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Now, hold on to yourselves. There's one more thing: a terrible presence is in there with her. So much rage, so much betrayal - I've never sensed anything like it. I don't know what hovers over this house, but it was strong enough to punch a hole into this world and take your daughter away from you. It keeps Carol Anne very close to it, and away from the spectral light. It lies to her - it says things only a child can understand. It has been using her to restrain the others. To her, it simply is another child. To us, it is the Beast.
~ Tangina Barrons about the Beast (Reverend Henry Kane).
Let me in!
~ Reverend Henry Kane
Reverend Henry Kane, also known as "The Beast", is the main antagonist of the Poltergeist film series. In life, this angry ghost he was a leader and priest of a Satanic, 19th century Utopian cult who held an apocalyptic view on the world, sealing himself and his followers inside a cave system in area to die: this location would eventually be built over to make the home the Freeling family would reside in within Cuesta Verde in California and his dark soul wishes to abduct the youngest child of the Freeling family named Carol Anne, to use her innocence and her untainted life essence to capture souls trying to enter the afterlife. This origin story contradicts the original movie's plot but seems to be the official story of the sequels.
He was portrayed by the late Julian Beck in the second film, and the late Nathan Davis in the final sequel.
Life and Death
Kane was a reverend, possibly from the American South, who started a utopian cult in the early 19th century. However, Kane simply wanted to harvest the energy of his followers' spirits in the afterlife to gain supernatural power; despite this, Kane is shown throughout the films to be a zealot, as he does believe in certain religious values. He led his "flock" into an underground cavern under the premise that the world was about to end, but in truth, Kane simply wanted to kill his disciples and himself and then harvest their souls in death. It is implied in Poltergeist II: The Other Side that Kane became enemies with an immortal Red Indian shaman called the "Medicine Man" who is also known as Taylor. The novelization for Poltergeist II: The Other Side states that Taylor is the reincarnation of an Indian named Ben Lagou; Lagou was a member of Kane's cult, but when he witnessed Kane's growing evil, he turned against him. Ben Lagou was briefly possessed when he drank tequila, just as Steve Freeling later would be. Ben was able to free himself from the possession, while Kane told his followers that had witnessed this event that Ben Lagou was evil. Kane's cult headed for the cavern and sealed themselves in. Ben tried to find Kane to stop him, but could not find him. He used his shaman abilities to reincarnate himself through lifetime after lifetime until he was reborn as Taylor, who helped the Freeling family defeat Kane.
After Kane died, his ghost absorbed the energy from the souls of his followers and this fused with the power-hungry evil in his heart, transforming Kane into a monstrous apparition that the psychic Tangina Barrons would go on to call "The Beast". Kane/The Beast was able to gain his powers from his followers. However, he desired the energy of more souls which he could not obtain because they kept entering the Light, but when a house was built over his cavern in the 1980s and the Freelings moved in, Kane immediately sensed the power of the Freelings' daughter Carol Anne's innocence and because of her hidden clairvoyant abilities, and realized that it shone like the Light. As the Beast, Kane persuaded other benign spirits to join with him and his cult to abduct Carol Anne through the screen of a TV set (showing only static) and bring her to their realm, dubbed the "Other Side" where he could use her to attract more souls. Luckily, Carol Anne was rescued by her mother, Diane and brought back to the real world whilst Tangina was able to persuade most of Kane's minions to enter the Light. A vengeful Kane/The Beast used his remaining strength to make the corpses of his pawns rise from their graves and eventually consumed the entire Freeling house, but unfortunately for Kane, the Freelings escaped.
4 years later, Kane tracked Carol Anne to a new house where her grandmother, Grandma Jess's clairvoyance was able to forbid him from entering the house without permission before she passed away in her sleep. This is the moment that Kane takes his human form and attempts to gain the Freeling household's confidence but Carol Anne's father, Steven, manages to see through Kane's lies and Diane even has visions of Kane's life. This is known as the famous "Let Me In" sequence. After Grandma Jess dies, Kane attacks the Freelings but is stopped by the Medicine Man, now calling himself "Taylor". Taylor gives Steve the Smoke Spirit, which has the power to resist Kane's attacks. Kane also manages to possess Steve and in a disturbing scene, it is shown that Kane is also a rapist, as he tries to use Steve's body to rape Diane, this echoes a scene from Poltergeist, where the Beast telepathically drags Diane above her bed and lifts up her top to reveal her undergarments. Luckily, Diane's love for Steve forces Kane out of his body. At the end of the film, the Freelings travel to the "Other Side" and Kane is defeated by Steve using a magical spear that Taylor gave him. Kane and his cultists became lost in limbo.
In Poltergeist III, Kane manages to trace Carol Anne to her new home at the John Hancock Center and takes possession of the entire building, using the mirrors as a gateway to their world and getting his minions to take the form of reflections. Once again, Tangina comes to Carol Anne's aid but is captured by Kane. The now defenseless Carol Anne is almost taken by Kane but is stopped thanks to Tangina's sacrifice. Kane is offered redemption, which he seemingly takes and moves on into the Light. However, at the end of the film, Kane reveals his "redemption" to have been fake, as he cracks the sky with a bolt of lightning at the city of Chicago and laughs evilly, planning on wrecking more havoc in the world.
Powers and Abilities
In death, Kane possesses relatively canonical poltergeist powers such as possession, invisibility, transparency and telepathy. But he also contains a vast amount of power due to him harvesting the souls of his followers, enabling him to shapeshift and virtually bend all matter to his will. Kane is able to transform into demonic monsters. He also can create minions such as in the third film, where he transforms the protagonists' reflections into flesh and blood servants. Kane does however have various weaknesses that can be used against him.
He cannot enter the property of the living without access to an electric item or permission from the owner.
Clairvoyant energy acts as a barrier to his power.
Displays of good emotions, love, kindness, and belief weaken him, yet bad emotions such as rage, frustration and despair strengthen his evil.
Kane is the classic villain; he possesses characteristics such as psychopathy, sadism, and an insatiable desire for power.
Publicity-Still of Julian Beck as Reverend Henry Kane.
Henry Kane in his past life as the leader of forgotten Utopian cult in the early 1800s.
A historical photograph of Reverend Kane from the 19th century.
Reverend Kane's mortal remains.
Reverend Kane's sneering grin.
Reverend Kane tries to manipulate Steven, but his daughter Carol Anne knows exactly who he is - and what he is.
"Let me in!" - Kane tries to get into the Freeling's house.
Henry Kane, true to his alias "The Beast", continues to plague Carol Ann and her family.
To torment his enemies, Kane sends them this illusion of a twisted pillar of souls with Carol Anne's face.
Publicity-Still of Nathan Davis as Reverend Henry Kane.
Publicity-Still of Nathan Davis & Heather O'Rourke as Reverend Henry Kane and Carol Anne.
Only Kane's current incarnation is shown to the audience, Tangina Barrons simply reveals that he is The Beast. His attempts to abduct Carol Anne fail and he wreaks vengeance by exhuming the corpses of his followers and consuming the entire house.
American author and screenwriter Joseph Maddrey describes Kane as "a Jonestown-type father figure". Gregory Anderson refers to the character as "the most infamous villain in horror history...brilliantly portrayed by Julian Beck.".
Kane was depicted on the cover of Among the Living by Anthrax. The band stated in interviews that he was one of the things that scared them the most.
Kane had a cameo in the South Park episode "Imaginationland".