SPOILER: Despite being a horror/thriller film, there are no murders or fatalities depicted in the film.
# # Though on-screen credit goes to Tobe Hooper, a wealth of evidence suggests that most of the directorial decisions were made by Steven Spielberg. In fact, Spielberg had wanted to direct the film himself, but a clause in his contract stated that while still working on E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Spielberg could not direct another film. Members of the cast and crew, including Executive Producer Frank Marshall and actress Zelda Rubinstein, have stated that Spielberg cast the film, directed the actors, and designed every single storyboard for the movie himself. Based on this evidence, the DGA opened a probe into the matter, but found no reason that co-director credit should go to Spielberg.
When Steve Freeling first meets with the university paranormal specialists, he states that his wife, Diane Freeling, was "32" at the time, and their eldest daughter, Dana, was "16". Thus, Diane was only sixteen years-old when she gave birth to Dana.
Footage from this movie was used in a 2008 DirecTV commercial.
# # The dog's name "E Buzz" is from a skit on the original "Saturday Night Live" with 'Dan Akyroyd' (who had worked with Speilberg on "1941") playing an art critic named "E Buzz Miller".
Stephen King was briefly approached to write the screenplay. It would have been the first written by King directly for the screen, but the parties could not agree on the terms.
In reality, Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams are only 14 and 11 years older than Dominique Dunne, who plays their teen-aged daughter
# # Drew Barrymore was considered for the role of Carol Anne, but Steven Spielberg wanted someone more angelic. It was Barrymore's audition for this role, however, that landed her a part in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982).
The movie's line "They're here!" was voted as the #69 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
During all the horrors that proceeded while filming Poltergeist (1982), only one scene really scared Heather O'Rourke: 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, took her in his arms, and said that she would not have to do that scene again.
When Carol Anne's mother tells her to stop watching the static because it will hurt your eyes, she turns on a movie and it is Go for Broke! (1951).
A common translation of the German word "Poltergeist" is "rumbling spirit".
In addition to the two times that the Beast appeared in the movie (the face that appeared in the closet and the creature that guarded the kid's door), the script had it appearing during the scene where the family and investigators are looking at the tape of the manifestation. The giant ghost that they saw visually slowly resolved itself into the image of a face of a cruel old man: the man we know in the later films as 'Reverend Henry Kane.'
# # The house used to film this movie is located in Simi Valley, California where it still stands today. The family who owned it when this movie was filmed still live there today.
# # The swirling, flickering lights coming from the closet during the rescue scene were achieved using a very simple effect by having an aquarium full of water in front of a spotlight. Then a fan blew on the surface of the water to make it swirl.