When she closed her eyes on life, she was only 12 years old. Her future was so bright that if she had lived, we might have been discussing her beauty and acting skills on our social media accounts. We would have watched her career flourish like Natalie Portman’s, perhaps witnessing her lifting Oscar awards. However, life, unfortunately, doesn’t treat everyone fairly enough.
Heather O’Rourke was born in San Diego, California. She had a mixed heritage, with roots in Germany, Denmark, Ireland, and England. Her family must have sensed her talent because they took her to MGM Studios when she was just 5 years old. That day at MGM Studios would change her life. There, she encountered a stranger. That stranger asked her name:
“My name is Heather O’Rourke, but my mother told me not to talk to strangers.”
When the mother returned from the registration desk and saw her daughter talking to a stranger, she was shocked. Standing before Heather was Steven Spielberg. Spielberg wanted her to audition. Who wouldn’t? At age 5, Heather O’Rourke auditioned for Spielberg’s film but failed to impress. Nevertheless, Spielberg sensed something different about her. He persisted. You know, Spielberg loves children. He asked Heather to scream. Heather let out such a scream that tears streamed down her eyes. Impressed by her scream, Spielberg told Heather’s parents on their way out, “I don’t know what it is, but your daughter has got the job.“
Spielberg kept his word and ensured Heather appeared on the screen. Heather O’Rourke’s beautiful face could now be seen on billboards for Disneyland and various commercials across California. In no time, she became a beloved face on television. And all this while she was still only 6 years old. After appearing in small TV shows, Spielberg chose her for a future horror classic, a film he would produce: Poltergeist. Directed by Tobe Hooper, the 1982 film Poltergeist added even more fame to Heather O’Rourke’s already-established reputation. At age 7, during the film’s production, the adorable actress gave the world a glimpse of the immense talent and stardom she would achieve in the future.
Heather O’Rourke delivered such a remarkable performance in the film despite her young age that the producers believed she should be part of the second film as well. In 1986, the second installment of Poltergeist was released, and Heather once again graced the screen. Naturally, Heather O’Rourke was still in the lead role. In fact, she had even more prominent involvement compared to the first film. However, a problem arose.
After the second film, Heather began experiencing health issues. Tests revealed that she had contracted Giardiasis, a highly contagious disease caused by a parasite. Immediate treatment commenced. However, during this time, the producers approached her for the third film. Despite undergoing treatment, and even while it continued, the young actress appeared in the 1988 production of Poltergeist III. Unfortunately, her participation on set, when she should have been resting, led to devastating consequences.
One morning, Heather O’Rourke fainted in her home and was rushed to the hospital. Tragically, Heather suffered a heart attack while in the ambulance and passed away. The film in which she starred, possibly costing her life, was released only four months after her death. But at that point, the film no longer held any significance. Heather had departed from the world. A young girl had lost her life for a series that could be deemed inconsequential.
As someone who greatly admires the Poltergeist series, I must say that I think I loved Heather O’Rourke more than the film itself. When I had the opportunity to watch it for the first time, I wanted to know who the girl was and where she was today, and I was met with great disappointment. Heather had passed away at the age of 12. It’s astonishing. 12! It is incredibly saddening to witness the premature death of such a talented and beautiful girl. Since that day, whenever I hear Heather O’Rourke, I feel an immense sadness, as if my own child had died.
I don’t know why, but I had grown very attached to that sweet little girl while watching the film. The impact of my love for girls also plays a significant role here. I still cannot fully accept the fact that a bright girl like Heather left this world at such a young age. Therefore, I am writing this piece to commemorate the 48th birthday that Heather O’Rourke will never reach. If she were alive, she would be running from film to film with her beauty and magnificent acting skills. However, unfortunately, life did not grant us that opportunity. Our lives pass by with regrets.
Heather is not the only person who appeared in the Poltergeist series and then passed away. Her position is different, of course. However, it is interesting to note that the Poltergeist series has been associated with numerous deaths and issues over time and has gained a reputation as being cursed. I would like to share some of these incidents with you.
- On October 30, 1982, Dominique Dunne, who portrayed the character Dana Freeling in the first film, was strangled by her jealous boyfriend and tragically passed away on November 4 while in a coma.
- Julian Beck, who played Henry Kane in the second film, died on September 14, 1985, due to stomach cancer.
- Will Sampson, who portrayed the character Taylor in the second film, passed away on June 3, 1987, due to kidney failure and malnutrition.
- Heather O’Rourke, who played the role of Carol Anne Freeling in all three films, sadly died on February 1, 1988, at 12. Her cause of death was a heart attack triggered by septic shock caused by intestinal stenosis.