Haunted shoots: Movies with their own on-set demons
Creating any movie is a stressful affair. Schedules can be completely blown by unforeseen illness, terrible weather, or a haunted movie set. Wait, what? Haunted movie sets are not as rare as one would think. For some reason or another, the paranormal world has a tendency to make its feelings known about upcoming film productions.
From suspicious fires to flickering lights, to even the most horrific, tragic deaths, there are a ridiculous number of haunted movies experiences. We’ve rounded up some of the wildest stories. Spoiler alert: demons are not fans of exorcism movies.
The Exorcism (1973)
Already one of the scariest movies of its time, the only thing that could possibly make this story more terrifying is its haunted movie set.
The Exorcism set randomly caught fire, burning the majority of the set to the ground, with the only exception being Regan’s bedroom (for the uninitiated, Regan was the child who was possessed in the film). The fire shut down filming for 6 weeks.
Ellen Burstyn (who played Regan’s mother, Chris MacNeil) suffered a permanent spinal injury from a stunt gone wrong. They used her real scream of pain in The Exorcism.
They ended up conducting an actual exorcism on the haunted movie’s set, as the cast and crew were shaken to the core. However, when The Exorcism premiered in Rome, lightning struck a 400-year-old cross atop a 16th-century church across the street.
Still not convinced? Eight members of the cast and crew of The Exorcism are connected with the film. Those who died include Jack McGowran who played Burke Dennings, a night watchman on the set and a special effects expert. McGowran died one week after the movie’s release.
If you’ve maintained your ignorance on the Annabelle doll, then you may not know that it is considered haunted in real life. Knowing this, the haunted movie set isn’t quite as surprising. Not only was the movie set haunted, but it was haunted by Annabelle herself.
Even before filming, at pre-production director, John R. Leonetti reported seeing and taking a picture of “three fingers drawn through the dust along the window . . . backlit by the moon.” (Notably, the demon of Annabelle has three fingers/talons.)
During filming the creepiness continues, with chairs moving, plates flying off racks, and unknown fingerprints appearing. Producer Peter Safran told THR the story of a light fixture randomly falling on a janitor’s head in a hallway, which is scary enough. Even more terrifying is that the demon in the movie also kills a janitor in that same hallway.
The Omen (1976)
Speaking of movies where the hauntings began before filming. The Omen took its horrors a step further. Lead actor Gregory Peck’s son shot himself two months prior to filming. Then, while flying to London, Peck’s plane was struck by lightning. A few weeks later, The Omen’s executive producer Mace Neufeld’s plane was struck by lightning. Then, while filming in Rome, producer Harvey Bernhard was almost struck by lightning.
The animal handler for the “crazy baboon scene” was mauled by a tiger shortly after shooting wrapped. Special effects artist John Richardson, who worked on the infamous decapitation scene in The Omen, was in a horrific car crash post-production. While Richardson survived, his assistant, Liz Moore, was killed when the accident beheaded her.
Lastly, a plane that was chartered for the film, and then switched at the last minute went down shortly after takeoff, killing everyone on board.
All of the Poltergeist films (1982, 1986, 1988)
All three of the Poltergeist films were marked by premature deaths. Blaming the original film’s use of real skeletons in the “flooded pool scene”, the Poltergeist films were a haunted movie nightmare. Let’s track that again. Real skeletons. They used real dead bodies in filming.
Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Anne died at the age of 12. Dominique Dunne, who played the eldest daughter Dana, died at the age of 22. Lou Perryman, who played a construction worker, also died prematurely. Both Dunne and Perryman were murdered.
We could keep rattling off deaths, but we have to mention that:
During filming, it was reported that Oliver Robbins nearly died when he was “choked by the arms of the evil puppet.” He actually had to be saved by Steven Spielberg. Between the dead bodies in the pool and the evil puppet, we wouldn’t have made it through filming Poltergeist.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Yup, exorcism movies are haunted. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a perfect example of a straight-up haunting. The cast and crew complained of televisions and radios turning on and off during the late hours of the night, with the most activity happening at “the devil’s hour”, 3 am.
Jennifer Carpenter, who played Emily, specifically claimed that her radio would play the chorus of Pearl Jam’s “Alive” at 3 am daily. Carpenter also reported that she couldn’t shake the feeling of being followed around the set, and at one point believed that an entity had followed her home from the haunted movie.