• Into the Rabbit Hole

Ep 23: Horror Movie Horror Stories

Since Spooky season is in full swing and I love scary movies I thought I would tell you about horrifying things that happened on movie sets.

Some of these happenings are paranormal, some are criminal, and some are just flat out bizarre. I’m going to try to go in order of when the movies were released.

Psycho (1960)

My first story is from the set of Psycho, released in 1960. This classic thriller was directed by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. It’s one of those movies everyone knows even if you haven’t seen it. The iconic shower scene, the fucked up mother son relationship, that’s all scary enough, but nothing compared to what happened on set.

During filming, a body double for the star Janet Leigh was actually murdered on set. The killer was a handyman who had been working on the set. He thought this murder would impress Alfred Hitchcock.

The Exorcist (1973)

Supposedly this iconic movie set was cursed. Not only did one of the actors, Jack MacGowran, die just days after he finished shooting his scenes, but a security guard and FX worker also died. And then the entire set burnt down with no apparent cause and the whole thing had to be rebuilt. The director actually brought a priest in to bless the set.

The curse didn’t stop after filming. When the movie was released several audience members died of heart attacks in the the theater.

Poltergeist (1982)

I’ve mentioned this movie on the podcast before. It was one of my favorites growing up. But I didn’t know about all the tragedy surrounding these films.

The child star, Heather O’Rourke, the cute little blonde girl who announces the visitors have arrived in her creepy little girl voice actually died when she was just 12 years old. She suffered a cardiac arrest due to complications from Crohns disease while she was working on one of the sequels.

But hers wasn’t the only strange death to plague cast and crew. The actress who played her older sister in the 1st movie, Dominique Dunne, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend just one day after the movie premiered. This could be an episode on it’s own, but to sum up Dominique had been at her home rehearsing for an upcoming tv show with fellow actor David Packer when her ex-boyfriend, John Sweeney showed up. At first she only spoke to him through the door, but after a few minutes he persuaded her to come out to he porch. David Packer, the actor she was rehearsing with, said he heard smacking sounds, two screams and a thud. He then called the police but was told that her house was out of their jurisdiction (WTF?!). So he called a friend and told them that if he died, John Sweeney did it. When police finally arrived Sweeney surrendered immediately saying that he killed his girlfriend and tried to kill himself. He claimed to not even remember doing it, but he strangled her. He went to trial and ended up only getting convicted of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 6 years.

But even that wasn’t the final life that would be lost during the course of these films. After the second movie wrapped, the producer died unexpectedly during an operation.

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

I’ve never actually seen this movie but this story sounds like it could have been an episode of the show. During the production, one of the lead actors Vic Morrow, was killed. But the creepy stuff starts a year earlier when Morrow began telling his friends and family that he had a haunting feeling that something horrible would happen. He didn’t know specifics but he said that he saw it in a dream and that the accident would happen while working on one of his movies. He even took out a $5 million dollar life insurance.

Unfornately, he was right. After filming started he was killed in a freak accident when a helicopter crashed and he was decapitated. Even creepier? The concept artist had unknowingly drawn an eerily similar scene.

The Crow (1994)

I would be surprised if you didn’t know the main part of this one. During filming, the movie’s star Brandon Lee, son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee was accidentally killed after a prop gun ended up shooting a real bullet instead of a blank.

The strange part of this tragedy is that twenty years earlier Bruce Lee actually starred in a movie where he played an actor who was killed when accidentally shot with a real bullet from a prop gun.

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Actor who played jesus was struck by lightning while on the cross.

He also got hypothermia, a lung infection, pneumonia, migraines, a dislocated shoulder, and lastly during a whipping scene a piece of his flesh was actually ripped out

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

No one died on this set, but there were some strange occurences. Lead actress repeatedly spoke of her alarm clock turning itself on during the night, waking her up with the same song every time. It was Alive by Pearl Jam. Weirder still, other cast members reported the same thing. Same song, same time, and it was always the part of the song that just repeats “I’m alive”. They got so spooked that they all removed the radios from their rooms. That effectively stopped it, but it was never explained.

The Amityville Horror (2005)

This movie. Haunted house, murder, demons, and Ryan Reynolds chopping wood shirtless. Um...yes please!

But in all seriousness, some messed up things happened on this set, starting with a delay in filming due to a body washing up on shore very close to the set.

And then Ryan Reynolds and some of the other cast and crew started waking up every night at 3:15am, the exact same time the real life murders took place. In the movie, that’s one of the first signs that something is happening.

The Innkeepers (2011)

The Possession (2012)

The Conjuring (2013)

Return to Babylon (2013)

Anabelle (2014)

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