Known for movies

Short Info

DiedFebruary 1, 1988, San Diego, California, United States
MarkWidely known and referred to as the Poltergeist (1982) girl
FactIf she had lived, it is likely that she would have gone into directing films like she said she wanted to.
PaymentsEarned $140,000 from Poltergeist III (1988)

Heather O’Rourke was born on December 27, 1975, in San Diego, California, to Kathleen and Michael O’Rourke. She had an older sister, Tammy. Her parents divorced when she was three, and she was raised by her mother and stepfather, Timothy Buechler.

Heather began her acting career at the age of five, appearing in a series of commercials for a local department store. She made her film debut in the horror classic Poltergeist (1982), playing the role of Carol Anne Freeling. The film was a huge success, and Heather became a household name.

Heather’s career continued to flourish in the 1980s. She appeared in several films, including Starman (1984), Firestarter (1984), and Invaders from Mars (1986). She also guest-starred on several television shows, including Cheers and Family Ties.

In 1987, Heather was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Despite her illness, she continued to work, appearing in the films The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (1988) and Far from Home (1989).

Tragically, Heather passed away on February 1, 1988, at the age of 12, from cardiac arrest due to septic shock. She was survived by her mother, stepfather, and sister.

Heather O’Rourke was a talented child actress who achieved great success in her short career. She will be forever remembered for her role in the classic film Poltergeist.

General Info

Full NameHeather O'Rourke
DiedFebruary 1, 1988, San Diego, California, United States
Height1.42 m


SiblingsTammy O'Rourke

Social profile links


#Marks / Signs
1Widely known and referred to as the Poltergeist (1982) girl
2Her blonde hair


Poltergeist III (1988)$140,000
Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)$75,000


1My parents put everything in a trust fund for me. I won't get it until I'm 18, so I'll use it for college.
2I hope to do a different character some day. I'm tired of this one, kind of. If there is a sequel, a 'Poltergeist IV,' I hope it's the last.
3[on the first two Poltergeist movies]: The first one I saw 12 times. The second one I only saw twice because I didn't think it was too great. I just thought it was too boring. You could fall asleep. It didn't excite me, it didn't even scare me. I don't think it would scare anyone. The first one really kept you going. It was exciting. Well, after you see it a lot of times, it isn't so much. But the first time you see it, it really jumps you.
4I want to continue acting, but I want to be a director. I'd been thinking about it for a while. A couple of years ago, I decided it would be a different experience to work behind the camera. And I'd be able to work on scripts. But I like acting a lot. It's fun. You meet a lot of people.
5I'm really not afraid of spooky things. When I have to look really frightened, I concentrate on scary things like losing my kittens or something like that.
6Why do people want my autograph? It's just my name I'm writing.
7I never watch horror movies as a rule.
8I hope people enjoy what I do. That would make me happy because I'd be bringing others pleasure while doing something I like.


