Hollywood Remains to Be Seen

Heather O'Rourke
1975 - 1988

Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park

Heather O'Rourke is best known for her performances as the terrified young girl who is sucked into a spectral dimension by evil spirits in "Poltergeist" (1982) and two sequels.

O'Rourke began her acting career at the age of 5, appearing in episodes of "Fantasy Island," "Webster" and "CHiPs" in the early 1980s. In 1982, she had a semi-regular role on the popular television sitcom, "Happy Days."

O'Rourke was eating lunch in the commissary at MGM studios with her mother and sister when writer and director Steven Spielberg, who was looking a child to star in "Poltergeist," saw her and asked if she would do a screen test for the film. O'Rourke, as Carol Anne Freeling, the youngest daughter in a family that finds their home haunted by unfriendly spirits, had the most memorable line in the first "Poltergeist" film - "They're heeeeere!" -- and in the second, "Poltergeist II" (1986) -- "They're baaaaack!" O'Rourke was the only actor from the first two films to appear in the next sequel, "Poltergeist III" (1988), in which the evil spirits follow her when she visits her aunt and uncle.

A few months after she finished work on "Poltergeist III," O'Rourke complained of abdominal pains, and was taken to a hospital in San Diego, CA, where she died on the operating table. O'Rourke had been suffering from intestinal stenosis, a congenital obstruction of the digestive tract. The blockage, which had been previously undetected, caused an infection which resulted in her death, just a few weeks after her 12th birthday. "Poltergeist III" was released after O'Rourke's death, and was dedicated to her memory. A few months after O'Rourke's death, her mother filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the hospital where O'Rourke had been treated, charging that the girl's condition had been improperly diagnosed, and the intestinal obstruction could have been eliminated with a simple surgical procedure.

The marker on O'Rourke's crypt identifies her as "Carol Anne - Poltergeist I, II, III." Despite her film roles, O'Rourke said her proudest accomplishment was being elected president of her fifth-grade class.

O'Rourke was born Dec. 27, 1975, in San Diego, CA. She died Feb. 1, 1988, in San Diego, CA.

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