The 1982 Movie Poltergeist Used Real Skeletons As – Tymoff

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Introduction: The 1982 Movie Poltergeist Used Real Skeletons As – Tymoff

Released in 1982, “Poltergeist” quickly became a classic in the horror genre, known for its chilling storyline and groundbreaking special effects. However, behind the scenes, the film garnered controversy due to the revelation that real skeletons were used during production. This practice, while not unheard of in Hollywood’s history, raised ethical questions and sparked discussions about the treatment of human remains in filmmaking.

The Legacy of “Poltergeist”

Directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg, “Poltergeist” follows the haunting experiences of the Freeling family after they move into a new suburban home built on a former cemetery. The film’s atmospheric tension and terrifying sequences captivated audiences, solidifying its place in cinematic history. Yet, decades after its release, one particular aspect of its production continues to draw attention: the use of real skeletons.

The Controversy Unearthed

During the filming of “Poltergeist,” the production team opted to use authentic human skeletons for certain scenes involving the disturbed gravesite beneath the family’s house. This decision stemmed from a belief among filmmakers that using real bones would enhance the realism and eeriness of the film’s macabre elements.

However, this choice sparked significant controversy once it became public knowledge. Critics and audiences alike questioned the ethics of using human remains for entertainment purposes, regardless of the artistic intention behind it. Concerns were raised about the respect and dignity owed to deceased individuals, as well as the potential psychological impact on cast and crew members who worked closely with the skeletons.

Historical Context in Filmmaking

The use of real skeletons in filmmaking dates back to early Hollywood, when acquiring realistic props and effects posed logistical challenges. Medical and educational institutions often provided human remains, which were surplus to their needs, to film studios seeking authenticity. This practice persisted through much of the 20th century, although it gradually became less common with advancements in special effects technology and changing ethical standards.

In the case of “Poltergeist,” the skeletons were obtained from a source that specialized in providing medical specimens for educational purposes. While legal at the time and adhering to industry standards, the decision to use real skeletons was not without controversy, even in the early 1980s.

Ethical Considerations

The ethical debate surrounding the use of real skeletons in “Poltergeist” revolves around several key concerns. Firstly, there is the question of consent and respect for the deceased. Even if legally obtained and used with the intent to enhance artistic authenticity, the idea of human remains being treated as props for entertainment purposes can be seen as insensitive and morally questionable.

Secondly, there is the potential psychological impact on those involved in the film’s production. Actors, directors, and crew members who interacted with the skeletons may have experienced discomfort or unease knowing they were handling human remains. This raises questions about the responsibilities of filmmakers to ensure a respectful and supportive work environment.

Thirdly, the revelation of the use of real skeletons in “Poltergeist” prompted broader discussions about transparency in filmmaking practices. Critics argued that audiences should be informed when real human remains are used in a production, allowing individuals to make informed decisions about whether to support such films.

Legacy and Impact

Despite the controversy surrounding its production, “Poltergeist” remains a celebrated and influential film within the horror genre. Its innovative special effects and captivating storytelling have inspired countless filmmakers and continue to resonate with audiences today. However, the use of real skeletons has left a lasting mark on its legacy, serving as a cautionary tale about the ethical considerations involved in filmmaking.

In response to the backlash, subsequent films and television productions have largely opted for synthetic replicas or digital effects to achieve similar visual effects without resorting to real human remains. This shift reflects evolving attitudes toward the treatment of human remains in media and entertainment, emphasizing respect and sensitivity toward the deceased and their families.


The use of real skeletons in the 1982 movie “Poltergeist” stands as a controversial chapter in Hollywood’s history, raising important ethical questions about the treatment of human remains in filmmaking. While intended to enhance the film’s realism, the decision sparked significant debate and scrutiny, prompting discussions about respect for the deceased and the responsibilities of filmmakers.

Ultimately, the controversy surrounding “Poltergeist” serves as a reminder of the ethical complexities inherent in the entertainment industry. It underscores the importance of thoughtful consideration and transparency in filmmaking practices, ensuring that artistic intentions do not compromise fundamental principles of respect and dignity. As audiences continue to engage with horror classics like “Poltergeist,” they are encouraged to reflect on the ethical implications of the stories told on screen and the ethical responsibilities of those behind the camera.

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