The 10 Most Bizarre Behind the Scenes Horror Stories

Top Ten Tuesdays (New Top Ten Every Tues Or on Wednesdays if your editor is lazy)... We all know that films come alive when we learn about the behind the scenes action of our favourite productions. For the following films these behind the scenes stories€occurrences€legends, have all helped add to the mystery, allure and horror of them. Whether the stories have been generated by an over-zealous marketing team or are widely known urban legends, they certainly add to our fascination with them. So get ready and prepare, for the real life horror that€™s happened behind the cameras of some of the genres most iconic productions€

10. PSYCHO (1960) - 'Gruesome Rumours'

So many rumours have flown around about the production of Alfred Hitchcock's classic 'Psycho' and that shower scene in particular but whilst Hitchcock may have been the king of macabre, he wasn't evil. One rumor that floated around for years was that Janet Leigh had no idea that the fate of the scene where she steps inside that motel room shower was of her own shocking death at the hands of 'Norman Bates' mother€™. The rumour was that Hitch didn€™t tell her, as he wanted the actress to generate a faithfully real and terrifying scream. However, there is no way that this would have been possible, seeing the scene was so technically creative, as well as incredibly demanding to shoot (it took seven whole days!). Similarly, Hitchcock was supposed to have ordered cold water to be sprayed on Leigh at the specific moment she was required to scream €“ again, to make her terror more authentic! Leigh herself dispelled this rumour, when she told interviewers that the water was warm and caused the moleskin suit she was wearing (to cover her modesty) to wash off The one strange backstage occurrence linked to the film, happened years after it was shot. It concerned the disturbing case of when a stand-in for Janet Leigh€™s body double was murdered in a fashion that gruesomely echoed the infamous scene. The stand-in, Myra Davis, was brutally murdered by Kenneth Dean Hunt: apparently a Psycho obsessive and according to one BBC report, the voice of Norman Bates' mother in the film. Though again, not true. 'Zodiac' author Robert Graysmith, who had a life long obsession with Hunt, when in search of what really happened to Davis and amazingly found her alive and well in California. The real victim of Hunt (who wasn't the voice of Mrs. Bates) WAS a woman named Myra Davis but she was actually a lightning assistant. The confusion over who was murdered is chronicled in the book 'The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock's Shower'.

09. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962) - 'Bickering rivals'

Back in 1962 the careers of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were on the downward spiral, so when the publicity stunt opportunity came to see the two leading ladies of Hollywood€™s golden era battle it out on screen, the veterans signed on with relish - despite their dislike of each other being so evident. Aside from bitchy remarks and the games of one-upmanship, the first bit of drama happened during one of the more brutal scenes. The moment in question concerns Bette Davis as Baby Jane who attacks her disabled sister Blanche (Crawford) for attempting to use the telephone. During the violent scene, Davis was meant to simulate kicking Crawford all over her body, but she actually made contact when she booted the latter in the head! Crawford was fuming and required stitches, but Davis always insisted that it was an accident. Upon her return to work Crawford began to hitch her plans for revenge. She enacted payback close to the end of the shooting schedule, when a scene needed Davis to drag Crawford from her bed across the room. Davis had already requested that Crawford not be a €˜dead weight€™ during the scene as she was suffering from a bad back. But in retaliation to the kick in the head, Crawford lined her costume with lead weights and caused Davis to seriously injure her back! The bickering continued well after the film was shot€edited€released to critical acclaim: in fact the feud escalated further as the 1963 Academy Awards drew closer. Davis was nominated for a Best Actress award and Crawford was miffed when she was overlooked for a Best Supporting Actress gong. Lobbying for Davis€™s rival for the accolade, Crawford agreed to accept if Anne Bancroft won (which she did, for 'The Miracle Worker'). Backstage at the ceremony, Crawford relished in demanding Davis €“ who had been the favourite to win €“ to €œstep aside€ whilst she swanned on stage! The rivalry between the two silver screen divas raged until Crawford€™s death in 1977, of which Davis exclaimed, €œMy mother told me never to speak badly of the dead. She's dead...Good!€

08. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) - 'Based on a true story?'

