The 1982 Movie Poltergeist Used Real Skeletons As
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The 1982 Movie Poltergeist Used Real Skeletons As – Tymoff

“Poltergeist,” the 1982 horror classic directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg, has long been a subject of fascination for movie buffs and horror aficionados alike. Among its numerous eerie behind-the-scenes stories, one of the most persistent and chilling rumors is that real human skeletons were used as props during the film’s production. This claim, though shocking, is rooted in both practical effects practices of the time and the peculiar circumstances surrounding the movie’s creation.

The 1982 Movie Poltergeist Used Real Skeletons As

The Making of The 1982 Movie Poltergeist Used Real Skeletons As – Tymoff

“Poltergeist” tells the story of the Freeling family, whose home becomes the site of supernatural occurrences after it is revealed to have been built on an old cemetery. The film is renowned for its effective use of practical effects, which were groundbreaking for the time and contributed significantly to its terrifying atmosphere. One of the most iconic scenes involves JoBeth Williams’ character, Diane Freeling, falling into a swimming pool filled with skeletons during a climactic supernatural onslaught.

The Skeleton Controversy in The 1982 Movie Poltergeist Used Real Skeletons As – Tymoff

The scene in question, where Diane encounters skeletons, is central to the lore surrounding the use of real human remains. The claim is that the skeletons used in this scene were not plastic or rubber replicas, but actual human bones. JoBeth Williams herself has spoken about the incident in various interviews, noting that she was not initially informed that the skeletons were real. According to Williams, she learned about the true nature of the props only after the scene had been filmed, adding a layer of unease to an already harrowing experience.

Practical Effects and Budget Constraints For The 1982 Movie Poltergeist Used Real Skeletons As – Tymoff

At the heart of this macabre decision were practical and financial considerations. In the early 1980s, creating lifelike skeletons from plastic or latex was an expensive and labor-intensive process. Real skeletons, by contrast, were often readily available from medical supply companies and were relatively inexpensive. This practice was not uncommon in Hollywood at the time; using real bones was a cost-saving measure that many productions adopted to enhance the realism of their horror scenes.

Ethical Considerations and Hollywood Practices

The revelation that real skeletons were used in “Poltergeist” has sparked significant debate over the ethical implications of such practices. While the use of human remains for medical and educational purposes is well-established and regulated, their use in entertainment raises questions about consent and respect for the deceased. In the context of “Poltergeist,” the decision to use real skeletons likely did not consider these ethical dimensions, focusing instead on the practical benefits of the film’s production.

The Curse of The 1982 Movie Poltergeist Used Real Skeletons As – Tymoff

Adding to the legend of “Poltergeist” is the so-called “Poltergeist Curse,” a series of tragic events and untimely deaths that befell several cast members. The most notable was the murder of Dominique Dunne (who played the eldest Freeling daughter, Dana) shortly after the film’s release, and the untimely death of Heather O’Rourke (who played the youngest daughter, Carol Anne) in 1988. These tragedies have been linked, in popular imagination, to the alleged use of real skeletons, fueling rumors of a curse on the production.

Behind the Scenes: Perspectives from the Cast and Crew

While the use of real skeletons in “Poltergeist” has been confirmed by various sources, including cast interviews, the reasons behind this choice were primarily practical. Craig Reardon, a special effects artist who worked on the film, has defended the decision, explaining that the skeletons were purchased legally from medical supply companies and were considered standard practice in the industry at the time.

Reardon also addressed the safety measures taken during the filming of the infamous swimming pool scene. Despite the eerie nature of using real bones, the production team ensured that all props were handled respectfully and safely. This perspective offers a more nuanced understanding of the decision, highlighting the practical realities of filmmaking in the early 1980s.

Legacy and Impact on Horror Cinema on The 1982 Movie Poltergeist Used Real Skeletons As – Tymoff

The use of real skeletons in “Poltergeist” has become a legendary aspect of the film’s legacy, contributing to its enduring status as a horror classic. This story underscores the lengths to which filmmakers have gone to create authenticity in their work, sometimes at the expense of ethical considerations. It also serves as a reminder of how horror films tap into deep-seated fears and taboos, using elements that blur the line between fiction and reality.

The impact of “Poltergeist” on the horror genre cannot be overstated. Its blend of supernatural terror, cutting-edge special effects, and compelling storytelling set a new standard for horror films in the 1980s and beyond. The film’s success also paved the way for numerous sequels and inspired a generation of filmmakers to explore similar themes and techniques.


The tale of “Poltergeist” and its use of real skeletons is a fascinating chapter in the annals of Hollywood history. It reveals the intersection of practical effects, budgetary constraints, and ethical considerations in the world of filmmaking. While the decision to use real human remains may seem shocking by today’s standards, it reflects a time when the pursuit of realism often led filmmakers to make controversial choices. Despite the unsettling nature of this revelation, “Poltergeist” remains a seminal work in the horror genre, its legacy undiminished by the skeletons in its closet.

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