century-looking cult leader who spends most of Poltergeist II trying to infiltrate the Freeling residence and abduct Carol Ann — and yes, he's also the same dude who possessed the aforementioned tequila worm. Even though he completed principal photography of the film, Beck would never live to see the theatrical release of Poltergeist II since he passed away on September 14, 1985 — during the film's post-production period and a full eight months before its premiere. 

Unlike Dominique Dunne's shocking murder, Beck passed away after a long battle with stomach cancer, something he had been diagnosed with in 1983 . So while his death is certainly unfortunate, it also definitely wasn't out of left field. Beck was dying of stomach cancer during the production and the entire crew was well aware of his diagnosis. Some believe it even influenced his chilling final performance in a film.

Will Sampson

Some remember actor Will Sampson as Chief Bromden from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , but horror fans know him as Taylor, the Native American shaman from Poltergeist II . Sampson passed away due to post-operative kidney failure following a heart and lung transplant. Again, this is another death of a cast member that eerily occurred not long after the release of a Poltergeist movie. Sampson passed away on June 3, 1987 , but much like Beck's situation, he had a preexisting medical condition. Sampson suffered from scleroderma, a chronic degenerative condition that caused him severe malnourishment and other complications with his heart, skin, and lungs. He was only age 53 at his time of death.

Heather O'Rourke

The most well-known death that sparked and fuels the " Poltergeist curse" fire to this day was the shocking loss of Heather O' Rourke, who played Carol Ann — the young, angelic face of the entire franchise. During production of Poltergeist III in 1987, O'Rourke was undergoing treatment for Crohn's disease, which would turn out to be a misdiagnosis. In the third episode of  Shudder's   Cursed Films docuseries, director Gary Sherman shares several memories and speaks very fondly of the young actress, saying that, aside from O'Rourke's "chipmunk cheeks" — a side effect caused by the bowel inflammation medications she was taking at the time — she remained in high spirits and overall seemed physically fine and enjoyed her time on the set. Little did he know or anyone else know that something fatal was brewing within. 

Fast forward to January of 1988, when O'Rourke became severely ill and her health started deteriorating at an alarming rate. On February 1, 1988, she was rushed to the hospital, where she  ultimately died due to septic shock caused by undetected intestinal blockage. This blockage ruptured and the toxins released in her body proved to be too much. During an operation the 12-year-old O'Rourke was undergoing the same day of her death, it was also revealed that she did not have Crohn's disease, but an acute bowel obstruction due to a congenital stenosis — something that could've been surgically corrected had it been detected sooner. With only four months until the film's release, her death caused the studio to force Sherman to shoot an entirely new ending using a double, something the director was strongly against. He preferred that the movie not be released at all, but MGM ultimately had its way. O'Rourke's tragic end would be the fourth death of a Poltergeist major cast member in a six-year span.

Lou Perryman

While the deaths of Dominique Dunne, Julian Beck, Will Sampson, and Heather O'Rourke are seen as part of the supposed "curse," there is another death that some fans like to bring up to further pile on the evidence, but it happened 17 years after the release of the original movie and it's very likely someone you don't recall seeing. Actor Lou Perryman, who had a very minor role as a construction worker named Pugsley, was gruesomely murdered in his home by Seth Christopher Tatum — an ex-con with a history of mental health problems. On April 1, 2009 , Tatum was on the run after a violent altercation with his mother's ex-boyfriend when he randomly came across Perryman's home (the two had never met) and killed him. His reason? Just to steal his car. The case was settled two years later when the killer, who'd stopped taking his medication for bipolar disorder shortly before the murder, was sentenced to life in prison .

Oliver Robins is alive and well

It's apparent there's a lot of real-life death surrounding the Poltergeist movies, and while some like to believe it has to do with a curse, others believe it's simply a string of unfortunate coincidences. You might also hear other false or exaggerated Poltergeist myths, such as all three kids from the original film died, which is totally untrue. Robbie Freeling, played by Oliver Robins, is alive and well. In a 2015 interview with the Daily Mail , when asked about the strange deaths surrounding the franchise, he told them he believes there is no curse. "To be completely honest, I don't think anyone that was involved in the movie ever really took the curse seriously. There is no curse — it is just tragic coincidences," he said. "People may try and connect the dots and make something out of it, but they are possibly going to make connections that probably aren't there. They do make for great spooky stories, but at the end of the day, they really aren't true."

Did real human skeletons cause the curse?

If there is a Poltergeist  curse, what caused it? One widely-discussed theory is the fact that real skeletons were used by the effects crew in the first two movies, most notably in the muddy swimming pool scene from the original with Diane Freeling, played by JoBeth Williams. Desecration of human remains plays a big role in the first film as the probable cause of the Freelings' pesky poltergeist problem. How ironic would it be if these real skeletons somehow jinxed the cast? This theory doesn't exactly hold up, though — Williams is still alive and well, as is daddy Freeling himself, Craig T. Nelson.

One man who is strongly against the notion that these real skeletons led to the deaths of the actors is special make-up effects artist Craig Reardon, who worked on Poltergeist . "The subject of the skeletons that were used in Poltergeist , to my utter amazement has created sort of an online mythology, and not a pretty one," said Reardon when interviewed for Shudder's Cursed Films . "Apparently, there's a contingent of people out there who believe that the fact that real human skeletons were used are some kind of pretext to 'explain' why two actresses that worked in the film subsequently died, which is not only just conceptually ridiculous, but is personally offensive to me."

As Reardon went on to point out, "human skeletons have been used in movies for years and years." Examples cited in his interview include  House on Haunted Hill  and the 1931  Frankenstein.  "No low-budget B film is gonna pay anybody to sculpt a human skeleton when all you had to do was go to a biological supply house and get a human skeleton. You know, wake up and small the budget. That's really the way it worked," he added. "The idea of having a few of them on the set of Poltergeist and killing two lovely young girls is a pretty pernicious idea."

Zelda Rubinstein slams the curse

Perhaps one of the most famous Poltergeist characters of all, arguably only second to Carol Ann, is the clairvoyant ghost-vanquisher Tangina "This house is clean" Barrons, played to perfection by Zelda Rubinstein, who passed away at the age of 76 in 2010 due to complications that followed a mild heart attack. Most never consider her death part of the curse due to her age, cause of death, and how far removed it was from the close string of deaths between 1982 and 1988. And that's likely how she would want it. Much like Oliver Robins, Rubinstein always felt the idea of a Poltergeist  curse was just superstitious nonsense. In fact, you might even say she found it to be downright preposterous. 

In a 1988 interview during a Showbiz Today segment on CNN, she candidly spoke about the curse in her signature gracious manner but ended it on a classy yet blunt note. "I owe it to Heather to present her case, as most honestly and lovingly as I can. I loved this child very much and I am still very grieved at her passing," said Rubinstein. "Heather died because of an undetected, congenital, anatomical defect. Julian Beck died from cancer in his mature years. Will Sampson passed away after receiving a heart and lung transplant. It's my understanding he had an environmental disease. And Dominique Dunne died at the hands of an extremely ill-directed, passionate boyfriend. These are reasons, I do not call this a jinx. I think that it's pretty much a courtesy to put to an end this superstitious crap ."

