The most hair-raising horrors based on real-life events
Proving it’s determined to keep us all terrified for many years to come, Blumhouse Productions acquired the rights to the terrifying true story of impudent conartist Jamison Bachman (also known as Jed Creek). The grisly dude was the worst roommate ever and made a sadistic habit of terrorizing his roomies with physical attacks and more mundane ventures like killing kitties, clogging toilets with cat litter, and aimlessly ruining floors.
The serial squatter also refused to get the hell out of any property he turned into such a nightmare realm. The complete story is full of unsettling details (and a grisly end) that should make a deeply disturbing horror. In celebration, here’s our ranking of the scariest real-life stories that became horror movies.
9. The Girl Next Door (2007)
Gregory M. Wilson’s adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s novel of the same name is loosely based on the horrifying real life torture and murder of 16-year-old Sylvia Likens in the summer of 1965. The young woman was left in the care of a family friend who inexplicably decided to round up some local kids in helping her lock Sylvia up in the basement. They inflicted all manner of abuse upon her until she eventually died of a brain hemorrhage and malnutrition.
8. The Conjuring (2013)
The movie (and its sequels) are all based on the real life exploits of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in the films). The first movie in particular was directly inspired by their experiences with the Perrons family who suffered terrifying and potentially haunting events in their Rhode Island Farmhouse.
7. Wolf Creek (2005)
Greg McLean’s harrowing slasher is still one of the most gruesome films ever made. Making that fact all the more stomach-churning is that the story was loosely based on the crimes of serial killer Ivan Milat, otherwise known as the Backpacker Killer. Australia’s most notorious serial murderer is currently serving seven consecutive life sentences in prison for the savage murder of several travelers.
6. The Exorcist (1973)
Author and screenwriter William Peter Blatty based the story on a 1949 Washington Post article titled “Priest frees Mt. Rainier boy reported held in devil’s grip”. There was no pea soup vomit or revolving heads detailed in the original story, but the priests involved did report the boy apparently spoke in tongues and objects flew around the room as the bed hovered and violently shook. Which is frankly enough.
5. Open Water (2003)
Chris Kentis’s tense thriller follows a scuba diving couple who become stranded in shark infested waters after their tour group accidentally leaves them behind. It’s based on real events about a young couple named Tom and Eileen Lonergan who were similarly abandoned by a tour group near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Shockingly, the diving company organized a search party for the couple two days later. A diver’s slate was discovered begging, “Please help us (come) to rescue us before we die,” but their bodies were never found.
4. Psycho (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock’s horror influenced many of the slasher movies of the 70s and 80s but it was itself loosely based on convicted murderer and grave robber, Ed Gein. Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) shares Gein’s affinity for killing women and unearthing corpses (like his dearest mother).
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Gein also partly inspired Tobe Hooper’s horror masterpiece. The most notable scenes in which you can glimpse his influence on the story is in the carcasses strewn around the home of Leatherface and in the various masks and furniture that appear to be made from human flesh. The infamous serial killer had his own house of horrors similar to this and was a fan of turning people into accessories.
2. Child’s Play (1988)
Incidentally, the same doll that inspired Annabelle also served as inspiration for this late 80s classic. In 1909, Key West painter and author Robert Eugene Otto alleged his creepily named childhood toy – Robert the Doll – had a voodoo curse placed on it by one of his family’s servants.
The doll would apparently get up to all sorts of mischief like roam from room to room, chat with Otto, and knock furniture over. When the doll was found by a new family in the attic of the same home, it apparently pulled the exact same shit. Sure, Chucky doll was possessed by a serial killer, but sentient, mischievous dolls are basically all the same level of wrong.
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The 80s classic starring Heather Langenkamp (New Nightmare) and Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd) was notoriously inspired by a series of Los Angeles Times articles about a sinister phenomenon where young Asian men were dying in their sleep. Wes Craven (Scream) shared one of the stories during Vulture’s oral history of the movie:
He told his parents he was afraid that if he slept, the thing chasing him would get him, so he tried to stay awake for days at a time. When he finally fell asleep, his parents thought this crisis was over. Then they heard screams in the middle of the night. By the time they got to him, he was dead. He died in the middle of a nightmare. Here was a youngster having a vision of a horror that everyone older was denying. That became the central line of Nightmare on Elm Street.