What’s your favorite scary movie? The Shining? Hereditary? Halloween? Whichever horror movie messes you up the most, you'll never be as scared as the cast and crew who suffered some form of trauma to bring the films to the big screen. Strange and sinister real-life events plagued the sets of the most iconic terror flicks ever made. Here's a look at some particularly chilling cases.
1. The Shining (1980)
There were plenty of scary goings-on behind the cameras of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. But life imitated art when it came to filming the scenes in the infamous hedge maze. The conditions were so hellish that crew members repeatedly got lost in the maze, and Kubrick himself got stuck at one point. He had to be led out by others before filming could continue.
2. The Shining (1980)
Kubrick made poor Shelley Duvall enact The Shining’s exhausting bat-swinging scene no fewer than 127 times. Duvall was also often required to spend half of her entire day simply yelling at the top of her voice. The actress admits that these tactics helped to coax an unforgettable performance from her, but she also labeled the experience of playing Wendy Torrance “almost unbearable.”
3. It (2017)
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in January 2018, Bill Skarsgård admitted that the character of Pennywise in It haunted his dreams. He said, “Every night, he came and visited. It was in the shape of either me dealing with him, sort of Pennywise as a separate entity of me, and then also me as Pennywise in circumstances that I didn’t appreciate. Like, I’m Pennywise, and I’m really upset that I’m out in public, and people are looking at me."
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre also put its leading lady through the wringer, too. In the famous dinner scene, Marilyn Burns had to endure constant blows to the skull with a fake yet weighty sledgehammer. She was also required to shriek for hours and hours on end. She later revealed to the website Terror Trap, “Afterwards, I was just so grateful it was over. I probably was the happiest girl alive.”
5. Hereditary (2018)
“I don’t think you can go through something like this and not have some sort of PTSD afterwards.” That’s how Alex Wolff described working on the psychological horror film Hereditary. Wolff told Vice, “When I started talking about it, all these flashes with all this [stuff] I went through sorta came back in a flood. It kept me up at night. To where I got into a habit of emotional masochism at that point of just trying to take in every negative feeling I could draw from.”
6. Halloween (1978)
Kyle Richards was scarred for the rest of her childhood after seeing Halloween unfold at the film’s premiere when she was just nine years old. In an interview with the website Halloween Daily News in 2013, Richards revealed, "I had no idea what I was in for. Seeing it for the first time all pieced together was a very, very different movie. It was just really scary, and I really did sleep with my mom until I was 15 years old after that. I was terrified."
7. The Conjuring (2013)
When Vera Farmiga researched her role in The Conjuring, “digital claw marks” inexplicably appeared on her computer screen. But for Farmiga, things were to get a little more twisted. One morning, the actor woke up and noticed that a bruise was on her thigh — accompanied by three mysterious scratches. Director James Wan also recalled how his dog growled at an unexplained presence on set.
8. The Exorcist (1973)
At just 13 years old, Linda Blair was hounded by both religious organizations and the press for her views on The Exorcist’s weighty themes. Faith, possession, and Christianity were just a few of the subjects she was quizzed on at the height of The Exorcist’s success. And it was this intrusion that unsettled her far more than any demonic makeup.
9. The Exorcist (1973)
Ellen Burstyn, who played mother Chris McNeil in The Exorcist, suffered years of chronic back pain following an on-set accident. The actress was injured in the scene that required a stuntman to yank her back by a wire tied around her waist. Burstyn specifically asked director William Friedkin to ensure she wasn’t pulled so hard. But, as she told The Huffington Post in 2017, “Billy is one of those directors that is so dedicated to getting the shot right that I think some other considerations sort of fall by the wayside sometimes.”
10. The Conjuring 2 (2016)
Patrick Wilson wasn’t a particular believer in the supernatural before starring as paranormal investigator Ed Warren in the haunted house franchise The Conjuring. But that all changed after filming its sequel. The actor revealed to The Independent that there’s since been some potential paranormal activity in the New Jersey home he shares with his family. He said, “I’ve heard people on two different occasions say they’ve heard kids’ laughter in the middle of the night, in my house. And that used to freak my wife out.”
11. The Conjuring 2 (2016)
The crew of The Conjuring 2 were reportedly terrorized by an inanimate object. “It was a huge curtain that went from the floor to the ceiling, which was just sort of waving violently, and there was no door open or no fan on; no nothing,” Patrick Wilson later told entertainment wire WENN. “That was a very, very odd occurrence because nothing else was moving around it and nothing else was blowing. It was pretty trippy.”