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What Really Happened During the Making of Poltergeist

little girl from poltergeist death

By Anthony Breznican

Poltergeist

Poltergeist is still haunting, even after 40 years. The movie about a family menaced by malevolent spirits in their cookie-cutter suburban home plays like a list of collective nightmares: The cackling clown doll that comes to life. The closet that’s actually a portal to another world. The monstrous tree that rips through a bedroom window. And the angelic little girl, pressing her hands against a whispering, static-filled TV screen and calling out to her slumbering household: “Theyyyy’re heeeere…”

Then there is the swimming pool—an open pit the family is just beginning to excavate in their backyard. This is where the source of ghostly rage is finally revealed during the stormy climax, as the bodies of those who were buried beneath the property when it was a graveyard rise up around the mother, played by JoBeth Williams, who has slipped and fallen into the murky runoff.

Long after filming this sequence, the actor learned an unsettling truth. “I always assumed that the skeletons were made by the prop department,” Williams tells Vanity Fair. “A few years later, I ran into one of the special effects guys, and I said, ‘You guys making all those skeletons, that must have been really amazing.’ He said, ‘Oh, we didn’t make them, those were real.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Yeah, they were real skeletons.’”

Image may contain Human Person Mud Animal Reptile Sea Life Turtle and Water

JoBeth Williams (left) and costar.

Even now, her voice catches a little. “I don’t know where they were bought from, but that really grossed me out,” she says. “I’m glad I didn’t know that then, because I would’ve really been screaming a lot—for real.”

To commemorate its four-decade anniversary, Poltergeist has been restored and released for the first time in 4K Ultra HD , and Williams and Craig T. Nelson —who starred as the besieged parents—agreed to exclusive new interviews to revisit the memories, controversies, tragedies, and legacy of one of the most popular scary movies of all time.

Both Williams and Nelson were still relative newcomers back in 1982, when the film was released. Williams had been on the soap opera Guiding Light and appeared in a handful of movies, among them Kramer vs. Kramer and Stir Crazy, which also featured Nelson in a small role. He had been a Groundlings performer and comedy writer with supporting turns in …And Justice for All and Private Benjamin.

Poltergeist was an altogether different entity for both of them—a big-budget scary crowdpleaser packed with state-of-the-art stunts and visual effects. It was all overseen by Steven Spielberg , also early in his career, but already recognized as a trailblazer.

“At the time, it was huge,” Nelson recalls. “At MGM, we had three or four different stages, and the pool. You had these enormous sets and you had this kind of story that may or may not make sense—depending on how they did it.”

Image may contain Human Person Craig T. Nelson and Finger

Craig T. Nelson, holding the tether to his wife and daughter.

The Authorship Question

Poltergeist was credited to Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper, but by now it’s common knowledge that Spielberg was, so to speak, a ghost director.

“It was so exciting to work on a movie that Spielberg was involved in, and he was very, very actively involved,” Williams says. “I mean, it was his story idea and he helped write it.”

Initially, Spielberg wanted Stephen King to cowrite the Poltergeist screenplay, but the author didn’t respond. ( King has said he was “on a ship going across the Atlantic” when the offer came in, and didn’t get the message in time). Hooper also had King bona fides, having directed the acclaimed TV miniseries based on his vampire novel Salem’s Lot, and with Spielberg working simultaneously on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, he handed over the director’s title on Poltergeist to Hooper. Spielberg would still oversee the film as a producer, but the stars admit it was a collaboration between the two filmmakers.

“He was taking more of a hands-on approach,” Nelson says of Spielberg. “But it was always from a very creative collaboration. There was no tension on the set in that regard. It was determining how you were going to shoot things that had never been done before.”

Image may contain Hand Human Person Holding Hands Light and Flare

JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, and Zelda Rubinstein as the psychic Tangina Barrons.

When Poltergeist debuted, just a week before E.T. , Spielberg published a letter to Hooper in The Hollywood Reporter to publicly credit him for his work, thanking him for allowing a “unique, creative relationship” and for his “openness.” 

Still, the notion that it was more of Spielberg film than a Hooper one has persisted. Not only does the finished movie feel like a classic Amblin picture, due in part to Spielberg’s longtime editor, Michael Kahn, cutting it together, but Hooper never made another film that had the same tone, even though the pair would collaborate again on a 1987 episode of the TV series Amazing Stories and the 2002 alien saga Taken. (Hooper died in 2017 at the age of 74.)

“I think, in his heart of hearts, he would’ve loved to have directed it,” Williams says of Spielberg. “He was always there. And Tobe was not as experienced as Steven was. He very much listened to Steven’s ideas about things, because it was Steven’s movie, really. And I’m sure there were times when it drove Tobe crazy to have Steven so actively involved, but he never let on. They were both kind of there on the set. Tobe would give direction, sometimes Steven would add to that or give other direction, but I think it’s fair to say that it was sort of a combo of the two of them, because certainly Steven was actively involved.”

The Dead Pool

Williams played Diane Freeling, a stay-at-home mom who holds everything together, even in the best of times. The children included moody high schooler Dana (Dominique Dunne), scrappy little boy Robbie ( Oliver Robins ) and sweet-as-pie preschooler Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke.)

Nelson was the tough but tender man of the house, a real estate agent whose company built their home, as well as all the others in the neighborhood. It’s implied that that’s why the spirits of those buried on the grounds torment the Freelings. As Nelson’s character shouts at his boss in the final scene: “You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the headstones!”

“I hadn’t read that many movie scripts,” Williams says now. “I loved the story. I loved the family connection. And when it came to descriptions of the effects and that kind of stuff, I just skimmed over that. There was this one line that says: ‘Diane falls into muddy swimming pool with skeletons.’ And I just passed over that. I didn’t even notice it.”

Image may contain Soil Nature and Outdoors

JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson’s characters save their son Robbie (Oliver Robins)

Then one day she found herself in an MGM soundstage doused with rain, soaked with mud, and tangled up with actual human skeletons. Decades before at the same studio, Esther Williams epitomized glamour as the graceful beauty who led teams of synchronized swimmers in kaleidoscopic water dances. JoBeth Williams (no relation) thought of that as she slid and slipped repeatedly into the muck.

“It was awful. First of all, they made the mud with peat. And peat begins to really stink after about a day, it begins to smell like dog poop. And so it was really icky to be in it,” she says.

“I ended up in that pool, oh, yeah,” Nelson adds. “There were the cadavers floating in there and strange things, amoebas. I mean, stuff had fallen in there.”

“I’d have to scream, and I’d think, Oh, God, I don’t want to get this water in my mouth because I’m sure I’ll get terrible diseases,” Williams says.

Don’t Go Into the Light (Or the Giant Fans)

Neither Williams nor Nelson spoke about eerie feelings or supernatural happenings on the set. They were more unsettled by tangible dangers, like the array of electricity that rimmed the pool full of corpses.

