The terrifying true stories that your favorite horror movies are based on
"The Amityville Horror." Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Horror films have spawned some of the most famous characters in pop culture, such as Ghostface and Pennywise.
But not all scary films are entirely fictional - some of the scariest films are actually based on real life.
For example, "The Conjuring" was based on the real Perron family.
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Unfortunately, while horror movies often seem too terrifying to be real, it isn't always the case. Movies like "The Conjuring," "Poltergeist," and even "Nightmare on Elm Street" all have a truth basis.
And these are not the only ones.
Read on to learn more about 21 gruesome real life stories that are based on some of the best scary movies of all time.
"The Conjuring" is about the Perron family and the traumatic experiences they had in their new home on Rhode Island.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren. Warner bros.
The Perrons (husband Roger, wife Carolyn and their five daughters) moved to the so-called Old Arnold Estate in 1970. Almost immediately, the family reported paranormal activity such as floating or moving furniture, opening and closing doors, disembodied noises, and even being pushed, pulled, and injured by invisible ghosts.
When they called paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, they found that the property had been haunted by various ghosts, but that a particularly malicious ghost named Bathsheba was chasing them. Bathsheba, who lived on the property in the 19th century, was a suspected Satanist and was charged with the violent murder of her first child.
"The Conjuring 2" is about a girl who is possessed by a demon in London.
Vera Farmiga repeated her role as Lorraine Warren for the sequel. New Line Cinema
The Hodgson family reported experiencing unusual phenomena (such as furniture flying in the air and objects hurling at witnesses) at their London home in August 1977.
Best known, however, is that Janet, one of three Hodgson children, claimed she was possessed by a man named Bill Wilkins - it was later confirmed that a man by that name actually lived in the house and died there of a cerebral hemorrhage.
While Janet admitted that around "two percent" of the haunted was invented, she claims that the Enfield poltergeist was real. You can hear audio from her while she was supposedly obsessed with making up her mind.
"Annabelle", "Annabelle: Creation" and "Annabelle Comes Home" tell the story of Annabelle, an evil doll that terrorizes its owner.
The theatrical version of Annabelle. New Line Cinema
Annabelle is a doll believed to be permeated by an evil spirit. While the real Raggedy Ann doll (which can be seen at the Warrens' Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut) looks a lot less creepy than its film counterpart, it is said to have terrorized its owner.
The doll's story begins in 1970 when a nurse received it as a birthday present from her mother. She soon noticed that the doll would change position on its own. Then she started finding creepy notes with messages like "help me". And allegedly once she found the doll from which blood was leaking.
Again the Warrens were asked for help. According to them, the doll was not possessed but was manipulated by a ghost. They cleaned the house and took the doll to their museum, where it is kept to this day.
"The Amityville Horror" combines the murders of the DeFeo family with a demonic presence in the house.
The real "Amityville Horror" home on Long Island. Paul Hawthorne / Getty Images
At 3:15 a.m. on November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. stole his father's shotgun and murdered his entire family at their home in Amityville, New York. He claimed the voices in the house made him do it. He was later convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
A year later, the Lutz family moved into the house, claiming they experienced paranormal activity almost immediately.
George - the patriarch of the Lutz family - said he often woke up at 3:15 a.m. (the time of the murders) and heard gunshots. His daughter Missy made an imaginary friend Jodie, who was also the name of a DeFeo daughter. Missy says she didn't know about the murders at the time.
The Lutz family fled their home just 28 days after moving in, sparking one of the biggest debates in paranormal history: Will the Amityville home be haunted?
"The Haunting in Connecticut" is about a family who moved into a former funeral home that turns out to be haunted.
The film was released in 2009. Lionsgate
"The Haunting in Connecticut" is based on the plight of the Snedeker family (changed to Campbell in the film).
The Snedekers moved to a new home to be closer to the University of Connecticut Hospital in the 1980s as their son Phillip was being treated for cancer. The family soon realized that the house they had moved into used to be a funeral home.
According to mom Carmen, Phillip was quick to get withdrawn and angry and saw a ghostly man tell him to fight. She eventually sent him away, although it is unclear whether he went to his family or whether she had signed him (there are reports of both). Either way, after Phillip left, things reportedly got a lot worse for the rest of the family.
They eventually summoned a priest to perform an exorcism (as did the Warrens who reappeared).
"Veronica" is about a Spanish teenager who used an ouija board to contact a dead loved one with disastrous consequences.
The film was released on Netflix. Sony pictures
The film is based on a real Spanish teenager whose death has never been resolved.
In 1992 a student named Estefania Gutierrez held a "makeshift séance" in her high school. A few months later, she died in the hospital - after suffering seizures and claiming to see shadow figures.
The story gets even stranger: A year after Gutierrez's death, her parents called the police about having paranormal activity, similar to the shadow characters her daughter had reported. The police were skeptical until they too heard disembodied noises. The official report called the house "a situation of mystery and rarity".
"The Strangers" is a terrifying look into the mindset of monsters who commit crimes just because they can.