1She had been getting tired of doing sequels to Poltergeist (1982) as she didn't want to be typecast. Said that if a Poltergeist IV would to happen it would have been her last film in the series.
2If she had lived, it is likely that she would have gone into directing films like she said she wanted to.
3Said that if she wasn't acting she would have liked to have been a nurse.
4Is buried in the same cemetery as her Poltergeist (1982) co-star, Dominique Dunne.
5Heather's Poltergeist III (1988) co-star Tom Skerritt was one of her pallbearers at her funeral.
6Appeared on the doll box for Mattel's "My First Barbie" in 1980.
7Mentioned in Denis Leary's "Downtrodden Song", the finale to his one-man show "No Cure For Cancer", where he names a bunch of famous people who died. He calls her "The chick from the Poltergeist movies".
8She had Irish, English, German, and Danish ancestry.
9Planned to attend college at UCLA and major in filmmaking.
10Astonished Steven Spielberg in his office during her initial interview with her ability to read the Poltergeist (1982) script aloud.
11Was an avid reader; her former 7th Grade English teacher honors this passion of hers by making all her students observe what she calls "Heather O'Rourke Love of Reading Week"; the last book she was reading was "Anne Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl".
12Some of her lesser known creative talents were calligraphy, drawing, baking, singing, and dancing.
13Her favorite TV shows were Three's Company (1976) and The Benny Hill Show (1969).
14Her favorite movie of all time was Disney's Dumbo (1941), and her favorite movie she appeared in was the original Poltergeist (1982).
15Upon further examination of her actual report cards over the years, she made C's and D's in her least liked subjects in school, math and science, but at the end of her life was a straight A student.
16Her line, "They're here", ranked #69 on the 'AFI'S TOP 100 Movie Quotes' special which aired on CBS. She also holds the distinction of being the youngest (age 5 at the time) actor/actress to utter the line that made the list.
17Ranked #65 on VH1's '100 Greatest Kid Actors' special.
18Younger sister of actress Tammy O'Rourke.
19Was a fraternal twin to an unborn baby brother.
20Born at 12:28 AM Pacific Standard Time.
21Tried out for the role of Vicki on Small Wonder (1985).
22Rests in a mausoleum next to Truman Capote and Mel Tormé.
23Never refused an autograph.
24Could read at age 5.
25Acted in her middle school Library/Literature Club's production of "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" in her nightgown with her favorite teddy bear in December of 1987.
26Never took acting classes.
27Her last words were "I love you" spoken to her mother.
28She grew very close to director Gary Sherman while filming Poltergeist III (1988), and was very proud of the fact that she performed all her own stuntwork for this movie.
29As a gift from the crew, she got to keep the goldfish from Poltergeist (1982).
30Performed from age 3 in numerous commercials before her Poltergeist (1982) role, most notably for Mattel and McDonalds. She started modeling in 1979 for Mattel "Tuff Stuff" Number Blocks.
31During the filming of Poltergeist III (1988), she suffered flu-like symptoms. The symptoms were a result of congenital intestinal stenosis (blockage), which ultimately claimed her life.
32Fellow cast members described Heather as having a calming influence on the set. They also described cast meetings with her: everyone would be quickly leafing through the script, while Heather was sitting calmly. Being able to memorize 60 pages of script an hour, she would have already memorized the entire script.
33In real life, she loved to go shopping. But according to her mother Kathy, shopping with Heather was a tremendous effort. The girl had to have everything match, from shoes to earrings. She also loved to make and eat sweets, and was the student-body president at her school. For a pet, she had a St. Bernard. Her home life did not, ironically, include the viewing of certain films...particularly not horror films.
34During all the horrors that proceeded while filming Poltergeist (1982), only one scene really scared her: that in which she had to hold onto the headboard, while a wind machine blew toys into the closet behind her. She fell apart; Steven Spielberg stopped everything, put her in his arms, and said that she would not have to do that scene again. (Cinefantasque, July 1988)
35Her mother claimed a wrong diagnosis was responsible for her death.
36President of her class in the 5th grade.




Poltergeist III1988Carol Anne Freeling
The New Leave It to Beaver1986-1987TV SeriesHeather
Rocky Road1987TV SeriesNatasha
Our House1987TV SeriesDana
Poltergeist II: The Other Side1986Carol Anne Freeling
Around the Bend1986TV MovieThe Daughter
Surviving1985TV MovieSarah Brogan
Finder of Lost Loves1984TV SeriesJillian Marsh
Webster1983TV SeriesMelanie
Matt Houston1983TV SeriesSunny Kimball
Happy Days1982-1983TV SeriesHeather Pfister
CHiPs1983TV SeriesLindsey
Massarati and the Brain1982TV MovieSkye Henry
Poltergeist1982Carol Anne Freeling
Fantasy Island1981TV SeriesLiza Blake Aged 5


Poltergeist III1988dedicatee


Star's Table1986TV SeriesHerself
The Merv Griffin Show1983TV SeriesHerself
Believe You Can... And You Can!1983TV MovieHerself
The Making of 'Poltergeist'1982TV Short documentaryHerself (uncredited)
Fantasy1982TV SeriesHerself

Archive Footage

The 82nd Annual Academy Awards2010TV SpecialCarol Anne Freeling (uncredited)
Cinemassacre's Monster Madness2009TV Series documentaryCarol Anne Freeling
They Are Here: The Real World of the Poltergeists2007Video documentary shortCarol Anne Freeling (uncredited)
Child Star Confidential2006TV Series documentaryHerself
The Greatest2005TV Series documentaryHerself
E! True Hollywood Story2002TV Series documentaryHerself
The 61st Annual Academy Awards1989TV SpecialHerself (Memorial Tribute)


Won Awards

1985Young Artist AwardYoung Artist AwardsBest Young Actress - Guest in a Television SeriesWebster (1983)

Nominated Awards

1987Young Artist AwardYoung Artist AwardsExceptional Performance by a Young Actress Starring in a Feature Film - Comedy or DramaPoltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)
1986Young Artist AwardYoung Artist AwardsExceptional Performance by a Young Actress in a Television Special or Mini-SeriesSurviving (1985)
1984Young Artist AwardYoung Artist AwardsBest Young Actress, Guest in a Television SeriesWebster (1983)
1983Young Artist AwardYoung Artist AwardsBest Young Supporting Actress in a Motion PicturePoltergeist (1982)
1983Young Artist AwardYoung Artist AwardsBest Young Actress in a Comedy SeriesHappy Days (1974)

Source: IMDb, Wikipedia

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