“It was of course surrounded by lights and surrounded by giant fans called Ritters , which are about 16 feet in diameter,” Williams says. “When I first had to get into the pool, I was very scared because I’m nervous about electricity and water. And I just had this image of one of those fans or the lights falling into it and being electrocuted. I told Steven that I was scared to do it and he said, ‘I’ll tell you what, I’ll get in with you.’ He put on waders and he said, “First of all, it’s all grounded, so it couldn’t electrocute you.’”

It did manage to calm her down, so she could focus on freaking out about supernatural terrors. “He stood in that water for the first few takes that I did,” Williams says. “And I thought that was very sweet of him.”

Image may contain Face Human Person and JoBeth Williams

JoBeth Williams as Diane Freeling in Poltergeist.

Nelson’s primary worry was a scene in which he had to rescue their son from a knotted old tree that comes to life and tries to swallow him.

“It was terrible. They made this tree and they put thorns in it—it was crazy,” he says. “It was a rubber tree, but at the same time you’re climbing up there, and you’re going, Why? Did the tree really need to have thorns on it? I mean, couldn’t you have done it with nice little pillow things when you crawl up, and they look like [thorns]?”

He remembers asking a lot of strange questions on the Poltergeist set, like during a scene in which a fresh steak appears suddenly to be rotten. “I remember asking the prop guys a lot of things. ‘Where did you get maggots? Where do you order maggots from? Is that something that’s on your truck all the time?’”

The Parents’ Secret Stash

Diane and Steve Freeling were a modern couple despite living what now looks like a retro-traditional life. Ozzie and Harriet of the early ’80s, but less self-assured. They were parents with passions and insecurities, and Poltergeist devotes much of its first act to making the family relatable before turning their lives upside down, sometimes literally. 

“You’re going from that kind of sublime, upper-middle-class living, having a family that’s fairly stable, raised in an area that’s nice, to the horror that you’re going to experience later on,” Nelson says.

In the movie, Steve and Diane are still in love, respectful but playful with one another, and secretly smoke marijuana together in their bedroom after the children are tucked in—a scene that scandalized generations of kid viewers who had no idea moms and dads did such things. A lot of that bedroom playfulness was improvised.

“Craig was a comedy writer at one time. In fact, I think he did stand-up too in his early days. But he’s very funny, and so Tobe and Steven would just let us run with things,” Williams says. One of her favorite bits was a shirtless Nelson, pooching out his belly and then sucking it back in as he stands before a full-length mirror saying, “Before, after…before, after…”

“Craig got into that whole thing, doing that with his stomach, which of course had me in genuine hysterics,” Williams says. “And I think we really began to feel like we were stoned after a while.”

“We weren’t by the way,” she quickly adds.

Nelson explains that not-so-special effect. “We rolled up those joints of oregano and tried to get them lit and puff away,” Nelson says.

For those keeping score: The skeletons were real, but the weed was not.

Image may contain Light Flare Human Person Lighting and Sunlight

Craig T. Nelson outside the Freeling home as vengeful spirits prepare to destroy it.

The Weird Neighbor Interaction

Williams acknowledged that the Freelings getting high on their own supply could be interpreted as an explanation for one of Poltergeist ’s more inexplicably offbeat moments. It happens early in the film, when the Freelings can no longer deny something supernatural is happening in their home and visit their befuddled neighbor to ask if anything similar has occurred there. Steve and Diane snicker and giggle throughout the exchange, which raises the question—did they partake to calm their nerves before going next door?

“No, I think it was just the absurdity of what we were going through, because what we were saying was basically insane,” Williams says, before changing course. “And I think, yes, maybe we were a little stoned. I don’t know, we didn’t plan that! But it could have easily read that way.”

She says their stifled laughter was actually real. They couldn’t stop laughing after Spielberg told them to pantomime that bugs were pestering them during the nighttime scene. “Steven said, ‘Well, there are probably some mosquitoes,’ so then we got into slapping the mosquitoes and we were genuinely hysterical,” Williams says.

The Downside of Being Upside Down

One of the most physically demanding scenes for Williams was when her character is thrown up against the ceiling of her bedroom and tossed around by invisible forces. To accomplish this, a replica of the Freeling bedroom was built on a massive gimbal, and she rolled along the walls and ceiling like a sock in an empty clothes drier. The camera and its operator were strapped to the “floor” and would be shooting upside down while gravity played havoc with the actor.

That created the illusion that she was actually weightless. But it was punishing to shoot. “Let’s just say the charm wore off after about 12 takes,” Williams says.

JoBeth Williams as Diane Freeling thrown against the ceiling of her bedroom in Poltergeist.

JoBeth Williams as Diane Freeling, thrown against the ceiling of her bedroom in Poltergeist.

“I had to be on a 360-degree turning set, which I had never even heard of. And when they said, ‘You’re going to just ride this thing and slide along the ceiling,’ I went, ‘Okay, I see.’ What they didn’t say was that I’d be doing 50 takes of it and by the end, my elbows and knees were bleeding,” she recalls.

The scene happens at a point when her character is most relaxed, and most vulnerable. She has just taken a soothing bath, and is wearing little more than a baggy sleeping T-shirt. So, there was no way to hide padding.

“And the poor cameraman who had to ride the thing like a Ferris wheel…” she adds. “He was strapped in, and several times, he had to get off and go throw up because it was literally making him physically sick, but he carried on. And when I got off after a few takes, I said, ‘Steven, I’m bleeding. My elbows and knees are bleeding!’ And he said, ‘That’s all right. We can just wipe the blood off. It’ll never show.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I feel much better now. Thank you.’ I had to laugh.”

The Lost Children

Although this didn’t happen during the making of Poltergeist, it’s difficult to watch the movie now without thinking of the untimely deaths of two of the actors who played the Freeling children. Dominique Dunne, who was 22, was killed by her ex-boyfriend in the fall of 1982, just a few months after the film’s debut. And Heather O’Rourke, who was five during the making of Poltergeist, died unexpectedly in 1988 at the age of 12 from intestinal disorder.

“Heather was just a sweetheart and shy and beautiful. She was just this wonderful little girl, and she was perfect for the role, perfect for just who she was in her innocence,” Nelson says. “Dominique was basically a kid who was doing a big movie and had a life of her own. Everybody, in reality, just had a good time.”

Image may contain Human Person JoBeth Williams Dance Pose Leisure Activities Craig T. Nelson and Richard Lawson

From left: Dominique Dunne, JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, and Oliver Robins as the Freelings, with Beatrice Straight and Richard Lawson as paranormal investigators.

“She was so sweet and easy to work with. And she just took my hand the first day and held on to me for the rest of the time,” Williams says of O’Rourke. “And if I would cry, she would cry. If I would scream, she would scream. Here’s this little five-year-old girl who has this innate empathy. She was truly a gifted little actress.”

