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10 Well Known Movies With Bizarre Backstories

by Marcus Lowth
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Most of us like to plonk ourselves down on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn, maybe a beer or two, and take in a good movie. Sometimes though, the backstories, legends and origins of the films are at least just as interesting as the finished product. Whether it is tales of curses, films which may or may not be based on “true” events, or even movies that have proven to have chillingly predicted future happenings, the stories behind the stories are usually quite captivated in themselves. Here are just ten of them….

See Also: Top 10 Creepy Scenes In Movies

10 Three Men And A Baby (And A Ghost That Wasn’t)

3 Men and a Baby Trailer (1987)

Back in 1990 when we were still renting videos from the shop in order to see the latest movies, one particular film that was hard to get your hands on for a time was the comedy “Three Men And A Baby.” This was in part due to the upcoming release of its sequel, but mostly because people were eager to see for themselves the ghost that had seemingly been captured on tape in one of the scenes.

The scene in question is just over an hour into the film and features Ted Danson (Jack) and Celeste Holm (his mother). As they are walking through their apartment with Holm carrying the baby, a strange figure is seen standing near the window and peering through the curtains.

Stories, that were really never anything more than rumours at best, began to spread that the figure was the ghost of a young boy who had committed suicide in the apartment by throwing himself from the window. The story went that the grieving family had left the apartment soon after, and as it was without tenant, it was rented to the film company to film in.

Shortly after the stories began to circulate, another eagle eyed watcher claimed to have spotted a rifle in the same window about thirty seconds prior to the boy’s appearance. Suddenly the tale began to change – the boy had now committed suicide by shooting himself by the window.

Disney studios deemed it necessary to release a statement about the scene following increased interest and theories about the alleged ghost. They claimed that the “boy” was in fact a cardboard cut-out of Jack – who in the film is an actor – from one of his performances. It had simply been left by the window and the angle it was shot from made it look smaller than it was. This was the same they said with the “rifle” that was spotted – it was in fact one of the prop’s arms. What’s more, they claimed, the scenes of inside the apartment were actually shot on set and not on location. In short, there was no boy who had committed suicide there – there simply was no boy at all!

Some people however, would not accept the explanation from the studios, stating that the prop and the “boy” looked completely different. The legend of the ghost at the window, at least for some, continues.

9 The Poltergeist Films – Strange Deaths and Premonitions

Poltergeist (1982) Official Trailer – JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson Horror Movie HD

The Poltergeist movies are perhaps some of the better known films said to be cursed, not least of which because of the several untimely deaths of cast members in the years following the first film’s release in 1982.

Less than six months after the release of the first film, Dominique Dunne, who played the eldest daughter of the Freeling family, was strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend – he was ultimately found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. She was just twenty-two years old. In the years that followed, Julian Beck (who played Henry Kane) and Will Sampson (who played Taylor) died from stomach cancer and kidney failure respectively. Two years later, Heather O’Rourke, who played the young girl, Carol, died suddenly aged only twelve years old on 1st February 1988.

Some people believe that the curse stems from the decision to use real skeletons for the scene where Carol (played by JoBeth Williams) desperately tries to escape the unfinished swimming pool in the yard, in which skeletons are coming up from the mud due to the heavy rainfall. In an effort to keep costs down, it was decided it was much cheaper to use real skeletons as opposed to having several fake ones made. Some have stated that it is this “disrespect” to the dead that has led to the film being cursed. This would be quite ironic given that the plot for the film is very similar.

Possibly the most spine-chilling aspect of the alleged curse of the Poltergeist movies though, is the Super Bowl XXII poster that is seen on several occasions during the first film. Super Bowl XXII was eventually played in San Diego on 31st January 1988. Also on that date, after suffering from the flu all week, the aforementioned Heath O’Rourke was rushed to hospital with persistent vomiting, before losing her life the following day.

8 Dark Waters – Unwittingly Tells of Murder Eight Years In The Future

Dark Water (2005) – Trailer

Released in 2005, the horror flick, Dark Waters, tells the story of a tragic young girl who is drowned in the water tank that sat on top of the apartment building where she lived. Her body however is undiscovered for some time, and as it slowly decomposes, the residents in the apartment building begin to complain of “foul tasting” water.

