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Poltergeist tv show: is it happening everything we know.

Yet another addition to the Poltergeist franchise has been announced, and here's everything we know about the upcoming horror TV series.

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  • Poltergeist TV Show: Further News & Info
  • The popular Poltergeist franchise may be returning as a new TV series, following the success of the 2015 reboot film.
  • Amazon and MGM are developing the series, with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television producing.
  • Though the TV show is in early development and no writer or release date has been confirmed, its popularity suggests it will likely come to fruition in the near future.

The beloved Poltergeist franchise could be returning soon in the form of a new TV series, and there have already been some exciting updates regarding the spooky show. Originally released in 1982, the Poltergeist franchise launched with the Tobe Hooper-directed film that follows the Freeling family as restless spirits beset their idyllic new home. Co-produced by Steven Spielberg, the film had a distinct style and slick execution that made it one of the hallmark mainstream horror movies of the 1980s. Its popularity is still felt today, as evidenced by continued interest in continuing the franchise.

The original film was a box office smash (via Box Office Mojo ) and it earned two sequels throughout the 1980s that were met with decreasing reception from fans and critics. Behind-the-scenes urban legends about the making of Poltergeist helped to make the movie even more spooky, and a series of real-life tragedies seemed to lend credence to the idea that the movie was haunted. Even after the '80s had faded away, the franchise returned in the TV series Poltergeist: The Legacy which ran for four seasons in the mid-1990s. Additionally, a 2015 reboot film was produced which proved the franchise still had momentum decades later.

The little girl in Poltergeist

The Horrifying True Story That Inspired Steven Spielberg's Poltergeist

Heather O'Rourke as Carol Anne with her hands on the TV in Poltergeist

Amazon and MGM announced they are currently developing a Poltergeist series. According to Variety , the series is in very early development and hasn't even attached a writer yet. Steven Spielberg's company Amblin produced the original film, and the subsidiary Amblin Television will also produce the show with Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey serving as producers on behalf of Amblin. A scant few details were released as part of the announcement, though it was confirmed that the show will take place in the same world as the original film .

Heather O'Rourke as Carole Anne Freeling staring at the TV screen in Poltergeist

Though the announcement was made that it was in development, that is not necessarily confirmation that the Poltergeist TV show will happen. In the modern age of highly competitive streaming markets, networks and platforms make announcements all the time that never actually come to fruition. However, considering how popular the Poltergeist film series is, it will likely make it to the air sooner rather than later.

Diane and Steve Freeling standing outside in Poltergeist

No cast has been attached to the Poltergeist TV show , though the announcement that it will take place in the same universe as the movie does open the door for a few returns. It is possible that movie cast members like Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams could reprise their roles as Steve and Diane Freeling, respectively.

The clown doll from Poltergeist

The official press release from Amazon and MGM made sure to state that no writer has been attached to the project, therefore, a story probably isn't fully set yet. However, by saying the show takes place in the same world as the movie, the Poltergeist TV show could catch up with the Freeling family decades after their last harrowing ghost encounter.

Poltergeist TV Show: Further News & Info

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What Really Happened During the Making of Poltergeist

poltergeist on tv

By Anthony Breznican

Poltergeist

Poltergeist is still haunting, even after 40 years. The movie about a family menaced by malevolent spirits in their cookie-cutter suburban home plays like a list of collective nightmares: The cackling clown doll that comes to life. The closet that’s actually a portal to another world. The monstrous tree that rips through a bedroom window. And the angelic little girl, pressing her hands against a whispering, static-filled TV screen and calling out to her slumbering household: “Theyyyy’re heeeere…”

Then there is the swimming pool—an open pit the family is just beginning to excavate in their backyard. This is where the source of ghostly rage is finally revealed during the stormy climax, as the bodies of those who were buried beneath the property when it was a graveyard rise up around the mother, played by JoBeth Williams, who has slipped and fallen into the murky runoff.

Long after filming this sequence, the actor learned an unsettling truth. “I always assumed that the skeletons were made by the prop department,” Williams tells Vanity Fair. “A few years later, I ran into one of the special effects guys, and I said, ‘You guys making all those skeletons, that must have been really amazing.’ He said, ‘Oh, we didn’t make them, those were real.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Yeah, they were real skeletons.’”

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JoBeth Williams (left) and costar.

Even now, her voice catches a little. “I don’t know where they were bought from, but that really grossed me out,” she says. “I’m glad I didn’t know that then, because I would’ve really been screaming a lot—for real.”

To commemorate its four-decade anniversary, Poltergeist has been restored and released for the first time in 4K Ultra HD , and Williams and Craig T. Nelson —who starred as the besieged parents—agreed to exclusive new interviews to revisit the memories, controversies, tragedies, and legacy of one of the most popular scary movies of all time.

Both Williams and Nelson were still relative newcomers back in 1982, when the film was released. Williams had been on the soap opera Guiding Light and appeared in a handful of movies, among them Kramer vs. Kramer and Stir Crazy, which also featured Nelson in a small role. He had been a Groundlings performer and comedy writer with supporting turns in …And Justice for All and Private Benjamin.

Poltergeist was an altogether different entity for both of them—a big-budget scary crowdpleaser packed with state-of-the-art stunts and visual effects. It was all overseen by Steven Spielberg , also early in his career, but already recognized as a trailblazer.

“At the time, it was huge,” Nelson recalls. “At MGM, we had three or four different stages, and the pool. You had these enormous sets and you had this kind of story that may or may not make sense—depending on how they did it.”

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Craig T. Nelson, holding the tether to his wife and daughter.

The Authorship Question

Poltergeist was credited to Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper, but by now it’s common knowledge that Spielberg was, so to speak, a ghost director.

“It was so exciting to work on a movie that Spielberg was involved in, and he was very, very actively involved,” Williams says. “I mean, it was his story idea and he helped write it.”

Initially, Spielberg wanted Stephen King to cowrite the Poltergeist screenplay, but the author didn’t respond. ( King has said he was “on a ship going across the Atlantic” when the offer came in, and didn’t get the message in time). Hooper also had King bona fides, having directed the acclaimed TV miniseries based on his vampire novel Salem’s Lot, and with Spielberg working simultaneously on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, he handed over the director’s title on Poltergeist to Hooper. Spielberg would still oversee the film as a producer, but the stars admit it was a collaboration between the two filmmakers.