Williams says the playacting she and Nelson did together often extended to the young actors. “They would have us improvise with the kids at the table when we were having a family scene,” she says. “Before they’d start rolling, the four of us, or five of us, whoever was there, would all improvise with each other and Craig and I would get the kids involved in it. By the time they rolled the camera, we were very comfortable with each other and playful and having fun, which was one of the things that I really loved about the way we worked on that movie.”

“Dominique was a doll, and she was always complaining about the fact that she was having to play 16 and she was really 21,” Williams added. “It just felt silly to her. And then she did the scene where she had the big hickey on her neck [in the final scene, when she comes home from a date and sees her home being destroyed]. We all thought that was hilarious. That, I think was Steven’s idea. And she was just delightful, a delightful young woman. We were all just stunned when she was killed. That was really a horrifying thing.”

In 1983, Dunne’s killer, John Sweeney, was acquitted of second-degree murder and convicted on the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, which Dunne’s family considered an affront . Her father, frequent Vanity Fair contributor Dominick Dunne, became a champion for victims’ rights , and chronicled her killer’s trial f or the magazine.

O’Rourke went on to appear in Poltergeist II in 1986, and had already shot Poltergeist III in 1987 before her sudden illness and death. The third movie was released posthumously. Her mother, Kathleen O’Rourke Peele, later sued her daughter’s doctors , saying they had misdiagnosed the birth defect of her severe bowel obstruction as Crohn’s disease before her death. The lawsuit was settled out of court. 

Image may contain Clothing Apparel Human Person Indoors Interior Design Furniture Screen Electronics and Monitor

Craig T. Nelson as Steve Freeling, Heather O’Rourke as Carol Anne, and JoBeth Williams as Diane Freeling.

“I think because these two were both so young, it was so shocking,” Williams says now of Dunne and O’Rourke. “Heather’s loss was just staggering. And her mother, Kathy, called me actually right after we all got the news, and she was at a loss.”

Williams says O’Rourke’s family was grappling with how they could be unaware she had such a life-threatening medical condition. It brought them back to something Williams had shared during the making of Poltergeist about Heather’s resilience. “I had said to her mother, to Kathy, ‘Heather is such a trooper,’ because we did that whole scene with where we were supposed to have fallen through the ceiling and were covered in goop, and it was freezing and we were incredibly cold. She’d never complained. I said, ‘Kathy, she’s amazing.’”

“And then Kathy called me and said, ‘I was thinking about that because Heather had these stomach cramps for a few days before, but she didn’t complain about it.’” Williams recalls Kathleen telling her that “[Heather] didn’t say, ‘I’ve got this really bad pain.’ She would maybe say, ‘Oh, my tummy hurts a little, or something.’” She adds, “So they didn’t know until it was too late. That was awful.”

The Years After…

Despite those tragic losses, Poltergeist remains an enduring testament to the work of all involved. Not only was it a box-office hit, but kids of the ’80s remember it playing nearly nonstop on HBO. It’s a movie generations have watched over and over again, and can often quote verbatim. Almost everyone has a Poltergeist memory—watching it on TV, watching it at a sleepover, watching it between your fingers. Some parents denounced it as too frightening at the time, but kids loved it. Maybe they loved it more because of that.

“I got so much fan mail from children, and I have several people who are now my friends, who are obviously younger than I am, who said, ‘You were the mom that I always wanted. You were supermom to me because you went into the unknown to save your kid,’” Williams says. “I got all this fan mail from kids all over the world saying, ‘You’re such a great mommy,’ because I fought for my child.”

Image may contain Human Person JoBeth Williams and Face

Years later, she also became one of those people who were eager to pass Poltergeist on to her own children, when they were growing up in the ’90s and early 2000s. “When it came out and parents were saying, ‘Oh, our kids are so scared, and it’s too scary for kids,’ there was all this sort of hoopla. So I said to my kids, ‘I did this movie Poltergeist. You’re going to hear about it, but I think you’re a little young to see it,’” Williams says. “So finally when they were maybe 10 and 13, I said, ‘Okay, I think it’s okay for you guys to see it now.’ And they both said, ‘Oh, mom, we watched that at a friend’s house years ago.’ They said it wasn’t that scary.”

The legacy of Poltergeist and the decades-long love for it stands as a kind of vindication for Williams—satisfaction for the banged-up elbows in the rotating bedroom and her nauseating plunge into that dreaded pool. She remembers taking a break during that sequence, “being pulled out at lunchtime and hosed down, literally hosed down and put in the back of a pickup truck” so they could be driven back to their trailers on the MGM lot.

“I turned to Craig and I said, ‘So this is the glamorous showbiz that I’ve always heard about!’ And that pretty much summed it up,” Williams says. “We kept looking at each other going, ‘Do you think this will just show in drive-ins for the rest of our lives? Or do you think it’ll actually be a movie anyone will want to see?’ And we didn’t know.”

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Heather O'Rourke

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Heather O'Rourke (December 27, 1975 – February 1, 1988) played the recurring role of Heather Pfister , the 7-year-old daughter of Ashley Pfister , a divorcee who was Fonzie's steady girlfriend in Season 10 of Happy Days , appearing in five episodes that season. Heather was well known for her role as Carol Anne Fleming in the blockbuster 1982 Steven Spielberg film series Poltergeist .

  • 1.1 Early life
  • 3.1 Lawsuit
  • 3.2 Lasting ramifications
  • 4 Filmography
  • 5 External links

Life and career [ ]

A child actress, Heather was discovered at the age of five by director Steven Spielberg while eating lunch with her mother at the MGM commissary. Spielberg cast her as Carol Anne Freeling in the 1982 horror film Poltergeist . She would go on to reprise the role in the second and third installments.

In addition to her roles in the Poltergeist series , O'Rourke also had her recurring role as Heather Pfister on Happy Days from 1982 to 1983, and made several television guest appearances. She died at the age of 12 of cardiac arrest and septic shock caused by a misdiagnosed intestinal stenosis in February 1988.

Early life [ ]

O'Rourke was born in San Diego, California to Kathleen and Michael O'Rourke. Her mother worked as a seamstress and her father was a construction worker. She had an older sister, Tammy. Kathleen and Michael divorced in 1981, and O'Rourke's mother married truck driver James A. "Jim" Peele in 1984. After her parents' divorce, O'Rourke rarely saw her birth father and called her stepfather "Dad".

Before Heather had begun acting, the family lived in a trailer park in Anaheim. Her success later allowed the family to purchase a home in Big Bear Lake, California. In between acting jobs, O'Rourke attended Big Bear Elementary School where she was president of her class. At the time of her death, the family was living in Lakeside, California.

In a contemporary interview with American Premiere magazine, director Steven Spielberg explained that he was looking for a "'beatific' four-year-old child...every mother's dream" for the lead in his 1982 horror film Poltergeist . While eating in the MGM commissary, Spielberg saw five-year-old Heather O'Rourke having lunch with her mother while older sister Tammy was shooting Pennies from Heaven. After his lunch, Spielberg approached the family and offered O'Rourke the Poltergeist role; she was signed the next day, beating Drew Barrymore who was up for the role.

