Trivia: While filming the toy clown attacking Robbie, the clown's arms were wrapped tightly around Oliver's neck. He immediately said he couldn't breathe but Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper both thought that he was ad-libbing. When Spielberg saw Oliver's face turning purple, he realised that he really was being asphyxiated and ran over to remove the arms from his neck.
Trivia: In the swimming pool scene with the mother near the end, the actress didn't know it, but those weren't fake skeletons.
Trivia: The scene where the ghosts stacked the chairs on the kitchen table was filmed in one take with no cuts. As the camera followed Diane Freeling to the kitchen sink, the crew members rushed to the table, put an already built pyramid of chairs on the table and then took away the individual chairs.
Trivia: After the first Poltergeist movie was made, actress Dominique Dunne (Dana Freeling) was murdered by her estranged boyfriend in 1982. Actor Julian Beck (Kane) died of stomach cancer in 1985 after filming the second film. And after the third, actress Heather O'Rourke (Carol-Anne) died in 1988 from cardiopulmonary arrest brought by intestinal stenosis. This has (annoyingly) been called "The Poltergeist Curse."
Trivia: It is a little-known fact that it was actually Steven Spielberg's hands that tore the flesh off the investigator's face in the bathroom.
Trivia: While understandably spooky, this movie's use of natural skeletons was not outrageous or even that unusual (they were not actually rotting or unsanitary, just made to look that way). Even today natural bones can still be ordered, typically for use in classrooms. Special effects supervisor Craig Reardon has expressed his disgust that the use of skeletons has been used to fuel rumors of a "curse" that he feels make a mockery of the unrelated tragic, untimely deaths of some of the film's actors.
Trivia: Years after the film's release, Zelda Rubinstein went on record that, at least for the six days that she was on set, it was Steven Spielberg who performed all directing duties, possibly because in her observation the credited director, Tobe Hooper, was hampered by an obvious drug problem.
Trivia: Steven Spielberg originally conceived this movie as a science-fiction thriller, a sequel of sorts to "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," with much-more-sinister aliens terrorizing a family's rural home (that was the premise of "Night Skies," the Spielberg concept that was never produced but was eventually cannibalized by other projects including "E.T. The Extraterrestrial" and this film). When Spielberg brought in Tobe Hooper to direct what later became "Poltergeist," Hooper convinced Spielberg to drop the science-fiction trappings altogether and make it a straight-up supernatural horror story.
Trivia: Steven Spielberg wanted to direct the film but couldn't due to a contract issue stipulating he couldn't direct another film while working on "E.T." Rumor has it that Spielberg (who was often on-set) served as a creative director and handled major aspects of production like casting and directing the actor's performances, while credited director Tobe Hooper handled the visual and aesthetic direction. (Though allegedly based on storyboards Spielberg also helped out on).
Trivia: Near the beginning of the movie when Dana leaves for school, we see Carol-Ann watching a channel with static. When her mother says, "It'll ruin your eyes" or something, she changes it to a channel that has a war movie on. If you watch for about 5 seconds, you'll hear the Wilhelm scream.