A continuation was planned for March 2018. Rogue Pictures
The poster for "The Strangers" claims that the film was "inspired by real events" although it is more of an amalgam of some terrible real stories.
Director Bryan Bertino said he drew his main inspiration from a childhood experience. “As a kid, I lived in a house on a street in the middle of nowhere. One night when our parents were outside, someone knocked on the front door and my little sister answered. At the door, some people asked about someone who didn't live there. We later found out that these people knocked on doors in the area and broke into houses when no one was home. "
Bertino has also cited the Manson murders and the unsolved murders of the Sharp family known as the Keddie Cabin Murders.
One of the most popular horror films of all time, The Exorcist is about a teenage girl who is possessed by a demon.
"The Exorcist" is based on the story of a 14-year-old boy named Roland Doe who showed strange behavior in 1949. His family reported that furniture moved on its own, scratched all over body, and voices were loud and disembodied.
After moving abroad and no change in Doe's strange behavior, his family enlisted the help of the Catholic Church. One of the priests involved in the Doe case, Father Raymond Bishop, kept a diary. One of his entries reads: "At midnight the Fathers planned to give (Roland) Holy Communion, but Satan would have no part of it. Even while the establishment of the Blessed Sacrament was being declared, his body was badly scratched and branded. That Word 'HELLO' was printed on his chest and thigh. "
After several attempts, the "demon" was finally exorcised and Doe returned to normal. He never spoke publicly about the incident.
"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is also about a girl who is possessed by a demon.
"The Exorcism of Emily Rose." Sony Pictures Release
The story of Anneliese Michel - renamed Emily Rose in the film - is tragic. When Michel was 17 years old, she experienced the first symptoms of her alleged possession. She was diagnosed with epilepsy and was given medication to treat the disease.
But the medication didn't help. Michel continued to have seizures and began to claim she had visions and heard voices telling her she was a sinner. She became depressed and turned to religion: at her peak, she knelt (kneeled) 600 times a day and eventually tore her knee ligaments.
When Michel was 23 years old, she had been treated with dozens of different drugs (nothing worked) and had gone through 67 exorcisms in 10 months. She eventually stopped eating and died of starvation in 1976.
Her parents and two of her priests were later found guilty of negligent murder because they were allowed to starve to death.
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" describes a group of followers who choose the wrong family to take a ride - they are ultimately cannibals.
Leather face. Bryanston Distributing
The main villain of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is Leatherface, who is based on the real killer Ed Gein.
Gein, who grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in the early 20th century, was obsessed with his mother: he rarely interacted with anyone other than her, and when she died he spun around.
Known as "the butcher of Plainfield," he is believed to have killed several victims, but what is more worrying is that he robbed the graves of recently buried women.
He used her body parts to create a "woman's suit" that he wore that pretended to be his mother. He also had lamps, belts, and bowls made from human body parts.
"Poltergeist" tells the story of a family who bought a haunted house built on a Native American grave.
The terrible clown doll from "Poltergeist". MGM / UA Entertainment Company
The plot of the 1982 classic "Poltergeist" is based on the Hermann family from Long Island, New York, who claimed to be haunted by a poltergeist who blew objects through their home.
The Hermann family eventually moved away, but claimed the house was haunted.
"When a Stranger Calls" is about a babysitter terrorized by a mysterious caller who is in the house with her.
Camila Belle in "When a Stranger Calls". Screen Gems
The film is based on the actual unsolved murder of 13-year-old Janett Christman in 1950.
Christman babysat 3-year-old Greg Romack when she called the Columbia Police Department and told them to "come quickly" but hung up before the police could follow up on her call. When the Romacks returned home, they discovered Christman's body in a pool of blood. She was raped and strangled with string. The police eventually decided it was an "inside job" - the killer knew the house and its layout well.
"Dead Ringers" explores the mysterious deaths of a pair of creepy, interdependent twin brothers.
Jeremy Irons played both twins. Twentieth Century Fox
The Marcus twins shared a gynecological practice, an apartment in New York City, a house in the Hamptons ... and eventually their deaths.
Apparently, 45-year-olds Stewart and Cyril Marcus were addicted to barbiturates. When their corrosive bodies were found, their mysterious death was classified first as a result of an overdose, then withdrawal (they may have tried to wean themselves off the drugs).
Some say that Cyril outlived his brother by a few days and continued to live in the apartment before eventually dying himself.
The film will soon get a TV restart on Amazon Prime, starring Rachel Weisz.
"Jaws" is the story of a small town on the beach terrorized by a vengeful shark.
They needed a bigger boat. Pine / IMDB
The terrifying story of the most famous great white shark of all time is based on a series of shark attacks on the Jersey coast in 1916. First, 25-year-old Charles Vansant bled to death after being bitten in Beach Haven, New Jersey. Five days later - and 45 miles north - a Spring Lake bellhop also bled to death from a shark bite.
The story only gets worse. The same shark then swam 30 miles north and 10 miles inland, killing both a boy and a man who was trying to save the boy in a creek.