In the Poltergeist trilogy, O'Rourke played Carol Anne Freeling, a young suburban girl who becomes the conduit and target for supernatural entities. The New York Times noted that she had played the key role in the films and commented, "With her wide eyes, long blonde hair and soft voice, she was so striking that the sequel played off her presence." During the production of the original Poltergeist , Spielberg twice accommodated the child actress when frightened. When scared by performing a particular stunt, Spielberg replaced O'Rourke with a stunt double wearing a blonde wig; and when disturbed by the portrayal of adult abuse toward the child characters, Spielberg did not require her to perform the take again. For her work in Poltergeist, O'Rourke earned between US$35,000–$100,000. O'Rourke played the role in all three films. O'Rourke and Zelda Rubinstein were the only original cast members to appear in the third film, Poltergeist III .

O'Rourke's delivery of the lines "They're here!" in the first film, and "They're baa-aack!" in the second (that film's tagline), placed her in the collective pop culture consciousness of the United States. "They're here!" is #69 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Movie Quotes.

After her work in 1982's Poltergeist, O'Rourke secured several television and TV movie roles. In April 1983 she starred as herself alongside Morey Amsterdam and well-known Walt Disney animated characters in the hour-long television special, Believe You Can ... and You Can! She also appeared in CHiPs, Webster, The New Leave It to Beaver, Our House, and had a recurring role on Happy Days as Heather Pfister. In the television movies Massarati and the Brain and 1985's Surviving: A Family in Crisis, she played Skye Henry and Sarah Brogan, respectively.

O'Rourke became ill in early 1987 and was misdiagnosed by doctors at Kaiser Permanente Hospital as having Crohn's disease. She was prescribed cortisone to treat the disease, which reportedly caused her cheeks to appear puffy and large. 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 she was airlifted by helicopter to Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, where she died later that day.

Speaking to reporters, O'Rourke's manager David Wardlow initially announced that it was believed she 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.

O'Rourke was interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery on February 5, 1988. Her tomb is a scheduled stop for "Haunted Hollywood" tours.

Lawsuit [ ]

On May 25, 1988, Sanford M. Gage, the O'Rourke family attorney, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Diego. O'Rourke had been seen by doctors at Kaiser since birth, and the suit claimed that they failed to properly diagnose her long-standing small-bowel obstruction: had they not simply treated her for Crohn's disease with prescription drugs, she could have been cured by means of a simple operation; and this misdiagnosis caused O'Rourke's death. Kaiser Permanente spokeswoman Janice Seib responded: "We have reviewed the case extensively, and we believe that the diagnosis and the course of action taken by our physicians was entirely appropriate. It's a very complex case, complicated by a number of factors, and not given to any simple answers." The case went to arbitration and was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Lasting ramifications [ ]

O'Rourke's death complicated Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's marketing for her last work, Poltergeist III , out of fear of appearing to be exploiting her death. Tom Skerritt and Nancy Allen, O'Rourke's co-stars, were discouraged from giving interviews about the film to avoid questions about her death. O'Rourke died four months before the theatrical release of Poltergeist III, which was dedicated to her memory.

O'Rourke's death (as well as four others) has been attributed to a supposed curse on the Poltergeist films and those associated with them; this urban legend supposedly stems from a real human skeleton used as a prop in the first film. According to backstage personnel, the ghost of O'Rourke herself haunts Paramount Pictures' stage #19, where she filmed episodes of Happy Days.

On September 26, 2008, DirecTV began airing a national TV advertisement developed by Deutsch; directed by Erich Joiner and cinematographed by Daniel Mindel, the advert features O'Rourke's famous "They're here!" scene from Poltergeist blended with contemporary footage of her co-star, Craig T. Nelson, intended to mimic the film. After the advertisement drew criticism from bloggers and columnists for exploiting O'Rourke, DirecTV responded in a Q&A session with readers of The New York Times. Jon Gieselman, DirecTV's senior vice president for advertising and public relations, explained that O'Rourke's family "was involved in the spot from start to finish [and that] Heather’s mother not only approved, [...] she also commented that Heather’s inclusion was a wonderful tribute to her daughter."

Filmography [ ]

External links [ ].

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Dread Central

Documentary ‘Heather O’Rourke: She Was Here’ About ‘Poltergeist’ Star Will Debut In 2023

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haunted house

A new documentary is hoping to clear the record about the tragically short life of a beloved 80s child actor. Heather O’Rourke won hearts in the first three  Poltergeist  movies, with the last one released posthumously.  Heather O’Rourke: She Was Here  will debut in 2023, over 30 years after her death. 

According to the IMDB Summary  Heather O’Rourke: She Was Here “ is a historical film that will preserve Heather’s story with the help of those who knew her best. Heather’s legacy has recently become tarnished by rumors and false allegations. In She Was Here , the O’Rourke Family along with Heather’s co-stars will bring you up close and personal through their own stories along with never before seen photos and home video. “

Also Read: The Number 1 Psychological Thriller on Netflix Stars Florence Pugh And Fans Are Calling It “A cinematic masterpiece”

images - Documentary 'Heather O'Rourke: She Was Here' About 'Poltergeist' Star Will Debut In 2023

The rumors and false allegations mentioned may be related to Henry Winkler’s claims that O’Rourke was sexually abused and committed suicide. Although Winkler made these claims in 1988, they still make the rounds every so often. 

However, Heather’s sister Tammy refuted the claims three years ago in an interview on Fancounters. She shared memories of her sister being a regular kid that had aspirations to write and direct.

After battling various illnesses, O’Rourke died at the age of 12 in 1988. Her cause of death was ruled congenital stenosis of the intestine complicated by septic shock. Her death has been cited as one of the reasons people believe  Poltergeist  was a cursed film.

Very little is known about  Heather O’Rourke: She Was Here  at this point. However, what we do know is that it was directed by Nick Bailey of Fancounters Podcast. IMDB lists Craig T. Nelson, Linda Purl, and JoBeth Williams as some of the people interviewed alongside O’Rourke’s family and friends. 

There is a Facebook page for people who want to keep an eye on the project.

Let me know if you also want to dive into  Heather O’Rourke: She Was Here  to learn about the child behind all of the rumors at  @misssharai .

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Hollywood’s ‘Poltergeist’ curse after four film stars died mysteriously including 80s child star Heather O’Rourke

  • Bella Fowler from news.com.au
  • Published : 6:49 ET, Nov 23 2019
  • Updated : 7:04 ET, Nov 24 2019
  • Published : Invalid Date,

THE mysterious deaths of 1980s child actress Heather O'Rourke and three of her co-stars from the film Poltergeist has sparked fears of a "Hollywood curse".

Poltergeist is regarded as one of the most terrifying horror films of all time, it’s also known as the most “cursed” film in Hollywood.

 Heather O’Rourke's mysterious death in 1988 led many to believe of a curse surrounding the blockbuster film Poltergeist

The 1982 film’s grim history has followed it through decades is shrouded in superstition following a handful of mysterious cast deaths.

It even casting fear over the critically reviled 2015 remake.

