The 1982 Movie Poltergeist Used Real Skeletons: Unveiling the Controversy

The 1982 movie Poltergeist is known for its chilling supernatural elements and has cemented its place as a classic in the horror genre. However, behind the scenes, the film sparked significant controversy due to the use of real skeletons during its production. The revelation that the movie Poltergeist used real skeletons as part of its scenes has intrigued and disturbed many. This blog post delves into this controversy, examining the reasons behind this choice, the impact on the film’s production, and how it has influenced the movie’s legacy.

The Origins of the Controversy

The controversy surrounding Poltergeist’s use of real skeletons began with the film’s production. During the filming of certain scenes, particularly those involving submerged skeletons, it was revealed that the props were not mere replicas but genuine skeletal remains. This revelation shocked many fans and critics alike, raising ethical questions about the film’s production practices. To understand the gravity of the situation, it’s essential to explore how and why Poltergeist ended up using real skeletons.

Why Real Skeletons Were Used in Poltergeist

The decision to use real skeletons in Poltergeist was driven by a combination of budget constraints and the quest for authenticity. At the time, producing realistic-looking props that accurately represented human remains was both costly and technically challenging. As a result, the production team opted to use real skeletons to achieve a higher level of realism for the film’s horror elements. This section will delve into the rationale behind this controversial decision and how it impacted the film’s production.

The Impact on the Film’s Production

Using real skeletons in Poltergeist had a significant impact on the film’s production, both logistically and ethically. The film’s crew had to navigate the challenges of working with genuine human remains, which included handling, storing, and ensuring the safety of the props. Additionally, the use of real skeletons stirred controversy and raised concerns about the ethical implications of using human remains for entertainment purposes. This section will explore how these factors influenced the production process and the overall experience of making the film.

The Ethical Implications of Using Real Skeletons

The ethical implications of using real skeletons in Poltergeist are a major aspect of the controversy surrounding the film. Many argue that using genuine human remains for entertainment purposes is disrespectful and raises moral questions about the treatment of human bodies. This section will examine the ethical considerations and debates that have arisen from the film’s use of real skeletons, including perspectives from various stakeholders and experts in the field.

How the Controversy Affected Poltergeist’s Reception

The revelation that Poltergeist used real skeletons influenced the film’s reception and public perception. While the film was generally well-received for its horror elements and special effects, the controversy over the use of real human remains added a layer of intrigue and criticism. This section will analyze how the controversy affected the film’s critical reception, audience reactions, and its standing in the horror genre.

The Legacy of Poltergeist and the Real Skeletons Controversy

Poltergeist’s legacy is partially defined by the controversy surrounding the use of real skeletons. The film’s impact on the horror genre and its place in cinematic history is intertwined with the ethical issues raised by its production practices. This section will explore how the controversy has influenced the film’s legacy and how it continues to be discussed in the context of cinematic ethics and production choices.

Behind the Scenes: Production Challenges and Solutions

The use of real skeletons in Poltergeist presented several production challenges that required creative solutions. From acquiring and handling the remains to ensuring their safe use on set, the production team had to address numerous logistical issues. This section will provide an insider’s look at the challenges faced during filming and the solutions implemented to navigate the complexities of using real skeletons.

Alternative Approaches to Real Skeletons in Film

In light of the controversy surrounding Poltergeist, many filmmakers and studios have sought alternative approaches to using real skeletons in their productions. Advances in technology and special effects have provided new methods for creating realistic-looking props without the need for genuine human remains. This section will discuss alternative approaches to achieving similar effects in film and how these methods have evolved since Poltergeist.

Lessons Learned from the Poltergeist Skeleton Controversy

The Poltergeist skeleton controversy offers valuable lessons for the film industry regarding ethical practices and the use of props. Understanding the impact of using real human remains and the importance of ethical considerations can help guide future productions. This section will reflect on the lessons learned from the controversy and how they have influenced industry practices and standards.


The 1982 movie Poltergeist remains a landmark in the horror genre, but its legacy is complex due to the controversy surrounding the use of real skeletons. The decision to use genuine human remains was driven by a quest for realism but raised significant ethical questions and impacted the film’s production and reception. As the film industry continues to evolve, the lessons learned from the Poltergeist controversy serve as a reminder of the importance of ethical considerations in filmmaking. Understanding the nuances of this controversy helps to appreciate the film’s place in cinematic history and the ongoing dialogue about ethical practices in the industry.


1. Why did Poltergeist use real skeletons?

Poltergeist used real skeletons primarily due to budget constraints and the desire for greater authenticity in the film’s special effects. Creating realistic-looking props was both expensive and technically challenging at the time, leading the production team to opt for genuine human remains.

2. What were the production challenges associated with using real skeletons in Poltergeist?

Using real skeletons presented several challenges, including handling and storing the remains safely, ensuring proper use on set, and addressing ethical concerns. The production team had to navigate these complexities to complete the film.

3. How did the controversy affect the reception of Poltergeist?

The controversy over the use of real skeletons added a layer of intrigue and criticism to Poltergeist. While the film was well-received for its horror elements, the ethical issues raised by the use of real human remains influenced its public perception and critical reception.

4. What are some alternatives to using real skeletons in film?

Alternatives to using real skeletons include advanced special effects, CGI, and realistic prop replicas. These methods provide filmmakers with ways to achieve similar effects without the need for genuine human remains.

5. What lessons can be learned from the Poltergeist skeleton controversy?

The Poltergeist skeleton controversy highlights the importance of ethical considerations in filmmaking. It underscores the need for industry practices that respect human remains and explores alternative methods for responsibly achieving realistic effects.

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