Almost eight years later in February 2013, the body of Elisa Lam was discovered in the water tower of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. She had been missing for nearly three weeks. As in the film, guests at the hotel had complained, before the body was discovered, of the water not smelling or tasting as it should. It also had a strange colour to it.

Elisa Lam’s murder is both unsettling and interesting in its own right – and more to the point it is still unsolved. While she was almost certainly murdered, there is still the outside possibility that her death was a tragic accident or even a suicide.

7 The Amityville Horror – Cast Affected By The True Events

The Amityville Horror Official Trailer #1 – Rod Steiger Movie (1979) HD

The Amityville Horror is based on true events, although what actually happened, and what parts were embellished is very much open to debate. What is very real are the murders of the DeFoe family at their home on 112 Ocean Avenue by the eldest son, Ronnie DeFoe, who calmly went from room to room and executed his siblings and parents in November 1974.

The following year, George and Kathy Lutz bought the property. They knew of the murders, and even asked a priest to come and bless the house for them. According to the Lutz’ they almost immediately began to experience paranormal activity in the house. Twenty-eight days after they took up residence there, they moved out, never to return.

They sold their tale to author Jay Anson, and while they admitted that certain parts of their claims were overstated for the purpose of the story, they maintained that the experiences they had were very real.

Whatever the finer truths of the Lutz’ story, there have been genuine claims of strange activity concerning cast members from both the original film in 1979 and the remake in 2005. James Brolin, who played George Lutz in the original film, was said to have bought into the Lutz’ experiences – even stating he experienced clothing falling to the floor from its hanger of its own accord while he read the book upon accepting the role. Perhaps even stranger was the experience of Ryan Reynolds, who played the same character in the 2005 remake. He stated that he would awaken at 3:15am almost every night for no good reason – that particular time is alleged to have been when the real murders of the DeFoe family occurred, and this had also allegedly happened to the real life George Lutz during his brief time living in the house.

There have also been numerous paranormal investigations on the property where the murders took place. Perhaps the most chilling was one that took place in 1976, before the first film had been released, which claimed to have caught on camera the ghost of the youngest DeFoe son.

6 The Entire Superman Brand and Franchise – Bringer of Bad Fortune?

Superman Christopher Reeve Tribute

Whether it is the original television series, “The Adventures of Superman” from the 1950s, the classic Superman films starring the late Christopher Reeve or the new “Man of Steel” movies, to some, the whole Superman franchise is cursed.

The star of the original television series, George Reeves, shot himself in the head in 1959 after playing the role successfully for eight years.
Christopher Reeve made the role his own for the series of hugely successful films in the late-70s and 1980s. Off the back of the movies, Reeves became a star almost overnight. However in 1995 he was thrown from his horse while riding and was paralysed from the neck down. He died nine years later in 2004 from a heart attack following a reaction to an antibiotic. In an even stranger twist, two years later, his widow died from lung cancer, despite never having smoked a cigarette in her life.

Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the movies, not only found it hard to land other similarly high profile roles, she was involved in a serious car accident in 1990 that left her temporarily paralysed. Also suffering from depression, in 1996 she experienced a very public meltdown, during which she became convinced her ex-husband was trying to kill her. This prompted her to hack away all of her hair with a razor blade and sleep rough on the streets. She was found in a state of serious distress in a person’s back yard and was admitted to UCLA medical centre.

Three years after his appearance in Superman III, comedian Richard Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which led to him requiring triple bypass heart surgery in 1990. His health steadily declined until his death in 2005.

The young child who played Superman as a baby, Lee Quigley, died at age fourteen in 1991 following years of substance and solvent abuse.
While Henry Cavill, the star of the “Man of Steel” films does not appear to have succumbed to the curse yet, some have alleged that the actor appears to “almost” get the big role before being snubbed at the last minute. He was alleged to have auditioned for James Bond but lost out to Daniel Craig, and Batman before the part was given to Christian Bale. Cavill himself states that the Batman story isn’t at all true, while the reason he lost out on James Bond was due to him simply being too young. Time will tell – at least for some.

