February 23, 1988
Front Page Caption: POLTERGEIST MOVIE CURSE KILLS FOUR:
Heather was latest in bizarre death list.
THE POLTERGEIST DEATH CURSE STRIKES AGAIN
Cast of movie living in fear as 12-year-old star becomes mysterious victim no. 4
The cast of the chilling Poltergeist horror films is living in fear of a deadly curse that has already claimed the lives of four of the movies' stars.
The latest victims of the terrifying jinx was 12-year-old Heather O'Rourke, who became an overnight sensation with her eerie lines, "They're Heeere!" and "They're Back!" in the popular flicks about a family plagued by evil spirits.
Heather, who recently completed Poltergeist III, died from what puzzled doctors could only describe as "complications of an intestinal infection and septic shock."
She was rushed to a hosptial near her home in Big Bear, California, where she suffered cardiac arrest.
She was resuscitated and flown to Children's Hospital in San Diego for surgery, but died during the operation. Medical experts called her death "a one-in-a million event."
Three other Poltergeist stars had earlier died unexpectedly:
[*] Dominique Dunne, then 22, who played Heather's older sister in the first film, was brutally strangled by a crazed boyfriend outside her West Hollywood home in October 1982.
[*] Will Sampson, 53, an Indian actor who played a medicine man trying to rid the family of its
curse, died last year after going through a risky heart-lung operation.
[*] Julian Beck, 60, who played the paranoid preacher of doom, died of cancer very soon after the release of Poltergeist II in 1985.
Heather's close pals in the Poltergeist series, including director Steven Spielberg and co-stars Craig T.Nelson
and JoBeth Williams, were stunned by her death.
"It is a tradegy that only the people who knew her could feel," says Nelson. "She was very special."
Williams called it "A shocking loss. She was a wonderful person who I came to love very much. She really knew how to fit into people's lives and add a ray of sunshine."
The series of deaths had strengthened spine-tingling tales of evil forces haunting all three productions.
"Ever since these films started, there has been tragedy after tragedy," says one of the production team.
"It's like the movies have been cursed. I think the Poltergeist movies have unleashed something evil --- and very dangerous.
There was also a rash of unusual injuries. "One guy twisted his ankle, another hurt his ribs," the insider says.
"And there was a lot of tripping and falling on things."
"But the weirdest thing of all was when the film came back blank after the first day's shooting.
"Iv'e been in this business for 15 years, and I've never seen that happen before."
Sampson, a real life medicine man, conducted an impromtu exorcism to rid the site of its demons.
"It seemed to work," says the insider. "Everyone was more at ease knowing that something had been done about the evil presence."
Heather was one of the few cast members who remained indifferent toward demons and ghosts.
"Im really not scared of spooky things," she told an interviewer.
"When I have to look really frightened, I concentrate on scary things like losing my kittens or something like that."
There's been tragedy after tragedy since these films started, says one insider.
Poltergeist II co-stars Heather O'Rourke and Will Sampson (top) both died on the operating table.
Julian Beck (above) was felled by cancer, and Dominique Dunne (right) was murdered by a boyfriend.