“He was taking more of a hands-on approach,” Nelson says of Spielberg. “But it was always from a very creative collaboration. There was no tension on the set in that regard. It was determining how you were going to shoot things that had never been done before.”

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JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, and Zelda Rubinstein as the psychic Tangina Barrons.

When Poltergeist debuted, just a week before E.T. , Spielberg published a letter to Hooper in The Hollywood Reporter to publicly credit him for his work, thanking him for allowing a “unique, creative relationship” and for his “openness.” 

Still, the notion that it was more of Spielberg film than a Hooper one has persisted. Not only does the finished movie feel like a classic Amblin picture, due in part to Spielberg’s longtime editor, Michael Kahn, cutting it together, but Hooper never made another film that had the same tone, even though the pair would collaborate again on a 1987 episode of the TV series Amazing Stories and the 2002 alien saga Taken. (Hooper died in 2017 at the age of 74.)

“I think, in his heart of hearts, he would’ve loved to have directed it,” Williams says of Spielberg. “He was always there. And Tobe was not as experienced as Steven was. He very much listened to Steven’s ideas about things, because it was Steven’s movie, really. And I’m sure there were times when it drove Tobe crazy to have Steven so actively involved, but he never let on. They were both kind of there on the set. Tobe would give direction, sometimes Steven would add to that or give other direction, but I think it’s fair to say that it was sort of a combo of the two of them, because certainly Steven was actively involved.”

The Dead Pool

Williams played Diane Freeling, a stay-at-home mom who holds everything together, even in the best of times. The children included moody high schooler Dana (Dominique Dunne), scrappy little boy Robbie ( Oliver Robins ) and sweet-as-pie preschooler Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke.)

Nelson was the tough but tender man of the house, a real estate agent whose company built their home, as well as all the others in the neighborhood. It’s implied that that’s why the spirits of those buried on the grounds torment the Freelings. As Nelson’s character shouts at his boss in the final scene: “You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the headstones!”

“I hadn’t read that many movie scripts,” Williams says now. “I loved the story. I loved the family connection. And when it came to descriptions of the effects and that kind of stuff, I just skimmed over that. There was this one line that says: ‘Diane falls into muddy swimming pool with skeletons.’ And I just passed over that. I didn’t even notice it.”

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JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson’s characters save their son Robbie (Oliver Robins)

Then one day she found herself in an MGM soundstage doused with rain, soaked with mud, and tangled up with actual human skeletons. Decades before at the same studio, Esther Williams epitomized glamour as the graceful beauty who led teams of synchronized swimmers in kaleidoscopic water dances. JoBeth Williams (no relation) thought of that as she slid and slipped repeatedly into the muck.

“It was awful. First of all, they made the mud with peat. And peat begins to really stink after about a day, it begins to smell like dog poop. And so it was really icky to be in it,” she says.

“I ended up in that pool, oh, yeah,” Nelson adds. “There were the cadavers floating in there and strange things, amoebas. I mean, stuff had fallen in there.”

“I’d have to scream, and I’d think, Oh, God, I don’t want to get this water in my mouth because I’m sure I’ll get terrible diseases,” Williams says.

Don’t Go Into the Light (Or the Giant Fans)

Neither Williams nor Nelson spoke about eerie feelings or supernatural happenings on the set. They were more unsettled by tangible dangers, like the array of electricity that rimmed the pool full of corpses.

“It was of course surrounded by lights and surrounded by giant fans called Ritters , which are about 16 feet in diameter,” Williams says. “When I first had to get into the pool, I was very scared because I’m nervous about electricity and water. And I just had this image of one of those fans or the lights falling into it and being electrocuted. I told Steven that I was scared to do it and he said, ‘I’ll tell you what, I’ll get in with you.’ He put on waders and he said, “First of all, it’s all grounded, so it couldn’t electrocute you.’”

It did manage to calm her down, so she could focus on freaking out about supernatural terrors. “He stood in that water for the first few takes that I did,” Williams says. “And I thought that was very sweet of him.”

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JoBeth Williams as Diane Freeling in Poltergeist.

Nelson’s primary worry was a scene in which he had to rescue their son from a knotted old tree that comes to life and tries to swallow him.

“It was terrible. They made this tree and they put thorns in it—it was crazy,” he says. “It was a rubber tree, but at the same time you’re climbing up there, and you’re going, Why? Did the tree really need to have thorns on it? I mean, couldn’t you have done it with nice little pillow things when you crawl up, and they look like [thorns]?”

He remembers asking a lot of strange questions on the Poltergeist set, like during a scene in which a fresh steak appears suddenly to be rotten. “I remember asking the prop guys a lot of things. ‘Where did you get maggots? Where do you order maggots from? Is that something that’s on your truck all the time?’”

The Parents’ Secret Stash

Diane and Steve Freeling were a modern couple despite living what now looks like a retro-traditional life. Ozzie and Harriet of the early ’80s, but less self-assured. They were parents with passions and insecurities, and Poltergeist devotes much of its first act to making the family relatable before turning their lives upside down, sometimes literally. 

“You’re going from that kind of sublime, upper-middle-class living, having a family that’s fairly stable, raised in an area that’s nice, to the horror that you’re going to experience later on,” Nelson says.

In the movie, Steve and Diane are still in love, respectful but playful with one another, and secretly smoke marijuana together in their bedroom after the children are tucked in—a scene that scandalized generations of kid viewers who had no idea moms and dads did such things. A lot of that bedroom playfulness was improvised.

“Craig was a comedy writer at one time. In fact, I think he did stand-up too in his early days. But he’s very funny, and so Tobe and Steven would just let us run with things,” Williams says. One of her favorite bits was a shirtless Nelson, pooching out his belly and then sucking it back in as he stands before a full-length mirror saying, “Before, after…before, after…”

“Craig got into that whole thing, doing that with his stomach, which of course had me in genuine hysterics,” Williams says. “And I think we really began to feel like we were stoned after a while.”

