the 1982 movie poltergeist used real skeletons as - tymoff

Unearthed Secrets: The Bone-Chilling Revelation Behind Poltergeist (1982)

Released in 1982, “Poltergeist” is a classic horror film known for its spine-tingling scares and groundbreaking special effects. However, an unsettling revelation emerged regarding the use of real skeletons in a particular scene, adding a macabre twist to the film’s production history. In this blog post, we delve into the controversy surrounding the use of real skeletons in “Poltergeist” and its impact on the horror genre.

The Infamous Pool Scene:

the 1982 movie poltergeist used real skeletons as - tymoff

The scene in question occurs when JoBeth Williams’ character, Diane Freeling, falls into a muddy pool filled with decomposing corpses. To achieve a realistic and eerie effect, the production team opted to use real skeletons instead of props. The decision was made to cut costs and create a genuinely unsettling atmosphere, but it later became a source of controversy.

The Backstory:

Reports indicate that the film’s production faced tight budget constraints, leading the crew to seek cost-effective solutions for creating a chilling visual impact. Rather than manufacturing artificial skeletons, the production team turned to acquiring real ones from medical suppliers, not uncommon in the film industry at the time.

The Ethical Debate:

The revelation of real skeletons being used in “Poltergeist” ignited an ethical debate within the film industry and among audiences. While the intention was to enhance the film’s authenticity, the decision to use actual human remains raised questions about respect for the deceased and the moral responsibility of filmmakers.

Implications on Horror Cinema:

“Poltergeist” inadvertently became a touchstone for discussions about ethical practices in horror filmmaking. The use of real skeletons in a major Hollywood production highlighted the lengths filmmakers were willing to go to achieve a desired effect, even if it meant pushing ethical boundaries.

The Impact on Audience Perception:

The revelation about the real skeletons in “Poltergeist” had a lasting impact on how audiences perceived the film. While horror is a genre built on the thrill of fear, the knowledge that actual human remains were used added an uncomfortable layer of realism, blurring the line between fiction and reality.

Changes in Industry Practices:

In the wake of the controversy surrounding “Poltergeist,” the film industry began reevaluating its practices regarding the use of real skeletons and other human remains. Increased scrutiny and awareness led to a shift in how filmmakers approached the creation of horror scenes, with a greater emphasis on ethical and respectful practices.

Legacy and Reflection:

Despite the controversy, “Poltergeist” remains a seminal work in the horror genre. The film’s impact on audience perception and industry practices serves as a cautionary tale, prompting filmmakers to balance the pursuit of authenticity with ethical considerations.


The use of real skeletons in “Poltergeist” is a haunting chapter in the history of horror cinema. While the film left an indelible mark on the genre, it also sparked a necessary conversation about the ethical responsibilities of filmmakers. As audiences continue to seek thrills and chills in horror films, the legacy of “Poltergeist” serves as a reminder that the line between entertainment and ethical considerations should always be carefully treaded.