The “Poltergeist curse”, as it’s become known, came about after four of the cast members died of mysterious circumstances – the most shocking being that of Heather O’Rourke.

Heather, who was 12 when the film was made, played protagonist Carol Anne in all three Poltergeist films.

Her chilling appearance and terrifying deliver of the line “They’re here” in the first film of the series, is what helped make the film successful

At 12 years old, she passed away suddenly.

The actress died in surgery when doctors were attempting to repair an acute bowel obstruction, caused by what was believed to be a long battle with Crohn’s disease, the  LA Times reported.

The young actress was tragically pronounced dead after suffering septic shock, on February 1, 1988.

Many believe the curse began the same year the first movie was released.

HOLLYWOOD MYSTERY

Dominique Dunne, who made her film debut in Poltergeist as the elder sister of Carol Anne, died a violent death shortly after its release in 1983.

She was strangled to death by her boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney.

According to a  New York Times  article, Dunne was put on life support after the attack but passed away five days later.

Sweeney was later found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, according to a 1983 article from  The Freelance Star.

The next actor to die was Julian Beck.

He played Carol Anne’s most intimidating spirit, doomsday cult leader Kane in Poltergeist II sadly did not live to see the release of the sequel.

He was 60 when he lost a battle with stomach cancer on September 14, 1985, according to  The New York Times.

The third mysterious death Will Sampson.

He portrayed a friendly ghost named Taylor in the second Polergeist film.

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Sampson died on June 3, 1987, aged 53, after of an illness caused by a chronic degenerative condition, according to  The Herald Journal.

When Poltergeist was rebooted in 2015, superstitious film buffs were quick to unearth rumours of the “curse” surrounding the film.

Starring Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt, the movie may have been widely panned, but no cast members died.

  • A version of this story appeared on news.com.au

 Julian Beck played Kane in Poltergeist II and died before the movie was released

What is Poltergeist about?

Set in a house built on an ancient Native American burial ground, the original  Poltergeist  trilogy told the terrifying story of the Freeling family and their encounters with the supernatural.

Gifted with a connection to the spiritual world, the youngest daughter, Carol Anne (Heather), was haunted by the malicious spirits buried beneath her home, including that of a sadistic doomsday cult leader named Kane.

It was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on June 4, 1982 and was a commercial success, grossing $1.13 million in the United States, making it the highest-grossing horror film of 1982 and eighth overall for the year.

The film’s special effects – inventive for its era – makes it frequently ranked among the greatest horror films of all time.

little girl from poltergeist death

Heather O'Rourke

Heather O'Rourke

  • Born December 27 , 1975 · San Diego, California, USA
  • Died February 1 , 1988 · San Diego, California, USA (cardiopulmonary arrest and intestinal stenosis)
  • Birth name Heather Michele O'Rourke
  • Height 4′ 8″ (1.42 m)
  • Heather Michele O'Rourke was born on December 27, 1975 in Santee, San Diego, California, to Kathleen, a seamstress, and Michael O'Rourke, a construction worker. She had German, Danish, English, and Irish ancestry. Heather entered American cinematic pop-culture before first grade. She was sitting alone in the MGM Commissary waiting for her mother when a stranger approached her asking her name. "My name is Heather O'Rourke," she said. "But you're a stranger, and I can't talk to you". When her mother returned, the stranger introduced himself as Steven Spielberg . She failed her first audition when she laughed at a stuffed animal Spielberg presented her with. He thought she was just too young (she had just turned five), and he was actually looking for a girl at least 6 years old, but he saw something in her and asked her to come in a second time with a scary story book. He asked her to scream a lot. She screamed until she broke down in tears. The next day at the commissary, Spielberg told her and her family, "I don't know what it is about her, but she's got the job." She instantly became a star overnight and was easily recognized at her favorite theme park, Disneyland, and everywhere in California. In the years that followed, Heather was a familiar face on TV in Happy Days (1974) (1982-1983), Webster (1983) (1983-1984), and The New Leave It to Beaver (1983) (1986-1987), three shows in which she had recurring roles. In 1986, the highly anticipated sequel to her first movie, Poltergeist (1982) , Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) debuted in theaters; it was her riveting performance in this film that cemented her a place in Hollywood history. In January 1987, Heather began to have flu-like symptoms and her legs and feet swelled. She was taken to Kaiser Hospital, and they confirmed it was only the flu, but when symptoms continued, they diagnosed her as having Crohn's Disease, a chronic inflammation of the intestine. She was on medication throughout the filming of her next project, Poltergeist III (1988) , and her cheeks were puffy in some scenes. She never complained during filming and did not appear sick to fellow cast members. When filming was completed in June, Heather and her family went on a road trip from Chicago, to New Orleans, to Orlando and all the way back to Lakeside where they lived at the time. Heather was well until January 31, 1988, Super Bowl Sunday. She was unable to keep anything in her stomach and crawled into bed with her parents that night, saying that she didn't feel well. The next morning, February 1, sitting at the breakfast table, she couldn't swallow her toast or Gatorade. Her mother noticed her fingers were blue and her hands were cold. Kathleen called the doctor's and was getting ready to put her clothes on when Heather fainted on the kitchen floor. When the paramedics came in, Heather insisted that she was "really okay" and was worried about missing school that day. In the ambulance, Heather suffered cardiac arrest and died on the operating table at 2:43 p.m. at the tender age of 12. Of all her achievements, Heather was proudest of being elected student body president of her 5th grade class in 1985. - IMDb Mini Biography By: Celia Foster
  • Parents Michael O'Rourke Kathleen O'Rourke
  • Relatives Tammy O'Rourke (Sibling)
  • Her blonde hair
  • Widely known and referred to as the Poltergeist (1982) girl
  • Is buried in the same cemetery as her Poltergeist (1982) co-star, Dominique Dunne .
  • Her last words were "I love you" to her mother.
  • Fellow cast members described Heather as having a calming influence on the set. They also described cast meetings with her: everyone would be quickly leafing through the script, while Heather was sitting calmly. Being able to memorize 60 pages of script an hour, she would have already memorized the entire script.
  • Heather's Poltergeist III (1988) co-star Tom Skerritt was one of her pallbearers at her funeral.
  • During all the horrors that proceeded while filming Poltergeist (1982) , only one scene really scared her: that in which she had to hold onto the headboard, while a wind machine blew toys into the closet behind her. She fell apart; Steven Spielberg stopped everything, put her in his arms, and said that she would not have to do that scene again (Cinefantasque, July 1988).
  • I hope people enjoy what I do. That would make me happy because I'd be bringing others pleasure while doing something I like.
  • I never watch horror movies as a rule.
  • Why do people want my autograph? It's just my name I'm writing.
  • I'm really not afraid of spooky things. When I have to look really frightened, I concentrate on scary things like losing my kittens or something like that.
  • I want to continue acting, but I want to be a director. I'd been thinking about it for a while. A couple of years ago, I decided it would be a different experience to work behind the camera. And I'd be able to work on scripts. But I like acting a lot. It's fun. You meet a lot of people.
  • Poltergeist III (1988) - $140,000
  • Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) - $75,000

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The tragic death of ‘Poltergeist’ actress Heather O’Rourke

Heather o'rourke is known for playing carol anne in the 'poltergeist' franchise. she played a possessed girl. she was only 12 years old when she died..

little girl from poltergeist death

  • Heather O’Rourke is known for playing Carol Anne in the Poltergeist franchise.
  • She played a possessed girl.
  • She was only 12 years old when she died.

