Horror is one of the most profitable film genres. Most horror movies can be made for very little money. Ouija had a mere $5 million production budget but went on to gross more than $100 million at the global box office. That’s a whopping 20 times more than the budget. The Conjuring was made with a mere $ 20 million but went on to gross more than $300 million at the global box office. The list can go on and on and on.
While many horror movies can be silly, there are some great ones out there. The Sixth Sense and The Witch come to mind. But we’re not here to talk about how much money the genre makes, neither are we here to argue the quality of horror films. This article will focus on the traumatizing real life incidents that took place behind the scenes of your favourite horror movies. These horror films were actually terrifying to make, and it is reflected in the final product. Some of these stories may sound pretty shocking, but they are genuinely disturbing, more disturbing than the actual movies themselves. So without further ado, here are 15 horror movies that were traumatizing in real life.
15. Poltergeist Saw Many Freak Accidents Occur
The original 1982 Poltergeist is a horror movie that is still talked about until today. Written by Steven Spielberg, the movie was initially set to be directed by the legend himself, however, a clause in his E.T. contract prevented him from directing other movies while E.T. was still in production. Hence, Texas Chain Saw Massacre helmer, Tobe Hooper was chosen for this project. Poltergeist follows a family whose home gets invaded by ghosts, which then go on to capture the youngest daughter.
During the production of this film, Oliver Robbins, the actor who played Robbie Freeling, nearly lost his life when he was choked by the arms of the puppet. Steven Spielberg initially thought that the choking Oliver Robbins was acting and even yelled “Keep going! You’re doing great!” Only when the young actor’s face turned blue did Spielberg realized the kid was in trouble and ran over and pulled the puppet off. What’s even more peculiar is the fact that Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Anne Freeling died a few years later in what was supposed to be a routine surgery. Dominique Dunne on the other hand, who played Dana Freeling was killed by her ex-boyfriend.
14. Psycho Inspired A Psychopath To Imitate The Shower Scene
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is considered by many to be one of the greatest horror-thriller films of all time. Written by Joseph Stefano, Psycho follows secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who ends up at a secluded motel after stealing money. She then gets tangled with the motel’s disturbed owner-manager, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Psycho is not only critically acclaimed, with many hailing it to be one of the biggest contributors to the horror genre, it also has four Oscar nominations under its belt – Best Actress in Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.
In a weird turn of events, a real-life psychopath copied the iconic shower sequence in Psycho when he murdered a woman named Myra Davis. Interestingly, Janet Leigh’s body double in the movie is also named Myra Davis, which caused major confusion among the investigators of the homicide.
13. The Shining Set Was Met With An Eerie Coincidence
It’s a hit and miss year for Stephen King adaptations as Andrés Muschietti’s It and Mike Flanagan’s Gerald’s Game turned out to be massive critical successes, while The Dark Tower is a soulless, pointless movie that also failed to make a buck at the box office. Speaking of Stephen King adaptations, one cannot leave out The Shining from the discussion. The Shining is directed by Stanley Kubrick and follows Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson, in his prime), an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who decides to work as a caretaker of the historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. Jack’s young son Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) possesses “the shining,” a psychic ability that allows Danny to see the hotel’s unbelievably scary past.
Towards the end of production of The Shining, a huge fire broke out and destroyed several sets. One of the set still photographers had this to say:
“It was a huge fire in there one night, massive fire, we never really discovered what caused that fire and it burned down two sound stages and threatened a third at Elstree Studios. It was an eleven alarm fire call, it was huge.”
There is a famous photo of Stanley Kubrick laughing in front of the horrible wreckage. Many assume that Kubrick is laughing because, at the end of Stephen King’s The Shining novel, the Overlook Hotel did actually burn down. What a wicked coincidence.
12. The Possession Set Was Cursed
The Possession is another one of those movies that received mixed to negative reviews from the general critic’s circle, but Roger Ebert loved, giving it a solid 3.5/4 stars. Directed by Ole Bornedal and starring Natasha Calis, Kyra Sedgwick, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (now famously known for his role as Negan in The Walking Dead), The Possession follows a young girl who buys an antique box at a yard sale, only to later realize that inside the box lies a malicious ancient spirit. The girl’s father then teams up with his ex-wife to end the curse and save their child. The film is based on the supposed true story of the Dybbuk Box.