The opening of Tobe Hooper€™s depraved film 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' single-handedly makes the story so terrifying. We€™re told that it is based on €œone of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history€€. Urban legend has persisted that the horrific events depicted on screen really did happen in a small town called Poth, Texas, a mere fifty miles from the popular tourist destination of San Antonio. The scenes of torture and despair help solidify the Southern states of the U.S. as a location steeped in horror. However, the film was shot between 15th July and 14th August 1973. This means that it couldn€™t possibly have been based on the €˜true€™ events of 18th August 1973, as stated at the beginning of the film. Despite this more than obvious flaw in the charade, rumours still persist that a real chainsaw massacre was the inspiration for the film. What is true amongst the numerous stories surrounding the film, is that Hooper took inspiration from the Wisconsin grave-robbing, necrophilia indulging, cannibal murderer Ed Gein. What transpired was the use of an extremely clever marketing tool to lure audiences of the previous years biggest horror hit €“ 'The Exorcist' (1973) €“ back into cinemas, for something equally terrifying. Unlike 'The Exorcist' however, Massacre didn€™t have the production value behind it and therefore the ploy of claiming it was based on fact helped secure its status as a box office hit.

07. TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983) - 'Cursed!'

When Steven Spielberg signed on to produce the big screen version of Rod Serling€™s classic sci-fi/horror series, he certainly didn€™t bargain for an onset disaster of this scale. More a devastating tragedy than a bizarre occurrence, three cast members were killed during the filming of an action-packed sequence. Flying at an altitude of 25 feet (8 metres), this height was too low for the helicopter in the scene to avoid the blasts of the pyrotechnic, special effects explosions. The helicopter crash-landed on top of actor Vic Morrow and two Vietnamese child actors; Myca Dinh Le (aged only 7) and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age 6). The blades of the helicopter decapitated Morrow and Le, whilst Chen was crushed. What is strange about this freak accident is the fact that the film depicts four stories where peculiar and unsettling situations spiral out of control. This accident marked the end of Spielberg and director John Landis€™ friendship, as the former had already been concerned with the latter€™s frequent breaking of onset safety regulations and his use of live ammunition in particular. The filmmakers were also faced with legal action and the one positive to come out of the tragedy was that major changes were made to the regulations surrounding child actors working throughout the night and in scenes heavily laden with special effects.

06. THE BIRDS (1963) - 'Hitchcock's obsession'

The rumours surrounding Alfred Hitchcock and his leading ladies are boundless, but for Tippi Hedren €“ star of the director€™s brilliantly executed horror tale 'The Birds' €“ the reality of his obsessive personality was an experience that was all too real. Hitchcock is notorious for having been a perfectionist in all aspects of filmmaking €“ his daughter Patricia has often expressed her father€™s disdain for location shooting, claiming that he much preferred the control that soundstage shooting gave him over lighting, actor€™s movements, and so on. During the shooting of 'The Birds' Hitchcock demanded more from Hedren than he had of any other leading lady he€™d previously worked with. This culminated in the famous sequence where Hedren is devastatingly attacked by the vicious birds in the upstairs room of her boyfriend€™s house. The actress was informed that the mechanical prop birds were not working before shooting began, however Hedren has always maintained that she believes it was never Hitchcock€™s intention to use them anyway. With live birds attached to her, Hitch€™s star was subjected to a severe attack €“ leading to an injury that would have blinded her had it been a few millimetres closer to her eye. For five days Hedren had these birds tied to her, as well as three prop men throwing additional ones at her, all in the name of art. By the end of the scene she was understandably fraught with exhaustion and close to mental breakdown. If the real-life bird attacks weren€™t enough to distress Hedren, the unwelcome sexual advances of a virtually impotent Hitchcock were. Hedren embodied the director€™s obsession with icy blondes €“ all of whom he believed were nymphomaniacs beneath the frozen layers. Hitch€™s fixation manifested itself beyond the set too and he reportedly had employees spy on the actress on her days off. He allegedly sent her numerous love notes, including an extremely long telegram on Valentines Day and employed graphologists to examine the handwriting of any return notes. Hitchcock began to openly talk about his feelings for Hedren as they collaborated once more on the director€™s next opus, 'Marnie' (1964). During the shooting of this film Hedren was given the gift of an elaborate trailer, which Hitch used to engineer rendezvous€™ with his star at any given opportunity. Rumours abound that during one of these visits he propositioned the actress, who rebuffed him. Whilst Hedren has never confirmed the exact happenings, the tales surrounding the director€™s obsession with her have certainly fuelled the cloud of mystery surrounding one of cinema€™s most legendary filmmakers.

