This Fan Theory Makes the Original Beetlejuice Even Darker


  • Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice is a classic with a dark twist, where ghosts may be out to exorcize the living residents.
  • Jane Butterfield, a shady real estate agent, could have had a sinister hand in the Maitlands’ untimely demise.
  • The fan theory suggests that there might be more to the Maitlands’ death than just a tragic accident in Beetlejuice.

Tim Burton’s beloved 1988 film Beetlejuice is a horror comedy cult classic, and for good reason. Inspired by writers Michael McDowell and Laurence Senelick’s annoying neighbors, the movie is a who’s who of casts, from Winona Ryder to Catherine O’Hara, Geena Davis, and Alec Baldwin. It’s Michael Keaton, however, who steals the show as the sleazy trickster who everyone seems to go to for help.

The film follows a young girl named Lydia who discovers some ghostly residents in her new house in the form of newlyweds Adam and Barbara, who are hesitant at first to engage with the family. This modern classic flips the script on ghost stories, and begs the question: What if it was the ghosts that exorcized the homeowners?

A fan theory has been swirling around the internet that suggests there’s more human interference in the story than might have been previously imagined. In a film filled with moral screwballs, was Adam and Barbara’s early demise truly an accident? Or was there something more afoul at play?


Release Date
March 30, 1988

Tim Burton


Michael McDowell , Larry Wilson , Warren Skaaren

Was the Death of the Maitlands Really an Accident?

The Maitland's Go For a Drive in Beetlejuice
Warner Bros.

The film begins and ends with Adam (Baldwin) and Barbara (Davis) Maitland, a sweet young couple in love. Both are eager to start a family to fill their big house, though they haven’t gotten around to that quite yet. After a visit from a handy-dandy real estate agent and relative (more on that in a minute), the pair head into town for some needed supplies. It is their vacation, after all! Their fate is sealed on the way back, however, when Barbara swerves through a covered bridge to avoid hitting a stray dog. The crash proves to be fatal, making way for the next family, the Deetz’s, to move into their old house.

This opening is a mere footnote in the context of the story as a whole, one that serves to shove the Maitlands away from the land of the living. Or… is it? Reddit user StrawberryUwUGirl first posed this question and provided users with their own spine-tingling possibility. There’s a chance that the Maitlands’ death was no accident, but part of a scheme perpetuated by an over-eager real estate agent. That person’s name? Jane Butterfield.

Who is Jane Butterfield?

Barbara and Jane in Beetlejuice
Warner Bros. 

Jane Butterfield may only take up mere minutes of screen time in the final version of the film, but they sure are some low-key memorable ones. Before their infamous trip into town, the Maitlands are visited not once, but twice within the span of five minutes at their home by this overly cheery specter. Judging by the Maitlands’ reaction, this isn’t the first time they’ve been visited by Butterfield, let alone at the unholy hour of 6:45 in the morning.

A cousin of Barbara’s who just so happens to be into real estate, it turns out Butterfield is already in the process of showing off the house to potential buyers, without the Maitlands’ consent. She’s even got a buyer all lined up — a rich real estate developer all the way from New York City. This is, presumably, in reference to the Deetzs. Being told no for the umpteenth time, she leaves with a parting shot, ending their conversation with a glowering jab at the couple’s lack of children to fill the house with.


14 Famous Actors Who Almost Played Beetlejuice

Michael Keaton will always be the iconic face behind Beetlejuice, but here are some other actors who almost took on the memorable role.

In the script for the original film, Jane is described as, “Tall, gawky, and aggressive… She’s divorced three husbands and buried another for good measure. She’s ruthless but is weirdly, seamlessly pleasant”. She comes bearing legal documents in tow, trying and failing to get both husband and wife to sign over the deed and land her a killer sale. This is all in keeping with a pathology that’s equal parts sinister and sweet.

Incredibly enough, a deleted scene from the film adds even more credence to this theory. The film’s ending was changed several times, both before and over the course of production, including one instance in which Lydia would also turn up deceased. In the ending we know, Lydia is seen coming home from school to a happy song and dance with the Maitlands. In a scene that was cut to just before this moment, however, Lydia is stopped by, who else, but the infamous Butterfield. Eager to resell the house for even more money, they’re interrupted by a phone call from the Deetzs. Lydia’s flighty parents insist the realtor never sell or change anything about the house, much to her chagrin.


10 Movies to Watch if You Love Beetlejuice

With a Beetlejuice sequel in the works, here are 10 other movies like the Tim Burton classic to watch in the meantime.

Could Jane Have Murdered the Maitlands?

The Dog in Beetlejuice
Warner Bros. 

For sure, Butterfield has both one heck of a motive and the drive to see a plan like this through. The sale of the Maitland house must have netted Butterfield a nifty profit, considering she was so eager to resell it (again). Her eagerness to show off the house without permission, and to put it right back on the market as soon as possible is certainly suspicious. But repeated, albeit obnoxious, home sale inquiries are one thing. Murder is another.

A review of the opening crash in the film appears straightforward enough at first. A dog appears out of nowhere, causing Barbara to swerve. Busting through the quaint covered bridge, the car appeared to just out and tetter before falling headfirst into the water below. While it is doubtful that Butterfield trained a dog to appear at just the right time, as the theory originally speculated, it was certainly within her mortal wheelhouse to make the bridge unsafe for travel. No doubt she had access to contractors if not tools of the trade for herself on hand.

Could Butterfield be the mastermind behind this? It is certainly possible. People have killed for far less. With the 2024 reboot on the horizon, it’s possible this fan-favorite theory might be brought front and center. Stream Beetlejuice on Prime Video.

Speaking of… Check out the trailer for the new film!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *