Although I tend to have less time to watch movies or even television, I still rather enjoy finding out new and interesting things about movies, shows, or even plays past. My main reason for not watching the latest and greatest on the big or little screen is because of life. Is there really any other excuse? Responsibilities, being an adult, well, you get it, right? A good portion of this list will most likely include horror movies as once upon a time it was my favorite genre to watch. I’m not exactly sure what happened as I have aged, but I have become a legit chicken. The new Annabelle: Creation (2017) releasing in August? Nope. Every no you could think of when I saw that preview. However, I am still sort of open to new ones. Perhaps just not the ones that pride themselves on possessions. The Exorcist (1973) is, to date, one of the scariest movies I have ever seen in my life. Obviously, I watched the remastered version, but that was enough for me to say I’ll never watch it again for like…the rest of my life. Case in point: I was hanging out at a friend’s house watching movies, and when the Purge: Election Year (2016) concluded, he put on The Exorcist. I told him thanks but no thanks, so he changed it.
And they tell us to “never say never.”
As a former die-hard horror film buff, I figured why not revisit some movies to find out what spooky things went on around the set, to cast or crew members, etc. I would personally rather read about spooky (see: traumatic) experiences than live them, so that’s what I did. And now, I’m going to share them with you all. Some of these may come as no surprise that things were amiss, so let’s get to it.
15 The Omen (2006)
To be fair, I feel like a movie that focuses on the spawn of Satan, and the ominous number “666” is bound to cause some freaking happenings around the set. In the 2006 remake (released thirty years later after its original 1976 counterpart), things did happen. Pete Postlethwaite (Father Brennan) experienced something happening very close to home: his brother. During a card game, Pete’s brother died after drawing three cards. The three cards? 666 of course. Now, I’m not saying this has anything to do with it, but Postlethwaite was filming the satanic thriller at the time of said card game. Either way, it’s an extremely sad loss.
Something else I noted, not that this was a death, but still interesting enough, the scene where Robert Thorn is supposed to discover Damien’s demon-child birthmark, had all of its footage lost. It was about 13,500 feet of footage gone with no explanation as to how. This particular scene required a whole day of filming, and to this day, no one knows what happened to all of that footage.
14 The Possession (2012)
Okay, so technically no one died, but freaky stuff did happen. At least according to Jeffrey Dean Morgan, anyway. I know and love him as John Winchester from one my favorite shows of life, Supernatural. If you haven’t watched this show, do yourselves a favor and binge watch it on Netflix. You can thank me later. With that plug firmly installed, Morang may be more recently known as Negan on The Walking Dead.
Cold spots and lights exploding during key scenes were some things Morgan noted. He also mentioned something equally freaky that happened after filming. A couple of days after shooting, props kept in a storage facility mysteriously burned. Upon investigation, arson and electrical fires were ruled out. So the question remains, why was all of this happening? Could it be because of that freaky box, known as a dybbuk box?
13 Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Child labor laws were broken, and sadly, three actors tragically dying happened on the 80s set of this film. In a scene where Vic Morrow was supposed to be rescuing a couple of Vietnam kids from an air raid, things went horribly wrong. The man at the controls of the helicopter (Dorcey Wingo) was a real-life Vietnam veteran, but the bombing for cameras still scared him. Perhaps a case of PTSD? Anyway, when the cameras started rolling, Wingo was supposed to let loose bombs. However, the pyrotechnic fireballs engulfed the helicopter which forced it to crash into the river. This aircraft crushed a little 6-year-old girl. If that weren’t bad enough, the main blade sliced right through Morrow and a 7-year-old boy. All of this while their parents looked on. I imagine it doesn’t get much more horrifying than witnessing your child die in such a violent way. Needless to say, civil suits were filed, and after years of court battles, Warner Bros. Studios got it together and made stricter rules and safer ways in every aspect of filming.
12 The Omen (1976)
The remake had haunting experiences, so it would make sense that the original had some spookiness to it as well, am I right? So, let’s get into it. An animal handler that was hired to help the cast and crew with the baboon scene to ensure its correctness died a mere two weeks later. Why? Because he was attacked… by a freaking lion, you guys. He apparently was pulled by the head and eaten alive.
Even more freaky—the death of the Special Effect Consultant’s assistant, Liz Moore. The date was August 13, 1976; which also happens to land on a Friday (spooky, right?). For whatever reason, the Special Effects Consultant, John Richardson, decided to drive head-on towards a collision. The driver, Richardson, survived; his assistant, Moore, had no such luck. Her life ended by being cut in half by the front wheel which sliced through the base frame of the car and right into her.
Lots of other supernatural things happened to various crew members, but, these two particular stories were worth highlighting.
