Unraveling the Myth: Did the 1982 Movie “Poltergeist” Actually Use Real Skeletons?


In the realm of horror films, “Poltergeist” holds a special place in the hearts of many movie enthusiasts. Directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg, the 1982 movie poltergeist used real skeletons as – tymoff supernatural thriller has captivated audiences for decades. However, a persistent rumor has lingered over the years, suggesting that real human skeletons were used during the production of the film. In this article, we delve into the truth behind this controversial claim, analyzing the evidence and separating fact from fiction.

The Allegations

The controversy surrounding “Poltergeist” revolves around a scene in which the character Marty, played by Martin Cassella, falls into a muddy pool filled with skeletons. According to the allegations, these skeletons were not props but actual human remains, raising ethical concerns and adding a chilling aura to the film. However, it is crucial to examine the validity of these claims before accepting them as truth.

The Production Process

To comprehend the plausibility of using real skeletons in a major motion picture, it is essential to understand the production process involved in creating a horror film. Movie productions typically rely on a combination of practical effects, props, and visual effects to achieve their desired visual impact. The use of real human remains in a film, even in the 1980s, would have raised numerous legal and ethical issues.

The Director’s Statement

Tobe Hooper, the director of “Poltergeist,” categorically denied the use of real skeletons during the filming. He emphasized that the production team adhered to ethical standards and employed a combination of props and special effects to create the eerie atmosphere of the movie. Hooper’s statement adds weight to the argument against the allegations and provides a crucial perspective from someone directly involved in the film’s creation.

Industry Regulations and Standards

The film industry has always been subject to strict regulations and standards, particularly concerning the use of human remains or any potentially hazardous materials. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the union representing actors, maintains a firm stance on safety and ethical guidelines. The employment of real skeletons in a film production would have undoubtedly violated these regulations, leading to severe legal consequences.

Skeletal Props and Special Effects

To create lifelike skeletons for scenes in “Poltergeist,” the production team would have relied on skilled prop makers and special effects artists. During the 1980s, the movie industry had already advanced significantly in terms of practical effects. The use of realistic skeletal props made from synthetic materials, such as resin or plastic, would have been the norm, providing a convincing visual without compromising ethical standards.

Historical Precedence

While the rumor surrounding “Poltergeist” may have persisted over the years, it is worth noting that similar allegations have emerged in other films. Movies like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Curse of the Screaming Dead” have faced similar controversies regarding the use of real human skeletons. However, in each case, investigations revealed that these claims were unfounded and based on urban legends.


After a thorough examination of the evidence, it becomes clear that the allegations of “Poltergeist” using real skeletons are highly unlikely. The film industry has long upheld ethical and legal standards, ensuring the safety of actors and crew members. Tobe Hooper’s testimony, combined with industry regulations and advancements in practical effects, further supports the argument against the use of real human remains. While the myth may continue to intrigue fans, it is essential to separate fact from fiction and appreciate the creativity and craftsmanship that went into bringing this iconic horror film to life.

In summary, “Poltergeist” remains a timeless classic that continues to captivate audiences with its supernatural thrills, but the claim of real skeletons being used in the movie is nothing more than an intriguing urban legend.