Rosemary’s Baby. The Exorcist. Annabelle. These are just a few of the horror films whose production was allegedly plagued with strange occurrences.
These accounts from cast, directors and crew members – which include incidents that occurred after the film’s release – may have no truth to them, but something odd is afoot with a lot of the cases.
Annabelle made headlines last week after rumours circulated social media claiming that the “demonically possessed” real-life doll had gone missing from its museum casing.
While that particular confusion was (thankfully) cleared up, the film’s set had supposedly been rocked by several unexplained mysteries years before.
From mysterious on-set fires to tragic deaths and terrifying cases of suspected paranormal activity, we’ve compiled 17 examples of films that were supposedly hit by curses.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Rosemary’s Baby producer William Castle was convinced Roman Polanski’s 1968 chiller was cursed. After its release, he was hospitalised with kidney stones and, after experiencing hallucinations during his near-death experience, claimed to have seen the film’s lead character approaching him with a knife. The following year, Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, was killed in the Manson Family Murders.
The Exorcist (1973)
The Exorcist star Ellen Burstyn detailed a terrifying incident in which a fire burned the majority of the 1973 horror film’s set to the ground. Despite it destroying the interiors depicting the MacNeil family’s home, it somehow left the bedroom of the possessed Regan (Linda Blair) inexplicably untouched.
The Omen (1976)
The Omen was plagued by a lot of terrible incidents: – Lead actor Gregory Peck and writer David Seltzer were on planes that were struck by lightning. – The stuntman standing in for Peck during the famous rabid dog scene was actually attacked by Rottweilers that bit through the protective gear he was wearing. – A zookeeper on set to tame baboons was mauled to death by a lion the day after completing their work. – Most tragically, though, after filming was completed, special effects director John Richardson and his assistant, Liz Moore, were involved in a serious car accident. Moore was decapitated in an incident that echoed one of The Omen’s most disturbing scenes.
Child star Oliver Robbins claimed he nearly died after being “choked by the arms of the evil puppet” featured in 1982 film Poltergeist. A few years after the film was released, young actor Heather O’Rourke died from cardiac arrest and septic shock caused by a misdiagnosed intestinal stenosis. She was 12.
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Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Tragedy hit the Twilight Zone movie when director John Landis – who fell out with co-director Steven Spielberg due to unsafely cutting too many corners during production – pushed ahead with a stunt despite windy conditions. When a helicopter flew out of control, it came crashing down right onto the precise position where actor Vic Morrow and two child stars, Myca Dinh Le, seven, and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, six, were killed by the whirring blades and falling debris. The incident, which saw Landis acquitted of manslaughter charges, led to greater regulations in on-set safety.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
“You always felt like someone was going to die on this set,” actor Laura Harrington said about Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive. The “cursed” film saw near-death experiences for cameramen and stuntmen as well as a hurricane, which hit the set during production. Camera assistant Silvia Giulietti would later say: “Every day, we had security because the movie was a very dangerous movie.”
Okay, Ghost may not be scary, but one of the biggest Hollywood urban legends goes that Poltergeist child star Heather O’Rourke haunted the 1990 film’s set. Crew members claimed to have continually heard the footsteps of an unseen figure as well as a child laughing. The film was shot on the same sound stage where O’Rourke had filmed scenes as a child actor.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
The Exorcism of Emily Rose‘s lead star Jennifer Carpenter says she was haunted by a ghost that seemed to have a taste for the musical. She told Dread Central that, while she was working on the 2005 film, a radio would continually turn on by itself whenever she got home.
It was Insidious‘s hospital set where strange occurrences seemed to go down. While numerous members of the film’s cast and crew complained about feeling unwell whenever they stepped foot onto set, there were also claims that a buzzer from an unoccupied floor of the building would continually go off. What was causing it remains unknown.
The Innkeepers (2011)
A lot of the cast and crew associated with The Innkeepers experienced paranormal activity in the form of lights switching on and off for no reason. Doors would swing open and shut, frightening those who were present. Cast members even received phone calls that, when they answered, would have nobody on the other end. The hotel where the film was shot, the Yankee Peddler Inn in Connecticut, is known to be a hotspot for ghost hunters.
The Possession (2012)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who starred in 2012 horror film The Possession, didn’t believe in ghosts before filming began, but walked away convinced they are real. According to the film’s stars, odd occurrences plagued the set, which included the explosion of light bulbs and cold breezes following them around. The possessed box at the heart of the film was later destroyed in a storage facility fire.
The Conjuring (2013)
Vera Farmiga, who played real-life paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring, was so uneasy about making the film that she left the script outside her house. Despite this, one morning she woke up to find three slashes on her laptop screen. The eeriest thing, though, happened when the family whose real-life haunting the film is based on visited the set. Crew claimed that a “strange gust of wind” followed them wherever they went. Warner Bros Pictures
Return to Babylon (2013)
Silent film Return to Babylon is said to have captured demonic activity on film. Director Alex Monty Canawati used an old-school camera with black-and-white film that he mysteriously found in a bag, but when he watched back what he’d caught on camera, the lead actors’s faces had morphed into demonic-looking creatures.
Annabelle‘s director, John R Leonetti, claimed to have seen “three fingers drawn through dust” on set multiple times – terrifying, because the demonic doll at the heart of the film has three fingers. Producer Peter Sarfran went on to tell The Hollywood Reporter about some strange goings-on during the film’s shoot.
“We shot in this amazing, old apartment building near Koreatown, and we had some funky stuff go down,” he said. “In particular, the first day that the demon was shooting in full makeup, we brought him up in the elevator. He walks out and walks around to the green room to where we’re holding the talent, and just as he walks under, the entire glass light fixture falls down on his head. And in the script, the demon kills the janitor in that hallway. It was totally freaky.”
The Nun (2018)
Annabelle isn’t the only Conjuring spin-off that seems to have been haunted. Corin Hardy, who directed The Nun, says he saw two men in a room he was filming in at a castle in Romania. After completing the take, he turned to the men – assuming them to be members of the crew – but they were gone. Chillingly, they would have had to pass him to leave the room.