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10 Stories of the Occult in Hollywood

by Hannah Janssen
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

When it comes to the occult in show business, one most likely thinks of popular films and television shows like Harry Potter, Practical Magic, Bewitched, or American Horror Story: Coven.

However, tales of curses, witchcraft, and haunts are not limited to the silver screen or the stage. From musicians to directors to film sets, these are ten instances where witchcraft ran wild in Hollywood.

Related: Top 10 Things You Probably Never Knew About Witches

10 Director Richard Stanley Employed a Warlock

Hollywood’s Worst Production Nightmare – The Island of Dr Moreau

The 1996 H.G. Wells adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau is infamous for the difficulties behind its creation. There was even a documentary produced in 2014 about the ill-fated production called Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau. Stories of egos clashing, severe weather, and abuse are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to everything that went wrong, but one story stands out among them.

According to director Richard Stanley himself, he had to “resort to witchcraft” to get his beloved film off the ground. In the aforementioned film, he tells of his desperation to cast legend Marlon Brando in his film. He goes on to explain, “Knowing the odds were stacked against me, I resorted to witchcraft.”

A friend of his, Dr. Featherstone, known casually as “Skip,” was a warlock in England and had been known to “fix things, to do invisible mending before.” Stanley says that at the same time that he went into a major meeting, Skip and his coven performed a blood magic spell that would “save the movie.”

The result of the meeting—and perhaps the spell—was that Brando agreed to do the movie.

Unfortunately for Stanley, however, he was fired from the film, Skip contracted a flesh-eating parasite, and Stanley’s mother’s home got struck by lightning all around the same time.[1]

9 Beyoncé Was Accused of Witchcraft in Court Documents

Beyonce Accused Of Being A Witch By Former Drummer | Hollywoodlife

Of all the accusations to cross a judge’s desk, “extreme witchcraft” and “magic spells of sexual molestation” are not very likely to appear, yet that’s exactly what happened in 2018.

Kimberly Johnson was Beyoncé’s drummer for seven years until she filed a restraining order against Queen Bey for those very sentiments. The accusations were part of a greater allegation of extreme surveillance and micromanagement. Johnson allegedly claimed that Beyoncé tapped her phone, controlled her finances, and performed spells in order to keep the drummer under the superstar’s thumb. Johnson gave no motivation for such activities, according to the court documents, and the case was ultimately thrown out.

Perhaps it was magic indeed that kept the case from seeing the light of day…[2]

8 Movie Sets Have Been Cursed Since Rosemary’s Baby

ROSEMARY’S BABY and the DAKOTA. Are the Film and Building Cursed? #DakotaDocumentary

Any search online for “cursed movie sets” will quickly pull up plenty of frightening accounts of mishaps, deaths, and bizarre coincidences from the sets of horror movies across the decades. Recent films with bone-chilling stories include The Innkeeper (2011), The Conjuring (2013), and Annabelle (2014).

Some of the most notorious sets are those of the original pillars of the horror genre: The Exorcist (1973) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968).

When it comes to The Exorcist, stories of its curse follow it around to this day. There are at least four deaths connected to cast and crew members, delays and setbacks—including a fire on set—as well as injuries to cast and crew members. Additionally, moviegoers from the time blamed the curse for their visceral reactions, such as when one woman fell and broke her jaw when reacting to the horrors of the film. In fact, she allegedly sued the studio for her injuries, blaming the cursed film.

The original cursed movie set, however, goes to the New Hollywood film Rosemary’s Baby. Vanity Fair has even dubbed it “the most cursed hit movie ever made.” Entire articles, including the coverage by Vanity Fair, have been written unpacking the alleged curse of this film. Several people who worked on the set or had a relationship with someone on set died around the making or releasing of the film.

The first was composer Krzysztof Komeda, who fell from an escarpment. Another connection is John Lennon, who was shot outside of The Dakota, where the film was shot. Most infamously is the murder of actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant girlfriend of director Roman Polanski. Rosemary’s Baby was still in theaters when the Manson Family took the lives of Tate and her unborn son.

