I love urban legends. As a kid, I often made the mistake of reading scary stories on the office desktop computer while home alone, and often after dark. (Yeah, I was a smart kid. That, or I was prepping myself for marathoning the Saw movies and spending hours on Reddit’s r/nosleep subreddit.) My favorite site is and has always been Snopes, a comprehensive database run by husband-and-wife team Barbara and David Mikkelson. These two fearlessly debunk urban legends about Halloween itself, campfire tales, freak accidents, fake photos, you name it. They also — and this takes even bigger balls — document the stuff that’s actually real.
With Halloween a little over a week away, I wanted to share with you some of the Mikkelsons’ best discoveries about Hollywood. I know that over the past year we at Crushable terrified you with our Creepy Things That Seem Real But Aren’t series, but let’s not forget that Tinseltown is a pretty scary place, too. You hear stories of actors who live and die for their craft, of the ghosts of stars living on or a franchise that won’t let its actors go. Making movies suddenly doesn’t sound so carefree and glamorous.
Some of these tales you might know by name or details—others you may never have heard of. I hope that at least one of these stories are new to you and that you’ll share them with your friends later. Preferably in a dark room with a flashlight under your chin and their smartphones out of reach so they won’t know whether the story you’re telling is true or not.
Richard Gere and the Gerbil: I’m starting you off easy—this one isn’t scary so much as revolting. Rumor has it that a prominent actor was admitted into the hospital one night complaining of stomach pains, only for the nurses to discover that he had a foreign object lodged in his rectum. Or should I say, a furry object. From then on, gay rumors plagued poor Gere throughout his career, with everyone from co-stars to fans having a joke ready.
So, is it true? Click the link to find out.
James Dean’s Killer Car: Film icon Dean was killed in a car accident in 1955 when his new Porsche Spyder had a head-on collision with another automobile. In the year after the crash, there was a series of accidents — or so people say — caused by the different parts of the car that were sold off to various mechanics. Here are just a few examples:
Car designer George Barris next bought the car and planned to sell it for parts. When the car was delivered to his yard, it rolled off the back of the truck and broke a mechanic’s legs.
Troy McHenry, a Beverly Hills doctor, bought the Dean engine and used it to replace the engine in his Porsche. The doctor was killed in a crash the first time he took the car out.
An unnamed New Yorker bought two of the Dean tires. His car crashed when both tires mysteriously blew out at the same time.
This is a bonafide Hollywood legend, and has never been proven one way or the other.
The Ghost Kid from Three Men and a Baby: This is one of my favorites—audiences watching the Ted Danson comedy noticed a little boy pop up in several frames. While the actors shot their scenes, no one took notice of the creepy little boy just watching them. Like here:
Here’s the rumor that started going around:
The most common form of this rumor claims that a nine-year-old boy committed suicide with a shotgun in the Three Men and a Baby house. (A detail obviously inspired by the jagged black outline created as the curtains move away from in front of the figure’s left-hand side. The black portions of the figure form an outline that does resemble a shotgun standing on its end, barrel down.)
Turns out it was just a cardboard cutout of Danson himself.
The Amityville Horror and Texas Chainsaw Massacre Are Based On True Stories: Of course it makes a movie that much scarier when there’s even a shred of evidence that the events you’ve witnessed actually took place. The Lutz family’s account of supernatural activity in their house was eventually debunked, but most people don’t even know that. But how about the latter movie? Turns out Leatherface is based on a real person, one Ed Gein…
The Munchkin Suicide in The Wizard of Oz: I know you’ve talked with your friends about this grisly rumor, that one of the actors playing a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz hanged himself and his suicide was caught on-camera in the scene where Dorothy and her companions start off on the Yellow Brick Road. The way I heard it, the poor guy had declared his love to Judy Garland and she turned him down; other variations say that it was unrequited love for a female munchkin.
Unfortunately, it’s just a story meant to tug at your heartstrings. Snopes debunked it, as did Reviews or Whatever, who found this hi-res photo of what appears to be a bird flapping its wings, and nothing more.
Brandon Lee Killed While Filming The Crow: Sadly, this on-set death happened, and was witnessed by most of the crew and even caught on-camera.
According to newspaper and magazine accounts, the scene in question was staged early in the morning of March 31, 1993, in Wilmington, North Carolina. The scene was the death of Lee’s character, Eric Draven, at the hands of street thugs, and was a pivotal plot element to the movie. Lee was to walk in through a door carrying a bag of groceries. Actor Michael Massee, who played Funboy, fired a revolver loaded with blanks at Lee. To complete the illusion, a small explosive charge was to go off in the grocery bag. Unfortunately, a fragment of a dummy bullet, used earlier in close-up shots, was lodged in the barrel, and the blank charge propelled the fragment into Lee’s side, fatally wounding him.
The part of this story that made it into urban legend was whether Lee’s actual death was included in the final cut. However, Snopes claims that the filmmakers destroyed all of the film from that scene and that the editors digitally added Lee’s face onto a stunt double to film his character’s new death scene.
The Poltergeist Curse: This one is creepy — and I’m gonna tell you now — because it’s true. Four actors from the Poltergeist franchise have died since the first movie came out. While two of the deaths didn’t really come as a surprise, two still can’t be explained.
22-year old Dominique Dunne died on 4 November 1982 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, four days after her boyfriend choked her into a coma from which she never awoke. Weeks earlier, Dunne had ended her abusive live-in relationship with Los Angeles chef John Sweeney. On the night of 30 October 1982, he dropped by their former shared residence to plead with her to take him back. The conversation did not go as he’d hoped, and the encounter ended with him strangling her for what was later determined to be 4 to 6 minutes, then leaving her for dead in her driveway.
…12-year-old Heather O’Rourke died of septic shock on 1 February 1988 at the Children’s Hospital in San Diego. What had been thought to be a bout of ordinary flu launched her into cardiac arrest during the drive to the local hospital as bacterial toxins set loose by a bowel obstruction made their way into her bloodstream. Her heart was successfully restarted and she was flown by helicopter to the much-larger Children’s Hospital where she underwent an operation to remove the obstruction. The toxins rampaging through her system proved too much, and she died on the operating table.
Happy early Halloween…
Photo: Reviews or Whatever