Tag Archives: tobe hooper

C Is For Curses: Ten Famous Pop Culture Maledictions

On See You On The Other Side, we deal with all kinds of paranormal and unusual phenomena. While we love ghosts, UFOs, and cryptids, which are really the big three of the paranormal, we really just can’t resist a good curse. (and who can? That’s the scary part, right?) Here are some of our favorite curses we’ve covered on the podcast, with a link to each episode.

1. The Kennedy Curse

The Kennedys are America’s royalty. They are a fabulously wealthy and beautiful clan whose children have spent generations in powerful elected positions from the East Coast. With a President, multiple Senators and House Representatives, you would think that these guys have the world wrapped around their little finger. But tragedy has followed their family for generations, from the assassinations of the two most powerful brothers to the airplane crash of JFK Jr. to the failed lobotomy of Rosemary Kennedy, somehow their incredible fotune seems tainted.

2. The Oscar Love Curse

Oh, Hollywood. Glamor, money, fame… and very little lasting love relationships. Big stars change spouses fast You’d think that if you win an Academy Award, the film industry’s biggest honor, that your loved one would want to stick by you more than ever, but it ain’t so. Best Actress winners particularly seem to have problems with their love life after winning the big award. Is the great esteem cursed somehow or might it be the jealousy of the entertainment industry causing the split (especially when the woman outshines the man)?

3. The Franklin Expedition Curse

In 1845, the British Navy launched their most ambitious mission to find the Northwest Passage to establish a trade route between the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. They sent their most technically advanced ships and two captains who were well-versed in Arctic exploration. Both ships became trapped in the ice and disappeared, prompting multiple searches for the Lost Franklin Expedition from Britain, America, and Canada over the years. Both ships were found in the late 2010s, but when the HMS Terror was discovered in 2016, the local Nunavut people felt that the spirits were disturbed on their island by bothering the sunken ship. Several untimely deaths occured in the community and they sent a team of guardians to perform a ritual to keep their community safe from the curse.

4. The Poltergeist Curse

No doubt about it, Poltergeist is a terrifying film. But the movie is fiction, what seemingly happened to the actors involved isn’t. Both of the actresses who played the daughters of the haunted family, Dominique Dunne and Heather O’Rourke died way too young. Dunne was murdered by her ex-boyfriend and O’Rourke died of a freak bowel obstruction. Julian Beck and Will Sampson, the evil and good spirits from Poltergeist II: The Other Side, died shortly after the movie’s release, hadrly unexpectedly, but unlucky at least. Some people say it was because they used real human skeletons on the set of the film, but Craig T. Nelson is still doing just fine…

5. The 27 Club

Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison. Kurt Cobain. Amy Winehouse. All immensely famous musicians who died at the peak of their fame and way before their time. But why did it all end for them before their 28th birthday?

6. Robert Johnson and the Curse of the Crossroads

Robert Johnson was one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time and was called the King of the Delta Blues. He also died at 27, but was never as famous in his lifetime as the other members of the club. His fame came after he died and has been called the best bluesman ever by the likes of Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. His songs have been covered by everyone from Led Zeppelin to The Blues Brothers. Some of them can be dark with titles like “Hellhound on My Trail” and his most famous song, “Crossroads” people say is about how he sold his soul to the Devil at a road crossing in Rosedale, Mississippi. It gave him amazing musical talent, but it ended up taking his life early.

The Mothman Death Curse

If you haven’t heard of the Mothman of Point Pleasant, a dark winged humanoid with red glowing eyes who was seen in the late 60s in West Virginia, you might consider yourself lucky. No less than the man behind the International Cryptozoology Museum himself, the legendary Loren Coleman, wrote Mothman: Evil Incarnate, a book where he describes the Mothman Death Curse. He devotes an appendix to one hundred mysterious and untimely deaths of people who have been involved in the Mothman mythos in some way, from the original victims of the Silver Bridge Collapse to people who worked on the Richard Gere film.

