Born in San Diego, California on December 27th, 1975, Heather O’Rourke grew up in the nearby town of Santee, where from an early age, she displayed a natural talent for performing.  As a 3-year-old, Heather had already won a local “Little Miss” pageant, and was singing and dancing on stage both alone and with her 7-year-old sister Tammy, who was already an accomplished tap dancer and budding young performer herself.  


        By the time she was 4, the photogenic Heather was an ad model for Mattel Toys, and began appearing on television in "McDonald's" restaurant commercials. By age five, barely after starting kindergarten, she made her first television acting appearance in a 1981 episode of ABC’s “Fantasy Island”,


            Her official "discovery" however, took place during the previous summer of 1980, when Heather's sister Tammy had gotten a part as a dancer in the MGM movie "Pennies From Heaven". During the daily breaks between rehearsals and filming, the two O'Rourke sisters and their mother would usually go to the legendary MGM Studios Commissary for lunch where, on one of their outings, Heather was noticed by future "superdirector" Steven Spielberg.

             Spielberg, on a chance visit to MGM, had decided to go to the commissary for lunch that day and when he saw the tiny, angelic, blonde-haired Heather sitting alone at a nearby table, he just had to find out who she was. Heather's first words to her future director were said to have been: "I'm not allowed to talk to strangers". An interview and a “scream test” later, and Spielberg knew that he had found his leading (little) lady for one of his next films and so with his direction, and Heather’s now famous words: “They’re heeeeere”, they made horror movie history. The film was of course, “Poltergeist".


            After “Poltergeist”, Heather then went on to work regularly in television and even though she remained in her own words "a normal kid", who went to school, performed chores at home, loved visiting family and friends, and shopping, she kept busy throughout her career appearing in many popular prime time and syndicated shows of the 1980's including “Happy Days”, “CHiPs”, and “Webster.”,  She also appeared in several commercials, TV movies and specials, a Jerry Lewis MDA telethon, and filmed two TV pilot episodes and had other non-acting appearances on various AM and PM talk shows.  

            The two “Poltergeist” sequels were also a major part of Heather’s "filmography" and it was shortly before pre-production of “Poltergeist III” in 1987 that she began to show the first signs of the illnesses that would contribute to her untimely death at age 12 less than a year later.  

            On the morning of Feb. 1st, 1988, while preparing for school that day, Heather's mother noticed that she did not look well and became concerned that Heather had not yet recovered from the apparent flu that she had over the past weekend.  When Heather’s symptoms suddenly became worse and she collapsed, an ambulance was summoned.  On the way to a local hospital, Heather went into shock and lost consciousness, followed by cardiac arrest. 

      She was resuscitated and airlifted to Children’s Hospital and Health Center in San Diego where an exploratory operation revealed that Heather had developed an intestinal obstruction that had eventually caused part of her small intestine to burst, allowing an infection to form and spread. Emergency surgery was immediately performed to correct the problem, and Heather survived the procedure, but she never regained consciousness, and her body could not seem to recover from the overwhelming infection and septic shock that had followed. As complications set in, her condition worsened and later that afternoon, she died peacefully at 2:43 p.m.

       On February 5th 1988, Heather was taken to a small cemetery in the heart of the historic Westwood Village district of Los Angeles where, after a short memorial service, she was laid to rest among other well-loved and famous celebrities.  The plaque that marks her resting place reads: Heather O'Rourke - Beloved Daughter - Sister - "Carol Anne" - Poltergeist I, II, III.


To read more comprehensive biographies of Heather O'Rourke select any of these links:

Celia's short biography of Heather

Celia's biography of Heather

Heather O'Rourke: A Short Biography