05. THE SHINING (1980) - 'Kubrick's perfection'

Perhaps taking influence from an aforementioned, equally talented director, Stanley Kubrick subjected actress Shelley Duvall to an unprecedented shooting regime on 'The Shining'. In order to draw an authentically disturbed portrayal out of her, Kubrick kept her constantly on edge during the 500+ day shoot! He also convinced the rest of the cast and crew to persistently torment her, believing that this constant unbalance would cause Duvall to accurately depict the stress her character was under. This technique caused major friction between director and actress and the two regularly fought on set about lines, acting style and heaps of other issues. In fact, the stress of day-to-day life on set overwhelmed Duvall, who fell ill for many months and eventually began to lose her hair€ Evidence of this constant unbalance is clear in the infamous €˜baseball bat€™ scene, where Duvall discovers Nicholson€™s writing. The actress looks and sounds genuinely terrified throughout the scene, as well as looking extremely ill. Kubrick notoriously forced the two stars to shoot the scene 127 times, breaking the world record for the most retakes of a single scene within a talking picture! Despite the rather sinister actions that it demanded, the director€™s plan worked beautifully: Duvall simply gives an exceptionally realistic performance as the wife who goes from loving to fearing her husband in one swift swoop!

04. THE EXORCIST (1973) - 'Power of the curse'

In the same vein as Hitchcock and Kubrick, director William Friedkin kept his entire cast on edge during the production of 'The Exorcist' in order to bring better, more realistic performances out of them. The series of unnerving goings-on during the shoot surely helped keep them this way too! Actress Linda Blair, who played the possessed young Regan, nearly broke her back when a mechanical device had a major fault during one of the bed shaking scenes. Max Von Sydow, who played Father Merrin, was in full health at the beginning of production but suffered from a series of unexplained illnesses during the shoot. Similarly strange, on a number of occasions lights that had been rigged to the ceilings of sets fell without explanation, luckily never hurting anybody. The film took a major blow, however, when all of the interior sets of the MacNeill residence €“ bar Regan€™s bedroom! €“ burnt down and delayed production for six weeks. Further delays were caused when props were regularly shipped or delivered to incorrect locations or simply disappeared from sets€ The biggest rumours lie in the number of deaths related to the film. Stories range from there being between four and nine people killed during the making of the film. Whether or not this is true, there are definitely some confirmed deaths tied to it. Most notably, actor Jack MacGowran (who played Burke Dennings) who died from influenza during the filming. Other deaths related to the film or those working on it were Max Von Sydow€™s brother; Linda Blair€™s grandfather; the newborn baby of a cameraman; the set night watchman; and the technician who refrigerated the set for the exorcism scenes€ Could all these deaths have simply been a series of coincidences? Stories of the film being cursed were fuelled by a number of instances that transpired after the films release. One man famously died whilst watching the film in a New York cinema and many people were seen to go into epileptic fits or faint whenever the possessed Regan was onscreen. None of these bizarre happenings hindered the films success at the box office; in fact they probably helped it! However, the film was banned in the UK after a teenager claimed that he had become possessed whilst watching it and the demonic voices in his head had subsequently told him to kill his girlfriend€ Today, the extra-textual stories are certainly more eerie than the film itself, but were these occurrences (on set, at least) the actions of an extremely thorough director or the work of something far more sinister?

03. THE POLTERGEIST SERIES (1982 €“ 1988) - 'Another curse'

The 'Poltergeist' series may be the most cursed (read, tragedy stricken) trilogy of films ever to be produced in Hollywood. Four of the series cast died throughout the 1980s, although two of the actors who died were older and suffering from medical conditions. What€™s more horrific and shocking however, are the deaths of the two young actresses associated with the franchise. A jealous former boyfriend strangled 22-year-old Dominique Dunne, who played Dana in the original film. She died four days later €“ 4th November 1982 €“ after never awakening from the coma he put her in. Stranger to is the death of Heather O€™Rourke who played little Carol Anne Freeling throughout the trilogy. O€™Rourke died when only 12 years old from complications arising from supposedly life-saving surgery after it was discovered that she was suffering from septic shock in 1988. Between these two deaths, veteran actors Julian Beck and Will Sampson were the other two apparent victims of the curse. However, the former died of stomach cancer in 1985, whilst the latter died of kidney failure following a heart-lung transplant in 1987. A variety of reasons for the supposed curse have floated about over the years. Some have suggested that it was an ancient Indian curse brought about after the production disturbed an ancient burial ground. Alternatively it has been suggested that it was the use of human skeletons in the famous swimming pool scene that caused the curse (special effects co-ordinator Craig Reardon confirmed that real remains were used, as it was cheaper to do so as the production could avoid paying the cost of labour for assembling a plastic skeleton!!). Whatever the truth is behind the deaths €“ whether they are associated with a curse or not €“ the rumours surrounding the films have certainly helped fuel the notoriety that continues to swamp the franchise.