5 The Crow – The Tragic “Curse” of the Lee Family

The Crow was Brandon Lee’s big break, set to catapult the cult star to being a house hold name. Unfortunately for Lee he didn’t live to see the film released. In what was a tragic accident, Lee was shot during the scene that sees him remembering entering his apartment to find a crazed gang there. One of the gang members shoots Lee’s character (Eric Draven).

The gun used was obviously loaded with blanks, but due to various safety measures not being followed as they should have been, the scene ended in disaster. A lead tip from a previous blank bullet was still lodged in the gun from a previous shoot. When it was fired, it fired from the gun and pierced Lee’s abdomen. He died a little over twelve hours later.

The gun used it seemed, had not been properly checked – for example had a cleaning rod been run through the weapon, it most likely would have dislodged the tip. The fake bullets themselves were also questionable, in that they were real bullets with the gunpowder removed as opposed to dummies – this was due to time restraints it is alleged.

In short, it appears if correct procedure had been followed instead of the filming geared towards keeping everything on time, Brandon Lee most likely is still alive today. Perhaps even more depressing is that the actor who fired the shot, Michael Massey (who played Funboy) didn’t actually need to aim the gun at Lee, as both were not in the frame at the same time – he could have simply aimed at the wall for example. That is not to apportion any blame on Massey. For his part he has stated afterwards that he still has nightmares over the incident and it is something that he will never fully get over.
While Brandon’s death was surely a tragic accident, many conspiracy theories soon circulated about a Lee family curse, with more than a few people referencing not only how his father, Bruce Lee had himself died suddenly from a freak reaction to a headache tablet, but also a particular scene in his last film, “Game of Death” – which Bruce was filming when he died seemed to predict his son’s demise.

The scene in question featured Bruce Lee playing an actor, who while filming a scene was shot and left for dead when the “fake” guns were replaced for real ones. He doesn’t die however and proceeds to hunt down the gang who attempted to kill him and take his revenge. While this is seemingly pure coincidence, it really is quite spine tingling how it mirrors not only the tragic circumstances of his son’s death fifteen years later, but also the plot of The Crow sees Draven return from the grave to take revenge for his death.

4 The Fourth Kind – Fake “Real” Promotional News Angers Real Residents

The 4th Kind Official Trailer #1 – Will Patton Movie (2009) HD

As many films do, The Fourth Kind, which was released in 2009, advertised itself as being based on true events. They even aired “real” archive footage relating to the movie on the Internet, as well as publishing alleged authentic news articles from local newspapers. They drew people’s attention to the fact that many people had actually gone missing over the years in the small town of Nome, Alaska, where the movie is set.

The film tells the story of Dr. Abigail Tyler, who following her husband’s murder, is plagued by visits from aliens who are seemingly abducting people from the small town. Tyler herself studies the phenomenon and conducts interviews and sessions with other residents of Nome who are having similar experiences.

The real life residents of Nome however, including the press local to the region, were less than happy with Universal for their portrayal of their community through the “real” news articles that turned out to be completely fake. Not only were Universal forced to pay $20,000 in compensation, but they had to remove all of their promotional material that claimed to be “real” from the Internet.

The film itself was slated by critics, not least due to what was perceived as the studio using real life deaths and disappearances for the their own ends.

3 Rebel Without A Cause – Classic Flick With Far Reaching Curse

Rebel Without a Cause – Trailer

Arguably one of the greatest films of the 1950s “Rebel Without A Cause” is said by some to have been one of the most “cursed” films in movie history. Four of the cast died in suspicious or tragic circumstances, including the two leads, James Dean and Natalie Wood.

James Dean actually perished in a car accident a month before the film’s release. Ironically one of the last things he filmed was a piece for television to raise awareness about safe driving.

Nick Adams, who not only appeared in the film, but was a one-time lover of Wood and very close with Dean, was discovered in his bedroom dead and fully clothed, with no signs of a struggle or forced entry to his home. The autopsy discovered sedatives and other drugs in his body – including the drug paraldehyde, which was used sometimes by alcoholics in their attempts to beat their disease. Adams however was not known to drink, not even socially, and there was no prescription or bottle of the drug found anywhere in his home. His death was ruled an accidental death.

Salvatore Sal Mineo, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the famed film, was found stabbed to death in his home less than a decade later. Some stated he had been killed in a homophobic attack, although Lionel Ray Williams, the man who killed him, stated he had no idea who he was much less that he was homosexual.

