The Oxford dictionary defines a ‘Curse’ as ‘a solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something’. There are many different types of curses that we may have heard of over the years. We have seen sports stars who are allegedly cursed with a string of bad luck, families who have long runs of bad luck and are said to be cursed, but what happens when a movie is cursed?
The most famous of all cursed productions is The Poltergeist Trilogy. When making the first movie the crew used actual human remains as props which is what is believed to have caused the curse (yes, that in the picture above is a REAL skeleton – creepy, huh?). This was a case of life imitating art as the reason for the hauntings in the movies was they had built houses over an ancient burial ground. Within six years of the first movie four of the stars died. Child actress Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Ann in all three movies, died just before the release of the third instalment. In June 1987 Heather was complaining of flu-like symptoms. She became very ill and was diagnosed with a parasite she had picked up from drinking water at a campground. After a course of medication this condition seemed to have been resolved. She woke up on February 1st, 1988 with swollen feet and fingers which had turned blue. The night before Heather had got into bed with her parents with an upset stomach and still felt unwell when she woke up. Her mum brought her to the hospital. She was suspected to have bowel obstruction and was rushed to theatre but unfortunately died from cardiac arrest on the operating table at the young age of 12. Unfortunately this was not the end of the tragic deaths.
We all remember the terrifying old man (Kane) in Poltergeist 2 who sang the words ‘God is in his holy temple,’ - ooh I’ve Goosebumps just thinking of it - well, this poor man also fell victim to the Poltergeist curse. His name was Julian Beck and he died of stomach cancer at the age of 60.
Two deaths were bad enough but there is more to come. Will Sampson who played the native Indian, Taylor, died following complications of a heart and lung transplant. And Dominique Dunn, who played the eldest daughter Dana in the first movie, also came to a tragic end. Dominique was in an abusive relationship with sous-chef John Thomas Sweeney and when she ended the relationship he strangled her to death. The curse on this movie cannot be denied. All these deaths were tragic and each victim suffered.
The Superman franchise is also thought to be cursed. Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster got cheated out of the royalties for this franchise when under contract to DC Comics therefore many believe it was these two men who called down the curse on Superman. George Reeves who played Superman in the 1950s TV show was found dead on June 16, 1959. It was ruled as a suicide due to a gunshot wound to the head but Reeves’ fingerprints were never found on the gun. He had been having an affair with the wife of an MGM executive and was due to be married himself which opens the door to a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding his death. Bud Collyer, who voiced the Superman cartoons from 1941-43 and again in 1966, died of a circulatory ailment at the age of 66. Lee Quigley who played the part of baby Kal-el in the 1978 movie died of solvent abuse addiction at the young age of 14. In 1995 Christopher Reeves, who played Superman in the movies 1-5, got paralysed from the neck down after being thrown from a horse, he died on October 10, 2004 following heart failure. Richard Pryor, who starred in Superman 3, developed MS and Margot Kidder who played Lois Lane in all five movies had a tragic life due to developing bi-polar. Marlon Brando, who played Superman’s father Jor-el, suffered severe weight and health problems towards the end of his career and his exact cause of death in 2004 was withheld with his lawyer citing privacy concerns. Once again, the evidence speaks for itself with the tragic lives and deaths of these Superman stars.
The Omen movies were said to be cursed and a documentary was made illustrating this which can be found on the 30th anniversary DVD release. Some of the incidences proving the existence of this curse include, on the first day of shooting the main members of the crew were involved in a car crash, Richard Donner’s – the director - hotel was bombed by the IRA, Scriptwriter David Seltzer’s plane was struck by lightning. Star Gregory Peck was due to take a flight during filming but had to cancel, the plane in question crashed killing all aboard. On Friday, August 13th, 1976, special effects artist John Richardson was in Holland working on another movie when he got into a car crash. Richardson’s car was involved in a major accident which killed and decapitated his female companion, in a way similar to David Warner’s death in The Omen. It is rumoured that upon stumbling out of his car he saw a road sign that said he was 66.6 kilometres from the town of Ommen. How freaky is that??
The Exorcist movies also had what some would call a coincidence and what others would call a curse. The set of the house in the original movie was destroyed in a studio fire and had to be rebuilt, yet strangely enough, Regan’s room (the child who was possessed) was not damaged. Coincidence? Linda Blair fractured her spine during filming; Max Von Sydow, who played the priest, got news of his brother’s death on the first day of filming. Then in The Exorcist, The Beginning, John Frankenhiemer, who was supposed to direct the film, died following a stroke he had after he had spinal cord surgery. The director who took over, Renny Harlin, went on to have several unexplained accidents which included a car crash that resulted in him getting 13 pins in his legs. The number 13 seems to keep reappearing in these curse stories…
So there you have it, just a few of the cursed movie stories I have come across. I will leave it to you to decide if it’s urban legend or fact.