There Is No Indian Burial Ground in Poltergeist, and Other Movie Facts Everyone Misremembers

By Jacqueline Larson

Looks like a regular cemetery to me, dude.

This is hardly a new idea for a blog, by any stretch of the imagination; it’s not even unique to movies. Everyone was sure it was spelled The Berenstein Bears and not The Berenstain Bears, for instance. This is referred to as the Mandela Effect, coined because people falsely remembered Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 80’s despite being very much alive through the early 2000’s and 2010’s. People develop false memories of things; pretty natural phenomena. We still get a bit twitchy about it, though.

Really twitchy. See the link in the next section for the source.

In movies, I wanted to go over a few that I don’t hear mentioned very often. 

1. First, a Brief Nod to the Ones Everyone Almost Always Mentions

It seems like every listicle mentions these in some form, and I would rather not miss them entirely. Darth Vader never says “Luke, I am your father” in The Empire Strikes Back. When Luke states his belief that he killed his father, his reply is “No, I am your father.” 

You’d think an iconic scene would be easier to quote.

The words “Play it again, Sam” are never uttered in Casablanca. “Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake,” is instead Ilsa’s request, and Rick Blaine later requests it as well, but never the way you think he’s going to. 

I’ll even throw out an honorable mention to Good Housekeeping for noting that the phrase “Mirror mirror on the wall” never happens in Disney’s Snow White. While this is common in most translations of the fairy tale, the queen in Disney’s rendition instead addresses her 2D advisor as “Magic mirror on the wall.” 

Most of the time, I think this happens because somebody famous references a line or scene but doesn’t directly quote. Sometimes it even catches on because a parody said it differently! I can distinctly remember (but cannot place where from) that a movie or TV show referenced “play it again, Sam” right before a bar fight, and the actor added that basically, the music would cover up the sound from the scuffle. (Seriously if anybody remembers where that came from, leave a comment.) 

2. Jurassic Park Was Not “Reopened” in Jurassic World 

Jurassic Park and its subsequent movies have gained a lot of traction in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the insistence of so many amusement and theme parks to reopen despite the clear and present danger. With two Jurassic World movies in the last ten years to continue the franchise, it’s led many a person to have cried “reopening businesses and amusements this soon would be like Jurassic Park deciding to reopen again and clearly nobody is that ignorant” only for the American economy as a whole to hand us its beer. 

This gets said a lot, this notion of “Jurassic Park reopening again.” 

The thing is…there is no again. Jurassic World represents the only time the park has ever been open, across all movies. It wasn’t open in the first, and people seem to genuinely forget this. We were following a group of curated experts for a test drive, in the hopes that they would endorse it. (They did not, on account of having either been eaten, or because they definitely did not enjoy their time there.) 

“Not enough privacy in the restrooms. 0 stars.” – The Blood-sucking Lawyer, probably.

It’s easier to forget these things if we’ve gone long enough without seeing a movie, even if we’ve seen it a million times. Then sometimes, seeing a movie a million times corrupts our understanding of later movies down the line, as is the case in my next example. 

3. Disney Invented “Second Star to the Right” 

In Disney’s rendition of Peter Pan, the way to Neverland is clear: “Second star to the right, and straight on ’til morning.” This is often visually represented by two slightly brighter stars in the night sky. 

Pictured above: Disney’s Peter Pan. A map of lies.

This is not a thing in the book. Peter understands that Wendy has an address, and he makes one up that is complete nonsense. “Second to the right and straight on ’til morning” is the actual quote. 

But this isn’t a “but the book was better” blog — the reason I bring it up is because Disney’s change to the text has shown up in virtually every film adaptation of Peter Pan since then, even in continuations and alternate universe tellings, even if they were done by other studios. Like the ruby slippers of MGM’s take on The Wizard of Oz, the line just stuck. The most noticeable of these is Stephen Spielberg’s 1991 film Hook, and it pulls both the line and the visual of the two stars in the sky. 

Pictured: Julia Roberts taking Robin Williams on a bender in Hook

(It also, like Disney, resurrects Tinkerbell, who is very much dead by the end of the novel because like bugs, fairies don’t live very long.) 

4. There Is No Indian Burial Ground in Poltergeist

Poltergeist may be one of my favorite movies ever. It features the Freeling family’s tribulations when supernatural activity begins to take place in their home. It’s at first benign and almost whimsical, but the danger quickly ramps up when a possessed tree tries to eat one of their children, and a vortex kidnaps another into a parallel dimension. Only her disembodied voice and her footsteps can be heard as they try to bring her back. 

And maybe also evict this clown doll.

This one stuck with me after the remake came out, which ran with the notion of desecrated Native American graves but…did nothing to expand on it or explain anything. Lots of reviewers also falsely suggest, when summarizing the original 1982 Tobe Hooper/Stephen Spielberg horror flick, that the reason for all the supernatural activity is the old “indian burial ground” issue, but like much of this list, it’s nowhere in the original film. 

The “indian burial ground” trope is even referenced as a joke. Steven Freeling is a real estate agent living in a subdivision his company built and sold. When his boss takes him on a walking tour of their next plot of land for development, he realizes it’s a cemetery. He’s reassured that the graves will be relocated and is told that they did it before in his own subdivision. “We’re not talking indian burial grounds, just…regular people.” We come to find out that at least part of the problem in the first film (other causes are revealed in sequels because of course there are other causes) is that his company only moved the headstones and left all the bodies in the ground. 

Regular-ass cemetery, not desecrated natives. 

Can you think of any others? Leave them in the comments below! Be sure to follow for more regular content. 

Note: All images and media in this article, unless noted otherwise, belong to their respective owners and are employed here legally under Section 107 of the Copyright Act. Fair Use allows for the use of copyrighted media for the purposes of criticism. Please support the features and their creators that I reference in my reviews by renting or buying.

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