Perhaps the most investigated death connected with “Rebel Without A Cause”, came in 1981, when Natalie Wood drowned after seemingly falling overboard from the yacht she had been drinking on for some hours with her husband, Robert Wagner, and fellow actor, Christopher Walken. Although her death was officially recorded as an accident, the many accounts of arguments and fighting that was said to have taken place that evening eventually led to the case being reopened in 2011.

2 The Entity – True Events Stranger Than The Film

The Entity (1982) Trailer

The 1982 supernatural film “The Entity” follows the story of Carla Moran, who after experiencing years of paranormal experiences, is physically attacked and seemingly raped by an invisible entity from the other side. What’s more is that the story is based on actual true events that were legitimately investigated and studied by two researchers into the paranormal from UCLA University.

The real victim is called Doris Bither, and in the summer of 1974 she sought the help of parapsychologists Barry Taff and Kerry Gaynor. Over the following two and a half months the team conducted extensive investigations and, just as Doris and her children had done, they witnessed numerous amounts of paranormal activity. This included seeing strange lights, glowing orbs appearing out of nowhere, general “poltergeist” activity and perhaps most frightening of all, the appearance of a green mist that formed and took the shape of an adult male.

In recent years many opportunists have jumped on the bandwagon of the case claiming to have been part of the original research team. Taff himself is still fascinated with the events of that summer, and states that although what they experienced was very real, he wonders how much of Bither’s horrid early life, as well as her fascination and experimentation with Ouija boards played into the happenings.

Perhaps the story that makes the skin crawl the most is said to have occurred when the Bither family first moved into the house in California. A strange lady was said to have come to their front door and proclaimed to Bither before leaving as quickly as she had come, “You need to get out! I used to live here in this old house, back when it was just a farm and I was a little girl. There is something very evil here. This place is haunted and you need to get out!”

By all accounts, Bither continued to experience paranormal phenomenon of varied levels of intensity until her death in 1999 aged only fifty-nine.

1 Atuk – The Film That Can Not, Maybe Must Not Be Made

Perhaps one of the most interesting and mysterious backstories to a film comes from one that hasn’t actually been fully made, much less released. It hasn’t been for a lack of trying though. Legend now sates that anyone who reads the script with a view to accepting the main role, will drop dead shortly thereafter.

It is said that the script for Atuk – based on the book “The Incomparable Atuk” was said to have been offered to John Belushi in 1982, who after reading it, felt it was perfect for his persona. A month later he was dead from a drugs overdose – he was just thirty-three years old.

Sam Kinison was next offered the starring role in the film a decade later in 1992, and production this time did begin. However it wasn’t long before the outspoken comic was demanding that his rewritten script be used instead, otherwise he would simply “go through the motions!”

The film was ultimately pulled from production once more, and shortly after, Kinison was dead from injuries sustained in a head on collision. Perhaps chillingly, although probably a shock reaction, Kinison was heard speaking to an “invisible” person in the seconds before he died stating, “I don’t want to die!” several times before seemingly listening to a reply. “But why?” he was then said to have replied before “listening” again for a moment. He then seemed to be resigned to his fate and simply said “Okay! Okay!” before he passed away.

Two years later in 1994, the script was offered to larger than life comedian, John candy, who expressed an interest in taking on the project. It is said that the script was found in his possession when he died suddenly of a heart attack at age forty-three.

Several months following the tragic death of Candy, writer Michael O’Donoghue died suddenly from bleeding on the brain. It was claimed that O’Donoghue had been reading the script with Candy before he died and was in discussions with him about how he should play the role. It is also said he had recommended the script to Belushi twelve years earlier.

In 1997, Chris Farley was said to have been on the verge of accepting the role for the Atuk film, when he died of a drugs overdose at age thirty-three. In a bizarre twist, it is claimed that Farley had been reading the script with his fellow actor friend, Phil Hartman, in an attempt to interest him in a supporting role. In the months following Farley’s death, Hartman was shot to death by his wife, before she turned the gun on herself.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a passion for anything interesting, be it UFOs, the Ancient Astronaut Theory, the paranormal or conspiracies. He also has a liking for the NFL, film and music.

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