Finally, 30 minutes later, the fifth victim was attacked in the same stream - he survived.
George Burgess, an ichthyologist (scientist focused on the study of fish), called it "the most unique series of shark attacks ever".
"The Girl Next Door" is about a boy who tries to save his neighbor from her twisted adoptive family.
"The girl next door." Modern distributors
The murder of Sylvia Likens is considered to be the "worst crime in Indiana history". Likens was only 16 years old when she was found dead in the basement of her makeshift home.
Her parents of carnival workers left Sylvia and her sister in the care of 37-year-old Gertrude Baniszewski, a mother of seven, and paid Baniszewski weekly.
Three months later, on October 26, 1965, the police found Sylvia's emaciated body, apparently covered with hundreds of wounds. Baniszewski had tortured the girl to death with the help of some of her children and some children from the neighborhood.
Baniszewski was imprisoned for 20 years but was eventually released on parole. The rest of the children involved served between the ages of two and seven.
"The Possession" is the story of a family who is tortured by a demon in a dibbuk box.
Before Jeffrey Dean Morgan killed zombies in "The Walking Dead," he starred in this horror film. Lionsgate
James Haxton posted the real dibbuk box on eBay with a terrifying description of what happened to him after buying it on a property sale. He claimed that he bought the box for his mother's birthday and that she had a stroke almost instantly when she received it.
He also claimed that the last straw that inspired him to get rid of the box was when his sister, brother, and brother's wife all stayed over there and all reported having the exact same nightmare.
You may be wondering what exactly a dibbuk is. According to Live SciFi, it is a "malevolent or malevolent possession who is believed to be the twisted soul of a dead man" who escaped Sheol (Judasism version of Hell).
"The Rite" is based on the life of a real priest, Father Gary Thomas, and his time in the Vatican during his exorcist training.
Anthony Hopkins in "The Rite". Warner bros.
"The Rite" is based on the life of Father Gary Thomas, a priest who is one of 14 Vatican certified exorcists working in the United States. According to Thomas, he has exorcised the demons of five people and receives several requests for exorcisms every day.
Father Thomas completed a three-month training in Rome as a certified exorcist and completed his training in 2005. From his time there, he said, "I have met many people with diabolical attachments ... I had never seen what I see now."
"Wolf Creek" is about three backpackers in the Australian outback who unknowingly take away a sadistic killer.
"Wolf Creek" is an Australian film. Dimension films
The horrific backpacker story of Wolf Creek is based on a series of murders committed by Ivan Milat, also known as The Backpacker Killer, in the Australian Belanglo State Forest in the 1990s.
Milat alleged he was innocent until his death in 2019 but was convicted of the torture and killing of at least seven people, all of whom were backpackers and hitchhikers. Some think he killed more.
"Eaten Alive" is about the mentally disturbed owner of a Texas hotel who feeds his pet crocodile to people.
"Eaten Alive" was directed by the same director as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Film Marketing (MPM)
Eccentric bootlegger Joe Ball owned a Texas bar called Sociable Inn in the early 1900s. He also kept several alligators in an enclosure near the parlor.
Ball, a well-known lady man, had relationships with various waitresses, bartenders and hostesses, three of whom had disappeared. It turned out that Ball had murdered two of them. Many believe he then fed them to his pet alligators, though there was never any evidence - his keeping as pets was enough to cause concern and generate rumors.
When the police came by for questioning in 1938, he shot himself in the heart.
"Open Water" tells the harrowing story of a couple who struggle to stay alive after their boat leaves them in the middle of the sea.
A bit more realistic than the shark from "Jaws". Lions Gate Films
Tom and Eileen Lonergan were diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in 1998 when they were abandoned from their boat after someone mixed up staff numbers. They were never heard from again.
The diving company didn't realize until two days later that their passports and other personal belongings had been found on the boat. Months after her disappearance, Tom's diving slate was found 100 miles north of her original disappearance. He had written: "We have been left ... by M.V. Outer Edge. [...] Help!" Her diving jackets and one of Eileen's fins eventually washed ashore, but there was no evidence of a shark attack or other violent activity.
Some believe they were eaten by sharks, while others claim it was a murder-suicide pact.
Their bodies were never found.
"A Nightmare On Elm Street" is best known for bringing Freddy Krueger, a serial killer who murders people in their dreams, into the mainstream.
No, Freddy is not the right part. New Line Cinema
The idea for this iconic franchise came from an article in the Los Angeles Times that Wes Craven, the film's writer and director, read about a boy who was too scared to sleep after surviving the Killing Fields in Cambodia.
Here's what Craven said to Vulture about his inspiration: "He told his parents he was afraid that the thing chasing him would catch him if he slept, so he tried to stay awake for days. When he finally fell asleep Parents thought this crisis was over. Then they heard screams in the middle of the night. When they got to him he was dead. He died in the middle of a nightmare. Here was a youth who had a vision of a horror all the elders denied this. This became the central line of 'Nightmare on Elm Street'. "
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