Poltergeist is an American supernatural horror film relased in 1982. The film was written by Steven Spielberg, Mark Victor, and Michael Grais. The film was selected by The New York Times as one of the Best 1000 Movies Ever Made. But did you know they used real skeletons in one of the scenes?
The skeletons in Poltergeist’s pool scene were real human skeletons.
The Iconic Pool Scene with Real Human Skeletons
In the film, Diane Freeling, the matriarch, falls into a deep hole in the yard and discovers that the house was built on an ancient burial ground. Skeletons float to the top, all around her, as the hole, intended for a swimming pool, fills with rain.
JoBeth Williams, who played Diane Freeling, did not want to film the scene in real life. On set, things were already strange. A clown strangled Robbie, one of the other actors who played the middle Freeling boy. The prop was intended to make him appear strangled by an evil clown toy, but it malfunctioned and began to strangle him in real life. Steven Spielberg had to wrestle the clown away from him.
Williams was hesitant to enter the water in the presence of so many lights. She would be electrocuted if one of them fell in. Spielberg persuaded her by jumping in and declaring, now if a light falls in, we’ll both fry! “But he wasn’t completely truthful with Williams about the scene.” She had no idea that the skeletons floating around her were real, not made-up props. (Source: Cheat Sheet)
The So-Called Poltergeist Curse
After a string of tragedies befell the actors in The Poltergeist franchise, fans speculated that the use of real skeletons had something to do with it. People believed that Spielberg’s fabricated cursed burial ground resulted in a real curse for the actors involved. Williams probably didn’t believe in the curse because she didn’t learn about the skeletons until after production.
The tragedies in The Poltergeist’s actors were unrelated to the production. Unfortunately, young O’Rourke died due to a misdiagnosis. Another cast member died of cancer, and a third died from kidney problems. Dominique Dunne, who played the oldest Freeling girl, was murdered by her abusive boyfriend. While the general public believes in the curse, others who worked on the film do not. In fact, according to Zelda Rubinstein, who played Tangina the psychic, real skeletons were commonly used due to cost considerations.
For those who believe, the curse began on set in the film’s final moments, when the dead burst out of the ground and rose from their graves. Those scenes were so effective because the skeletons appeared so terrifyingly real, and they were. And, because the film’s entire premise revolved around the desecration of a graveyard when people learned that real human remains were used as props, they began to speculate that this had triggered a dark supernatural occurrence.
Craig Reardon, who did the special effects in the first film, told The Telegraph that using real skeletons was nothing out of the ordinary. They have been used as props in the film industry since their inception. They were not desecrating a graveyard, unlike the developers of Cuesta Verde, and many films have used them without incurring the wrath of the dead. Still, it makes for a great story, much like Poltergeist. (Source: Cheat Sheet)
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