“We weren’t by the way,” she quickly adds.

Nelson explains that not-so-special effect. “We rolled up those joints of oregano and tried to get them lit and puff away,” Nelson says.

For those keeping score: The skeletons were real, but the weed was not.

Image may contain Light Flare Human Person Lighting and Sunlight

Craig T. Nelson outside the Freeling home as vengeful spirits prepare to destroy it.

The Weird Neighbor Interaction

Williams acknowledged that the Freelings getting high on their own supply could be interpreted as an explanation for one of Poltergeist ’s more inexplicably offbeat moments. It happens early in the film, when the Freelings can no longer deny something supernatural is happening in their home and visit their befuddled neighbor to ask if anything similar has occurred there. Steve and Diane snicker and giggle throughout the exchange, which raises the question—did they partake to calm their nerves before going next door?

“No, I think it was just the absurdity of what we were going through, because what we were saying was basically insane,” Williams says, before changing course. “And I think, yes, maybe we were a little stoned. I don’t know, we didn’t plan that! But it could have easily read that way.”

She says their stifled laughter was actually real. They couldn’t stop laughing after Spielberg told them to pantomime that bugs were pestering them during the nighttime scene. “Steven said, ‘Well, there are probably some mosquitoes,’ so then we got into slapping the mosquitoes and we were genuinely hysterical,” Williams says.

The Downside of Being Upside Down

One of the most physically demanding scenes for Williams was when her character is thrown up against the ceiling of her bedroom and tossed around by invisible forces. To accomplish this, a replica of the Freeling bedroom was built on a massive gimbal, and she rolled along the walls and ceiling like a sock in an empty clothes drier. The camera and its operator were strapped to the “floor” and would be shooting upside down while gravity played havoc with the actor.

That created the illusion that she was actually weightless. But it was punishing to shoot. “Let’s just say the charm wore off after about 12 takes,” Williams says.

JoBeth Williams as Diane Freeling thrown against the ceiling of her bedroom in Poltergeist.

JoBeth Williams as Diane Freeling, thrown against the ceiling of her bedroom in Poltergeist.

“I had to be on a 360-degree turning set, which I had never even heard of. And when they said, ‘You’re going to just ride this thing and slide along the ceiling,’ I went, ‘Okay, I see.’ What they didn’t say was that I’d be doing 50 takes of it and by the end, my elbows and knees were bleeding,” she recalls.

The scene happens at a point when her character is most relaxed, and most vulnerable. She has just taken a soothing bath, and is wearing little more than a baggy sleeping T-shirt. So, there was no way to hide padding.

“And the poor cameraman who had to ride the thing like a Ferris wheel…” she adds. “He was strapped in, and several times, he had to get off and go throw up because it was literally making him physically sick, but he carried on. And when I got off after a few takes, I said, ‘Steven, I’m bleeding. My elbows and knees are bleeding!’ And he said, ‘That’s all right. We can just wipe the blood off. It’ll never show.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I feel much better now. Thank you.’ I had to laugh.”

The Lost Children

Although this didn’t happen during the making of Poltergeist, it’s difficult to watch the movie now without thinking of the untimely deaths of two of the actors who played the Freeling children. Dominique Dunne, who was 22, was killed by her ex-boyfriend in the fall of 1982, just a few months after the film’s debut. And Heather O’Rourke, who was five during the making of Poltergeist, died unexpectedly in 1988 at the age of 12 from intestinal disorder.

“Heather was just a sweetheart and shy and beautiful. She was just this wonderful little girl, and she was perfect for the role, perfect for just who she was in her innocence,” Nelson says. “Dominique was basically a kid who was doing a big movie and had a life of her own. Everybody, in reality, just had a good time.”

Image may contain Human Person JoBeth Williams Dance Pose Leisure Activities Craig T. Nelson and Richard Lawson

From left: Dominique Dunne, JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, and Oliver Robins as the Freelings, with Beatrice Straight and Richard Lawson as paranormal investigators.

“She was so sweet and easy to work with. And she just took my hand the first day and held on to me for the rest of the time,” Williams says of O’Rourke. “And if I would cry, she would cry. If I would scream, she would scream. Here’s this little five-year-old girl who has this innate empathy. She was truly a gifted little actress.”

Williams says the playacting she and Nelson did together often extended to the young actors. “They would have us improvise with the kids at the table when we were having a family scene,” she says. “Before they’d start rolling, the four of us, or five of us, whoever was there, would all improvise with each other and Craig and I would get the kids involved in it. By the time they rolled the camera, we were very comfortable with each other and playful and having fun, which was one of the things that I really loved about the way we worked on that movie.”

“Dominique was a doll, and she was always complaining about the fact that she was having to play 16 and she was really 21,” Williams added. “It just felt silly to her. And then she did the scene where she had the big hickey on her neck [in the final scene, when she comes home from a date and sees her home being destroyed]. We all thought that was hilarious. That, I think was Steven’s idea. And she was just delightful, a delightful young woman. We were all just stunned when she was killed. That was really a horrifying thing.”

In 1983, Dunne’s killer, John Sweeney, was acquitted of second-degree murder and convicted on the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, which Dunne’s family considered an affront . Her father, frequent Vanity Fair contributor Dominick Dunne, became a champion for victims’ rights , and chronicled her killer’s trial f or the magazine.

O’Rourke went on to appear in Poltergeist II in 1986, and had already shot Poltergeist III in 1987 before her sudden illness and death. The third movie was released posthumously. Her mother, Kathleen O’Rourke Peele, later sued her daughter’s doctors , saying they had misdiagnosed the birth defect of her severe bowel obstruction as Crohn’s disease before her death. The lawsuit was settled out of court. 

Image may contain Clothing Apparel Human Person Indoors Interior Design Furniture Screen Electronics and Monitor

Craig T. Nelson as Steve Freeling, Heather O’Rourke as Carol Anne, and JoBeth Williams as Diane Freeling.

“I think because these two were both so young, it was so shocking,” Williams says now of Dunne and O’Rourke. “Heather’s loss was just staggering. And her mother, Kathy, called me actually right after we all got the news, and she was at a loss.”