11 The Drunkard (Stage Play -1986)
Okay, so this one isn't a movie, but it fits. Edith Webster was a stage actress in a play called The Drunkard. She played the role of the grandmother. She portrayed this character for about eight years. During her performance, Webster sang a number called “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone,” and after this number, she was supposed to feign her death. Night after night she did this, until one night in 1986, she really did die. A standing ovation ensued, the masses clapping, all the while thinking other actors calling for help was part of the show—until they realized it wasn’t. I would imagine a little bit of chaos broke out at this realization.
A few years before this performance, Webster had had a heart attack also while on stage but kept on with the show until night’s end. This gives a whole new meaning to “the show must go on” for me. Then another part of me has the Alanis Morissette song “Ironic” screaming in my head. Does anyone else have that feeling?
10 The Innkeepers (2011)
In a movie about a haunted hotel, the real authenticity comes from the actual hotel being in the film. Writer/Director Ti West says it all began when he was shooting his previous film, The House of the Devil (2009). Yankee Pedlar Inn is the name of the hotel the cast of Devil stood at. The inn was less than half an hour away from the set location for Devil, and was the cheapest and nicest place available. The staff working there claimed it was haunted, so West said he wanted his next story to be a ghost story and thought, “Why not make a movie we lived?” It turns out the Yankee Pedlar Inn was on board with the making of the film, too.
As far as the creepiness factor during filming, West says he is a skeptic, but did see doors close by themselves, a television shut off and on by itself, lights burned out in his room, and the crew had very vivid dreams nightly. In the film, the most haunted room is the Honeymoon Suite (where the ghost happenings originated), which turned out to be the most haunted room in the inn as well. West used that room solely for filming because it was the largest in scale, having no idea of the correlation.
9 The Warrens of Virginia (1924)
This film will probably be much lesser known than any other on this list, but, we are going to talk about it anyway. IMDb doesn’t give an actual description, so I turned to Wikipedia. Essentially The Warrens of Virginia is about the American Civil War, a man leaving his love to join the Union Army, and this love saving him regardless of her loyalty to the South.
Okay, now that we are all caught up, let’s talk about this love. In the movie, her name was Agatha Warren. In real life, it was Martha Mansfield. On break between takes, Mansfield was sitting in her car. She was wearing a period piece costume, as such, this was her unfortunate demise. Let me explain, someone passing by flicked the match that lit their cigarette accidentally into the car she was occupying. Since her costume was highly flammable, she suffered the cost. Although admitted to a hospital, she died the next day from severe burns.
8 The Misfits (1961)
Clark Gable, most known for his epic role as Rhett Butler (“Franky, my dear, I don’t give a damn” ring any bells?) in Gone With the Wind (1939), died of a heart attack at the age of 59. There was speculation as to how or why he had a sudden heart attack, but, it was decided that the stunt sequences proved to be too much physically for Gable to handle. However, speculation still arose because it was said that Gable dealt with a lot of tension on set. He would get angry with everyone for having to wait; he would get bored. To me, it sounds more stressed induced from his attitude concerning his time filming The Misfits. Not classified as a spooky death, but a death nonetheless
7 The Conjuring (2013)
From what I’ve found while scouring the internet, creepy things happened on and off set, but no reported deaths. To preface this film, I only saw the first one because weird things happened to me personally after I watched it.
James Wan (director) claimed that he was working on the script late at night and had recently adopted a puppy when said puppy stared at an empty part of the room and started to growl. To the human eye, nothing could be seen. However, I believe that animals can sense and see things we cannot.
For me, as I live alone, three nights in a row I was woken up by random things. Day one, my alarm that I had not set went off at 12:02 am; day two, the smoke detector in my apartment went off for five minutes, but, just in my apartment; day three, the alarm I again had not set went off at 12:03 am. That same night my dog stared at a wall in my kitchen and wouldn’t flinch. My dog is always following me around, so when she didn’t even turn her head to me? Nope. Needless to say, I did not see the second film.
6 xXx (2002)
We’ve talked about the main actors in movies meeting their demise, weird goings on around set, and deaths on stage. Now, let’s talk about stunt doubles. Harry O’Connor, 45 at the time of death, was a stunt man on the film xXx. He was shooting a scene that would parasail him along a river pulled by a speedboat toward a bridge. He is supposed to pass under the bridge with inches to spare and drop onto submarine while the parachute crashed into a railing. Each take was satisfactory. However, O’Connor was pushing for one more take. On this last take, his calculations were slightly off causing him to slam into one of the stone pillars thus killing him.
I gather being a stuntman requires a certain level of danger and willingness to understand any stunt could be your last. O’Connor was young, but, he died doing what he loved. How many of us could say that?
5 Poltergeist (1982)
There is saying that exists as the “Poltergeist Curse.” In fact, within a six-year window, four of the trilogy’s actors died. The list includes:
Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O’Rourke) - Died at the age of 12 from septic shock on February 1, 1988. Originally thought to be the flu that put her into cardiac arrest, she was rushed to the hospital, all the while toxins made their way into her bloodstream and causing a bowel obstruction.
