Movie productions are hardly ever a simple thing. It’s a constant juggling act for the filmmakers, and at any point, the smallest thing going wrong could lead to hours of delay. A light can go out, the wind can be blow mercilessly, or even worse, the actors can be delivering a less than passable performance.
But occasionally, sets come across more than just your standard setbacks. Some folks call them curses. Some folks call them hauntings. But no matter what you decide to call them, they tend to fall under the umbrella of “the unexplained.”
Here are a few instances of movie sets with supposed hauntings or unexplained happenings. For this list, we will be ignoring the strange occurrences that supposedly happened before or after the filming, as that is more likely to be coincidence.
Of course a film like The Exorcist would have some strange things happening on set. A story filled with demons and possessions is just ripe for dissection, and The Exorcist doesn’t disappoint. Most notably, actress Ellen Burstyn received a permanent spine injury while being thrown across the room by a harness. According to the website Oddity World, they used that same take in the film, as the scream is very real.
One huge setback the film received came in the form of a fire that allegedly destroyed a portion of the set. This delayed filming for six weeks, but perhaps the biggest coincidence was that the only unaffected part of the set was the little girl’s bedroom. Coincidence? Maybe. But we’ll never really know.
With a movie series like Poltergeist, it seems like a given that it would have some bad hauntings. However, it wasn’t the subject matter that was the catalyst for all the terrible goings-on on set.
In one of the iconic scenes of the film, actress JoBeth Williams falls into a pool of what she thought were fake skeletons. Turns out, those guys were completely real, as creating fake skeletons was far too costly for the production. And rumor has it that it’s the ghosts of these skeletons that haunted the sets of these films. According to Pop Sugar, during the shooting of the second film, actor Native American Will Samson, feeling an evil presence on set, went so far as to perform an exorcism.
Apart from the number of suspicious deaths that occurred in the six years between the shooting of Poltergeist 1, 2, and 3, there was one particular strange incident on set.
In one of the scenes, actor Oliver Robins was supposed to get strangled by a clown puppet. However, during the filming of it, the prop malfunctioned and started to actually choke him. Originally believing he was acting, filmmakers Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg only later realized the boy was in trouble when his face began to turn blue, and quickly ran to his aid.
Many years later, Robins claimed to The Examiner that he had no recollection of the event, but doesn’t rule it out as a possibility.
“Maybe that did happen, but I can’t remember. Maybe I blocked it out of my conscious mind.”
The Passion of the Christ
This film isn’t exactly the type of movie one would think of when it comes to “hauntings,” but when it comes down to it, a film like The Passion of the Christ would, in theory, be susceptible to the more demonic side of things. After all, this is a film about Jesus Christ himself, and Christ has as much ties to demons and the Devil as any standard horror flick. Interestingly, in true Biblical fashion, the victim of most of the incidences was none of than Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in the film.
First, and perhaps most notably, the actor was struck by lightning not once, but twice during the film’s production. On top of that, the actor suffered from hypothermia, lung infections, skin infections, and constant headaches. While carrying the cross, Caviezel also dislocated his shoulder, and during the whipping scenes, the actor had an actual chunk of his skin ripped out.
With all that happened on set, it’s hard to think that something wasn’t telling him stop his involvement in the film. But despite the physical challenges, Caviezel never regretted the role, as he revealed to Fox News.
“This is the greatest part I’ve ever had,” he told the outlet. “I felt like it would be ridiculous not to work with a guy like Mel Gibson.”
This 2011 film was based on the actual haunting of a hotel called the Yankee Pedlar Inn. Written, directed, and edited by filmmaker Ti West, the man took the production two steps further when he not only shot the film in the supposedly-haunted hotel, but he actually had the cast and crew stay there as well.
In an interview with IndieWire, the filmmaker elaborated on the types of things they saw while filming.
“Well I’m a skeptic so I don’t really buy it. But I’ve definitely seen doors close by themselves; I’ve seen a TV turn off and on by itself; lights would always burn out in my room. Everyone on crew has very vivid dreams every night, which is really strange.
The one story that is the most intriguing to me — In the film the most haunted room is the
Honeymoon Suite. That’s where the ghost stuff started in the hotel. The only reason I picked the room that I picked to shoot in, was because it was big enough to do a dolly shot. No more thought went into it other than pure technical reasons. So when we’re finishing the movie, I find out that the most haunted room in real life, is the room I picked to be the haunted room in the movie. It could be a coincidence. It’s weird that it happened that way.”
Of course, however, not everyone was completely on board with staying at the hotel after the first couple nights. According to West, actress Sara Paxton would wake up in the middle of the night with the feeling that someone was in the room with her. Then again, the filmmaker chalks that up to him building up the legend in the actress’ mind. We may never know.
Ghost of Goodnight Lane
Okay, so this one is a wee bit of a cheat, because this particular film is not the name of a haunted movie, but rather the name of the film that chronicles the haunting of a movie studio–more specifically the Texas-based Media World Studios. Studio owner Alin Bijan commented on the film’s production in a 2011 press release for the film, which stars Billy Zane.
“We’ve known for a long time we had a ghost here, in the studio. Over the years, we kept a running log, kind of a diary, to document incidents as they occurred.”
What kind of occurrences, you ask? Well, staff and visitors allegedly had strange visions of an unknown man. What that actually means isn’t really clear, but it is a bit unsettling. There have also be instances where equipment has been seen moving, as well as times when people have been smacked in the face by an unseen entity.
Despite the promising premise, however, perhaps the real haunting thing in this particular case is how terrible the movie ended up.