Williams says O’Rourke’s family was grappling with how they could be unaware she had such a life-threatening medical condition. It brought them back to something Williams had shared during the making of Poltergeist about Heather’s resilience. “I had said to her mother, to Kathy, ‘Heather is such a trooper,’ because we did that whole scene with where we were supposed to have fallen through the ceiling and were covered in goop, and it was freezing and we were incredibly cold. She’d never complained. I said, ‘Kathy, she’s amazing.’”

“And then Kathy called me and said, ‘I was thinking about that because Heather had these stomach cramps for a few days before, but she didn’t complain about it.’” Williams recalls Kathleen telling her that “[Heather] didn’t say, ‘I’ve got this really bad pain.’ She would maybe say, ‘Oh, my tummy hurts a little, or something.’” She adds, “So they didn’t know until it was too late. That was awful.”

The Years After…

Despite those tragic losses, Poltergeist remains an enduring testament to the work of all involved. Not only was it a box-office hit, but kids of the ’80s remember it playing nearly nonstop on HBO. It’s a movie generations have watched over and over again, and can often quote verbatim. Almost everyone has a Poltergeist memory—watching it on TV, watching it at a sleepover, watching it between your fingers. Some parents denounced it as too frightening at the time, but kids loved it. Maybe they loved it more because of that.

“I got so much fan mail from children, and I have several people who are now my friends, who are obviously younger than I am, who said, ‘You were the mom that I always wanted. You were supermom to me because you went into the unknown to save your kid,’” Williams says. “I got all this fan mail from kids all over the world saying, ‘You’re such a great mommy,’ because I fought for my child.”

Image may contain Human Person JoBeth Williams and Face

Years later, she also became one of those people who were eager to pass Poltergeist on to her own children, when they were growing up in the ’90s and early 2000s. “When it came out and parents were saying, ‘Oh, our kids are so scared, and it’s too scary for kids,’ there was all this sort of hoopla. So I said to my kids, ‘I did this movie Poltergeist. You’re going to hear about it, but I think you’re a little young to see it,’” Williams says. “So finally when they were maybe 10 and 13, I said, ‘Okay, I think it’s okay for you guys to see it now.’ And they both said, ‘Oh, mom, we watched that at a friend’s house years ago.’ They said it wasn’t that scary.”

The legacy of Poltergeist and the decades-long love for it stands as a kind of vindication for Williams—satisfaction for the banged-up elbows in the rotating bedroom and her nauseating plunge into that dreaded pool. She remembers taking a break during that sequence, “being pulled out at lunchtime and hosed down, literally hosed down and put in the back of a pickup truck” so they could be driven back to their trailers on the MGM lot.

“I turned to Craig and I said, ‘So this is the glamorous showbiz that I’ve always heard about!’ And that pretty much summed it up,” Williams says. “We kept looking at each other going, ‘Do you think this will just show in drive-ins for the rest of our lives? Or do you think it’ll actually be a movie anyone will want to see?’ And we didn’t know.”

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The 'Poltergeist' Curse: Inside the Mysterious Cast Deaths and Oddities On Set

JoBeth Williams looks on as Craig T Nelson holds Oliver Robins in a scene from the film 'Poltergeist', 1982. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

Released in 1982, the original Poltergeist , directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Spielberg, was an instant success and is considered to be a masterpiece of American horror cinema. The film focuses on the Freelings, a middle-class family (led by a youthful, dashing Craig T. Nelson) whose life is upturned when a number of paranormal and vicious events occur in their California home and their daughter Carol Anne is abducted through her bedroom closet by a group of ghosts who are under the control of a monster demon called the “Beast.”

After learning that their house sits atop a Native American burial ground, the Freelings spend their time attempting to retrieve Carol Anne and all the while stay sane as they get smacked around, terrorized and ultimately, “goobered” on in the bathtub.

With Poltergeist's success came a creepy mystique that the classic film is shrouded in real-life tragedies that some interpret as a curse.

Four cast members died during and soon after the filming of the series

The majority of the fuel for the alleged curse stems from the deaths of multiple cast members. In total, four cast members died during and soon after the filming of the series. Two of these tragic deaths were highly unexpected and puzzling, leading many fans to speculate on the trilogy’s eerie implications.

Heather O'Rourke screams as she is harassed by evil spirits in a scene from the film 'Poltergeist', 1982. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

Heather O'Rourke

Carol Anne Freeling, the young focal point of the series, was played by Heather O’Rourke. Only six years old when the first Poltergeist film was released, O’Rourke captivated audiences with her stark blond hair, doll-like appearance, and big, inquisitive eyes. Sadly, however, she was misdiagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1987. The following year, O’Rourke fell ill again, and her symptoms were casually attributed to the flu. A day later, she collapsed and suffered a cardiac arrest. After being airlifted to a children’s hospital in San Diego, O’Rourke died during an operation to correct a bowel obstruction, and it was later believed that she had been suffering from a congenital intestinal abnormality.

Dominique Dunne

Dominique Dunne, who played the original older sister Dana Freeling, met an equally tragic and unforeseen fate. In 1982, Dunne separated from her partner, John Sweeney. In November of that year, he showed up at Dunne’s house, pleading for her to take him back. When she refused, Sweeney grabbed Dunne’s neck, choked her until she was unconscious, and left her to die in her Hollywood home’s driveway. Sweeney was sentenced to six and a half years in prison but was released after three years and seven months.

Julian Beck and Will Sampson

The other two cast member deaths, while unfortunate, were not as unpredictable or mysterious. The evil preacher Kane from Poltergeist II was played by Julian Beck. In 1983, Beck had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, which took his life soon after he finished work on the second installment of the series. The same film was met with further tragedy, after Will Sampson, who played Taylor the Native American shaman, died after undergoing a heart-lung transplant, which had a very slim survival rate.

Other strange things happened on set

Cast deaths were not the only agents of the curse’s proliferation, as other peculiar and creepy legends surround the film franchise. JoBeth Williams, who played mom Diane Freeling in the first two films, claimed that director Spielberg insisted on using actual human skeletons as props in an attempt to save money (at the time, they were cheaper than plastic skeletons). Williams’ claim has never been verified, but it persists to this day in the lore surrounding the films’ curse.