It is said that in the early 2000s, a man bought a cabinet once owned by a Nazi Holocaust survivor. Upon buying the cabinet, the man was haunted by a mysterious entity. It is said that everyone who owned the cabinet after that became unexplainably sick. That cabinet was later known as the Dybbuk Box.
Director Ole Bornedal has mentioned multiple times regarding a fire that destroyed the storage house and all of its props a few days after they wrapped filming. However, there isn’t much information regarding what caused the fire and whether or not the set was cursed because of the Dybbuk Box.
11. The Conjuring 2 Set Had Some Supernatural Occurences
The Conjuring 2 is a sequel to James Wan’s critical and financial success, The Conjuring and the third installment in the James Wan Horror Universe, with the second being Anabelle. The Conjuring 2 is also said to be Wan’s final go at directing a horror film, a genre in which he has been making movies since 2004. Just like the first movie, The Conjuring 2 follows the Warrens (roles reprised by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). This time they travel to England to help the Hodgson family, who are experiencing unusual, horrifying activities at their Enfield Council House in 1977.
The things that took place behind the scenes of The Conjuring 2 seemed to be supernatural. Director James Wan says that the curtains started swaying in an air-tight room:
“They just kept moving. None of the doors were opened, and the air conditioning was switched off. They just moved on their own. And I just watched the video Patrick [Wilson] showed me and this person who was filming just walked right up to the curtain and he saw the whole thing swaying non-stop. And he goes to look behind the curtain and there’s no one there swaying it and there’s no wind in the room.”
10. The Set Of The Conjuring Seemed To Be Haunted
Grossing over $ 318 million worldwide with a mere $ 20 million budget, James Wan’s The Conjuring is one of the most profitable horror movies of all time. But this movie isn’t just a huge box office success. Coming at a time where horror movies were seen as nothing more than a cash grab, James Wan changed the game by helming a movie that is rich in characters and wonderfully filmed. While the movie has your standard horror movie storyline, James Wan created an unforgettable experience. Instead of false jump scares, Wan used jump scares purposefully and masterfully, something that other directors do not do. The Conjuring follows Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), paranormal investigators assisting the Perron family who are experiencing supernatural events in their farmhouse.
The real-life Lorraine Warren was a consultant on the film and when screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes tried to speak with her over the phone, they had a hard time getting through. Lorraine mentioned that the spirits are attempting to interfere with their storytelling. But perhaps this isn’t convincing enough. However, Director James Wan has said that his dog seemed upset as it growled and tackled something invisible, around his office. Finally, claw marks mysteriously appeared one day on Vera Farmiga’s laptop. There was no explanation as to how these claw marks suddenly appeared.
9. The Exorcism Of Emily Rose Saw Some Weird Supernatural Activity
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is one of the most divisive and most talked about horror films of this era. While many critics consider this movie to be mediocre, some including the late great Roger Ebert has talked about the movie’s interesting discourse on whether or not demons are real. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is based on real stories of Anneliese Michel, a German woman who died after a failed exorcism. The film is directed by Scott Derrickson and stars Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson in a tale that goes back and forth between riveting courtroom drama and your standard horror movie tropes.
In an interview with Dread Central, Jennifer Carpenter, who plays Emily Rose, says that during the production of this film, her radio would mysteriously turn on and off:
“I thought about that when it happened, and two or three times when I was going to sleep my radio came on by itself. The only time it scared me was once because it was really loud and it was Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive.’ Laura’s [Linney] TV came on a couple of times.”
8. The Set Of Ghost Of Goodnight Lane Was Actually Haunted
Ghost of Goodnight Lane is a movie so small, it doesn’t even have a Box Office Mojo page. Unless you live and breathe horror movies, you’ve probably not seen this film and probably never will. Directed by Alin Bijan, The Ghost of Goodnight Lane is a creepy story about a staff in a film studio who discovers a co-worker dead one morning. It is believed that an angry ghost is out to get them. It is said that the movie is based on the actual haunting at Alin Bijan’s production company named Media World Studios.