Producer William Castle skirted death, but he was incredibly ill after filming. While he physically recovered, it could be argued he never quite did mentally. In the hospital, he hallucinated about the horrors of the film and, upon returning to the working world, never produced another hit.[3]

7 David Bowie Was Paranoid about Black Magic

Angela Bowie on David Bowie’s mid-‘70s cocaine psychosis – Demons, witches, and ritual magick

Ziggy Stardust blurred the lines between theater and reality in his personas and performances over the span of his career. The same could be said for his real life, thanks to a serious cocaine addiction and fascination with the occult. During the 1970s, Bowie was living on a diet of milk, cocaine, and cigarettes, inducing cocaine psychosis, which is not unlike schizophrenia.

This distortion of reality led to extreme paranoia, including the beliefs that one of his agents was a CIA agent, one of his backing vocalists was a vampire, and a coven of witches was trying to steal his semen for black magic. According to some reports, it wasn’t just any coven of witches but rather a group of practitioners with ties to Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. The two music moguls met early on in their careers and bonded over their shared affinity for esoterica and occultism.

One such conversation sparked a fear in Bowie that perhaps Page’s more advanced knowledge equated to more power. Between this insecurity and the mess the cocaine made of his mind, he believed that Page and his witches were plotting to steal Bowie’s semen in order to perform a ritual that would conceive and birth the Antichrist. As magical protection, Bowie allegedly stored his urine in the refrigerator.

Since no Antichrist has been born of Bowie’s seed (as far as anyone knows), perhaps the protection spell worked.[4]

6 Led Zeppelin Became the Poster Children for the Occult

The Curse of Led Zeppelin | Music’s Dark Side

Since their inception, the British rock band Led Zeppelin has been associated with witchcraft and the occult. Even today, there are stories from musicians, both Zep’s contemporaries and those whom they influenced, who perpetuate these mystical associations.

There are many legends tied to the band, including Satan worship and Satanic messages in their songs. While many of these rumors have been dispelled, they do have roots in truth. For example, their fourth album, Led Zeppelin IV, contains tarot card imagery. It’s also no secret that guitarist Jimmy Page was a big believer in the philosophies of occultist Aleister Crowley.

While it may be easy to explain many of the legends surrounding the band, it’s much harder to do so when others continually attach occult practices to members of the band. Dave Grohl shares in his book The Storyteller that when he was a teenager, he started getting into occultism and, in true fanboy fashion, held a seance at a makeshift altar to John Bohnam.[5]

5 Megadeth Provided Instructions for Hexes

Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine: Satanic Forces

Hollywood-based heavy metal band Megadeth ceased playing their song “The Conjuring” for 17 years due to legitimate instructions for performing hexes on people. Frontman Dave Mustaine believes that all the negative things in his life are due to his experimentation with magic and the occult when he was a teenager, and that particular song was a product of his experience in that realm that he’d rather not return to.

Some instructional lyrics include:

Behold, the flames rise from the compass’ cardinal points
Burn the sacred oil, and with the ashes you’ll anoint
Arrange the symbols of the wizard and magician
Light the candles, place the parchment paper in position
Between its leaves place the lash from a black cat’s eye
A straw of a broom, fold, and burn, and centralize

Whether these lyrics can actually aid in hexing is up to the listener. Still, if it’s enough to change the band’s setlist for nearly two decades, there might be something to it.[6]

4 Movies and TV Shows Hire Actual Witches

What The Craft Got Right about Witchcraft║Movie Magic

“If you’re gonna do it, do it right” is a phrase that dads and Wham! have been saying for years, and the adage applies to making films and television shows involving witchcraft or the occult.

For those who believe in witchcraft and magic—or even producers who believe that others believe—it’s important that spells cast, even if just for fiction, are done so correctly and with integrity. Because of this, studios have hired actual practitioners to help with scripts and filming.