Dana Freeling (Dominique Dunne) – Died at the age of 22 from being choked into a coma via her clearly abusive ex-boyfriend. She had ended the relationship a couple of weeks prior. He wanted to reconcile; she did not. She died after five days in a coma. However, that’s not the real kicker. The ex-boyfriend, John Sweeney, only served three years for voluntary manslaughter. Because, legal system.
Taylor (Will Sampson) – Already older, Sampson received a heart-lung transplant that failed shortly after (six weeks) receipt. Malnutrition and post-op kidney failure were also attributed to his death.
Kane (Julian Beck) – Beck, who played the evil spirit in the second Poltergeist film, was sixty years old when he died of stomach cancer. Since he had been battling cancer for eighteen months prior, it didn’t come as much of a surprise when he passed.
Is it a curse or is it simply happenstance?
4 The Crow (1994)
I’m pretty sure this comes as no surprise to be on the list of cast deaths or spookiness around the set. Brandon Lee, son of kung fu legend Bruce Lee, was set to make his mark in the world. He desired to be known for more than being Bruce Lee’s son. I can appreciate aspirations, and Lee had them. However, an extremely sad state of affairs occurred when Lee was shooting a scene that took place at night. If you’ve seen the film, you are aware of when Lee (Eric Draven) comes home to some guys assaulting his wife? In that scene, he was supposed to be shot with a blank, but it went terribly wrong. Apparently, the dummies and blanks had been hastily fabricated by removing gunpowder from real bullets because of time constraints. Unbelievably, the lead tip added to one of the dummy props became lodged down the barrel and, well, tragedy ensued. Lee was shot and died from his injuries.
Brandon Lee was only twenty-eight years old at the time of his death. One thing is for sure; he will forever remain Eric Draven in our hearts.
3 The Amityville Horror (1979)
I have seen both versions of this film based on a true story, and truthfully, I enjoyed them equally. With a story deriving from actual events, weird or spooky things are bound to happen, correct? We all know the story; the eldest son Ronald DeFeo shot and killed his family. Was it voices? Was it possession? In any event, it is a crime that has lived on for many, many years.
Moving right along. There have been no reported deaths on the set (for either the 1979 or 2005 versions respectively), but, James Brolin who played the character George Lutz (the new homeowner after the murders), claims he was originally hesitant to take the role. Brolin ended up reading the novel version, and upon coming across an intense part in the book, a pair of pants he had hanging suddenly fell to the floor. Now, I’m not saying this happenstance is related, but, how else can one explain?
2 Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
And to me, there is nothing more frightening than movies dealing with exorcisms and the devil. Enter Rosemary’s Baby. It was originally supposed to have a B rated director by the name of William Castle (who has had much more success producing than directing; i.e. House on Haunted Hill – the original). However, Roman Polanski stepped in and directed the film as we know it today. With Castle’s involvement in the film, it was said that he received hate mail that reached as many as fifty a day. Things like “witchcraft” and “unleashing evil into the world” were included in said letters. Shortly after, Castle would have kidney stones that became a regular occurrence beginning with a blockage in his urinary tract. He died several years later at the age of sixty-three. Was it something that occurred during filming that stuck around?
Then there is the composer of “Rosemary’s Lullaby,” Krzysztof Komeda, a thirty-eight-year-old man who died of a cerebral hemorrhage a mere few months after Rosemary’s Baby was released. Is this coincidence? It could be; but, Komeda died in the same fashion as Hutch (Rosemary’s friend) in the film. There are different scenarios surrounding his death, but honestly, working on something of the supernatural still leads me to believe supernatural things could in fact happen; and maybe did.
1 The Exorcist (1973)
What would a list like this be without one of the most terrifying movies of all time? Okay, well most terrifying to me. Based on the novel of the same name by William Blatty, The Exorcist had its origins derive from a real life exorcism of a boy known as Roland Doe (pseudonym). Now, there are strange things that happened around set and to cast members that make me think: “for sure haunted.” What things may you ask? Well, let’s run down a list of occurrences, shall we?
Shooting was delayed after the set of what was supposed to be the MacNeil’s home caught fire. The director, William Friedkin, said a pigeon had made its way into one of the circuit boxes thus causing the fire. However, Regan’s room was the only room unharmed by the fire? Yeah, no thanks. Then there’s the fact that both Ellen Burstyn (Chris MacNeil) and Linda Blair (Regan MacNeil) were both injured during takes. Burstyn injured herself when the possessed Regan throws her to the ground. Her scream of pain was genuine. Blair injured her back after being thrown from her bed when a rigging broke during one of her possession scenes; both during possession scenes? I’m just throwing that out there.
So, honestly, draw your own conclusions, folks, but I’m sticking to the fact that supernatural things certainly took place during this film; and I’m positive it was due to its content. If you’re really brave, watch this film again. I dare you.
Sources: slate.com, hollywoodreporter.com, moviepilot.com, snopes.com