If you’ve been hanging out on the Enfield Haunting website for a while, you know that opinions are mixed about the Janet Hodgson story. Some people claim that the girl was a little fraudster, while others think she was haunted by the ghost of Bill Wilkins.
Similar to the story of the Enfield haunting is that of Poltergeist. You know, the movie. Most people don’t know Poltergeist was based on a “true” story, and that events occurred during filming and the subsequent events.
The Poltergeist Movie
The film Poltergeist was released in 1982. It’s the story of Steven and Diane Freeling, a California couple with three children. Steven is a real estate developer and Diane stays at home with the kids.
In the Poltergeist movie, the family begins to experience some pretty bizarre events. The littlest of the Freelings, Carol Anne, starts to have conversations with the television set. One night, a hand reaches through the television set as an earthquake hits the region. Carol Anne announces, ominously, “They’re here.”
Following the announcement, all manner of literal hell breaks loose. Glasses of milk start breaking themselves and silverware twists on its own. Trees come to life and grab kids while little Carol Anne gets sucked into another dimension. For the Freelings, it’s scary business.
The story centers around the little girl, but a poltergeist apparently terrorizes the whole family. We’re not going to tell you how the story ends. For the full scoop, check out Poltergeist on YouTube, Amazon Play or Google Play.
Was Poltergeist Based on a True Story?
Poltergeist was directed by Steven Spielberg, so you know it’s going to be good. But behind every spooky horror movie is a notion that the events really did take place. Is that true for Poltergeist?
Reportedly, yes. The film was based (loosely) on the events experienced by a 1958 New York family, the Hermanns. The Hermanns lived on Long Island and they, too, experienced some trouble at home.
Over the course of a two month span, the Hermanns watched as bottles exploded and caps flew across the room. A statue of the Virgin Mary did the same, breaking a mirror clear across the room as it struck. Most dangerous was when a large bookcase was pushed over by unseen forces.
The Hermanns, like the Hodgsons, called the police. Unfortunately, the police were of no assistance to the Hermanns. In fact, one of the officers was nearly hit by an airborne globe.
James and Lucille Hermann called for the help of a priest. They, and their preteen kids, were frightened. It’s unclear as to whether the priest was able to eliminate the poltergeist from the premises. What’s clear is that the Hermann haunting stopped in March of 1958.
The most commonly held belief is that the Hermann family lived atop a Native American burial ground. You’ll see that this burial ground is a recurring theme throughout the movie.
Poltergeist: The Real Hauntings
Was Poltergeist based on a true story? Yes. But the haunting didn’t end when the Hermanns exorcised the ghost.
Filming for the Poltergeist movie began decades after the Hermanns were afflicted by spirits. But the cast and crew of Poltergeist seemed to have been just as deeply affected by the haunting as the Hermanns themselves.
First, there was Dominique Dunne. Miss Dunne was the actor cast as the older sister of little Carol Anne. She completed filming, then was cast in another role in a miniseries titled V. Tragically, Dominique Dunne was strangled by her boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney, just shortly after Poltergeist was released.
The next casualty of the Poltergeist filming was Julian Beck. The actor who portrayed the preacher died of stomach cancer just as the film was being released. Several other actors in smaller roles died just after the release as well. Lou Perryman and Will Sampson were two.
But the most eerie death of the Poltergeist film was that of the actress who played Carol Anne. Heather O’Rourke, aged 12, died in 1988 of a heart attack. Doctors were performing surgery to remove a bowel obstruction; she’d been misdiagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
Of course, some would say that the deaths of these characters were no more than coincidence. After all, people die every day and that’s especially true in a high-stress lifestyle like the film industry. But many more think the Poltergeist movie was cursed.
The Poltergeist Movie: Fact or Fiction?
As with most Hollywood movies, there’s little resemblance between the Hermanns’ story and the movie based on that story. But, it could be said that that’s the beauty of cinema.
Again, was Poltergeist based on a true story? Yes! Kind of! Maybe! Well, sort of.
In the 1950s, families like the Hermanns were probably less inclined to go public with their belief that they were being terrorized by a demon or a ghost. We may not have all the details. We have no evidence pointing toward it being a hoax, but none toward it being truth, etiher.
Whether or not the Enfield haunting is a true story, and whether or not the Poltergeist story is true, one thing’s for certain: they’re entertaining.
Want to Check Out Poltergeist?
If you’ve never seen the movie, we recommend that you watch Poltergeist. Want to make a night of it? There are actually two versions.
The first is the movie filmed back in the 1980s. You can’t easily find this on most streaming services, though it does pop up around Halloween. Your best bet is to buy the DVD.
There’s a new version of the Poltergeist, though, which was released in 2015. This one’s available on iTunes, Google Play and other streaming services. Grab a bowl of popcorn and curl up on the recliner. True story or not, we think you will love the Poltergeist movies, so give them a go, whether you’re watching the old ones or the remakes.