Finally, in an effort to further creep out everyone involved, Sampson, the real-life medicine man who passed away due to circumstances mentioned above, performed an authentic exorcism after shooting wrapped up one night. One can only imagine how this made the other cast members feel.

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The Enfield Poltergeist

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A series of mysterious events begin to torment the Hodgson family, prompting inventor Maurice Grosse to investigate.

The frightening occurrences seem to target 11-year-old Janet. As word spreads, psychic investigators and physicists flock to the house.

Skeptics challenge Maurice’s claims as the family deal with accusations that they’re faking the phenomena.

Young Janet is sent away. As an adult, she reflects on what happened to her and the impact of Maurice’s investigation.

Cast & Crew

Christopher Ettridge

Maurice Grosse

Olivia Booth-Ford

Janet Hodgson

Paula Benson

Peggy Hodgson

Billy Hodgson

Charlotte Miller

Margaret Hodgson

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The Tragic Real-Life Story Of The Poltergeist Cast

The Freelings frantically search for Carol Ann in 'Poltergeist' (1982)

"They're heeeeere !" Who can forget those chilling words from little Carol Ann (Heather O'Rourke) as ghostly apparitions projected out of a television and into the Freeling family household in the classic 1982 horror film  Poltergeist ? "The TV People" led by the evil Reverend Kane (Julian Beck) would go on to terrorize audiences (as well as the Freelings) in three movies, including 1986's Poltergeist II: The Other Side  and the final film in the trilogy, 1988's Poltergeist III .

All three films are filled with memorable, spine-tingly moments such as the hideous clown doll that pulls Robbie Freeling (Oliver Robins) under his bed, or perhaps the nightmarish tree that smashes through his bedroom window and literally tries to devour him. Another etched-in-brain scene for many is from the second film, when Steve ( Craig T. Nelson ) swallows a possessed worm while guzzling a bottle of tequila, which leads to him eventually vomiting out an H.R. Giger monstrosity. What happens in these movies is truly the stuff of nightmares, but to many, it's what happened in real life to some of the cast members that's far more tragic.

Even if you're just a casual moviegoer or horror fan, you've probably heard of "the Poltergeist curse." It's been the subject of many online articles, TV specials and mini-documentaries, including E! True Hollywood Story: Curse of the Poltergeist and most recently, episode three of Shudder's Cursed Films . Sadly, four lead actors from the trilogy all suffered deaths within a six-year span following the original film's release, leading many to believe that the movie sets were somehow cursed. This led to other various myths and exaggerated claims about what happened on the set — but before we get into that, let's look at the four main deaths that paved the way for the now infamous curse.

Dominique Dunne

Perhaps one of the most grisly and tragic deaths was that of 22-year-old actress Dominique Dunne, who played the eldest sister in the first film, Dana Freeling. Her character was mentioned in Poltergeist II as being off to college, but the reality was, any ideas screenwriters might have had for her character in the sequel had to be scrapped entirely due to Dunne's untimely death just months after the original movie was released. 

On the evening of October 30, 1982, Dunne was brutally strangled by an aggravated ex-boyfriend. The assailant, identified as sous chef John Sweeney, showed up at her West Hollywood home in hopes of repairing their relationship and moving back in with her. An argument erupted on Dunne's driveway, where the deadly attack took place. When police arrived at the scene, Sweeney was quoted as saying "I've killed my girlfriend!" 

At the time, Dunne was still alive; she was rushed to Cedar's-Sinai Medical Center, where she remained in a coma for five days and never regained consciousness. On November 4, 1982, just three weeks before what would have been her 23rd birthday, she was removed from life support and pronounced dead. Dunne was considered a rising star at the time and had just landed the role of Robin Maxwell in the 1983 science-fiction miniseries  V , which she was rehearsing for the night she was assaulted.

Julian Beck

Arguably one of the creepiest villains in horror history is Reverend Henry Kane, the human form of "The Beast" played by thespian Julian Beck. He's the gaunt, 19th century-looking cult leader who spends most of Poltergeist II trying to infiltrate the Freeling residence and abduct Carol Ann — and yes, he's also the same dude who possessed the aforementioned tequila worm. Even though he completed principal photography of the film, Beck would never live to see the theatrical release of Poltergeist II since he passed away on September 14, 1985 — during the film's post-production period and a full eight months before its premiere. 

Unlike Dominique Dunne's shocking murder, Beck passed away after a long battle with stomach cancer, something he had been diagnosed with in 1983 . So while his death is certainly unfortunate, it also definitely wasn't out of left field. Beck was dying of stomach cancer during the production and the entire crew was well aware of his diagnosis. Some believe it even influenced his chilling final performance in a film.

Will Sampson

Some remember actor Will Sampson as Chief Bromden from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , but horror fans know him as Taylor, the Native American shaman from Poltergeist II . Sampson passed away due to post-operative kidney failure following a heart and lung transplant. Again, this is another death of a cast member that eerily occurred not long after the release of a Poltergeist movie. Sampson passed away on June 3, 1987 , but much like Beck's situation, he had a preexisting medical condition. Sampson suffered from scleroderma, a chronic degenerative condition that caused him severe malnourishment and other complications with his heart, skin, and lungs. He was only age 53 at his time of death.

Heather O'Rourke

The most well-known death that sparked and fuels the " Poltergeist curse" fire to this day was the shocking loss of Heather O' Rourke, who played Carol Ann — the young, angelic face of the entire franchise. During production of Poltergeist III in 1987, O'Rourke was undergoing treatment for Crohn's disease, which would turn out to be a misdiagnosis. In the third episode of  Shudder's   Cursed Films docuseries, director Gary Sherman shares several memories and speaks very fondly of the young actress, saying that, aside from O'Rourke's "chipmunk cheeks" — a side effect caused by the bowel inflammation medications she was taking at the time — she remained in high spirits and overall seemed physically fine and enjoyed her time on the set. Little did he know or anyone else know that something fatal was brewing within. 

