The Poltergeist Scene That Legitimately Spooked The Cast

Don't get me wrong. It sounds absolutely thrilling to be haunted by a ghost. But if it's the ghost in the 1982 film "Poltergeist," I'll take a quick pass on being haunted by them. I mean, it's a poltergeist, which is arguably more upsetting than your average "walk through walls" spooky spirit. Poltergeists throw things and try to physically harm you, and if you're sweet little Carol Anne Freeling, literally suck you into another dimension from which you may never return. I'm not messing around with that kind of power. 

"Poltergeist" tells the story of the Freeling family who move into a beautiful new home in California only to find that it is being haunted by, uh, poltergeists. The spirits are very into Carol Anne because she apparently exudes a life force that they find irresistible — hence the whole trapping her in another dimension thing. Once the family realize that the house has been built directly on top of an old cemetery, they quickly understand the reason for the ghosts' anger, and the rest of the film is their attempt to rescue their child and also get the hell out of there. To be fair, if my eternal resting place was obstructed by a whole, giant house, I'd be pretty upset too! I don't care if it does have an open floor plan and "his and her" sinks! I want to be able to watch the sunrise from my muddy, downtrodden grave, damnit!

The house eventually gets sucked into the Earth and destroyed, and the family, who do eventually manage to save Carol Anne, escape with a healthy dose of trauma, and — while I'm uncertain if their home owner's insurance covers poltergeists — they seem relatively happy to just get away from the whole, spooky situation and start their life anew. 

But perhaps the scariest thing about "Poltergeist" is the fact that the very imaginary poltergeists in the film seem to have actually transcended the silver screen to haunt the cast in real life. Honestly, it's a real "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" kind of situation. A lot of weird stuff went down on the set of the original movie and its sequels, and many of the cast members died strange or gruesome deaths. So much so that some attribute the cast's bad luck to one particular scene that was also a deeply disturbing experience for everyone involved. 

Maybe the Real Human Skeletons Were Behind It

The scene from the first movie that is often credited with playing a possible part in all of the cast's misery is the iconic pool scene starring JoBeth Williams who plays the mother, Diane Freeling. At the time the scene was filmed, the existence of the "Poltergeist" curse had not yet been established, but what if that's because this very scene is the thing that caused the curse to begin with?

When Diane gets sucked into the muddy, rain-filled hole that opens up in the backyard of her new home, she quickly realizes she's not alone. Because the house has been built on top of a cemetery and no one bothered to move the bodies before building said house, the massive influx of rain causes the rotted, skeletal corpses to take one final splash, and they rise to the surface to terrorize Diane. According to an article on Showbiz Cheatsheet, not only did the skeletons terrorize Diane on screen, but they also terrorized Williams in real life. So much so that she nearly refused to film the scene at all, despite Steven Spielberg's attempts to make her feel safe. Her hesitancy to take a dive with her boney cast mates had to do with the fact that the pool was completely surrounded by large lights. Williams was reportedly nervous that one would get knocked into the water and electrocute her, and sure, that set-up really does feel like an "It Follows" sort of situation just waiting to happen. 

Still, she probably would have been even more reluctant to film the scene if she had known beforehand that the skeletons she would be swimming with would be actual human remains and not just props. Talk about finally getting your 15 minutes of fame. Some believe it is the use of literal human bones that doomed the cast of the film, however, in all fairness, it was pretty common for film crews to use real human skeletons instead of fake ones in the past. Either way, this scene turned out to be terrifying not just on screen, but during filming, as well. And who knows, maybe "The Poltergeist" crew just happened to buy some very unhappy skeletons looking to cast a nasty spell. Only the dead know the answer for sure.