Heather O’Rourke was just five years old when she landed a role in one of the most iconic movies in horror film history. The little sister of actress Tammy O’Rourke, was sitting alone one day, waiting for her mother in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cafeteria, when a stranger approached her and asked her name.

“My name is Heather O’Rourke. But you are a stranger and I can’t talk to you,” she replied. When her mother returned after a while, the mysterious man approached her and introduced himself as Steven Spielberg .

Steven Spielberg cast her on the spot

I recruit her without thinking

The legendary director was looking for a girl, around Heather’s age, to star in the terrifying movie Poltergeist (1982), where a middle-class American family moves to an idyllic neighborhood and deals with the unexplained paranormal phenomena in their new home.

From the first moment, Spielberg, co-producer and co-writer of the project, fell in love with that little blonde-haired, blue eyed girl, so he convinced her mother to bring her to an audition. However, the first screen test was a disaster because Heather couldn’t stop laughing. FILED UNDER: Autopsy of Heather O’Rourke

Heather was meant to play Carol Anne

Heather was the one

Spielberg insisted on seeing her again, although this second time he made her carry a book of scary stories. At one point in the second test, he asked her to scream a lot, and she started screaming so loud that she ended up crying.

The film, directed by Tobe Hooper, swept the box office becoming the highest-grossing horror film of 1982. The scares contained in the film were well formulated. Heather played little Carol Anne. FILED UNDER: Autopsy of Heather O’Rourke

Heather O’Rourke’s illness

Heather O'Rourke autopsy:

Shortly after starting to shoot Poltergeist III, Heather O’Rourke began to have serious health problems including headaches, tremors in her legs, swollen feet, and, to make matters worse, she couldn’t eat. She was hospitalized four times and diagnosed with the flu.

After her mother persisted, it was discovered that Heather had an intestinal parasite called giardia. This microscopic bug tends to form very large colonies with very serious consequences for the patient. FILED UNDER: Autopsy of Heather O’Rourke

Heather O’Rourke’s death

Heather O'Rourke autopsy:

After finally diagnosing her disease, doctors prescribed a very powerful medication in order to kill the parasite but the side effect caused intestinal inflammation. They had done everything possible to make her better.

The Poltergeist curse

All died

They immediately took her to into surgery but it was too late. After several erroneous diagnoses, little Heather O’Rourke died at 2:43 p.m. in the hospital. Although it may seem like a sudden and isolated situation, Heather O’Rourke was not the only actress in the Poltergeist franchise who died under strange circumstances at a young age.

Dominique Dunne, who played Carol Anne’s older sister in the first film, was strangled to death by her boyfriend in 1982, the same year the film was released. Julian Beck, the actor played Reverend Kane in the second of the films, suffered from stomach cancer that ended his life in 1985 without the film having been released yet. FILED UNDER: Autopsy of Heather O’Rourke

little girl from poltergeist death

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little girl from poltergeist death

Hollywood’s ‘Poltergeist’ curse after four film stars died mysteriously including 80s child star Heather O’Rourke

  • Bella Fowler from news.com.au
  • Published : 11:44, 23 Nov 2019
  • Updated : 12:00, 24 Nov 2019
  • Published : Invalid Date,

THE mysterious deaths of 1980s child actress Heather O'Rourke and three of her co-stars from the film Poltergeist has sparked fears of a "Hollywood curse".

Poltergeist is regarded as one of the most terrifying horror films of all time, it’s also known as the most “cursed” film in Hollywood.

 Heather O’Rourke's mysterious death in 1988 led many to believe of a curse surrounding the blockbuster film Poltergeist

The 1982 film’s grim history has followed it through decades is shrouded in superstition following a handful of mysterious cast deaths.

It even casting fear over the critically reviled 2015 remake.

The “Poltergeist curse”, as it’s become known, came about after four of the cast members died of mysterious circumstances – the most shocking being that of Heather O’Rourke.

Heather, who was 12 when the film was made, played protagonist Carol Anne in all three Poltergeist films.

Her chilling appearance and terrifying deliver of the line “They’re here” in the first film of the series, is what helped make the film successful

At 12 years old, she passed away suddenly.

The actress died in surgery when doctors were attempting to repair an acute bowel obstruction, caused by what was believed to be a long battle with Crohn’s disease, the  LA Times reported.

The young actress was tragically pronounced dead after suffering septic shock, on February 1, 1988.

Many believe the curse began the same year the first movie was released.

HOLLYWOOD MYSTERY

Dominique Dunne, who made her film debut in Poltergeist as the elder sister of Carol Anne, died a violent death shortly after its release in 1983.

She was strangled to death by her boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney.

According to a  New York Times  article, Dunne was put on life support after the attack but passed away five days later.

Sweeney was later found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, according to a 1983 article from  The Freelance Star.

The next actor to die was Julian Beck.

He played Carol Anne’s most intimidating spirit, doomsday cult leader Kane in Poltergeist II sadly did not live to see the release of the sequel.

He was 60 when he lost a battle with stomach cancer on September 14, 1985, according to  The New York Times.

The third mysterious death Will Sampson.

He portrayed a friendly ghost named Taylor in the second Polergeist film.

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Sampson died on June 3, 1987, aged 53, after of an illness caused by a chronic degenerative condition, according to  The Herald Journal.

When Poltergeist was rebooted in 2015, superstitious film buffs were quick to unearth rumours of the “curse” surrounding the film.

Starring Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt, the movie may have been widely panned, but no cast members died.

  • A version of this story appeared on news.com.au

 Julian Beck played Kane in Poltergeist II and died before the movie was released

What is Poltergeist about?

Set in a house built on an ancient Native American burial ground, the original  Poltergeist  trilogy told the terrifying story of the Freeling family and their encounters with the supernatural.

Gifted with a connection to the spiritual world, the youngest daughter, Carol Anne (Heather), was haunted by the malicious spirits buried beneath her home, including that of a sadistic doomsday cult leader named Kane.

It was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on June 4, 1982 and was a commercial success, grossing $1.13 million in the United States, making it the highest-grossing horror film of 1982 and eighth overall for the year.

The film’s special effects – inventive for its era – makes it frequently ranked among the greatest horror films of all time.

little girl from poltergeist death

IMAGES

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COMMENTS

  1. Heather O'Rourke

    Heather Michele O'Rourke (December 27, 1975 - February 1, 1988) was an American child actress. She had her breakthrough starring as Carol Anne Freeling in the supernatural horror Poltergeist (1982), which received critical acclaim and established her as an influential figure in the genre.