Some traumatic incidents that happened during the production of this film include some of the staff getting invisible slaps in the face and equipment moving around on its own, very much like in The Conjuring 2. Other incidents include the staff getting visions of an unidentified man. Heck, in 2010, a team of paranormal activity experts tested the studio and recorded the sounds in the studio using Electronic Voice Phenomena and officially classified the studio as haunted.
7. The Cast And Crew Of The Innkeepers Were Harassed By Something Paranormal
The Innkeepers is written and directed by Ti West, who previously helmed Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever and The House of the Devil. It’s very apparent that this is a man who loves his horror films and so it wasn’t very surprising that The Innkeepers turned out to be an entertaining movie from start to finish. The Innkeepers stars Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, and Alison Bartlett and centers around the final days at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, in which two employees are at work to reveal the hotel’s haunted past only to get tangled up in a series of disturbing events as old guests check in for a stay.
In an interview with Indiewire, director Ti West admitted (although skeptically) that strange things did happen during the production of this film and some of his other films.
“I’ve definitely seen doors close by themselves; I’ve seen a TV turn off and on by itself; lights would always burn out in my room. Everyone on crew has very vivid dreams every night, which is really strange.” It is also said that the Honeymoon Suite is the most haunted room in the hotel, in real life.
6. The Cast And Crew Of Rosemary’s Baby Seemed To Be Cursed
Roman Polanski is one of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time, helming incredible films like Chinatown and The Pianist. Another one of his standout films is none other than the 1968 masterpiece, Rosemary’s Baby, which has a whopping 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is based on a bestselling novel of the same name and stars Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, among others. In the movie, Rosemary and her husband move into a new building and decide to make a baby. However, when she’s pregnant, she begins to suspect that an evil cult wants to kidnap her baby for one of their weird rituals. Just like many of Polanski’s best, this is a weird movie.
One of the film’s producers, William Castle, said that he received many angry letters accusing him of witchcraft and other evil doings after the film’s release in 1968. He then suffered from kidney stones. The film’s composer, on the other hand, died due to blood clot in the brain, a death that bore a resemblance to the death of a character in the film. But perhaps the most traumatic incident of all is the death of Roman Polanski’s wife, three friends and unborn child by the Manson Family approximately one year after the release of the film.
5. A Lot Of Terrible Events Surrounded The Exorcist
The Exorcist, a film released in 1973 is still considered by many to be one of the scariest films ever made. The Exorcist is directed by William Friedkin and stars Linda Blair, Jason Miller and Max von Sydow (whom many might now know as the old man who died in Star Wars: The Force Awakens). The film centres around the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl as her mother seeks out two priests to save her daughter from the evil entity. When adjusted for inflation, The Exorcist is still one of the highest grossing films of all time raking in more than $ 232 million in the US alone.
From the start, many directors, including the likes of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur Penn, turned down the project as people started making claims that the production set was cursed. Production was delayed as the set for the MacNeil home unexpectedly caught on fire. The house was mostly destroyed in said fire but weirdly enough, Regan’s bedroom was completely fine. But that isn’t the worst part. Actress Ellen Burstyn, who plays one of the characters in the movie was injured during production, by a mishap. The scream you hear in the final cut of the film is as real as it gets. On top of that, Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros both passed away shortly after the filming of this movie. In November 1987, the actor who voiced the demon in The Exorcist murdered his wife and two daughters before taking his own life.
4. A Freak Accident Occurred On The Set Of The Crow
The Crow may not be a horror movie in the conventional sense, but it is still a very dark and scary movie. The Crow is written by David J. Schow and John Shirley, directed by Alex Proyas and stars Brandon Lee (Bruce Lee’s son) in his final film appearance. This movie tells the story of Eric Draven, a rockstar who’s revived from the dead to avenge his death as well as the r*pe and murder of his fiancée. The Crow has a strong cult following and has even inspired pro-wrestling characters like Sting.
