The Web Of Real-Life Horror That Surrounds Rosemary's Baby

When it comes to horror staples that remain totally inimitable, "Rosemary's Baby" pretty much reigns supreme. Much of the 1968 film's enduring appeal might just be entrenched in the supposed "curse" that seemingly affected the cast, crew, and the very building where it was shot since its theatrical release. While rumored on-set curses are relatively run of the mill for most iconic horror pictures, said to have tormented the production of films like "The Exorcist" and "Poltergeist," the web of wickedness that has followed "Rosemary's Baby" feels particularly chilling.

For those who might need their memory jogged, "Rosemary's Baby" follows Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), the titular pregnant protagonist, on a downward spiral into occultist conspiracies, with a potent anxiety brewing inside of her that's ultimately proved to be warranted. Based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Ira Levin, the film was helmed by Roman Polanski, who fled the country a few years later to escape sentencing after he pleaded guilty to sex with a minor (the least serious offense among the six criminal counts on which he was indicted). 

If Polanski's own legacy isn't sickly enough, there are various other misfortunes that have sprung out of this production — whether they are coincidences or a larger devilish plot remains up for debate.

The unfortunate fate of filmic collaborators

Several of the professionals who collaborated on the film in various capacities later met terrible fates, adding to the eerie atmosphere which would follow "Rosemary's Baby" long after filming concluded. The first recorded death associated with the project was composer Krzysztof Komeda. Though the concrete details surrounding his death remain murky, Polanski has commented on the events that led to his collaborator's demise: At a house party during the fall of 1968, Komeda plummeted down a rocky hill and fell into a coma on impact. After four months of cerebral inactivity, the 37-year-old Komeda eventually passed away. His death creepily mirrors that of a character in Levin's book — the Satanic witches murder one of Rosemary's friends in a similar manner after the friend threatens to unravel their carefully calculated plot.

Legendary horror producer William Castle was also left scarred by the experience, developing severe kidney stones in 1969 which may have been correlated with the excessive amount of hate mail he received as a result of producing the film. He eventually required hospitalization for the ailment, where he deliriously mumbled sentences that made it seem as if he was speaking to characters in the very film which had caused him so much backlash. At one point, it was rumored he exasperatedly screamed, "Rosemary, for God's sake, drop the knife!" Thankfully the kidney stones weren't fatal, but his career took a total death blow. Castle never helmed another hit after producing "Rosemary's Baby," doomed to an unflattering characterization of B-movie maniac from then on.

The Helter Skelter connection

Of course, one of the most infamous crimes in American history also shares a profound connection with "Rosemary's Baby." Polanski's own pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, was the victim of a home invasion that ended in the murder of herself and her unborn son. Orchestrated by notorious cult leader and serial killer Charles Manson, the murder of Sharon Tate and the guests she hosted in her home that night — Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, and Abigail Folger — shook the country to its very core. Taking place on August 8, 1969, the crime occurred while "Rosemary's Baby" was still showing in theaters — again, sinisterly reflecting the horrors which appear on-screen. 

While Rosemary's body was used as a living surrogate for the devil's spawn, Tate's corpse was used for similarly wicked gains. In the Manson family's flimsy attempt to start a race war, the words "Helter Skelter" were scrawled on the walls of the Tate/Polanski home in blood, referencing the 1968 song by the Beatles. Weirdly enough, another American idol's murder is said to be touched by the curse of "Rosemary's Baby", the rock star who spawned the very phrase the three Manson followers hastily wrote on the murder scene's walls.

The Dakota

The gorgeous building which serves as the primary setting of "Rosemary's Baby" is, in fact, a real New York City landmark. This building's claim to fame is much more insidious than, say, the M&M store (but let's be honest — not by much). Dubbed "The Bramford" in the film, the building is actually called The Dakota and is located on the corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West. 

Built between 1880 and 1884, it has spawned the Dakota fair share of ghost stories ever since, with residents reporting seeing everything from apparitions to UFOs while residing at the Dakota. One such resident was John Lennon, the iconic frontman of the Beatles (with his own history of abusive behavior), who lived at the estate with his then-wife Yoko Ono. While the ghostly happenings at the Dakota seemed par for the course, the building made national headlines on December 8, 1980, when Mark David Chapman shot and killed Lennon on its very steps, forever immortalizing the structure as having a hellish reputation. In fact, after Lennon's death, several residents claimed to see his spirit added to the roster of hall-haunters, with Ono recounting that one evening she saw her late husband at his piano, who then turned and said to her, "Don't be afraid. I am still with you." 

Whether or not you believe in the "Rosemary's Baby" curse theory, this collection of untimely deaths and illnesses have certainly contributed to the film's notoriety. Comas, cult leaders, and some truly vile crimes are all connected to "Rosemary's Baby," but one thing remains true above all else: No matter how "cursed" a production may be, it's ultimately the actions of flesh and blood humans that ultimately lead to the cruel death of others. Most of the time, the world's most heinous evils are solely orchestrated and acted out by average people (like Rosemary's seemingly friendly neighbors), and that fact is terrifying enough.