Zelda Rubinstein was not an actress whose career was enmeshed in the horror genre, and yet the entire horror community is currently mourning her passing with deep sadness. This is because Ms. Rubinstein brought to life one of the most beloved and identifiable supporting characters in horror movie history--the tiny medium Tangina Barrons from Poltergeist, whose trademark line "Don't go into the light" is right up there with "We all go a little mad sometimes," "They're coming to get you, Barbara," and "Here's Johnny!"
She reprised the role in both of the later Poltergeist sequels--the only character to do so besides little Carol Anne herself, portrayed by the late Heather O'Rourke. Zelda will forever live in our memories, a true horror movie icon just by virtue of this one unforgettable part--the gentle, diminutive psychic who aided the Freeling family in taking their little girl back from the clutches of the Beast.
She got her start in movies playing in the obscure 1981 comedy Under the Rainbow, in which she portrayed one of the Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz. She was a regular on the critically acclaimed 1990s TV series Picket Fences with Tom Skerritt, and ironically her last film appearance would be in a horror film, as well--2006's Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. Fun fact: She returned to the role of Tangina for a cameo in the 1995 Casper movie (as did Dan Akroyd as ghostbuster Ray Stantz), but her scene was unfortunately left on the cutting room floor.
Ms. Rubinstein suffered a heart attack late last year, and had been in grave condition ever since. Her family took her off life support some weeks ago, and yesterday she finally succumbed at the age of 76.