Steven Spielberg's hit movie Poltergeist chilled millions of viewers to the bone when it was released in 1982.

The horror flick saw a suburban family's youngest daughter held captive by terrifying apparitions. The movie became an instant cult hit sparking two sequels.

But in the years after the first film's release a series of tragic and bizarre events earned Poltergeist a very different tag - the most cursed production of all time.

Oliver Robbins was cast as Robbie Freeling in the 1982 cult classic. In an exclusive interview with Daily Mail Online the former child actor recalls the tragic deaths of his two on screen sisters.

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Just weeks after Poltergeist hit the cinema Dominique Dunne, who played Robins' older sister Dana, was strangled by her boyfriend in the driveway of her West Hollywood home.

The sinister curse seemingly grew after 60-year-old actor Julian Beck, who played insane preacher Henry Kane in Poltergeist II, died of stomach cancer in 1985 and Will Sampson who played Taylor the Medicine Man in the second flick, passed away of kidney failure aged just 53 in 1987.

And the bizarre incidents didn't end there. In 2009, 67-year-old Lou Perryman, who played Pugsley, was killed when a recently released ex-convict killed him in his own Austin, Texas home with an axe.

But for Robins, now 43, the most difficult loss came in 1988 when younger screen sister Heather O'Rourke, who starred as possessed Carol Anne in all three films, died suddenly aged 12 from cardiac arrest.

Heather O'Rourke, who starred as possessed Carol Anne in all three films, died suddenly aged 12 from cardiac arrest.
Heather O'Rourke, who starred as possessed Carol Anne in all three films, died suddenly aged 12 from cardiac arrest.

Everyone was shocked by the deaths and millions of fans instantly blamed 'the curse of Poltergeist'.

Just weeks after Poltergeist hit the cinema Dominique Dunne, who played Robins' older sister Dana, was strangled by her boyfriend in the driveway of her West Hollywood home

He said: "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.

"With this curse mythology, I never spoke to Steven [Spielberg] about it, but I guess he thinks the events that took place were horribly tragic and awful but had no relation to the events that took place on set.

"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.

"If anything, I think the mythology of the curse has kept the film alive for many new viewers and maybe that's a good thing because the film almost developed a life of it's own from 'the curse' and maybe that's why there's a remake?

"Maybe even a remake based on the mythology of that curse that was born out of the production."

Robins was just nine years old, with only a fertilizer commercial on his resume, when he was cast as Robbie Freeling, the terrified brother of Carol Anne, the little blonde girl who was possessed by a spirit in their family's TV.

And after three decades, he reveals how the movie was a collection of Spielberg's worst nightmares as a child.

His character was the victim of a lethal clown and a possessed tree, but for a young Robins it felt more like spending the day at a theme park than work.

He also revealed how his time on the movie watching Poltergeist co-writer and producer Spielberg inspired him to step away from acting to focus on making movies.

Robins reflected on the tragic loss of his co-stars and on screen sisters and admits he's saddened to this day over the loss of his co-stars.

"When Dominique Dunn passed away I believe my parents told me, but they also wanted to protect me, so all that I learned during that period was that she had died and was having a funeral," he said.

"I did not attend the funeral but my parents went and I was just very upset by the fact that she had passed on because, as a child, most children aren't really exposed to that at such a young age, so it gave me a sense of mortality and taught me that things can happen and you should celebrate every moment of your life because it is so fleeting."

Dunn was 22 when she was strangled by her abusive former boyfriend John Thomas Sweeney on November 4, 1982. Sweeney was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison, but was paroled after serving three and a half years.

The loss of his second co-star, Heather O'Rourke, struck another blow for Robins six years later.

O'Rourke was just 12 when she died during surgery to repair an acute bowel obstruction in 1988.

Steven Spielberg is said to have based the film on his personal childhood fears, including clowns.
Steven Spielberg is said to have based the film on his personal childhood fears, including clowns.

"I was in high school at the time, at a really intense prep school in the San Fernando Valley and so my only focus were my studies. I'd lost touch with Heather at that point and unfortunately I never knew she was actually sick until she passed away.

"I attended her funeral and it was really heartbreaking to see that happen. I was at an age where I had so many fond memories of her and I was able to reflect upon the experience, so it was tragic for me on multiple levels.

"I had a relationship with her as a child and she was part of my childhood memories. We were losing someone who had such a bright future and we lost her due to circumstances that were really beyond anyone's control at that time.

"Heather and I used to hang out together on the set with Steven and Tobe [Hooper] and we would play with our toys. We were pretty much just like brother and sister on that set.

"She lived in a different part of Southern California but she visited me at my parents' home and we hung out with each other, but as we got older we lost touch."

Robins says the last time he saw her was when he was 12.

"She was precocious and a very intelligent girl for someone who was only five years old," he recalls.

"She was actually far more intelligent than her character was and sometimes people took for granted that Heather was truly acting at trying to become a different character, and so when Tobe would call cut, Heather was a different person."

Robins says there is one tragic but vivid memory that sticks with him. "My parents bought a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne to give to Steven to congratulate him on finishing the movie," he recalls. "I remember giving it to him and he said to Heather, 'You know Heather, when you turn 21 this is how we are going to celebrate your birthday'.

"I always remember that moment because she never made it to 21. It was certainly tragic on some many levels."

One of the most memorable scenes in Poltergeist was JoBeth Williams, who played Robins' mother, being attacked by skeletons in their backyard.

The movie's producers and director Spielberg insisted that they use real life dead people's bones

"Those skeletons were real and as a kid I thought that was really cool. I'm sure they added hair and things to them. But they weren't shipped in from foreign countries with scabs and skin hanging off, I'm pretty sure of that."

Robins has seen a lot in the 30 years he has been in the entertainment industry but, unlike his own experiences, he fears child acting is now becoming a very different arena.

"There are so many people who want their fifteen minutes of fame and I see parents forcing their children to do it for all the wrong reasons.

Most of the effects of the Poltergeist were added in later so the young actors were often staring at blank walls

"I just didn't see that as a child in the early 80s but I see it all the time now that I'm an adult directing movies.

"It's hard to say whether or not it is because there are too many people involved, but I think at the end of the day the best performances comes from children who want to be there and are doing it because they love it."

Robins says his experiences of working alongside Spielberg were some of the most life-shaping memories he's ever had. The multi-talented director drew this invitation to the wrap party for the film

The director had been scared of clowns and scary looking trees since he was a child and these fears inspired him to write creepy scenes that Robins' character would experience in the movie.

"I haven't seen that clown since I acted with it, but they actually made three clown dolls for the movie and people have told me one doll is sat behind glass at a Planet Hollywood hotel in Las Vegas," said Robins.

"It was back in the day, before CGI and almost all the effects were practical effects which, as an actor, you had to try and simulate.

"So whenever the clown was on top of me I had to hold it against my body but make it seem like the clown was actually strangling me."

- Daily Mail