02. THE CROW (1994) - 'Intrigue and tragedy'

Alex Proyas€™ big screen comic book adaptation of 'The Crow' is another film steeped in intrigue and tragedy. Again, rumours of the production being cursed have stuck since the infamous death of Brandon Lee during filming. The tragedy came when Lee was shot in the abdomen by a live bullet that was unknowingly lodged in the prop .44 Magnum that Lee was to be €˜killed€™ onscreen with. However, prior to this disaster, a number of other bizarre episodes related to the film, cast and crew had taken place€ On 1st February 1993 shooting began. On the very first day a carpenter received a serious electric shock and was badly burned when a scissor lift he was operating came into contact with live, high-voltage power cables. Subsequent happenings included a grip truck catching fire, a stuntman falling through the roof of one of the sets, an incensed handyman crashing his car through the studio's plaster shop, and a member of the crew accidentally stabbing a screwdriver through his hand. On 13th March 1993, a powerful storm also destroyed a number of elaborate set pieces that pushed the shooting schedule back, as they had to be completely rebuilt. With all the accidents that befell those who worked on 'The Crow' it€™s amazing that the production ever wrapped! The film has subsequently become a cult favourite and with all the extra-textual mystery surrounding it, it€™s no great surprise that it has. What would have been more interesting would have been to see if the film was as successful had the incidents and subsequent rumours of the curse not arisen.

01. THE OMEN (1976) - 'Lightning strikes!'

'The Omen', the archetypal film about the Devil€™s offspring, may have conjured up a curse from the depths of Hell itself€ Plagued with a series of bizarre accidents that befell cast, crew and even people loosely connected to the film, much has been made of this possible curse. The strange occurrences began when original novelist and screenwriter David Seltzer€™s plane to the UK was struck by lightning €“ luckily he survived. In a separate incident, a plane that was transporting the films star Gregory Peck was also struck by lightning. Luckily the pilot managed to land the plane safely and nobody was hurt. Whilst the cameras rolled in Rome, producer Harvey Bernhard narrowly escaped being struck by lightning€ Could these bolts of lighting have been sent from a higher power trying to prevent the production from completing? Whatever the reason, that€™s three more incidents involving lightning than most films experience! Peck had another similarly close brush with death during the shoot, when he cancelled passage on a flight to Israel that crashed killing all onboard. Peck€™s performance in the film is exceptional and an interesting departure from his earlier typical roles of the romantic or action hero. With the strange happenings that shrouded 'The Omen', it€™s interesting that Peck decided to remain attached to the project! Similarly, it€™s surprising that director Richard Donner did not walk from the production, after he was not only hit by a car, but also stayed at a hotel that was bombed by the IRA. In a separate vehicle related incident, a number of crewmembers were nearly killed on the first day of shooting in a head-on car crash... There were also some animal related instances on set, when the Rottweilers used in the film turned on their trainers and attacked them. Equally strange is the fact that a day after shooting the safari park scene, a keeper at the park was killed by a lion! However, the eeriest of incidences occurred well after shooting had ended, when John Richardson €“ the stunt co-ordinator responsible for the famous decapitation scene in the film €“ was injured and his girlfriend beheaded whilst working on 'A Bridge Too Far' (1977)€ Some claim that the film was struck with a curse after the title was changed from €˜The Antichrist€™ to €˜The Birthmark€™, others claim that it was simply a bizarre series of coincidences that linked those who had worked on the film together. However, no matter what the reason for them was, an unholy amount of peculiar and horrific incidents plagued 'The Omen'€ With all of this behind-the-scenes knowledge, I guarantee that the next time you watch any of these films they€™ll be infinitely creepier!
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