It was supposed to be so simple. After 50 days of shooting, it came down to the sequence in the movie: the murder of our hero, Eric Draven (Brandon Lee), by a gang of hooligans. One of the four thugs, which was chosen randomly, was supposed to fire a blank at Brandon Lee. However, upon firing the shot, actor Brandon Lee fell backwards, instead of forwards. At first the cast and crew were confused. Did Lee forget what he’s supposed to do? Only moments after did everyone slowly start to realize that something was terribly wrong. The blank wasn’t exactly a blank and Brandon Lee was shot dead. How the mishap happened is something that is still talked about to today and there are various articles on the web detailing the incident.
3. A Very Tragic Event Occurred While Filming Twilight Zone: The Movie
Twilight Zone: The Movie is an anthology theatrical version of the 1959-1964 TV series. It is directed by Steven Spielberg, George Miller, John Landis and Joe Dante. The film stars Vic Morrow, Scatman Crothers, Kathleen Quinlan and John Lithgow with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks in the prologue segment. The film is a remake of three iconic stories from the classic TV Ssries as well as one original story. Twilight Zone: The Movie has generally favourable reviews with a 65% on Rotten Tomatoes.
During the segment titled “Time Out,” directed by John Landis, actor Vic Morrow and child actors Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen tragically died in an accident involving a helicopter being used on the set of this segment. To make matters worse, the hiring of the two child actors was in violation of California law, which prohibits child actors from working at night unless in the presence of a teacher, social worker, etc. The three actors were on the ground, crossing a small pond. The helicopter pilot had difficulties navigating the chopper through the fireballs created by the pyrotechnic effects. The pilot then lost control of the helicopter. The chopper spun out of control and crashed on top of Morrow and the two children.
2. The Omen Experienced A Very Tragic And Eerie Coincidence
The Omen is a British-American horror film directed by Richard Donner, who also made Superman (surely, I can’t be the only one that finds this amusing). The film stars Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Spencer Stephens, Billie Whitelaw among others and centres around a young child replaced at birth without the mother’s knowledge. Unaware that the child is the Antichrist, the couple is surrounded by mysterious deaths and psychologically disturbing events. The Omen is both a critical and box office success and is even one of the highest grossing films in 1976. The film also has an Oscar under its belt for Best Music, Original Score.
During the production of the film, actor Gregory Peck, executive producer Mace Neufeld, and writer David Seltzer’s planes were struck by lightning, something that is very uncommon. What makes it even more interesting is the fact that Peck and Seltzer were on one plane while Neufield was taking a different flight altogether. Both planes got struck by lightning. But perhaps the most traumatizing incident is the fact that the film’s VFX consultant, John Richardson and his assistant, Liz Moore were involved in a car accident. Moore was killed in a similarly violent manner to David Warner in the film. Richardson survived the accident, but as he crawled out of the car, he found a road sign reading OMMEN, 66.6KM.
1. Hitchcock Was Cruel And Sadistic On The Set Of The Birds
Are we even surprised that another Alfred Hitchcock movie is on this list? The Birds is a horror-thriller based on the 1952 story written by Daphne du Maurier. On the surface, this film is a headscratcher as it centres around a series of unexplained, seemingly violent bird attacks on the people of Bodega City. I know! What on earth, right? But in typical Hitchcockian manner, the film was executed to perfection and The Birds was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress. This film stars Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren.
We know Alfred Hitchcock as the great filmmaker, but he wasn’t necessarily the nicest of people. While this film was insanely scary, actress Tippi Hedren would argue that the real life events that happened behind the scenes were even more traumatizing. It is said that Hitchcock was so hell-bent on getting every detail of Hedren’s appearance on point that he actually forced her to endure a week of shooting live birds. In the book Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, Tippi Hedren describes her traumatic situation:
“By Friday they had me down on the floor with the birds tied loosely to me with elastic bands, which were attached through the peck-hole in my dress. Well, one of the birds clawed my eye and that did it. I just sat and cried.”
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