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Heather O'Rourke; 12-Year-Old Starred In 'Poltergeist' Films

Heather O'Rourke, familiar to moviegoers as the child swept into another world by ghosts in "Poltergeist" and its sequel, "Poltergeist II," died at Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego Monday. She was 12 years old.

She died as a result of an acute bowel obstruction, complicated by septic shock, said a spokesman for the hospital, Vincent Bond. He said Miss O'Rourke had undergone surgery for the obstruction, which was congenital, after an emergency flight to the hospital from another hospital in the area.

Miss O'Rourke had finished shooting the forthcoming "Poltergeist III" last June. A statement by M-G-M, the studio that produced all three films, said her death was unexpected, and the cause "unknown at this time."

Steven Spielberg, who co-wrote and co-produced "Poltergeist," discovered Miss O'Rourke by chance when she was visiting the M-G-M studios. After the 1982 film, she appeared in television shows such as "Webster" and "Still the Beaver" and had a recurring role on "Happy Days" as the daughter of Henry Winkler's girlfriend. She played a blind girl on a recent episode of "Our House."

But she was most memorable in her debut film, in which she played a key role as the youngest child of a suburban family. With wide eyes, long blonde hair and soft voice, she was so striking that the sequel played off her presence. Her slight voice, eerily singing "They're baaack!" to announce the ghosts' return, became the tag line in the film's advertising.

She is survived by her parents, Katherine and Jim, of San Diego.

1988 © New York Times


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