Trivia for the Movie "Poltergeist"

by Audrey Farley
The word poltergeist means

The word poltergeist means "tumbling spirit" in German.

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The movie "Poltergeist," which was released in 1982, is about a family whose home is haunted by ghosts. Although the ghosts initially seem friendly, they soon turn hostile and begin to terrorize the family. The film is considered a classic. It was followed by two sequels, one in 1986 and the other in 1988.


Actress Drew Barrymore auditioned for the role of Carol Anne. Although she was heavily considered, Steven Spielberg decided he wanted the role to go to a more angelic girl, and he chose Heather O'Rourke. However, Barrymore's audition for "Poltergeist" earned her a role in "E.T., " which Spielberg directed immediately after "Poltergeist."


The character Robbie is plagued by two terrors: clowns and a tree outside the window. Both of these terrors haunted Steven Spielberg as a child. Also, Spielberg's hands are the hands that yank the flesh off the investigator's face, as shown in the bathroom mirror.

Chair Scene

The movie has a scene in which the kitchen chairs amazingly balance perfectly on the table. This scene was filmed in one take. While the camera panned along the character Diane (played by JoBeth Williams) as she reaches for cleaning materials, a few crew members scrambled to arrange an organized pyramid of chairs on top of the table and remove the singe chairs. By the time the camera panned back, the chairs were in place.

Special Effects

The scene involving a steak that crawls like a caterpillar was filmed using a real steak that was laid over a slot cut in between counter top tiles. On the bottom of the steak were two wires that were connected to a special effects operator positioned behind the counter. When the operator moved the wires, the steak crawled. A similar operation was used to move the chairs across the room in the scene in which Diane shows Steven that they move themselves. A wire was fastened to a chair's legs under the set, and the operator dragged the chair across the room.

Dr. Fantasy

At the Holiday Inn, a sign reads "Welcome Dr. Fantasy and Friends." Producer Frank Marshall's nickname was Dr. Fantasy.

Curse on Actors

Some "Poltergeist" fans believe that the film cursed several of the actors and actresses, four of whom died over a six-year period after the three movies were completed. In 1982, Dominique Dunn (the older sister) was strangled to death by an ex-boyfriend. In 1987, Julian Beck, who played a bad spirit in the second "Poltergeist" movie, died of stomach cancer, and Will Sampson, who played a good spirit, died after receiving a heart-lung transplant. Heather O'Rourke, who played the young girl in all three movies, died of a septic infection in 1988 at the age of 12.

About the Author

Audrey Farley began writing professionally in 2007. She has been featured in various issues of "The Mountain Echo" and "The Messenger." Farley has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Richmond and a Master of Arts in English literature from Virginia Commonwealth University. She teaches English composition at a community college.

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