The Top Five Heather O’Rourke (1975–1988) Tribute Videos

by Tom Blunt

Hey, want to look down a near-bottomless well on the Internet? Start browsing YouTube videos memorializing Heather O’Rourke, the child actress who played Carol Ann in all the Poltergeist movies, and who tragically died of “cardiac arrest caused by septic shock” just after her thirteenth birthday. Apparently there’s an entire subset of YouTube subscribers fixated on assembling tributes to expired child stars — and there are a lot of them for O’Rourke, from surprisingly moving instrumental montages and the inevitable ones set to Enya and Amy Grant, to less likely pairings such as Beyoncé or N Sync. Despite citing the dates of O’Rourke’s birth and death, many of the tributes are addressed simply to “Carol Ann,” further blurring the line between the actress and her haunted alter ego.

I enjoy these strange and possibly creepy videos, although I’m not entirely sure why — there’s something weirdly special about memorializing a child’s untimely death with clips of her sliding across the floor in a football helmet or staring round-eyed into strobing TV static. As camp artifacts they’re unbeatable, but occasionally music and image collide just right and I get a little choked up, despite myself. These are my five favorite.

This song is a popular choice among O’Rourke memorialists, so originality points have been docked. While I’m sure the posters’ hearts is in the right place, the lyrics to “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” take on an unfortunately literal slant when juxtaposed with clips featuring a little girl is being stalked by the souls of the restless dead… anyhow, I’m still into it.

Set to “Crockett’s Theme” from Miami Vice — which was a #1 hit in the Netherlands for four weeks during 1987, and to this day is still played in the Staples Center during Lakers games.

Priceless for the moment at 0:30 where Bryan Adams sings “nothing can take you away from me” right as little Carol Ann’s grip on the headboard weakens and she is sucked into the astral void of her closet.

Treasures abound, from the opening image of O’Rourke posing with Corey Feldman (immediately followed by the announcement “THERE BACK……………”) to the special-effects-laden burst of emotion at 1:35.

Set to “Thank You” as performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks. Civilization has officially passed its expiration date, everything will be curdled from now on. See you all in heaven.

Tom Blunt’s work frequently requires him to make contact with the other side. In February he is hosting a tribute to the Women of Twin Peaks in NYC.