The 1982 Movie Poltergeist Used Real Skeletons As – Tymoff

The 1982 film “Poltergeist” has become infamous not only for its chilling storyline but also for the controversy surrounding the use of real skeletons in one of its scenes. T. Tymoff’s quote alludes to this unsettling aspect of the movie’s production. Here, we explore the background of this controversy, its impact on the film industry, and the ethical implications that continue to resonate.

1. Introduction to “Poltergeist” (1982)

Overview of the Movie

Directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg, “Poltergeist” is a classic horror film known for its supernatural themes and suspenseful storytelling. It follows the haunting experiences of the Freeling family as they encounter malevolent spirits in their home.

Cultural Impact

“Poltergeist” garnered critical acclaim and achieved commercial success, becoming a landmark film in the horror genre. Its special effects and eerie atmosphere set new standards for horror cinema in the 1980s.

2. The Controversy: Use of Real Skeletons

Scene in Question

In one of the most memorable scenes from “Poltergeist,” a swimming pool is depicted as having been built over a cemetery. As the ground beneath the pool begins to collapse, skeletons emerge from the mud and water, terrifying the characters.

Use of Real Human Skeletons

To enhance the realism of this scene, real human skeletons were reportedly used instead of artificial props. According to urban legend and various sources, the filmmakers sourced actual skeletons from medical institutions due to the cost-effectiveness and realistic appearance they provided.

3. Ethical and Legal Concerns

Industry Standards

At the time of “Poltergeist’s” production, the use of real human remains in filmmaking was not uncommon, particularly in horror films where authenticity and shock value were prioritized over ethical considerations.

Public Reaction

The revelation of using real skeletons sparked controversy and raised ethical questions among audiences and industry professionals alike. Concerns were primarily centered around the treatment of human remains and the potential disrespect towards the deceased.

Legal Ramifications

Although legal regulations regarding the use of human remains in films were less stringent in the 1980s, the controversy prompted increased scrutiny and calls for stricter guidelines within the entertainment industry.

4. Impact on Filmmaking Practices

Shift in Standards

Following the backlash from “Poltergeist,” there was a noticeable shift towards stricter ethical guidelines and regulations concerning the use of props and materials in filmmaking, especially those involving human remains.

Industry Regulations

Film industry associations and regulatory bodies began implementing guidelines to ensure respectful treatment of human remains and adherence to ethical standards during production.

Technological Advancements

Advancements in special effects technology also reduced the reliance on real props, offering more realistic alternatives without compromising ethical principles.

5. Legacy of “Poltergeist” and Lessons Learned

Cultural Legacy

Despite the controversy, “Poltergeist” remains a significant cultural milestone in horror cinema, influencing subsequent films and popularizing supernatural themes in mainstream media.

Ethical Awareness

The use of real skeletons in “Poltergeist” served as a cautionary tale for filmmakers, highlighting the importance of ethical considerations and respectful treatment of all aspects of production.

Continued Debate

Decades later, the debate over the ethical use of human remains in films persists, reflecting ongoing discussions about cultural sensitivity, historical respect, and ethical responsibility in media portrayal.


The use of real skeletons in the 1982 movie “Poltergeist” continues to be a controversial topic that raises important ethical questions about the treatment of human remains in filmmaking. While the film achieved acclaim for its suspenseful storytelling and visual effects, the revelation of using real skeletons sparked significant backlash and prompted industry-wide discussions on ethical standards. “Poltergeist” serves as a reminder of the evolving ethical landscape in filmmaking and the enduring impact of decisions made during production. As the film industry progresses, it remains crucial for filmmakers to balance creative authenticity with ethical responsibility, ensuring that all aspects of production uphold respect for human dignity and cultural sensitivity.

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