Heather Michele O’Rourke was an American child actress born on December 27, 1975. In 1982, she gained notoriety for her role as Carol Anne Freeling in the haunting horror film “Poltergeist,” for which she got nominated for a Young Artist Award in the category of ‘Best Young Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.’ Her television appearances included Heather Pfister in the A.B.C. sitcom “Happy Days,” Melanie in “Webster,” Jillian Marsh in the drama series “Finder of Lost Loves,” and Heather in “The New Leave It to Beaver.”
Heather Michele O’Rourke was born in San Diego, California, on December 27, 1975, to Kathleen and Michael O’Rourke. Her father was a carpenter, and her mother was a seamstress. Tammy O’Rourke, her older sister, is also an actress. Her parents split in 1981, and O’Rourke’s mother married part-time truck driver Jim Peele in 1984 while living in a trailer park in Anaheim, California. Her accomplishment enabled the family to buy a house in Big Bear Lake, California.
O’Rourke was exposed to American cinematic pop culture before she was in the first grade. She was waiting for her mother alone in the M.G.M. Commissary when a stranger approached her and asked her name. The guy identified himself as Steven Spielberg when her mother returned. O’Rouke became an overnight celebrity after landing a movie position and was effortlessly recognized at her favorite theme park, Disneyland, and around California. O’Rourke became a familiar face on television in the years that followed, such as “Happy Days” (1982 to 1983), “Webster” (1983 to 1984), and “The New Leave It to Beaver” (1986 to 1987). In those three shows, she had recurring roles. “Poltergeist II: The Other Side,” the widely awaited sequel to her first picture, “Poltergeist” (1982), was released in theaters in 1986, and it was her captivating performance in this film that secured her place in Hollywood history.
O’Rourke developed flu-like symptoms in January 1987, with swelling in her legs and feet. She got rushed to Kaiser Hospital, where doctors confirmed she had the flu. Still, when her symptoms persisted, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a chronic bowel inflammation. Throughout the filming of her next project, “Poltergeist III” (1988), she was on medicine, and her cheeks were puffy in several shots. O’Rourke remained healthy until Super Bowl Sunday, January 31, 1988. Her mother noticed her fingers were blue and her hands cold the following morning. Her mother had just finished calling the doctor and was about to put her clothes on when O’Rourke passed out on the kitchen floor. O’Rourke insisted she was fine when the paramedics arrived. O’Rourke experienced cardiac arrest in the ambulance and died on the operating table at 2:43 p.m., at age 12.
O’Rourke makes her debut in season four, episode 11 of “Fantasy Island.”
In “Poltergeist,” O’Rourke plays Carol Anne Freeling, a young suburban girl who becomes a conduit and target for demonic beings.
O’Rourke appears in “CHiPs,” “Webster,” and gets a recurring role on “Happy Days” as Pfister.
O’Rourke gets nominated for ‘Best Young Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture’ for her role in “Poltergeist II: The Other Side.”
O’Rourke dies due to congenital stenosis of the intestine complicated by septic shock at the age of 12.
Why We Love Heather O'Rourke
She didn't let her illness affect her
O’Rourke developed flu-like symptoms while filming “Poltergeist III” (1988). Despite her illness, she never complained on set and did not appear sick to her coworkers.
She got nominated for numerous awards
In 1985, O'Rourke was awarded a Young Artist Award for her role in the television series "Webster." She got nominated for six Young Artist Awards during her career. The nomination ranges from ‘Best Young Actress in a Comedy Series,’ ‘Best Young Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture,’ ‘Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Television Series,’ ‘Best Young Actress in a Television Special or Mini-Series,’ and ‘Best Young Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.’
She was multi-talented
O’Rourke was skilled in drawing, calligraphy, singing, and dancing. She was the student-body president in her elementary school as well.
5 Surprising Facts
A star since a young age
O’Rourke began acting in commercials at three, most notably for Mattel and McDonald's, before landing the role in "Poltergeist" (1982).
Her famous line
PopSugar's list of 100 Greatest Movie Quotes for 2021 includes O'Rourke's delivery of "They're here!" in “Poltergeist.”
She loved shopping
O’Rourke’s mother claims that shopping with her daughter was a tremendous effort because the child had to match everything, from her shoes to her jewelry.
She was born with natural talent
O’Rourke had never taken any acting classes.
She was an avid reader
O'Rourke's seventh-grade English teacher honors her love of reading by having all her pupils participate in Heather O'Rourke Love of Reading Week.
Heather O'Rourke FAQs
Where is Heather O'Rourke buried?
O’Rourke was buried at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park & Mortuary, located in the Westwood Village area of Los Angeles.
Did Heather finish “Poltergeist III?”
Yes, she finished the film but never saw the final product.
What is Crohn's disease, and what does it do to you?
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (I.B.D.). It causes swelling of the tissues in your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition.
Heather O'Rourke’s birthday dates