The Curse of King Tut

There were supposedly nine victims of King Tut’s curse, people who were related to the excavation of the Egyptian Pharaoh’s tomb. Sir Arthutr Conan Doyle, the writer behind Sherlock Holmes, even toured that there was some kind of supernatural vengeance that was being wreaked on these Western interlopers. It was featured in all the newspapers at the time, but also Egypt was a very popular topic to write about, and the financier of the King Tut Expedition gave a single paper the exclusive rights to the story. So, was the curse blown out of proportion in the interest of paper sales or was there really a curse on the wall of the tomb of Egypt’s Boy King?

William Henry Harrison and the Tippecanoe Curse

Before he became President, William Henry Harrison was governor of the Indiana Territory and was behind a shady deal that screwed the American Indians there out of a good deal of their land. A great battle was fought at Tippecanoe and Harrison’s forces emerged triumphant. The brother of defeated Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, Tenskwatawa, was considered a great prophet and he supposedly cursed Harrison to die in office and the presidents that every twenty years after. And they did, Harrison was elected in 1840 and dies in 1841, Lincoln dies in 1865, Garfield in 1881, McKinley in 1901, Harding in 1923, Roosevelt in 1944, and Kennedy in 1963. Seems like being elected in a year that ends in a zero is bad luck until Reagan survives his assassination attempt in 1981.

The Curse of the Billy Goat

How ’bout them Cubbies, right? They’re the most famous Chicago sports institution and are beloved by celebrities from Bill Murray to Vince Vaughn. And years afer his death, most baseball fans can still hear Harry Carey’s famous call of “Holy Cow!” perfectly in their heads. But another Chicago institution is the Billy Goat Tavern (the inspiration behind the Saturday Night Live classic “Cheeseburger Cheeseburger” sketch) and then the owner was kicked out of a Cubs game in 1945 because his pet goat smelled too bad, the rumor is that he cursed the team to never win the National League Pennant again. They didn’t get in the World Series again for 71 years and coincidentally clinched the title on the 46th anniversary of the owner’s death.

160 – Texas Chainsaws, Space Vampires, and The Poltergeist Curse: Remembering Tobe Hooper

Filmmaker Tobe Hooper passed away on August 26th, 2017 at the age of 74. Hooper was most famous for being the director on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist, but he also set his indelible mark on great films like Salem’s Lot and (the extremely under appreciated, in my opinion) Lifeforce. While he’ll always be remembered for having a massive impact on the the horror genre with his first big film, his other works have had real life paranormal urban legends and inspirations behind them. Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts, Wendy, and I talk about they recent Mothman investigations (Allison in Chicago and Wendy just went to Point Pleasant, West Virginia) and then we get right into our favorite Tobe Hooper movies.

First of all, we discuss the marketing behind The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, because the original tagline said that it was based on true events – which is completely not true! Of course, that kind of marketing helps sell tickets and makes something even scarier (just think about The Conjuring as a modern example). That little bit of brilliance helped Tobe Hooper turn his $300,000 independent Austin, Texas movie turn into a 146 million dollar (adjusted for inflation) horror juggernaut that inspired sequels, remakes, and even launched the careers of Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger.

But Leatherface was inspired by our own America’s Dairlyand homegrown Psycho, Ed Gein, who created his own masks of human skin from corpses he’d dig up in the Plainfield, Wisconsin graveyard. Ed died in Wendy and my town of Madison, but Allison has a fun story about her college poetry professor who used to volunteer at socials at the Mendota Mental Health Institute here and even got to dance with Ed himself (who was prone to dementia and considered good natured in his old age.) That was about as far as the “Based on a true story”, Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre got. Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, and a little known Roddy McDowell film called It! were also inspired by Ed Gein.

Tobe Hooper made a huge impact on the cultural zeitgeist with his adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot for television and 11 years before kids were traumatized by IT, it was vampires in Maine that gave them nightmares.

Tobe Hooper
Hooper and Spielberg on the set of Poltergeist

But then Tobe Hooper hit Hollywood pay dirt by scoring the directing gig for Poltergeist. While there was a controversy that Steven Spielberg might have been the real director, our interest comes from the curse that supposedly followed the actors involved with the production.

The story of the Poltergeist curse has been around for at least 20 years and it involves the fact that the two of the actresses died very young, Dominique Dunne was murdered by her boyfriend and Heather O’Rourke (the girl that says “They’re here”) died of bowel obstruction complications during the filming of Poltergeist III. 

