Every Halloween, Hollywood does its darndest to scare its way into our hearts (or, more accurately, our nightmares). But when it comes to Tinseltown terrors, it seems that truth really is stranger - and scarier - than fiction.
You can keep your ‘Paranormal Activities’ and ‘Saws’ - these real-life creepy tales of movie set hauntings are guaranteed to send a shiver up your cinephile spine…
Behind the Candelabra
As two of the most iconic, heroic actors on-screen today, you’d imagine it’d be hard to spook Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. But both reported an eerie presence on the set of the Liberace biopic, ‘Behind the Candelabra’. An insider told the National Enquirer that both stars have felt “cold damp air swish by, reeking of a potent men’s cologne”. Douglas is also said to have felt someone caress his shoulder - but turned around to find no-one there!
Introducing Dorothy Dandridge
During the filming of a Dorothy Dandridge biopic (the first African-American to be nominated for an Oscar), Halle Berry admitted she was stalked by a prying poltergeist. Bizarre happenings on-set followed her home after she borrowed a gown belonging to Dandridge. Berry told Ebony Magazine she heard “the sound of water boiling” before seeing a baby doll’s dress float in mid-air in front of the dead actress’ dress. Understandably, she fled to her bedroom and began sobbing hysterically.
The Omen (2006)
Thanks to all manner of creepy coincidences and dodgy deaths, the original The Omen has gone down in movie myth history as one of the most cursed movies ever made. The director of the 2006 remake, John Moore, was just as unlucky – although this time, he reported a more direct haunting. Moore blamed an interfering spook for two days’ worth of ruined footage after his cameras imploded, displaying an unexplainable ‘Error 666’ reading.
As the home of all the classic Hollywood horrors, it’s not surprising that Universal Studios has its fare share of spooks hanging around. On Stage 28 - the lot created specifically for the filming of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ - security guards and production staff still report seeing a black caped ghost to this day. A ghost said to be none other than Lon Chaney - the Phantom himself!
The Ghost of Goodnight Lane
Filmmaker Alin Bijan’s ‘The Ghost of Goodnight Lane’ revolves around his real life experiences of owning a haunted movie studio in which five people had died.
Because he’s a glutton for paranormal punishment, Bijan decided to film the movie in the studio it was inspired by. The cast - including Billy Zane - have had their own spooky experiences during filming, including lights going off and again, disembodied voices calling their names, and ceiling fixtures falling to the floor.
Situated right next door to one of the oldest cemeteries in the city, it’s not uncommon for Paramount Studios to see its fair share of ghostly visitors gliding through the walls from Hollywood Memorial Park. According to countless backstage staff, the ghost of ‘Poltergeist’ star Heather O’Rourke - who died when she was twelve - is said to wander the catwalks, giggling as she goes.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
It seems that not all spirits like to stay confined to the set. Jennifer Carpenter, the actress who played the titular possessed young girl in ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’, thinks she was followed home after a day’s work re-enacting the creepy real life story. “My stereo kept turning itself on in the middle of the night. It freaked me out, because it started playing Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive’ – but just the ‘I’m still alive’ part.”
While horror director Ti West professes to being a skeptic, even he couldn’t deny the strange happenings on-set of ‘The Innkeepers’. Filmed on-location in the haunted hotel of the movie’s inspiration, he regularly saw doors close by themselves, TVs turn on and off, and lights burning out for no reason. And star Sara Paxton experienced her own bumps in the night. “[She’d] wake up in the middle of the night thinking someone was in the room with her,” West admits.
It’s no surprise that one of the most controversial horror movies of all time had a production as unnerving as its legacy. Director William Freidkin felt so uneasy on set that he repeatedly had priests brought in to bless the set after fires and unexplainable bumps in the night set the crew’s imaginations’ alight.
A quick and easy way to tempt the spirit world? Set up shop in an abandoned hospital with a long history of unexpectedly high death rates. That’s what the cast and crew of ‘Insight’ did, with predictably weird results. Director Richard Gabal said: “It was extremely creepy…. you could feel death in that place…. I lost my producer for two hours…. He was terrified because the electricity would go on and off and the lights would flicker.”
*BONUS DEBUNKING ROUND*
Three Men and a Baby
One of the best and yet ultimately untrue movie myths belongs to everyone’s favourite 80s family comedy, Three Men and a Baby. In one scene, you can clearly see a young boy stood eerily in the background between a pair of curtains. Rumours go that it’s the ghost of a young boy who died in the house the movie was filmed in, but the reality is that it’s none other than a cardboard cut-out of a young Ted Danson. Which of those spooky tales creeped you out the most?
Do you know any other terrifying movie legends of on-set hauntings? Let us know in the comments below!
Image credits: HBO/20th Century Fox/Universal/Media World Television/MGM/Screen Gems/Dark Sky Films/Warner Bros./Braeburn Entertainment/Touchstone Pictures