“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666.” Book of Revelation Chapter 13 Verse 18
There is always something within us all that thrives for a bit of excitement in our own unique ways. A guilty pleasure of mine is Horror movies, but somehow with a few movies now, I feel that it isn’t the movie that frightens or questions me, more so what happened before, during and after filming that has fascinated me even more so..
There have been many movies now that lead us to believe that the films were plagued with unusual occurrences, coincidental deaths of the cast members or relatives of those involved, freak accidents that mimicked scenes within the films made, and or strange animal behaviours especially around a specific film that I will go on to write about more in depth.
MOVIE CURSES! Yes you have read that right.. There are a number of movies now that have had a stigma attached to them, but is it real? Is it a marketing ploy? Or is it a huge coincidence in some cases? Or is it actually happening? Is there some force at work here trying to stop productions? Who knows? None the less a fascinating subject and here are a few examples of films that hold an apparent CURSE within them
Those who have seen the original 1982 film, will recognise the famous scene where ‘Diane’ played by Jobeth Williams, who was playing the mother, fell into the families pool that was filled with skeletons, these were later found to be real human skeletons that were used, as this was a much cheaper option than making and using rubber or plastic ones.
Was this a cause of some of the cast and crews demise?
5 months after the film was released, 22 year old Dominique Dunne, Who played Dana, the family’s older daughter was brutally attacked and strangled in her own driveway by her abusive ex boyfriend. Her life support was switched off 5 days later.
Will Sampson, the native American actor who starred in Poltergeist II – The other side, performed an exorcism on the set whilst filming the sequel in 1984, the cast were apparently relieved by this, however, in 1987 Will Sampson passed away of malnutrition and kidney failure aged 53.
Julian Beck, who played the main antagonist Kane in the second Poltergeist film, also passed away on September 14th 1985, aged 60 from stomach cancer, before the production of the film had even finished.
Lou Perryman, who played a minor role in the first original poltergeist, died in 2009, aged 67 after being attacked with an axe in his own home.
Heather O’Rourke, who played the lead part as Carol Anne, the little girl who was plagued by poltergeists in all three films, sadly passed away on 1st February 1988 at the mere age of 12, due to complications from an acute bowel obstruction.
It was also noted that after filming, on return home, Jobeth Williams had to straighten up her pictures she had hanging at home on a regular basis..She reported that they were continually ‘tilted’ after filming.
Also During the filming where ROBBIE is choked by the creepy clown in the original poltergeist movie, the clown robot actually did malfunction, and actually did choke child actor Oliver Robbins whilst filming! However he did live to tell the tale..
This seems to me a series of unfortunate events that are a coincidence, to the cast members, and to those who lost their lives prematurely. Julian Beck was indeed battling cancer for 18months prior to the filming of the second poltergeist.
In 1971 William Blatty wrote a novel called THE EXORCIST which was based on the real life exorcism of a boy known through a pseudonym as ROLAND DOE. Catholic Priests at the Georgetown university performed the real life Exorcism, but had to stop when Roland managed to free himself from his restraints, pull a bed spring out of his mattress, and slash one of the Priests arms. When William Blatty wrote the Novel based on these events, Roland’s family requested his identity to be changed to a girl for his protection.
In 1973 William Friedkin set out to bring the novel to the big screen which was to tell the story of a young girl possessed by a Demon that was to instil ultimate fear into its audiences.
Taking on the subject of Demonic Possession and an incredibly controversial Catholic ritual at this time, was turning many heads within the industry, and after a string of many strange and catastrophic occurrences started to amalgamate, many became convinced that the Movie and the film set were indeed cursed by a Demon.
Whilst shooting for the film began, it was delayed however, because of a fire ripping through the set, which destroyed what was supposed to be the Macneil’s home. The Director Friedkin blamed this on a winged creature with talons. What had actually happened in hindsight was a pigeon had found its way into the set, and then found its way into one of the circuit boxes, which then, caused this fire. There is something slightly Creepy about this fire though, as the little Girl Regan’s room was totally unharmed by the Fire. Coincidence?