Plenty of stories on the Internet and on reality TV try to make it seem like there’s something to the curse, and the actress who payed the mother in the first two films, JoBeth Williams, even added fuel to the fire by claiming that real skeletons were used during the making of the film (that part might be true!). But beyond the coincidental tragedies of the two young actresses dying young, there really is no other evidence of any Poltergeist curse.

Hooper followed up Poltergeist with the awesome Lifeforce, written by Alien‘s Dan O’Bannon, but also based on Colin Wilson’s work The Space Vampires. Wilson was a fiction and nonfiction writer who would often deal with the paranormal and metaphysical and what makes The Space Vampires extra fun is that Wilson wrote the book on a challenge from Wisconsin author, August Derleth. Derleth is the one who kept H.P. Lovecraft’s world and mythology alive after his death, and he challenged Wilson to write a book in the Lovecraft vein. The Space Vampires was the book, and Tobe Hooper made it come alive (or undead!) with his adaption in Lifeforce. It wasn’t a big box office hit, but it’s been critically reevaluated in recent years for the terror-filled science fiction extravaganza that it was.

tobe hooper the saw is family
Tobe Hooper helping out one of Leatherface’s family onset

After the mid-80s and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 not lighting the box office on fire, Hooper did mostly television work and one of his coolest shows was a 1991 TV show (hosted by Leonard Nimoy!) called Haunted Lives: True Ghost Stories where he dramatized the events of the haunted Toys R’ Us in Sunnyvale, California. Now, that story means a lot to me since I saw it on That’s Incredible! when I was tiny. It probably was the first “real” ghost story that I can remember.

tobe hooper haunted toys r us
The image captured during the seance

The ghost story of the haunted Toys R’ Us in Sunnyvale, California involves a farm hand in the Nineteenth Century named Yohnny Yohanson who was in love with the owner of the farm’s daughter named Elizabeth. He loves her, she doesn’t love him, he dies in a tragic accident. One hundred years later, there’s a Toys R’ Us built on the site and strange things start occurring. Famous psychic Sylvia Browne shows up, has a seance, tells everyone the story, and they capture a photo during the seance of a “ghost”. It’s a classic ghost story made for TV and it had a huge impact on me as a kid. The fact that Tobe Hooper made a dramatized version of the events (that had way more inventive camera work and effects for a time than these shows usually had!) blew my mind!

Check out this great in-depth article about the Yohnny, Elizabeth, and the haunted Toys R’ Us that is well worth the read! 

1991 Haunted Lives True Ghost Stories – Episode 1 (Real Ghosts) from Jonathan Moser on Vimeo.

And it’s the Toys R’ Us story that helped us decide on this week’s Sunspot song. “Broken Toy” is a track full of 1980s’ nostalgia, when Tobe Hooper was in his directing prime. In the Texas Chainsaw Massacre it’s Sally Hardesty’s “innocence” that saves her, which is  one of the most common tropes of slasher films that followed (deftly parodied in the third act of the first Scream film), but still relatively novel back in 1974. The main thrust of this track is how once youthful innocence is lost, nothing is eve quite the same.

I opened a box of toys I broke,
and the ones that have broken me.
Cruising in my lego car,
and Jem was my favorite star,
But I fell in love with a girl,
from a galaxy far, far away.
Hey boy, where did you go?
Life ain’t that simple, don’t you know?
And the Duke boys couldn’t get away,
when I painted in shades of grey.
Don’t look me in the eye,
I can’t take what it makes me see.
It opens a box of toys I broke,
and the ones that have broken me.
It reminds me too much,
of the way things used to be.
I can’t play with a broken toy,
I can’t live on a memory.

Ronnie’s got a million guns,
Protecting us from Mao Tse Tsung,
but I don’t want to think about,
”The Day After” today.

Hey boy, what did you say?
Can Voltron make it all okay?
Or will my faith that ran away,
bump into me someday?

Don’t look me in the eye,
I can’t take what it makes me see.
It opens a box of toys I broke,
and the ones that have broken me.
It reminds me too much,
of the way things used to be.
I can’t play with a broken toy,
I can’t live on a memory.