I was doing some research on an unrelated topic, and the movie Poltergeist (1982 version) appeared to be the first occurrence of a residence being haunted because it was built over a cemetery.

I am aware of a few other films post dating it, and some jokes about "Well, it's not built on an Indian burial ground", but is Poltergeist the first instance of a location being haunted because it is built over a previously unknown burial site?

Please note: I am specifically asking about houses or other residences being built over a hidden/unknown graveyard. Not something like Phantasm or House by the Cemetery where the building is in a known cemetery.

Edit. For clarification, I would include any sort of living quarters, such as a hotel or similar. A place intended to be for human habitation, so not a warehouse that has a bunk bed in the back.

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    "is Poltergeist the first instance" Er, no, another little film with that concept came out 2 years prior. ;) But wasn't it a literary trope even before that? – Walt Oct 5 '17 at 21:04
  • @Walt Literary trope, yes. It was used in amityville horror (1977) for sure as a literary, I don't think the movie mentioned it. (Or at least I don't remember it in the movie). – JohnP Oct 5 '17 at 21:09
  • Wait, so does The Shining not count because they knew they built it on a burial ground? – Walt Oct 5 '17 at 21:11
  • I would say yes, simply because it's kind of a "reap what you sow" sort of deal. Poltergeist was some happy family with no idea. Kind of like where you get what you deserve when you live in a former mortuary. – JohnP Oct 5 '17 at 21:13
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    The Amityville movie did mention it, though, making it an earlier example (1979). – Walt Oct 5 '17 at 21:15

The origin of this trope apparently began with The Amityville Horror novel. However, there seems to be no mention of an Indian burial site in the movie.

The Shining from 1980 seems to be the first film to mention a site built on an Indian burial ground.

The site is supposed to be located on an Indian burial ground, and I believe they actually had to repel a few Indian attacks as they were building it.

The House by the cemetery from 1981 is a lesser known horror film that was made a year prior to Poltergeist. This film depicts a house that sits on a gravesite. There's actually a tomb in the basement.

  • Doesn't need to be an Indian burial ground, any will do. I added the line as it is its own trope, basically. – JohnP Dec 19 '17 at 17:15
  • @JohnP Well, I was trying to add both an indian burial ground and just an actual gravesite/cemetery. I had never heard of The House by the Cemetery before! It actually sounds really interesting :) – steelersquirrel Dec 19 '17 at 18:07

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