Making Of...
Making Of...

Poltergeist Behind The Scenes

Poltergeist Picture
Carol Anne comes down to speak to her 'friends'...
Go behind the scenes and learn what went on during the making of the 1982 Horror / Occult movie starring Heather O'Rourke, JoBeth Williams, Oliver Robins et al.
Contributed by: Kristin Troxel
Actress JoBeth Williams, who played Diane, had a supernatural encounter during the filming of the movie. JoBeth would come home everyday and the pictures on the wall of her house would be crooked. She'd put them back yet five minutes later they would be crooked again. Zelda Rubenstein (Tangina Barrens) also had an experience where a vision of her dog came in front of her eyes and said goodbye to her. Hours later, her mother called her and told Zelda that her dog had indeed died that very day.
Rewind Archive
Although directed by Tobe Hooper, the film was produced by Steven Spielberg who many believed had been the 'real' director of the movie. This and the more prominent placing of Spielberg's name on advertising for the movie caused all sorts of trouble at the time of the movies release.
Contributed by: MN
Steven Spielberg was the writer and executive producer.
Rewind Archive
'Poltergeist' was gestated out of the failed attempt in creating a sequel for Columbia's 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'.
Contributed by: Jamie Sullivan
Drew Barrymore was originally considered for the part eventually played by Heather O'Rourke.
Contributed by: Kim Knight
It is listed on the Internet Movie Database website ( that Zelda, the woman who played "Tangina" in the movie actually had an experience where she felt a jolt then later found out her mother died, not her dog.
Contributed by: Jamie Sullivan
Heather O'Rourke's discovery was right out of a Hollywood fairy tale. She was eating lunch at the MGM commisarary with her sister, Tammy and her mother when Steven Spielberg approached their table. He was looking for a child and was not having much luck until he spotted Heather. Heather was more interested in lunch than the stranger who was talking to them. Heather initially failed the screen test for Poltergeist when she laughed instead of being afraid of a stuffed animal. Steven thought she was just too young. He wanted a six-year-old, but he saw something in her and called her back asking her to bring a scary storybook. He asked her to scream, and she screamed and screamed until she started to cry and couldn't do it anymore. She had the part after the second screen test.
Contributed by: Jamie Sullivan
During all the horrors that proceeded while filming Poltergeist, the only scene that really scared Heather was the one in which she had to hold onto the headboard while the wind machine blew her toys into the closet behind her. She fell apart and Steven stopped everything, held her in his arms and said that she would not have to do that scene again.
Contributed by: DJ
On VH1's "I Love the 80's," the woman who played the mom was interviewed and she said that the part where she is in the mud with skeletons, she thought they were plastic, but found out later that they were in fact real. Could this be true? Well, on E!'s "True Hollywood Story", it was said that unbeknownst to most of the crew, the skulls in the muddy pool were indeed human skulls.
Contributed by: Jamie Sullivan
While filming the scene with the clown doll scene where it comes alive and tries to pull him under his bed, Oliver Robins (who plays Carol Anne's brother Robbie) went through a near-death experience; the puppet grabbed his legs too hard and cut off his circulation. Steven Spielberg thought he was acting (he even yelled "Keep going! You're doing great!"), it was only until he saw his face turn red that he realized he was in trouble. Spielberg ran over and pulled the puppet off, saving Oliver's life.
Contributed by: David Jones
Poltergeist was filmed from May 1981 to August 1981 and immediately afterwards, Steven Spielberg began filming "E.T."
Contributed by: Allyson
The scene where Diane (Jobeth Williams) is being thrown around her bedroom towards the end of the movie, was actually filmed in a rotating box with a stationary camera attached to the box. This gave the appearance that she was being pulled up the walls and across the ceiling.
Contributed by: Sunlight
Zelda Rubenstein is actually a real psychic. The dog story didn't surprize me but I hadn't heard of it. Zelda had often had visions of things before they happened, especially at the time she was cast in this role.
Contributed by: Tobey
In the scene in the bathroom, where the guy looks in the mirror and tears chunks of his face of, the hands belong to Spielberg.
Contributed by: Aaron
Producer Steven Spielberg flimed Poltergiest and E.T. within 20 mintues of each different location.
Contributed by: John Edward Kilduff
Listen to the roar of the creature that pops out of the door near the end of the movie. That noise, with a little digital cleaning, can be heard as the roar of Leo The Lion in the current MGM logo. Strangely enough, "Poltergeist" is no longer owned by MGM. The rights to this and many other MGM titles up to 1986 went to Warner Brothers when they bought Turner Entertainment. Other titles on this website that were part of the deal include "Victor/Victoria", "Reckless", "Electric Dreams", "9 1/2 Weeks" and "Pink Floyd: The Wall".
Contributed by: Carrie
The collapsing house at the climax of the film was a six-foot wide ministure house created by Industrial Light and Magic. It was stood on end with a high-speed camera above and a series of cables extending out the bottom. The camera filmed the destructive action at 300 frames per second, as the house was ripped apart in seconds by the cables and the debris sucked up by a poowerful floor-mounted vaccuum cleaner. When the film was run for Steven Spielberg, the projectionist exclaimed loudly as he saw the house slowly disintegrate into itself and Spielberg knew he had a winner special effect. The remains of the miniature house were gathered into a plastic box and sealed, and were presented to Steven Spielberg. He kept them as an interesting memento of the film as a piano decoration.
Contributed by: Scott Colorado
The inspiration for part of this movie may have come from something that really happened in Denver, Colorado.

Back in the 1870's there was a graveyard located at the current east end of Cheeseman Park. There was a law that was passed by the Fed's about how much park space a city was to have for each acre of developed land (This also was the reason for New York's Central Park) So many cities were forced to retro fit parkspace into their planning.

Denver's city fathers decided to relocate the graveyard because it had been hemmed in and would just be a perpetual maintenace issue, fo they put out a notice for bids and awarded it to the lowest bidder. Just like in the movie, the guy had under bid it and was starting to lose money so he just relocated the headstones.

By the time this was discovered, there was already a huge marble greek-style pavilion erected and the grounds had been landscaped. Well, the people that had been buried there didn't any living relatives nearby so the city just left the graves in place.

It is still part of a halloween tour, along with the house where the events that inspired the movie starring George C. Scott (Patton), Poltereist, also on the east end of the park. Really not a place you want to go after dark- inside Denver joke.
Contributed by: Tyler
The original cast of "Poltergeist" included veteran actor, Edward Ashley, who portrayed Dr. Lesh's (Beatrice Straight) much older and wiser "ghost buster" who, in fact, is the one who urges Lesh that "it's time to bring out your big guns" and contact Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein). The five minute scene ended up on the cutting room floor and Ashley's part (and screen credit) never appeared.
Deleted Scenes
When movies are made, scenes are often left on the cutting room floor.
Alternate Versions
Sometimes, there will be several versions of a movie floating about on cable, tv or video etc. Other times, a Director may release a special cut of the movie.