12. Poltergeist (1982)
Poltergeist is rumored to have been cursed because a series of tragic events befell many of its cast members after filming. But JoBeth Williams, who played Diane Freeling, suffered while actually filming the 1982 horror. During one particularly gruesome scene, Williams was forced to swim in a pool full of real skeletons. "It was a real nightmare," the actor told VH1 in 2002.
13. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Due to The Blair Witch Project’s then-innovative found-footage style, Heather Donahue had the unusual experience of seeing her own obituary. And the hyper-realism of the film meant that some people really thought Donahue had died! The actor later told The Guardian, “It’s a complicated thing to be dead when you’re still very much alive and eager to make a name for yourself.” Donahue later abandoned life in front of the lens in favor of working as a screenwriter and author.
14. Annabelle (2014)
Director John R. Leonetti recounted to The Hollywood Reporter a freaky discovery that was made while filming Annabelle. “We went into the apartment where we were shooting, and in the transient window above the living room window. It was a full moon, and there were three fingers drawn through the dust along the window, and our demon has three fingers and three talons,” Leonetti recalled. “[The markings] were being backlit by the moon. I have a picture! It was sick.”
15. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Events surrounding Rosemary’s Baby producer William Castle are just downright eerie. As legend has it, Castle received an anonymous note, days after production started, that claimed that he would “slowly rot during a long and painful illness.” And soon after, Castle fell ill and required surgery on a medical complaint that troubled him for quite a while afterward. Now that’s just weird.
16. Insidious (2010)
Crew members on Insidious were struck down with illness in unison in one incident that occurred in the basement of the Linda Vista Hospital, where the film was made. The crew was moving old patient records when all involved began to feel sick and heavy, needing to take a break as a result. After that, crew members formed groups to go into certain parts of the hospital. Chilling.
17. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
During the filming of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, star Jennifer Carpenter reported her radio switching itself on at random moments. According to Carpenter, her co-star Laura Linney also reported having a TV that acted up during filming. Linney apparently said her TV would just inexplicably turn itself on and off — a fact that no doubt gave her the chills.
18. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
While filming one particular scene of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, star Jennifer Carpenter ended up fainting. After taking an antihistamine to combat her hay allergy during the barn-shot finale, Carpenter began to feel her heart race. And combined with a full day of constant screaming, the actress eventually passed out, scaring the rest of the cast and crew in the process.
19. Alien (1979)
In a bid to elicit “raw animal fear,” Alien director Ridley Scott refused to warn his actors about the terrifying moment an alien would burst out of John Hurt’s chest. And Veronica Cartwright actually fainted the moment she was splattered by fake blood. She later told The Guardian, “You see this thing start to come out, so we all get sucked in, we lean forward to check it out… all of a sudden it comes out. I tell you, none of us expected it.”
20. Psycho (1960)
After playing the ill-fated Marion Crane in Psycho, Janet Leigh revealed in a 1984 interview that she stopped taking showers. And even when she had a bath, she said, she always kept the shower curtain pulled back. She also had to make sure she had a clear view of the door — and that every potential way into the room was secured.
21. Suspiria (2018)
Dakota Johnson confessed that she had to undergo therapy after being severely traumatized by the filming of the 2018 version of Suspiria. She told Elle, “We were in an abandoned hotel on top of a mountain. It had 30 telephone poles on the roof, so there was electricity pulsating through the building, and everyone was shocking each other. It was cold... and so dry. The only thing that helped was dousing myself with oil every night.”
22. The Last House on the Left (1972)
Sandra Peabody did not enjoy making The Last House on the Left. "One of the [actors, David Hess] was a method actor, so he was trying to live his part... he'd come after us with a knife at night, trying to freak us out," she later said. "It was like, 'Lock your doors and windows at night, you don't want him to come get you!' I was scared. I thought this guy had been a killer at some point in his past!"
23. The Birds (1963)
Tippi Hedren suffered for her art while filming the Hitchcock classic. In order to make the climactic bedroom scene as authentic as possible, the director enlisted the help of actual birds. Ravens, gulls, and crows were allegedly thrown at her across five days of filming by several far more protected prop men. "It was brutal and ugly and relentless," Hedren later wrote in her memoir.
24. Possession (1981)
Isabelle Adjani won the first of her five César Awards for her performance in Possession. And it's a good job because she had to undergo therapy after playing Anna in the cult 1981 horror flick. The director reportedly even put his actors in a trance to film certain scenes. Adjani later declared she never wanted to play a character like that ever again.