Fast forward to January of 1988, when O'Rourke became severely ill and her health started deteriorating at an alarming rate. On February 1, 1988, she was rushed to the hospital, where she  ultimately died due to septic shock caused by undetected intestinal blockage. This blockage ruptured and the toxins released in her body proved to be too much. During an operation the 12-year-old O'Rourke was undergoing the same day of her death, it was also revealed that she did not have Crohn's disease, but an acute bowel obstruction due to a congenital stenosis — something that could've been surgically corrected had it been detected sooner. With only four months until the film's release, her death caused the studio to force Sherman to shoot an entirely new ending using a double, something the director was strongly against. He preferred that the movie not be released at all, but MGM ultimately had its way. O'Rourke's tragic end would be the fourth death of a Poltergeist major cast member in a six-year span.

Lou Perryman

While the deaths of Dominique Dunne, Julian Beck, Will Sampson, and Heather O'Rourke are seen as part of the supposed "curse," there is another death that some fans like to bring up to further pile on the evidence, but it happened 17 years after the release of the original movie and it's very likely someone you don't recall seeing. Actor Lou Perryman, who had a very minor role as a construction worker named Pugsley, was gruesomely murdered in his home by Seth Christopher Tatum — an ex-con with a history of mental health problems. On April 1, 2009 , Tatum was on the run after a violent altercation with his mother's ex-boyfriend when he randomly came across Perryman's home (the two had never met) and killed him. His reason? Just to steal his car. The case was settled two years later when the killer, who'd stopped taking his medication for bipolar disorder shortly before the murder, was sentenced to life in prison .

Oliver Robins is alive and well

It's apparent there's a lot of real-life death surrounding the Poltergeist movies, and while some like to believe it has to do with a curse, others believe it's simply a string of unfortunate coincidences. You might also hear other false or exaggerated Poltergeist myths, such as all three kids from the original film died, which is totally untrue. Robbie Freeling, played by Oliver Robins, is alive and well. In a 2015 interview with the Daily Mail , when asked about the strange deaths surrounding the franchise, he told them he believes there is no curse. "To be completely honest, I don't think anyone that was involved in the movie ever really took the curse seriously. There is no curse — it is just tragic coincidences," he said. "People may try and connect the dots and make something out of it, but they are possibly going to make connections that probably aren't there. They do make for great spooky stories, but at the end of the day, they really aren't true."

Did real human skeletons cause the curse?

If there is a Poltergeist  curse, what caused it? One widely-discussed theory is the fact that real skeletons were used by the effects crew in the first two movies, most notably in the muddy swimming pool scene from the original with Diane Freeling, played by JoBeth Williams. Desecration of human remains plays a big role in the first film as the probable cause of the Freelings' pesky poltergeist problem. How ironic would it be if these real skeletons somehow jinxed the cast? This theory doesn't exactly hold up, though — Williams is still alive and well, as is daddy Freeling himself, Craig T. Nelson.

One man who is strongly against the notion that these real skeletons led to the deaths of the actors is special make-up effects artist Craig Reardon, who worked on Poltergeist . "The subject of the skeletons that were used in Poltergeist , to my utter amazement has created sort of an online mythology, and not a pretty one," said Reardon when interviewed for Shudder's Cursed Films . "Apparently, there's a contingent of people out there who believe that the fact that real human skeletons were used are some kind of pretext to 'explain' why two actresses that worked in the film subsequently died, which is not only just conceptually ridiculous, but is personally offensive to me."

As Reardon went on to point out, "human skeletons have been used in movies for years and years." Examples cited in his interview include  House on Haunted Hill  and the 1931  Frankenstein.  "No low-budget B film is gonna pay anybody to sculpt a human skeleton when all you had to do was go to a biological supply house and get a human skeleton. You know, wake up and small the budget. That's really the way it worked," he added. "The idea of having a few of them on the set of Poltergeist and killing two lovely young girls is a pretty pernicious idea."

Zelda Rubinstein slams the curse

Perhaps one of the most famous Poltergeist characters of all, arguably only second to Carol Ann, is the clairvoyant ghost-vanquisher Tangina "This house is clean" Barrons, played to perfection by Zelda Rubinstein, who passed away at the age of 76 in 2010 due to complications that followed a mild heart attack. Most never consider her death part of the curse due to her age, cause of death, and how far removed it was from the close string of deaths between 1982 and 1988. And that's likely how she would want it. Much like Oliver Robins, Rubinstein always felt the idea of a Poltergeist  curse was just superstitious nonsense. In fact, you might even say she found it to be downright preposterous. 

In a 1988 interview during a Showbiz Today segment on CNN, she candidly spoke about the curse in her signature gracious manner but ended it on a classy yet blunt note. "I owe it to Heather to present her case, as most honestly and lovingly as I can. I loved this child very much and I am still very grieved at her passing," said Rubinstein. "Heather died because of an undetected, congenital, anatomical defect. Julian Beck died from cancer in his mature years. Will Sampson passed away after receiving a heart and lung transplant. It's my understanding he had an environmental disease. And Dominique Dunne died at the hands of an extremely ill-directed, passionate boyfriend. These are reasons, I do not call this a jinx. I think that it's pretty much a courtesy to put to an end this superstitious crap ."

Horror movie with near-perfect Rotten Tomatoes score gets a first trailer, and it looks like A24’s modern-day answer to Poltergeist

A24 unveils the first trailer for upcoming horror movie I Saw the TV Glow

From the studio that brought us Talk to Me and Hereditary comes a new horror movie I Saw the TV Glow, and judging by the first trailer, it looks just as chilling as you’d expect.

In the trailer, we see a bunch of young people rediscover a long-lost canceled TV show, where each episode introduces a new monster to defeat. It soon becomes apparent that this is more than just a show and that what is being shown on screen is bleeding into real life. 

At first glance, the film looks to be a modern-day take on the 1982 movie Poltergeist, which famously follows the horrors that come out of a possessed television set. But other than the aspect of haunted technology, I Saw the TV Glow reminds us of Netflix’s Fear Street as it mixes classic horror elements with themes of sexuality, gender, and identity. 

The supernatural horror flick is written and directed by Jane Schoenbrun, known for the 2021 Sundance success We're All Going to the World's Fair. The official synopsis from A24 reads: "Teenager Owen is just trying to make it through life in the suburbs when his classmate introduces him to a mysterious late-night TV show — a vision of a supernatural world beneath their own. In the pale glow of the television, Owen’s view of reality begins to crack."

