While eating lunch with her mother in the MGM commissary, five-year-old Heather O'Rourke was spotted by filmmaker Steven Spielberg. Within months, little Heather was cast in the Spielberg-produced scare piece Poltergeist, playing the little girl who becomes the conduit for the film's TV-dwelling spectres. Before she was seven, Heather had entered the collective pop-culture consciousness of America with her Poltergeist catchphrases "They're here!" and "They're baa-aack!" In the fall of 1982, Heather joined the cast of TV's Happy Days as regular Linda Purl's daughter; she went on to appear in several guest-star spots, as well as the two Poltergeist sequels. On the first day of February of 1988, Heather O'Rourke was rushed to the Children's Hospital of San Diego, complaining of chest pains (later revealed to be the result of septic shock); while undergoing surgery, the 12-year-old actress died of heart failure.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Discovered at age 5 by Steven Spielberg while she was eating lunch with her mother and agent at the MGM commissary; she initially rebuffed Spielberg's introduction by telling him she didn't talk to strangers.
- Won the role of Carol Anne in Poltergeist (1982) after a second audition where she demonstrated how well she could shriek.
- Appeared in commercials for Rainbow Brite and McDonald's.
- Was elected 5th grade class president at Big Bear Elementary School.
- Died at Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego of heart failure and septic shock during emergency surgery to treat an undiagnosed bowel obstruction.
- Her mother sued Kaiser Permanente Hospital for medical misdiagnosis and was awarded an undisclosed sum after arbitration.
- Buried in the same cemetery as her Poltergeist co-star Dominique Dunn.