Hollywood’s Biggest Myths About Horror Movies

Horror movies are eerie enough on their own, but some of the most iconic scary films in history have additional creepy urban myths attached to them. The production of these movies were plagued with stories of deaths, demonic events, and curses that took their already terrifying stories to whole new levels.

Here are seven of the biggest myths circulating some of Hollywood’s most iconic horror flicks:

1. The Blair Witch Project was real

The faces of the students on a missing persons poster from The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project | Artisan Entertainment

The Blair Witch Project is perhaps the most highly recognized found-footage movie ever. Its success has since inspired a slew of copycat films within the horror subgenre. But at the time of its original release, the project’s style of filming was relatively new and many mistook the film to be a legitimate documentary. Their confusion wasn’t exactly unwarranted.

The myth was basically perpetuated by producers as a marketing ploy, with the film’s creative team going so far as to plant fake news stories on the web that seemingly corroborated the events of the film. Their strategy paid off, as the movie went on to make $250 million at the box office. But for those still seeking clarification, here it is: The film was fictional, not based on true events.

2. The Poltergeist curse

A young girl holds her hands up to a TV in Poltergeist
Poltergeist | MGM

One of the most infamous urban legends in horror cinema is tied to the Poltergeist film series. Rumor has it that a curse plagues the series and specifically, its stars. The speculation is mainly based on the fact that four of the franchise’s actors died over the trilogy’s run: Dominique Dunne, Julian Beck, Will Sampson, and Heather O’Rourke.

Dunne was killed by an abusive boyfriend not long after the release of the original film. Beck died of stomach cancer just months before the release of Poltergeist II: The Other Side. Sampson died about a year after that sequel’s premiere, following a heart and lung transplant operation. Lastly, O’Rourke’s death occurred several months before the release of the third and final film, during surgery on her bowel when she was only 12 years old.

All of the deaths are certainly tragic and the timing of each may be coincidental, but there’s really no more to it than that. Cinematic history is full of stories (both real and imagined) of death surrounding the cast and crew members of a major feature film. Still, the story of the curse has certainly added another layer of eeriness to the legend of the franchise.

3. Brandon Lee’s death is shown in The Crow

Brandon Lee stares ahead in The Crow
Brandon Lee in The Crow| Miramax

Since its 1994 release, The Crow has cultivated a cult following, but it’s also spurred a series of bizarre rumors — mostly in connection to the accidental and tragic death of its star Brandon Lee, who was killed while working on the movie.

Just three days before the flick was set to wrap, Lee was filming a scene in which his character is shot. Sadly, production was being rushed and the prop department failed to notice that a fragment of live dummy bullet remained lodged in the barrel of the gun that was supposed to be filled with only blanks. Lee was hit in his side and later died in the hospital.

The film was completed with the help of a stunt double and special effects, but upon its release, there was immediately speculation that director Alex Proyas had used the actual footage of Lee’s death for the sake of realism. That’s not the actual case. In reality, the video footage of his death was reportedly only used as evidence in the investigation and then later destroyed as part of the lawsuit settlement.

4. The Exorcist curse

A possessed young girl sits on a bed as her head spins around in The Exorcist
The Exorcist | Warner Bros.

Like the Poltergeist franchise, reports of several mysterious and terrifying deaths surrounded this 1973 horror classic. At the time of the film’s release, stories of sinister events encircled the movie’s production.

According to rumors, nine people died during the making of the film and other demonic occurrences plagued the set, including a fire on set when no one was present. Director William Friedkin only fueled the speculation when he — in a moment of marketing brilliance — requested that a local priest conduct a blessing of the set.

So what’s the truth? Most of the so-called sinister events were completely made up or vastly exaggerated. Friedkin, producers, and the film’s marketing team certainly did their part to build buzz, even offering moviegoers sick bags in theaters. All of this paid off — the movie became the highest-grossing movie of 1973 in the U.S.

5. The Shining is Stanley Kubrick’s apology for faking the moon landing

Twins stand at the end of a hallway in The Shining
The Shining | Warner Bros.

The Shining has had many conspiracy theories and urban legends surrounding it since its initial release in 1989. Perhaps the most well-known of the myths is that director Stanley Kubrick faked the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 and this film is his confession.

The way legend tells it, the U.S. government “hired” Kubrick — who’d directed 2001: A Space Odyssey the previous year — to fake Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. According to speculation, Kubrick then delivered a coded apology in The Shining, which theorists says holds all kinds of clues. Many of these alleged clues are unveiled in the documentary Room 237.

Obviously, this isn’t true. NASA did land two astronauts on the moon in 1969 and Kubrick had absolutely nothing to do with it.

6. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre actually happened

Leatherface grabs a woman from behind and drags her into a house in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre | Bryanston Pictures

Many believe that Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror film was based on a real-life story because of the grainy way it was shot and the home release synopsis that read, “This video cassette is based on a true incident.” But that’s only sort of accurate. Sally, Leatherface, and the cannibal never actually existed, but the movie was inspired by a real-life notorious serial killer in Wisconsin named Ed Gein.

Gein routinely did horrific and depraved things partially mirrored in the movie, including using bones and body parts to create household items. Still, there were no cannibalistic relatives or chainsaws involved in Gein’s crimes, so call The Texas Chain Saw Massacre a very loose adaptation. And by the way, that’s not the only one. Gein’s story also inspired other horror films like Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs.

7. The Omen was cursed

A young boy stands in a graveyard in a black suit and hat in The Omen
The Omen | 20th Century Fox

The cast and crew of 1976’s The Omen faced a bunch of strange and life-threatening events during the making of the film, leading many to wonder whether the movie was actually cursed. Among some of the weird occurrences? On his way to London for filming, star Gregory Peck’s plane was hit by lightning — as was executive producer Mace Neufeld’s plane only weeks later. So much for lightning not striking twice!

And that was just the beginning. During production, the hotel in which Neufeld and his wife were staying was bombed by the IRA, as was a restaurant in which the producers and actors were expected to dine. Later, a plane that had been hired for aerial filming was switched to another client at the last minute — only to crash upon takeoff, killing everyone on board.

It’s admittedly hard to think of a production more plagued by problems than this one, but as for a possible curse? We can likely just count this as a combination of bad luck and unfortunate timing.