Despite the trailer just being released, the film has already been shown at the 2024 Sundance Festival in Utah and has striped up rave reviews. I Saw the TV Glow currently stands at an impressive 90% on Rotten Tomatoes . GQ describes the flick as "An exquisitely surreal piece that defies easy genre categorization," with ScreenRant adding, "Jane Schoenbrun’s direction is a confident and ethereal experience."

I Saw the TV Glow stars Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves ’ Justice Smith, Atypical’s Brigette Lundy-Paine, Ian Foreman, Helena Howard, and Danielle Deadwyler. The movie also hosts a few guest stars from popular musicians such as Caroline Polachek, Phoebe Bridgers, and Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. 

I Saw The TV Glow hits theaters on May 3, 2024. For more check out our guide to upcoming horror movies heading your way in 2024 and beyond.

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I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering TV and film for SFX and Total Film online. I have a Bachelors Degree in Media Production and Journalism and a Masters in Fashion Journalism from UAL. In the past I have written for local UK and US newspaper outlets such as the Portland Tribune and York Mix and worked in communications, before focusing on film and entertainment writing. I am a HUGE horror fan and in 2022 I created my very own single issue feminist horror magazine.  

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How to Watch The Enfield Poltergeist Online Free on Apple TV Plus from Anywhere

The Enfield Poltergeist featured

The Enfield Poltergeist is a docuseries and retelling of one of the most horrifying poltergeist story in history. The series premiered on Apple TV Plus on Friday, October 27, 2023, in countries where the platform is available.

Despite Apple TV Plus being available in several territories, it is still a geo-restricted platform. If you leave a country where Apple TV Plus is not offered, you will not have access to the platform and content . 

However, if you use a VPN tool to connect to a server in the US, the UK, Canada, or Australia, you will regain access to the platform and stream The Enfield Poltergeist from anywhere.

Why is this particular story the most terrifying one in history? Learn how to watch the series to find out. In this article, we have included a preview, cast information, an episode guide, and the reason why a VPN is needed to watch the show from abroad.

How to Watch The Enfield Poltergeist Online With a VPN

To watch The Enfield Poltergeist online, you need access to Apple TV Plus with the help of a VPN connected to a US/ UK/ Canadian/ Australian server. This is how it works:

  • Subscribe to a VPN that unblocks Apple TV Plus ( we recommend NordVPN ).
  • Download and install the VPN on your device(s).
  • Activate the VPN and connect to a server in the US/UK/Canada/Australia.
  • Run Apple TV Plus to stream The Enfield Poltergeist.

Why Do You Need a VPN to Watch The Enfield Poltergeist?

You need a VPN to watch The Enfield Poltergeist on Apple TV Plus because the service is unavailable in select countries . You may need a workaround to access the platform and title when you travel.

If you attempt to access Apple TV Plus without a VPN in countries where it is not yet released, you will receive an error message that reads, "This video isn't currently available to watch in the country or region you are currently in."

When you use a VPN, you can change your IP address to one where both Apple TV Plus and the title are available. We recommend connecting to a server in the US, the UK, Canada, or Australia.

To unblock Apple TV Plus, you should use a premium VPN service for the job. For this, we suggest subscribing to NordVPN .

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Where to Watch The Enfield Poltergeist

If you live in the US, the UK, Canada, or Australia, you can stream The Enfield Poltergeist on Apple TV Plus on Friday, October 27, 2023 . The 4-part docuseries will be available in the services below:

How to Watch The Enfield Poltergeist in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia

Folks in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia can watch The Enfield Poltergeist online on Apple TV Plus on October 27. To stream it on the platform, you must have an Apple ID and a subscription to the service. Apple TV Plus costs US 6.99/ £6.99/ CA 8.99/ AU $9.99 a month and comes with a 7-day free trial for new customers.

Apple TV Plus offers many original titles like Lessons in Chemistry , The Changeling , Physical , Ted Lasso , The Beannie Bubble , The Super Models , and more. In addition, some new Apple products are eligible for an Apple TV Plus 3-month free trial.

If you suddenly lose access to Apple TV Plus while traveling, you can always get access back when you use a secure VPN and connect to a US/UK/Canadian/Australian server.

Can You Watch The Enfield Poltergeist Online Free?

Yes . You can watch The Enfield Poltergeist for free on Apple TV Plus because the platform has several types of free trials for users. For example, new subscribers to the service will be given a 7-day free trial.

Another offer is the limited-time deal Apple gives a generous 3-month free trial on Apple TV Plus to folks who purchased and activated a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, or iPod touch. In addition, Apple One also provides a 30-day free trial of Apple TV Plus.

The Enfield Poltergeist Preview 

Apple TV Plus’s latest series, The Enfield Poltergeist, tells the horrifying tale of the famous poltergeist haunting in history. The docuseries is a combination of 250 hours of rare audio archive, as well as recreation of some scenes. Interviews with people directly involved with the haunting are also in the series.

The haunting was first reported in 1977 when an ordinary family in Enfield, London, was targeted by the ghost. The mysterious case dominated headlines and changed ideas regarding the supernatural. The story has since then inspired several fictionalized versions of the case, including popular films like "The Conjuring 2."

The Enfield Poltergeist

The Enfield Poltergeist Cast

  • Christopher Ettridge as Maurice Grosse
  • Olivia Booth-Ford as Janet Hodgson
  • Paula Benson as Peggy Hodgson
  • Daniel Lee as Billy Hodgson
  • Charlotte Miller as Margaret Hodgson
  • Tome Bevan as John Burcombe

The Enfield Poltergeist Episodes

  • Season 1 Episode 1: The Happenings (October 27, 2023) - A series of mysterious events begin to torment the Hodgson family, prompting inventor Maurice Grosse to investigate.
  • Season 1 Episode 2: Forces Unknown (October 27, 2023) - The frightening occurrences seem to target 11-year-old Janet. As word spreads, psychic investigators and physicists flock to the house.
  • Season 1 Episode 3: This Thing (October 27, 2023) - Skeptics challenge Maurice's claims as the family deals with accusations that they're faking the phenomena.
  • Season 1 Episode 4: Entanglement (October 27, 2023) - Young Janet is sent away. As an adult, she reflects on what happened to her and the impact of Maurice's investigation.