Whilst filming the scene where a demonically possessed Regan throws her mother to the ground, Ellen Burstyn whom played Regan’s mother was in fact actually injured by this. They went on to use this scene in the film and the blood curdling screams she lets out in the film, are actually genuine. Ellen Burstyn still implies that the spinal injury bothers her to this day.
As with any big film production it can take well over a year for completion, and there are always possibilities of negative things happening to certain people connected within this time period, that is simply life, however, The Exorcist has had many tragedies and deaths.
Both Actors Jack Macgowran who played the part of director ‘Burke Dennings’ died from complications from influenza in post production, on 31st January 1973 and actress Vasiliki Maliaros (Karras’ mother in the film) died just 9 days later of natural causes. What makes this interesting is both parts played in the film, also died in the film.
Other deaths that occurred whilst filming were Linda Blair’s (Regan) grandfather, and Max Von Sydow’s brother, who died on the first day of filming. Whilst filming there was also an accident with a motorcycle hitting the son of Jason Miller, who played father Damien in the film, almost, killing him.
Linda Blair who played the famously possessed girl Regan in the film, also suffered a back injury in one of the possession scenes, after a piece of rigging broke. After the film was released Linda received so many death threats that the studio also had to hire her personal bodyguards to escort her over the next 6 months.
In 1987, another tragedy was to hit when the actress Mercedes McCambridge, who played the demonic voice of PAZUZU, had the terrible news that her son had murdered his wife and children before then taking his own life.
The cast and crew were increasingly worried during the filming and it is rumoured that the set and crew were repeatedly blessed throughout.
On the film’s release, it was believed by many, that playing this through a projector to the masses was a pure invitation to the devil himself. Televangelist Billy Graham stated “THERE IS A POWER OF EVIL IN THE FILM, IN THE FABRIC OF THE FILM ITSELF”
When the film was released it was banned in every Middle Eastern country but Lebanon. During the Roman premier, it is rumoured that audiences fought their way through torrential rain, thunder and lightning, to get into the theatre. Many reported to hear demonic like cries coming from outside once the movie was rolling. One lady also claimed that she was that frightened she passed out in the theatre then fell and broke her jaw.
Again for myself, is it a pure string of coincidences? And something completely different from the norm that people simply can’t cope with? The Exorcist film for me, never really bothered me, like many others that had watched the film would tell me, and it seems that the movie curses are almost certain to happen within movies that have a religious, biblical or demonic story. Whatever the cause, it is still known to this day as one of the scariest Horror films ever made amongst all different age groups.
Before I continue to a film that really does question me, and fascinate me, I would like to also mention a couple more films that have an apparent curse attached to their making..
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
Mel Gibson’s 2004 film portraying the last 12 hours of JESUS CHRIST’S life was at the centre of huge controversy throughout the world. Many people leaving half way through the film at the theatre’s, simply because of its brutality.
Jim Caviezel, whom played Jesus in the movie fell victim to various incidents during the filming, he suffered hypothermia, as well as pneumonia, a dislocated shoulder whilst hauling the Cross, he was accidently whipped during the thrashing scenes, which became infected, he endured several skin reactions and infections through the makeup and skin effects he had to wear for such long periods of time also.
Caviezel and assistant director Jan Michelini were also struck by lightning during the scene of the’ Sermon on the Mound’. Neither was injured by the lightening, however it was the second time Michelini had been hit….
The 1968 cult movie was released and also gained much hatred for its involvement with satanic witchcraft. Producer William Castle received several death threats, and believed he was the centre of a curse being made against him. It is reported he actually started to believe he was living the film, and feared witches were casting their spells upon him. He received a hate letter stating that he was a ‘Believer of witchcraft, worshipper of the Shrine of Satan and my prediction is you will slowly rot during a painful illness brought upon by yourself’ Producer William Castle started suffering from debilitating health issues shortly after this and was convinced the film and himself were cursed.
