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Heather O'Rourke, 'Poltergeist' Child Star, Dies

February 02, 1988|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

Heather O'Rourke, the terrified youngster sucked into a spectral vacuum by supernatural spirits in the film "Poltergeist," is dead at the age of 12, it was learned today.

The blonde ingenue, who finished filming "Poltergeist III" last summer, starring as Carol Ann Freeling for the third time, died Monday.

The Associated Press said she had been pronounced dead at Children's Hospital in San Diego. United Press International quoted her agent, Bob Preston, as saying she "passed away on the way to the hospital" where her parents had called after she fell seriously ill.

Her family, who lives in Big Bear, was not available for comment.

A spokesman for Metro Goldwyn Mayer, where the "Poltergeist" films were produced starting in 1981, said the studio would issue a clarifying statement later.

Heather, also seen regularly on television's "Happy Days," "Webster" and "Still the Beaver," brought two catch phrases into the language after Poltergeists I and II. The first was "They're heeeere!" which she screamed after coming into contact with strange forces while peering into an apparently blank TV screen. The second was "They're baaaack!" featured in the sequel.

Heather came to films when she was 5 and sitting in the MGM commissary. Steven Spielberg saw her and asked if he could talk to her. She replied that she didn't talk to strangers.

But she got permission and that led to her role in "Poltergeist."

Heather is the second actress from the "Poltergeist" movies to die at a young age. Dominique Dunne, was strangled in October, 1982.

Dunne, then 22, who played Heather's older sister, had tried to break off her relationship with her boyfriend. Los Angeles chef John Sweeney was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced in November, 1983, to the maximum 6 1/2 years in prison.

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