  2. Top Lawyer Confirms 'Poltergeist' Child Actor Killed by Hollywood

    Heather tragically died in 1988 aged just 12-years-old from intestinal stenosis after a bowel obstruction had caused a fatal infection that brought on septic shock resulting in cardiac arrest. Now, a top attorney has come forward with evidence that Heather was raped by powerful movie business elites on the set of a TV show called "Rocky Road."

  3. 'Poltergeist' Star Heather O'Rourke Dies at Age of 12

    Heather O'Rourke, the terrified youngster sucked into a spectral vacuum by supernatural spirits in the "Poltergeist" films, has died on an operating table at a San Diego hospital, it was...

  4. What happened to 12-year-old actress Heather O'Rourke.

    What happened to 12-year-old actress Heather O'Rourke. true crime In 1988, Heather O'Rourke starred in Poltergeist. Age 12, she died in mysterious circumstances. As an angelic little blonde girl in 1982, Heather O'Rourke spoke one of the most famous horror movie lines ever: "They're here." The movie was the mega hit Poltergeist.

  5. The 'Poltergeist' Curse: Inside the Mysterious Cast Deaths and Oddities

    Four cast members died during and soon after the filming of the series The majority of the fuel for the alleged curse stems from the deaths of multiple cast members. In total, four cast members...

  6. The Sad Discovery Made In Poltergeist Star Heather O'Rourke's ...

    Heather O'Rourke, the little girl who played Carol Anne, who was coveted by the scary spiritual entity in the classic Poltergeist, died at only 12 - but why?

  7. Mysterious death of 80s childstar Heather O'Rourke and the 'Hollywood

    Child actress Heather O'Rourke died in 1988. Photo / Supplied A 1980s classic became known as Hollywood's most "cursed" film following the untimely death of a 12-year-old actress. Not only is...

  8. Heather O'Rourke's Short Life and Tragic Death of the 'Poltergeist

    Mar 04, 2020 10:00 A.M. Heather O'Rourke was a young child star discovered by director Steven Spielberg and better known for starring in the '80s horror film "Poltergeist" and its subsequent sequels. Sadly, Heather's life was cut short at 12, when she passed away due to complications from intestinal stenosis. Advertisement.

  9. Heather O'Rourke, 'Poltergeist' Child Star, Dies

    Heather O'Rourke, the terrified youngster sucked into a spectral vacuum by supernatural spirits in the film "Poltergeist," is dead at the age of 12, it was learned today. The blonde ingenue, who...

  10. Heather O'Rourke death: How the Poltergeist childstar died

    At 12 years old, she passed away suddenly. The actress died in surgery when doctors were attempting to repair an acute bowel obstruction, caused by what was believed to be a long battle with Crohn ...

  11. 'Poltergeist' Heather O'Rourke Took Her Last Breath at Just 12

    By Titi Dokubo Sep 20, 2021 11:40 A.M. In 1987, Heather O'Rourke fell very ill. The first symptoms were nausea, and the hospital insisted that she had the flu. During the filming of "Poltergeist III," the child star began to undergo the first treatment for her condition even though it made her face puff. Advertisement

  12. The Tragic Real-Life Story Of The Poltergeist Cast

    On the evening of October 30, 1982, Dunne was brutally strangled by an aggravated ex-boyfriend. The assailant, identified as sous chef John Sweeney, showed up at her West Hollywood home in hopes of...

  13. What Really Happened During the Making of Poltergeist

    They're Heeere! Heather O'Rourke as Carol Anne Freeling, communing with spirits through her family's television in Poltergeist. © 1982 Turner Entertainment Co. Poltergeist is still haunting,...

  14. Heather O'Rourke

    Heather O'Rourke (December 27, 1975 - February 1, 1988) played the recurring role of Heather Pfister, the 7-year-old daughter of Ashley Pfister, a divorcee who was Fonzie's steady girlfriend in Season 10 of Happy Days, appearing in five episodes that season. Heather was well known for her role as Carol Anne Fleming in the blockbuster 1982 Steven Spielberg film series Poltergeist. A child ...

  15. Documentary 'Heather O'Rourke: She Was Here' About 'Poltergeist' Star

    Nov 18, 2022. A new documentary is hoping to clear the record about the tragically short life of a beloved 80s child actor. Heather O'Rourke won hearts in the first three Poltergeist movies ...

  16. Hollywood's 'Poltergeist' curse after four film stars died mysteriously

    Dominique Dunne, who made her film debut in Poltergeist as the elder sister of Carol Anne, died a violent death shortly after its release in 1983. She was strangled to death by her boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney. According to a New York Times article, Dunne was put on life support after the attack but passed away five days later.

  17. The tragically brief life of Heather O'Rourke from 'Poltergeist'

    January 5, 2022 Heather O'Rourke became a massive star at a very young age. Starring in the famous horror movie Poltergeist, Heather was on her way to having a remarkable career. Unfortunately, however, she passed away at the young age of 12. The circumstances surrounding O'Rourke's passing were very mysterious and still are today.

  18. 'Poltergeist' child star dies at 12

    SAN DIEGO -- Heather O'Rourke, the angel-faced blond child actress whose eerie line 'They're heeere' symbolized the chilling movie 'Poltergeist,' is the second star of the film to die suddenly ...

  19. Heather O'Rourke

    Heather O'Rourke. Actress: Poltergeist. Heather Michele O'Rourke was born on December 27, 1975 in Santee, San Diego, California, to Kathleen, a seamstress, and Michael O'Rourke, a construction worker. She had German, Danish, English, and Irish ancestry. Heather entered American cinematic pop-culture before first grade. She was sitting alone in the MGM Commissary waiting for her mother when a ...

  20. Heather O'Rourke

    Heather O'Rourke. Actress: Poltergeist. Heather Michele O'Rourke was born on December 27, 1975 in Santee, San Diego, California, to Kathleen, a seamstress, and Michael O'Rourke, a construction worker. She had German, Danish, English, and Irish ancestry. Heather entered American cinematic pop-culture before first grade. She was sitting alone in the MGM Commissary waiting for her mother when a ...

  21. The tragic death of 'Poltergeist' actress Heather O'Rourke

    Heather O'Rourke is known for playing Carol Anne in the Poltergeist franchise.; She played a possessed girl. She was only 12 years old when she died. Heather O'Rourke was just five years old when she landed a role in one of the most iconic movies in horror film history. The little sister of actress Tammy O'Rourke, was sitting alone one day, waiting for her mother in the Metro-Goldwyn ...

  22. Hollywood's 'Poltergeist' curse after four film stars died mysteriously

    Dominique Dunne, who made her film debut in Poltergeist as the elder sister of Carol Anne, died a violent death shortly after its release in 1983. She was strangled to death by her...

  23. Heather O'Rourke's Tragic Death at 12 Years Old (Poltergeist ...

    Heather O'Rourke was known for her role as Heather Pfister, the 7-year-old daughter of Ashley Pfister, a divorcee who was once Fonzie's girlfriend in the ten...