14 Fun and Freaky Facts About the Film 'Poltergeist'

Remember little Carol Anne and the nasty ghosts that haunted the poor Freeling family? Since it's release in 1982, Poltergeist has remained one of the most beloved, feared and controversial horror films to date. Over 30 years have passed, yet people still get the reference when we say "They're heeeerrrree." There are a surprising amount of fun and freaky facts about this classic film, so we thought we'd compile a few of them for your enjoyment and edification. 

1. Drew Barrymore Auditioned for the Role of Carol Anne

But instead she was cast in another Spielberg classic, ET, which was released one week after Poltergeist.

2. Producer Steven Spielberg, and Not Tobe Hooper, May Have Directed the film.

Although Tobe Hooper is the credited directer of the original Poltergeist, there are some that think the film's producer Steven Spielberg was the one who actually did most of the directing. Though Spielberg was technically not allowed to direct both Poltergeist and ET simultaneously, he was reported to have been present on set so much that his true role with the film came under question. Hooper vehemently denied the rumors time and time again, though actress Zelda Rubinstein said that Spielberg was indeed the director during her 6 days of shooting.

3. Spielberg Wanted A PG Rating

At first, the MPAA gave Poltergeist an R rating, before Spielberg successfully convinced them to change it to PG. In reality, the movie probably should have been PG-13, but that rating didn't even exist until 1984.

4. Steven King Was Asked to Write the Script

Spielberg got lunch with the King of horror to ask if he'd want to write the script, but it was a no go. Supposedly, Steven King’s publisher asked for way too much money for the project. Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, and Mark Victor were the credited writers for the final product.

5. The Freeling's Neighborhood was Straight Out of Spielberg's Childhood Memories

In the movie, the Freelings are portrayed to live in a Southern California town called Cuesta Verde. Producer Spielberg admitted, however, that the location was really based the neighborhood in suburban Scottsdale, Arizona, where I grew up. It is the lifestyle of suburban America; two-car garages, tract homes and cul-de-sacs, the U-Totem down the street, and an elementary school within walking distance. The Freeling family in Poltergeist is not atypical of the people I knew and grew up with in Scottsdale.”

6. Did an Episode of The Twilight Zone Give Birth to Poltergeist?

In one episode of The Twilight Zone entitled “Little Girl Lost," a young girl enters into another dimension through a wall in her bedroom. Richard Matheson, the writer of the episode, insisted that Poltergeist was inspired by his idea. True or not, Matheson never received any credit. 

7. Spielberg's Hands Make a Cameo

In the gruesome scene where Marty rips off his own face, it's the famous producer's hand that can be seen peeling off the fake face. There was only one lifelike face mask, so Martin Casella, the actor who portrayed Marty, insisted that Spielberg do the ripping out of fear that he would make some irreversible mistake and ruin the shot.

8. The Tree Scene Was Actually Filmed in Reverse

The character of Robbie, portrayed by Oliver Robins, was filmed getting expelled from the tree instead of getting swallowed up by it. Then, the shot was reversed. Filming it this way was thought to have made it appear more realistic.

9. The Stacked Chair Scene Was Captured in Just 1 Take.

When Diane momentarily turned away from the table in this scene, unseen crew members rapidly replaced the kitchen chairs with a pre-assembled cluster of more chairs.

10. The Violent Tree Scene Came From One of the Writers' Real Childhood Experience

The scene in which the tree grabs Robbie was inspired by an experience that co-writer Michael Grais had as a child. He recalled sitting upstairs, home alone on a stormy night, when suddenly a tree was struck by lighting and a branch crashed through a window right next to him!

11. Zelda Rubinstein, Who Played Tangina the Medium, Only Filmed for 6 Days.

Though she was on set for just a short portion of the 12-week shoot, Zelda said that her role in the film changed her life. After shooting, however, she didn't hear anything from anyone involved with the film, leading her to assume that the whole production was cancelled.

12. Martin Cassella, the Actor Who Played Marty, Had Already Quit Acting and To Become A Teacher When He Auditioned for Poltergeist

Good thing he got himself to that audition!

13. The Imploding House Was A Model that Measured 6 Feet Wide

The house, which took 4 months to build, had thick wires attached on the inside of it. When the house "imploded," the wires were pulled into a funnel as the camera shot downward. Supposedly, one mistake could have led to the entire model to burst into flames or melt!

14. Poltergeist is Believed to be Cursed

It seems that, more than any other film, the Poltergeist franchise has been marked by a series of deaths. Young Heather O’Rourke, the actress that played Carol Anne, died of cardiac arrest at the tender age of 12, just before the release of Poltergeist III. Dominique Dunne, who portrayed Dana, was brutally murdered by her ex boyfriend a mere 5 months following Poltergeist's release. Julian Beck, who played Kane in the second film, died of cancer during the shoot. Will Sampson, who played Taylor in the sequel, passed away due to kidney failure 1 year after the movie was released. Understandably, all of these deaths have caused people to speculate that the sets were haunted. Some place blame the prop master, who was said to have used actual human skeletons during the shoot!

Author: Nate Morgan