25. Mother! (2017)
Lawrence spoke about filming Mother! on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. “I had to do this one scene, I had never gone that dark before, so I started getting scared of myself a couple days beforehand and I was like… I need a tent, away from the extras, just because I didn’t know what I would do,” Lawrence revealed. “So in there I just had a computer playing the Kardashians,” the star added. Whatever it takes, Jen.
26. The Innkeepers (2011)
Director Ti West filmed The Innkeepers at The Yankee Pedlar Inn in Connecticut, and he started to experience weird goings-on. “Lights have turned off and on by themselves in my room. My phone rang and no one was on the line, which the hotel staff says happens all the time,” West told Interview. “There are nights when I wake up in my room, and it feels like somebody is in there,” he added.
25. The Possession (2012)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Natasha Calis — who starred in The Possession — told Gizmodo that they would stay well clear of the dybbuk box that is said to have been the inspiration behind the movie. “There were some weird goings-on on set,” Morgan reported. “Lots of lightbulbs exploding. Just overall kind of creepiness… ‘Don’t mock the box,’ was sort of the mantra that we lived by while we were filming this,” the actor added.
28. Ghost of Goodnight Lane (2012)
Every now and again you get a case of art imitating life, and that certainly seemed to be true in the making of Ghost of Goodnight Lane. The story was loosely based on events surrounding film sets that were supposedly haunted in real life. And director Alin Bijan made the decision to film his production on a set that had seen five deaths throughout its history. Unsurprisingly, that fact created a negative vibe among the cast and crew, who were probably freaked out of their minds when there were unexplained electrical problems and falling fixtures. Star Billy Zane was also not the only set member who claimed to have heard their name being called by unidentified voices, either.
29. Candyman (1992)
Actor Tony Todd literally had a mouthful of bees while shooting the infamous “bee scene” from Candyman. But Todd was smart enough to negotiate a $1,000 payout for each sting — and so earned a nice little $23,000 bonus. “All Tony had was a dental dam to prevent them going down his throat. He was very courageous – it’s such an unsettling and stunning image when the bees emerge from his mouth,” director Bernard Rose told The Guardian.
30. Us (2019)
“She really kind of spooked me out a little bit,” co-star Shahadi Wright Joseph told Buzzfeed News about Lupita Nyong’o’s performance in Us. Nyong’o decided not to drop her character between scenes so she could keep up the intensity and feeling of the role. “She would really get into character and wouldn’t talk. It was kind of creepy,” added Wright Joseph.
31. Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)
Many supernatural events happened behind the scenes of Brian Gibson’s Poltergeist II: The Other Side. It certainly wasn’t helpful when actor Will Sampson, who played Taylor the Medicine Man in the film, decided to perform an on-set exorcism to rid the vicinity of “alien spirits.” Far from just immersing himself in his character, Sampson was a real-life shaman.
32. The Amityville Horror (1979)
The Amityville Horror is a story based on real-life events that have inspired multiple films and documentaries. But the two most prominent ones — from 1979 and 2005 — both experienced behind-the-scenes quirks. Actor James Brolin is said to have accepted a part in the 1979 version only after a pair of his pants inexplicably dropped from a hanger just as he reached a scary section of the script. And that is nothing compared to what went on in the 2005 remake.
33. The Amityville Horror (2005)
Not long before the start of filming, a dead body washed up on shore right on set. Star Ryan Reynolds and other actors and crew members also found themselves regularly waking at 3:15 a.m. That, in itself, would be strange, but it just so turned out that 3:15 a.m. was a special time. The movie is based on a series of murders that happened at exactly that time.
34. The Omen (1976)
The Omen must have had one of the most eventful productions ever. Star Gregory Peck’s plane was struck by lightning, as was that of the executive producer Mace Neufeld. But most terrifying of all was a car accident involving John Richardson, the movie’s special effects designer. Passenger Liz Moore was decapitated in an event chillingly reminiscent of a scene from the movie itself. Plus, the accident happened on Friday, August 13, 1976 — Friday the 13th.
35. Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Some events behind movie productions are so notorious that they fundamentally change the industry. And so it was with Twilight Zone: The Movie. It was during the filming of director John Landis’s segment that a terrible helicopter crash occurred, killing actor Vic Morrow and child actors Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen. The accident led to years of litigation and an overhaul of safety procedures on film sets. Director Landis and the helicopter pilot, Dorcey Wingo, were cleared on involuntary manslaughter charges.