The Enfield Poltergeist Trailer

Final thoughts .

Apple TV Plus will be releasing The Enfield Poltergeist in all territories where the platform is available. However, there are still a few regions without the service. So, if you happen to travel or belong to those regions, you can use a VPN to change your IP address and undo blockades to stream The Enfield Poltergeist.

We highly recommend NordVPN to undo the geo-blocks because it is one of the safest VPNs to use due to having no logs and using powerful encryption protocols to prevent security breaches. It even has unlimited bandwidth, fast speeds, a stable connection, and 24/7 live chat support. You can try NordVPN risk-free for a month via its generous money-back policy.

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Poltergeist (1982)

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    Find out how to watch Poltergeist: The Legacy. Stream the latest seasons and episodes, watch trailers, and more for Poltergeist: The Legacy at TV Guide

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    They're here! Look for the iconic horror classic Poltergeist in killer 4K Ultra HD.SUBSCRIBE to Warner Bros. Entertainment: http://bit.ly/32v18jfConnect with...

  9. Poltergeist: The Legacy

    Poltergeist: The Legacy is 2770 on the JustWatch Daily Streaming Charts today. The TV show has moved up the charts by 665 places since yesterday. In the United States, it is currently more popular than Myth of the Zodiac Killer but less popular than Wipeout.

  10. Poltergeist

    POLTERGEIST Extended Cut arrives on Digital HD™ September 4 and on Blu-ray 3D™, Blu-ray™ and DVD September 29. Blu-ray Includes Alternate Ending & Extended C...

  11. POLTERGEIST FILMS & TV SERIES (1982-2015)

    Votes: 20,305 | Gross: $14.11M. 4. Poltergeist (2015) PG-13 | 93 min | Horror, Thriller. 4.9. Rate. 47 Metascore. A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter after the apparitions take her captive. Director: Gil Kenan | Stars: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kennedi Clements, Saxon ...

  12. Watch Poltergeist: The Legacy, Season 1

    Poltergeist: The Legacy. Season 1. Season 1; Season 2; Season 3; Season 4; Led by Dr. Derek Rayne and psychiatrist Rachel Corrigan, an ancient organization known as The Legacy explores the mysterious realm of the paranormal. ... TV-14. Derek is charged with putting the Legacy and its members in danger. The tribunal reviews the evidence against ...

  13. Poltergeist

    This awesome supernatural thriller and box-office blockbuster stars Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams as a California couple swept up in a wave of horror a...

  14. Poltergeist (1982 film)

    Poltergeist is a 1982 American supernatural horror film directed by Tobe Hooper and written by Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais and Mark Victor from a story by Spielberg. It stars JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson and Beatrice Straight, and was produced by Spielberg and Frank Marshall.The film focuses on a suburban family whose home is invaded by malevolent ghosts that abduct their youngest ...

  15. The 'Poltergeist' Curse: Inside the Mysterious Cast Deaths and Oddities

    Julian Beck and Will Sampson. The other two cast member deaths, while unfortunate, were not as unpredictable or mysterious. The evil preacher Kane from Poltergeist II was played by Julian Beck. In ...

  16. Poltergeist (1982): TV, terror and suburbia

    The ghosts in 80s horror movie Poltergeist aren't just for scares. They shine a light on family, childhood - and what comes after death. The Freeling family are living the American dream: three kids, a beautiful home and room for a pool. But when 5-year-old Carol Anne hears voices in the TV, it's the start of a nightmare that sees the ...

  17. Watch The Enfield Poltergeist

    The Happenings. A series of mysterious events begin to torment the Hodgson family, prompting inventor Maurice Grosse to investigate. 1 hr 2 min · Oct 27, 2023 TV-14. EPISODE 2. Forces Unknown. The frightening occurrences seem to target 11-year-old Janet. As word spreads, psychic investigators and physicists flock to the house.

  18. The Tragic Real-Life Story Of The Poltergeist Cast

    "The TV People" led by the evil Reverend Kane (Julian Beck) would go on to terrorize audiences (as well as the Freelings) in three movies, including 1986's Poltergeist II: The Other Side and the ...

  19. Zelda Rubinstein

    Zelda Rubinstein. Actress: Poltergeist. A marvelously quirky and distinctive 4' 3" character actress, with a larger-than-life presence on film and TV, Zelda Rubinstein gave up a long and stable career in the medical field as a lab technician in order to strive for something more self-fulfilling as middle age settled in. At the age of 45, the feisty lady gave up the comfort of a stable paycheck ...

  20. Poltergeist

    Poltergeist: The Legacy was a show that tried to capture the style and success of The X-Files but move it more fully into the horror genre. "Since the beginn...

  21. Horror movie with near-perfect Rotten Tomatoes score gets a first

    At first glance, the film looks to be a modern-day take on the 1982 movie Poltergeist, which famously follows the horrors that come out of a possessed television set. ... I Saw the TV Glow stars ...

  22. How to Watch The Enfield Poltergeist Online Free on Apple TV ...

    The Enfield Poltergeist is a docuseries and retelling of one of the most horrifying poltergeist story in history. The series premiered on Apple TV Plus on Friday, October 27, 2023, in countries where the platform is available.. Despite Apple TV Plus being available in several territories, it is still a geo-restricted platform.

  23. Poltergeist (1982)

    Poltergeist (1982) - Plot summary, synopsis, and more... Craig T. Nelson stars as Steve Freeling, the main protagonist, who lives with his wife, Diane, (JoBeth Williams) and their three children, Dana (Dominique Dunne), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke), in Southern California where he sells houses for the company that built the neighborhood.

  24. Poltergeist (1982)

    Poltergeist (1982) cast and crew credits, including actors, actresses, directors, writers and more. Menu. Movies. Release Calendar Top 250 Movies Most Popular Movies Browse Movies by Genre Top Box Office Showtimes & Tickets Movie News India Movie Spotlight. TV Shows.