John Lennon’s untimely murder at the hands of Mark Chapman rocked the world in 1980. The singer’s message of peace and love had been so intrinsic to his identity that this killing in front of his own home felt like an evil attack on the world’s constitution for goodness. While the likelihood of Lennon’s murder being nothing more than a piece of a psychopath’s fame-chasing puzzle is high, there are some dark corners of the web that suggest his murder was connected to something much larger. Those corners point to one of Hollywood’s biggest hits, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, as the reason for Lennon’s death.
Hollywood, and America in general, is often at fault for the perpetuation of so-called ‘curses’. Not only does it add mystique and fervour to the productions they invariably surround but it allows the conversation about the project to carry on for years and years. In this case, over five decades have passed and yet the tale of the Rosemary’s Baby curse continues to swirl around and be fetishised by those who come across it. While the idea of a ‘curse’ being anything other than balderdash is a difficult one to swallow, there is a lot of misery attached to the film.
In the Roman Polanski-directed horror film of 1968, Rosemary’s Baby, the lead character is an actor who, in exchange for the sweet taste of fame, is willing to give up his wife’s womb to Satan—an awful proposition but one we imagine many current aspiring actors would consider. It was a hit across America and made Roman Polanski a household name and a very wealthy man as well as seeing his star rise across Hollywood. However, while success ran parallel to the film’s screenings, some believed that the Satanic overtones of the picture shrowded all who worked on it in an unbreakable curse.
Thanks to Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 feature film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the curse, the film and Polanski are back in the limelight. One of the film’s weaving storylines is the shocking murder of Sharon Tate, an up and coming actor in her own right, and the wife of Rosemary’s Baby director Polanski. In 1968, shortly after the film’s release, Tate was cruelly murdered while eight months pregnant at the hands of the Manson Family. It has been suggested that it was this moment that truly began the idea of a curse on the film. While this was clearly the vilest moment of any possible curse, sadly, this was not the end of the bad times.
The atrocities on that fateful evening also saw fans begin to paw through the events of the film’s construction too. They soon realised that more and more potential curse plot points were developing. One person to suffer at the hands of the potential voodoo was the film’s composer who died weeks after completing his work for the film. Mia Farrow, the film’s undoubted star, was served divorce papers while working on set. Producer William Castle suffered from debilitating kidney failure shortly after the movie’s release, even hallucinating about the film as he went in for surgery allegedly shouting: “Rosemary, for God’s sake drop that knife!”. Later, he admitted that he was “very frightened of Rosemary’s Baby.” Sadly, these instances continue.
Another producer on the film, Robert Evans, was also in for his share of bad luck. He was arrested for cocaine possession, falsely tied to a murder, and suffered multiple strokes in his lifetime. The film’s screenwriter, Ira Levin, despite writing a best-selling novel, also suffered at the hands of the alleged curse with his wife leaving him shortly after the film’s release as well as receiving countless threats from the Catholic Church about his involvement in the project among others. Not to mention Polanski’s fall from directorial auteur to deplorable and horrendous abuser following the abhorrent assault of a 13-year-old girl in 1977, after which he fled the country, as yet to return to face trial. The final connection comes with John Lennon being brutally murdered outside the hotel in which Rosemary’s Baby was filmed.
As well as being friends with Polanski and the film’s star Mia Farrow, John and Yoko had lived for many years in the Dakota Hotel, the location where Rosemary’s Baby was created. Called ‘The Brampton’ in the 1968 film, the gothic architecture of the 19th-century building lent itself to the film’s foreboding, ominous Satanic style, providing the perfect backdrop to Polanski’s horror. It would also be the setting of John Lennon’s final moments.
Lennon was gunned down outside the Dakota Hotel on 8th December in 1980 by alleged “fan” Mark David Chapman. It must be stated that Chapman in no way cites Roman Polanski’s film as inspiration, instead, being influenced by Salinger’s novel Catcher in the Rye and the loneliness of protagonist Holden Caulfield. However, this hasn’t stopped horror fans and film fanatics from linking the Rosemary’s Baby curse to Lennon’s tragic death.
Of course, when dissecting anything related to the occult or Satanism in any way, it is hard to not guffaw around in scientifically-backed silliness at the very notion of something demonic or otherworldly at play. It’s difficult not to see the audience colouring in between the black and white facts to make themselves a prettier, or at least more interesting, picture.
The likelihood is that the Rosemary’s Baby curse is a simple matter of pure coincidence mixed with a little Hollywood glamour. Yes, it’s easy to see how the theory came about, even removing the murders of Lennon and Sharon Tate, which certainly added some glitz to the theory, and you have a set of seriously unlucky circumstances—but that’s all they are; unlucky. The truth is, the only real curse put on the film has come from the deplorable behaviour of its director.
John Lennon was sadly shot down in the prime of his life. Having just released a comeback album in Double Fantasy and with many of his own demons put to bed, Lennon was about to relaunch himself into music. Tragically, we will never have the opportunity to know how that might have played out but there’s only one person to blame and it certainly isn’t the Devil himself or a Hollywood hit movie.