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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

TW: Contains references to graphic violence and abuse.

Somewhere beyond the picked over pumpkin patches, seasonal Starbucks drinks and mass-produced Spirit Halloween costumes lies the heart of Halloween: horror movies. Films ranging from cheap slasher flicks to campy comedies to truly spine-chilling tales have become a beloved part of Halloween pop culture. At their best, scary movies leave viewers with a lifetime of terror or, at the very least, with a few restless nights of sleeping with the lights on. But for the cast and crew of certain scary movies, there have been experiences of terror and tragedy that went far beyond the fiction of their films. Here are three iconic horror movies that are believed to have been “cursed.”

Rosemary’s Baby

The title sequence for Roman Polanski’s 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby, a story about a woman who becomes convinced that she is carrying the Devil’s child, opens with a haunting nursery rhyme hummed by the film’s star, Mia Farrow. Like this chilling song, many details in the film are twisted from innocent to deranged. Pastel nightgowns are accessorized with kitchen knives, silver necklaces hold satanic herbs, and bassinets rock Satan’s child. Similarly, the major financial and cultural success of Rosemary’s Baby is tainted with a series of tragedies. A few months after the movie’s release, the film’s composer, Krzysztof Komeda, died of head injuries after a drinking escapade in the Hollywood Hills. The next year, the film’s producer, William Castle, was hospitalized for excruciating kidney stones and hallucinated that he was a part of the film’s satanic final scenes. The most infamous loss of the film’s extended crew occurred in the summer of 1969, when the actress Sharon Tate, wife of Roman Polanski, and four others were murdered by members of the Manson Family. She was eight months pregnant and only 26 years old, with a bright future that was sadly stolen from her. Eleven years after her murder, the Beatles’ John Lennon was shot to death outside of The Dakota Hotel, which served as the exterior building in Rosemary’s Baby. These tragedies, along with the many other incidents, have led some to question if the film’s themes of witchcraft and Satanism have set a “curse” on the film’s cast and crew.

The Exorcist

William Friedkin’s 1973 film The Exorcist shocked a generation, gaining the reputation of the scariest movie in Hollywood history. The film, which centers on the demonic possession of a young girl, triggered a media controversy after its realistic special effects caused some moviegoers to pass out, throw up, and have heart attacks. This controversial reputation would never leave the legacy of the film, as more infamous events would plague those involved in the movie’s making. Troubles began early into production when the set caught fire after a bird got caught in an electrical box and short-circuited the wiring. The set was left destroyed except for one room, which was the location of the film’s climactic ending scene where the main character undergoes an exorcism. Before the film’s release, Paul Bateson, who appears in the film as a nurse, stabbed film critic Addison Verrill to death. After the film finished production, its premiere was held in Rome at a cinema that was located between two churches. As the crowd gathered in anticipation, lightning struck one of the churches’ 400-year-old cross, which then fell in front of the stunned moviegoers. With other instances of on-set injuries and sudden deaths of the cast and crew, The Exorcist will remain known as an iconic example of a “cursed” film.

Poltergeist

Tobe Hooper’s 1982 film Poltergeist follows a Californian family of five whose suburban house is haunted by increasingly threatening spirits. While films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist seem to be haunted by supernatural forces of an unspecified origin, with many questioning if their demonic-themed plots had an influence, there is one notorious scene in Poltergeist that many pinpoint as the film’s bad omen. At the end of the film, JoBeth Williams’ character escapes her haunted house and hides in the empty pool, where buried dead bodies begin to emerge and surround her. Unknown to Williams, the prop skeletons were real corpses that the production team purchased from a medical supply company as a cheaper alternative to creating special effects. After this scene was filmed, troubling occurrences began to burden the cast and crew. A few months after the film’s release, Dominique Dunne, the 22-year-old actress who played Dana Freeling, was strangled to death by her abusive ex-boyfriend. A few years later, 12-year-old Heather O’Rourke, recognizable for her iconic role as Carol Anne, shockingly died during an operation to repair a bowel infection. Despite the deaths of the two young stars and other cast members later, Poltergeist continued as a franchise. As the series continued, so did the effects of the supposed “curse.”

This Halloween, turn the lights off, get a king-sized candy bar ready, and then pick an iconic horror movie to screen. When you finish it, look up the behind-the-scenes background — That’s when the real haunting begins.

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Alexandra is a sophomore at Boston University majoring in Journalism and minoring in Public Relations in the College of Communications. She is from New Jersey and can be found watching old movies, true crime documentaries, and 90s runway shows.
Madison is studying journalism and international relations at BU. She's from Washington state, loves drinking tea, and watching Marvel movies. Check out her portfolio and blog at https://dontmakelies.com
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