Poltergeist (1982)

The Creepiest Scene In ‘Poltergeist’ Is Even Scarier Than You Think

There’s a long list of scares that make 1982’s Poltergeist a winner. The technician pulling off his face, the swimming pool full of real skeletons–it’s enough to give anyone nightmares. But nothing sticks with people quite like the toy clown scene. (Because spooky clowns are a quick way to make use scared, am I right?) A false sense of security falls over both cast and audience until Robbie’s clown attacks. Did you know that the scene almost turned deadly in real life?

Hello, Mr. Clown

No thanks. Poltergeist

Carol Ann has been saved from the supernatural void, the ghost hunters have left the Freeling home, and everything seems perfect. Still, Robbie (Oliver Robins) feels a little creeped out by his life-size clown doll. It sits and watches him in bed from a chair across the room. So menacing.

Moments later, when Robbie checks on the clown, it’s gone. Cue the audience’s heart rate to spike. Robbie checks under his bed, but it’s clear. Just as he sits back up on his bed, he gets the jump scare of his life when the clown attacks. His striped arm wraps around Robbie’s neck and pulls him to the floor, proving that the horrors of their house aren’t over yet.

It’s the moment when the clown’s arm wraps around Robbie’s neck when everything went wrong on set.

Danger on Set

A real danger courtesy of the props department. Poltergeist

To get the clown’s arm to convincingly wrap around Oliver Robins’ neck, the props department created a hydraulic system to wrap and squeeze. What could go wrong, right? Apparently those hydraulics were a tad overzealous. The arm squeezed tighter than it should have and began choking Robins. When he struggled against the clown’s arm and choked out that he couldn’t breathe, Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg apparently thought Robins was just really good at improv.

Luckily they eventually figured out what was wrong and turned off the mechanism, freeing Robins’ neck. Considering how cursed the set of Poltergeist was, Oliver Robins was lucky to get out of that one alive.

Want to relive the creepy clown scene? Check out the video below.


And if you want to watch the whole movie, you can catch Poltergeist for free on Tubi.