If you’ve ever wondered where horror filmmakers get their ideas for movies, you might be surprised to learn that some of the weirdest plots are based on true stories…and not just a filmmaker’s active imagination. The real stories behind some classic movies about psychos, murder, and mayhem are sometimes stranger than fiction. Like the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up! Here are some of our favorite real life horror movies.
Dead Ringers (1988)
David Cronenberg’s disturbing psychological horror film about strange identical twin brothers who were also gynecologists was loosely based on the story of Stewart and Cyril Marcus, successful identical twin gynecologists working at prestigious New York hospitals who were found dead together, the result of a double suicide. The brothers were addicted to barbiturates and had been operating on patients while heavily under the influence of drugs. The drug addicted twins in the film famously created creepy gynecological instruments for “mutant” women they began having delusions about.
The Mothman Prophesies (2002)
This supernatural horror film was based on supposedly true encounters with a strange moth/human creature that occurred in a town in West Virginia in the 1960s. Different people began to report sightings of a scary flying creature that came to be known as the Mothman...right before a bridge in the area collapsed and killed 46 people. No further sightings were reported after the bridge collapse. People began connecting the appearance of the Mothman with the tragedy and the creature soon became part of the folklore of the area.
The Entity (1982)
This movie is about a woman who was repeatedly sexually assaulted by an invisible, poltergeist-like entity. The sad true story that inspired The Entity was the case of a California woman named Doris Bither. Bither claimed she was attacked and raped by evil spirits, showing paranormal investigators actual bruises on her body. The investigators attempted (and failed) to capture images of the entities on film. Bither was an alcoholic who experienced the attacks while intoxicated. She also had a long history of abuse by her parents, men, and possibly even her sons, that could help explain how her mental trauma manifested itself.
This film starring Angelina Jolie is based on real-life events in the 1920s known as the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders. A man named Gordon Stewart Northcott kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered several young boys, including one named Walter Collins. Changeling tells the bizarre side story of how a boy named Arthur Hutchins pretended to be Collins. The Los Angeles police insisted that the mother of Walter Collins take in the imposter and “try him out” even though she of course knew he wasn’t her son. The mother was put in a mental institution when she insisted the boy wasn’t hers and the authorities didn’t believe her. She was released only when the imposter confessed.
The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976)
Real-life killings in the 1940s known as the Texarkana Moonlight Murders are the basis for this classic 70s horror movie. An unidentified serial killer known as the Phantom Killer attacked 8 people in a 10 week period, 5 of whom died. The killer was known for brutally attacking couples in lovers’ lane-type settings late at night. Survivors described him as a tall man with some sort of covering on his face with holes cut out for the eyes and mouth. Texarkana went into a panic and the Texas Rangers were brought in on the case. Several possible suspects were identified, but the murders remain unsolved.