When it came to crafting The Craft, producers hired “Dianic Elder Priestess and a member of Coven Ashesh Hekat, as well as Public Information Officer of Covenant of the Goddess, Southern California Local Council” Pat Devin. Devin advised the entire production from beginning to end. She made sure that events were realistic and that any spells done were “safe.”

Dylan Bauer had a similar experience when he was hired as a consultant for Mayfair Witches. According to Mystic Dylan, he was presented with the script and was asked to, quite literally, work his magic. If any kind of spell or work needed to be executed, he provided the incantations, herbs, and methodology, as well as his own “magic,” to make sure everything was achieved beautifully and harmoniously.[7]

3 Practical Magic Was Nearly Cursed

Witches Review Practical Magic

When a witch gets hired as a consultant, the hope is that he or she provides accurate direction and brings good vibes to the set to make sure the film is strong and successful. In the case of the cult classic Practical Magic, that is not exactly the case.

Despite the love the film has now, it was considered a flop upon its release. Twenty-five years later, director Griffin Dunne reveals that the witch who had been hired as a consultant cursed the film over the phone, possibly leading to the “failure” of the film initially.

According to Dunne, the woman they hired demanded more compensation from the studio than what had been agreed upon. When the studio declined her demands, she left a voicemail declaring that she would place a curse upon them before proceeding to speak in tongues. Dunne says that everyone was so spooked by her words that they ultimately decided to pay her off to keep her from wreaking any more havoc on the film. Afterward, Dunne dropped $100 on a “New Age-y” exorcism despite his claims that he isn’t a believer.

As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry.[8]

2 Matt Skiba Magically Doomed the Fyre Festival

Fyre Festival: The World’s Most Infamous Music Festival – 4 Years Later (Documentary)

In 2017, Blink-182 member Matt Skiba claimed to have cursed the Fyre Festival, at which his band was booked to perform. He is the first to take responsibility for the demise of the event, which included several bands backing out, fans being stranded in Nassau, and the founders of the festival being charged with fraud.

Skiba denounced the entirety of the event, saying, “It’s classist and racist, and then they decided to park a bunch of yachts with models to show off in front of those poor people, going down there with all your Ferraris and bullshit and yachts.”

The musician identifies as a pagan and a witch, proudly proclaiming that he used his “witchy ways” to prevent the event from occurring. His solution was to put “all the electricity and energy in [his] body against that thing happening.”

Whether Skiba is just that powerful or the disaster was a coincidence is difficult to say, but perhaps one will now think twice about crossing this third of the Alkaline Trio.[9]

1 Vampira “Hexed” James Dean

Maila Nurmi on the ghost of James Dean

In the 1950s, Hollywood was rocked by the glamorous and rebellious Malia Nurmi, also known as Vampira. Her late-night macabre television show was steeped in sex and death, with her arched eyebrows, black hair, thin waist, and primal sensual scream, which she addresses with the line, “Screaming relaxes me so.”

She was a woman who satirized and criticized the typical mid-century housewife role—something that earned her plenty of criticism and interest. One of those who took an interest in her was heartthrob actor James Dean. According to the tale, the two met and learned they had similar occult interests. While the extent of their relationship remains unknown, the two were close enough that they were inextricably linked by the press.

Nurmi allegedly worried about Dean’s safety because of his interest in racing cars. As a consequence, he built an altar dedicated to his protection. Seven months later, he died in a car crash. An article published in Whisper magazine in February of 1956, titled “James Dean’s Black Madonna: The Most Chilling and Tragic Love Story in Hollywood History,” condemned Vampira as a witch who plotted the young star’s tragic death as revenge for unrequited love.

Her response?

Show up uninvited to a party dressed as a witch in a pointy hat with a bandaged James Dean. The move was scandalous, leaving partygoers aghast, in true Vampira fashion.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen