Graveyard Shift Most Horrific Behind-the-Scenes Stories from Horror Movies  

Juliet Bennett Rylah
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When Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left came out in 1972, the trailer suggested that those who terrified by its gruesome plot remind themselves, "It's only a movie." And, sure, that might help some, but what if the behind-the-scenes happenings on the film sets of horror movies themselves are just as creepy as the flick?

Numerous classic horror films are said to have carried a curse with them, manifesting in spooky occurrences on set or terrible misfortunes befalling cast the crew. Planes were struck by lightning, hotels caught on fire, and actors reported mysterious and unexplained occurrences while filming stories of demonic possession or ghostly hauntings. And on the scariest film sets, prop weapons weren't as fake as one might expect, resulting in serious injuries, close calls, tragic crashes and in one case, the death of an up-and-coming star. 
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The Omen Curse


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The Omen (1976) is about a couple that adopts a little boy, Damien, only to learn he's the Antichrist. Talk about a raw deal. 

While filming, actor Gregory Peck and writer David Seltzer, and executive producer Mace Neufeld, had their planes hit by lighting. Yes, planes. One carrying Peck and Seltzer, another carrying Neufield. Later, the hotel Neufeld was staying at in London was bombed by the IRA, and so was a restaurant at which several cast members had reservations.  

The most chilling incident occurred in Holland in August, 1976. John Richardson, the film's visual effects consultant, and his assistant, Liz Moore, were in in a car accident. Moore was decapitated in a manner similar to David Warner's in the film. Richardson crawled out of the wreckage, looked around to get his bearings,, and found a road sign reading, "Ommen, 66.6 km." 

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The Exorcist was plagued by bad luck, leading many to believe it was cursed. If you haven't seen it, the film revolves around the MacNeil family, whose daughter Regan (Linda Blair) is possessed by the demon Pazuzu.

Right from the start, the production was bedevilled by creepy problems. Filming was delayed because the set for the MacNeil home caught fire. It was mostly destroyed, but, eerily enough, Regan's bedroom was spared. The fire was attributed to a pigeon that got into a circuit box.

There were a number of deaths and injuries to the cast, and crew and their loved ones. Actress Ellen Burstyn, who played the matriarch of the MacNeil family, was injured by a mishap (in the video) with her harness during a fight scene; the scream she unleashes in the film is real.

Actor Jack MacGowran and actress Vasiliki Maliaros both died shortly after the filming. MacGowran (age 54) of the flu in January, 1973, and Maliaros of natural causes (age 89), in February,1973. Linda Blair's grandfather and actor Max Von Sydow's brother both died during production, and the son of Mercedes McCambridge, who voiced the demon, murdered his wife and two daughters before taking his own life after being accused of fraud in November of 1987.

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The Conjuring is based on a supposedly true story, as told by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, about a case they took on in 1971, at the behest of the Perron family. The film was successful upon its release in 2013, but the production was plagued with bizarre occurrences. 

Lorraine Warren consulted on the film. When screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes tried to speak with her on the phone, they had a hard time getting through, which Lorraine attributed to spirits attempting to get in the way of their storytelling. During production in North Carolina, the hotel they crew stayed at caught on fire. Director James Wan said his dog seemed upset by an invisible entity, growling and tracking something unseen around his office. And actress Vera Farminga, who plays Lorraine, said claw marks mysteriously appeared one day the screen of her laptop without any explanation.

The Perron family claimed that, when visiting the set, wind whipped around them, but nearby trees remained still. That same day, a member of the Perron family who elected to stay away from the set fell and broke her hip. 

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Some like to say the Poltergeist series is cursed, due to the fact that four members of the cast died.

Heather O'Rourke, who played Carol Anne Freeling, died when she was only 12 years old of septic shock, in February of 1988. Dominique Dunne, who played Carol Anne's older sister Dana in the first Poltergeist film, was strangled by her ex-boyfriend on October 30, 1982, only a matter of months after the film was released. 

The other two deaths were not particularly unexpected, unlike the deaths of the two young actresses. Julian Beck, who played Kane in Poltergeist II: The Other Side, died of stomach cancer at age 60 in 1985, and Will Sampson, who played Taylor in the same film, died in 1987, at age 53, following a heart-lung transplant.