The 10 Most Haunting Behind-the-Scenes Stories

Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) looks with wide eyes at an object in The Conjuring (2013)

With the Halloween season upon us, we find ourselves loading up on a supernatural amount of horror movies to set the mood. And while most horror movies are designed to do nothing more than scare the wits out of us, there's usually some comfort in remembering that these movies are all smoke and mirrors. But while you may believe that these horror movies are more terrifying to watch than they are to make, there are some who might say otherwise—and countless on-set stories to back them up. 

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While some naysayers and non-believers might write these testimonies off as a publicity stunt or just coincidence, some of these accounts are just too eerie to ignore. In the spirit of the season, we dug up some of the most haunting behind-the-scenes stories from tormented crew members to cursed movie sets!

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The Blair Witch Project actors were terrorized

The Blair Witch Project-Leonard and Williams
Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams in The Blair Witch Project (1999)

In the famous, found-film horror phenomenon The Blair Witch Project, the cast did a perfect job appearing to be terrified and lost in the woods—mostly because they actually were. The filmmakers sent the actors out into the woods with food rations and intentionally got them lost. As the nights went on, the crew would sneak in and steal food rations, torment them by making scary sounds in the woods, and even shake their tents when they tried to fall asleep.

 

The set of The Possession may have been possessed 

The Possession-Natasha Calis
Em (Natasha Calis) in The Possession (2012)

During the filming of The Possession, the cast experienced some really bizarre occurrences ranging from light bulbs that would inexplicably explode on set to having their prop facility catch fire and burn to the ground. The investigation couldn’t find any cause of the fire. Additionally, the Dybbuk box relic used in the movie was completely destroyed one day, and the cast and crew refused to let the producer replace it for fear the object was cursed.

 

The Exorcism of Emily Rose haunted radio 

The Exorcism of Emily Rose-Jennifer Carpenter
Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

In another movie about demonic possession, Jennifer Carpenter, the lead actress in The Exorcism of Emily Rose, was terrified when her radio alarm clock would repeatedly turn on by itself during her time on set. Creepily enough, every time it did it only played one song—Alive by Pearl Jam. Soon after, another cast member started to report the exact same thing, hearing the same exact song. They were both so disturbed by it that they had all of their radios removed from the set. There was never any explanation for the occurrence. 

 

Stanley Kubrick’s directing in The Shining

The Shining-Jack Nicholson
Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) in The Shining (1980)

Stanley Kubrick is one of the most celebrated movie directors of our time, but according to many who have worked with him, his directing techniques can be somewhat questionable and nightmarish—especially on the set of The Shining. To get the cast into perfect character, he would torment and berate the actors to the point of tears, hair loss, and even mental breakdown. According to Shelley Duvall, "I had to cry 12 hours a day, all day long, the last nine months straight, five or six days a week. I was there a year and a month."

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Chestburster scene in Alien 

Alien-chestburster scene
(left to right) Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Parker (Yaphet Kotto), Kane (John Hurt), Dallas (Tom Skerritt), and Ash (Ian Holm) in Alien (1979)

The iconic chest-bursting scene in the original Alien movie has become one of the most memorable movie moments. Once seen, it is pretty hard to forget, mostly because the acting is so authentic, and there’s good reason for that. Director Ridley Scott intentionally didn’t tell the cast there was going to be any actually blood, and that the effect was going to be edited in. When the alien erupted from his chest, spraying blood all over the cast, their reaction was genuine terror. 

 

Ghosts following the cast of The Conjuring 

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Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) in The Conjuring (2013)

For anyone who has seen The Conjuring, they would know that the demons in this movie are no joke. That’s why what happened to the cast and set of the movie is all the more terrifying. When members of the Perron family (the family the movie was based on) visited the set, a huge wind suddenly rose and surrounded them even though there was no other wind affecting the area. Additionally, the director had a dog which began to act erratically at night, and the cast hotel even caught on fire. If that’s not enough, lead actor Vera Farmiga reportedly would wake up covered in bruises and scratches during production. 

 

The Clown in Poltergeist ACTUALLY strangled Oliver Robins

Poltergeist-Heather O'Rourke
Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O'Rourke) in Poltergeist (1982)

In the iconic (and horrifying) clown scene in Poltergeist, the actor that played Robbie once shared that, during filming, the device in the doll’s arms malfunctioned and began to actually strangle the actor, until the crew had to forcibly remove it from him. If he wasn’t already afraid of clowns before, he certainly is now. 

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The Omen curse

The Omen-Harvey Stephens
Damien (Harvey Stephens) in The Omen (1976)

The Omen was a classic horror movie about a young boy who isn’t quite what he seems. Everywhere he goes, bad things happen, and apparently that was true for the actor himself. As filming began, the lead actor’s son had passed away, and this was only a harbinger for the plague of destruction that was soon to follow. Before production was over, the cast and crew experienced a total of 3 airplane accidents, the last actually killing several members of the crew when it crashed onto a road. 

 

The REAL Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror-Douglas, Reynolds, and George
(left to right) Andrew Douglas (Director), Ryan Reynolds (George Lutz), and Melissa George (Kathy Lutz) on set of The Amityville Horror (2005)

In the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror, filming was delayed when a dead body washed up on shore near the set. The cast and crew were all pretty shaken by the event but eventually carried on with production. Later on, lead Ryan Reynolds and several other crew members were scared when they began waking up every night at exactly 3:15am—the exact time the murders depicted in the movie occurred in real life. 

 

The cursed set of The Exorcist

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Regan (Linda Blair) and Father Karras (Jason Miller) in The Exorcist (1973)

Many horror buffs agree that The Exorcist is the most iconic movie in the genre. But it’s the legends of what happened on (and off) of the movie’s set that make the movie truly terrifying. Just a few days after finishing his scenes, actor Jack MacGowran died unexpectedly, followed closely by the deaths of a security guard and a special effects worker. Later on, the entire set burned down when a bird flew into a fuse box. Creepily enough, the only room that didn’t burn down was the room where the exorcism took place. The supposed curse forced director William Friedkin to bring a priest onto the set to bless the area. Unfortunately, the curse didn’t stop there. After the movie was released, several audience members died from heart attacks during the screening.