The most horrific real life incident that happened connected to this movie also, was the murder of Director Roman Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate who was pregnant at the time. Sharon was murdered along with her baby and three friends by members of the MANSON FAMILY.
Before I continue to what I believe is one of the most powerful films ever made, I would also like to mention that there were also curses linked to the films Psycho, The Amityville Horror, The Conjuring, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Innkeepers and also The Possession.
The release of this movie on the date 6/6/76 couldn’t have been more appropriate, as this may possibly be one movie where the ‘true story’ was based upon the making of this film!
Gregory Peck was to play the leading role and adoptive father of Damien, the second coming. It soon became apparent that the shocking events before, during and after production would stay with the cast and crew forever, and taken to their graves.
Before filming Gregory Peck’s own son took a rifle and shot himself in the head and ended his short life unexpectedly, and without explanation, this was shortly after the actor had accepted his role. Gregory Peck continued to take the role on though his grief, barely making it across the Atlantic ocean from L.A. to London, as the plane was struck by lightning, causing an engine fire and a near fatal crash.
Lightening seemed to be a regular feature for some of the crew, as three days later, THE OMEN’S screenwriter David Seltzer was also on a flight to the UK, which also was struck by lightning. Shortly after, Mace Neufield the executive producer was also victim to the very same threat over the very same ocean. There was also a threat made to producer of the movie Harvey Bernhard, whilst visiting Rome, a lightning bolt barely missed him also.
This wasn’t the end of plane related occurrences centred around the movie either; the production team rented a plane, to shoot an Ariel view of London. The rental company had a last minute switch, resulting in the plane being hired to a group of Japanese business men instead. The plane crashed upon taking off, hitting a car and resulted in several deaths.
On the first day of shooting several of the crew members were involved in a head on collision also, but luckily no one was harmed seriously.
In a documentary I watched several of the cast and crew mentioned how erratic the Rottweiler’s were in the famous scene, where Gregory Peck is attacked by them, the stuntman ordered extra protection and padding, but still ended up with horrific injuries from these ‘highly trained’ hounds.
During the shooting in the famous scene in Longleat safari park, another crew member was to meet his demise. A London zoo keeper named Sidney Bamford was working for the production as a big cat wrangler, for a scene which was meant to appear in the movie. The scene was to show the tiger menacing Damien, however after filming finished that day, one of the tigers wasn’t secured properly and attacked Sidney Bamford, piercing his skull and killing him. The scene was never shown in the movie.
Mace Neufield was also staying at the Hilton Hotel in London during filming, which was bombed by the I.R.A., luckily for him he wasn’t there during this time, however because one I.R.A bombing wasn’t enough to escape from, the directors , producers and several of the films actors including Gregory Peck were scheduled to eat at a restaurant in London, which was also bombed shortly before they were due.
There continued to be so many incidences that haunted the cast and crew and producer Harvey Berhard simply stated “THE DEVIL WAS AT WORK HERE, AND HE DIDN’T WANT THE PICTURE MADE”
The absolute biggest coincidence perhaps for me in this film happened a year after the movies release.
John Richardson, the special effects consultant who was responsible for creating the movies epic death scene of the photographer, was working on his next production in Holland called ‘A BRIDGE TO FAR’ .
Richardson, along with his girlfriend/assistant Liz Moore, was involved in a head on collision on Friday the 13th. Unfortunately Liz Moore was decapitated in the accident very similarly portraying the death scene of the photographer in THE OMEN.
What really is scarily creepy, is at the crash site when Richardson gained consciousness was a milestone…
The mile stone read ‘OMMEN 66.6’ which stood for the town Ommen, Netherlands, 66.6km…….
So with all these scary incidents surrounding our modern day movie industry, are these mere coincidences?, a negative force at play? Is it the devil? Is it what people may think is God? Are the cast and crew merely cashing in, or are they playing their roles too much? Who knows…? I would also like to mention that 666 in HEBREW translates as WWW…. but this is another story..
So whilst you are in your beds tonight.. Reading this story.. Sleep tight…
By Clare Burrows