These true stories will give you something to really be scared of!
Something a bit unsettling that many horror lovers may not realize is that many of the films we have enjoyed over the years are based on true events. Yes, that film you could barely get through because it was unbelievably terrifying might have really happened. Sure, some take creative liberties and are based on reality very loosely, but the truth still lies within the story.
Release date: December 26, 1973
The Exorcist is one of the most famous horror movies in existence and revolves around a girl that is possessed by an evil spirit. Her mother seeks out help, ultimately letting a priest perform an exorcism on her daughter.
This film was based on the case of a boy referred to as Roland Doe who was supposedly possessed in 1949. At 13 he began to experience weird happenings, like scratches on his body, uncontrollable movements, and even his bed shaking. His family reached out to medical professionals, ultimately meeting a Catholic priest that asked to perform an exorcism on the child. They didn’t get far as the child broke free from the bed and attacked the priest.
In the following days scratches appeared on the boy, one spelling out LOUIS. They took this as a sign to leave Washington D.C. and head to St. Louis. Here they found some people willing to attempt another exorcism. After some more spooky events, eventually Roland was fine. You can read an even more detailed telling of the story here.
The Girl Next Door
Release date: October 3, 2007
This film is based on the torture and murder of Sylvia Likens. Sylvia and her sister moved into the home of Gertrude Baniszewski in 1965. Their father paid for them to live there but eventually the payments started arriving late and Gertrude took her anger out on the girls. She began beating the girls more and more as time went on for simple things she didn’t like. Eventually the majority of her wrath was taken out on Sylvia. She had her children and other children in the neighborhood get involved in the horrific events that would play out.
Sylvia continued to be tortured in countless ways. She was starved, burned, cut, assaulted, and forced to do many terrible things. When people began to ask questions, Gertrude lied to everyone, saying Sylvia ran away when she was actually tied up in the basement. After an attempted escape she was caught and tortured some more. She eventually died. Gertrude ended up with life in prison but eventually received parole and died on the outside.
Neighbors often heard screams coming from the home, and her educators probably knew something was going on because of the signs of abuse on her skin, but not a single person came forward. You can read more details about the case and what happened after her death here.
The film An American Crime which came out the same year was also based on this case.
The Haunting in Connecticut
Release date: March 27, 2009
This film is based on the story of the Snedeker family who rented a home in 1986 that had once been a funeral parlor. Allegedly they weren’t told this upon rental, but rather found morticians items in the basement, which was a rude awakening. Their son began to see ghosts and other things. Shortly after everyone began experiencing these events. The parents said they were raped and sodomized by demons as they faced other creepy happenings.
Eventually the family hired Ed and Lorraine Warren who ultimately declared the house was full of demons. The family would stay in the home for two years before moving out. Other investigators over time have come forward with doubts regarding this story as no one but those mentioned above have ever experienced anything strange in the home. It makes sense that there are doubts. It seems odd that a family would go through all of this and then stay in the house for two years. But, there could have been issues that kept them there such as finances. There is no way for us to really know the truth.
Release date: July 19, 2013
Naturally this one should be discussed next as it also involves Ed and Lorraine Warren. This entire film series is based on the couple and cases they worked on throughout their careers.
Each film is based on something different that Ed and Lorraine investigated, and the first film revolves around the Perron family. In 1971 the parents and their five children moved into a large house in Rhode Island. They began to experience odd things from missing items to scary sounds. Supposedly, long before the family arrived, many people died in the home, including children. The spirit from the film Bathsheba was one of them.
They lived in the home for ten years as they could not afford to leave for a long time. While there they continued to experience many hauntings. The Warrens investigated throughout those years, even performing séances which resulted in one family member being possessed and speaking words that could not be understood. The Warrens were not allowed back after this and eventually the family moved, no longer being terrorized.
Release date: October 18, 1996
This film is said to be based on an actual killer dentist named Dr. Glennon Engleman, but the stories don’t actually line up too much. Besides both being involved in murder, they don’t have much in common.
In the movie the dentist’s name is Dr. Alan Feinstone. After catching his wife cheating, he takes out his frustrations on his patients, causing them a great deal of pain while ruining their teeth. He commits many other evil acts on other patients and eventually his wife.
Dr. Engleman was more of a hitman. He allegedly committed murders for money over a long period of time. He killed people in ways that would allow him to receive life insurance money, or a chunk of one of these checks given to him by one of his many accomplices. He was good at getting women to do what he wanted. Some believe his crimes were sexually motivated, as they are in the film.
Release date: August 6, 2004
This film tells the story of a couple left at sea, ultimately surrounded by sharks, and yes it’s based on a true story. In the movie American couple, Daniel and Susan, were enjoying a diving trip. Once they resurfaced they realized their tour boat had left them behind because the employees didn’t count the people correctly. After hours and hours of being stranded, Daniel gets bit by a shark and eventually dies. Susan knows her fate and removes her gear, sinking under water.
With the true story there is no way to know what events really played out as their bodies were never discovered. Tom and Eileen Lonergan disappeared in 1998 diving near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It took two days for someone to realize they made a mistake and that the two were missing. It was reported but it was too late. Parts of their scuba equipment did wash up on shore but with no bodies there is no telling what happened. Without enough answers there are tons of conspiracy theories surrounding their disappearance.
Release date: August 31, 2012
This film focuses on a girl who buys an antique box at a yard sale that just so happens to be connected to a spirit called a dybbuk. Her parents try to figure out how to get rid of the curse. There are parts of this that supposedly happened. In this case it wasn’t a yard sale but rather eBay. Inside the box were some odd objects including locks of hair. Prior to being sold online this box made its way around, causing mischief in every life it touched.
The one it touched the most was a man, Mannis. Things kept happening, and to ensure that the spirit he thought was haunting would leave him alone, he needed to give the box to someone else. Someone that would keep it. But no one would until he listed it on eBay. The person it sold to also faced many bad times after receiving the box. Now the box is with Jason Haxton who has stated he wants the box to be buried with him so it can’t hurt anyone else in the future. Read more about the history of this spooky box here.
Release date: March 11, 2007
Another loosely based film, this time working with the cult lead by Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo. He practiced animal sacrifices, including humans, along with the help of his followers. They kidnapped and murdered Mark J. Kilroy in 1989, a college student on vacation during spring break.
In this film three American college graduates are involved instead of just one. They are in Mexico on vacation looking for an exciting time. One night they go out to party and one friend separates from the group. The following day the two who stayed out realize their friend is missing. They look for him and, through a series of events, end up meeting this cult and face some pretty scary people willing to commit violent acts.
La Casa Muda (The Silent House)
Release date: May 16, 2010
This movie is based on true events. Supposedly an incident that took place in Uruguay in the 1940s. Two people were discovered tortured and murdered in a house. There is not a lot of information about this crime as it happened so long ago, but there are plenty of claims to this being the story this unsettling film was based on.
In this film a father daughter duo spend the night in a home that they intended to work on the following morning. They hear noises and go to investigate and it all goes bad from there. The film is shot in a way that plays out each minute of their attempted escape from this creepy house while facing a supernatural force. It was remade in America and called Silent House.
Hounds of Love
Release date: September 1, 2016
Hounds of Love seems to be loosely based on the Australian serial killer couple Catherine and David Birnie. They tortured and murdered at least four women in their home over a span of five weeks. The two attempted to murder a fifth woman, abducting her after she accepted a ride from the couple. They had her call her mom and say she was staying somewhere that night. She was able to escape and remembered the address and phone number of the couple.
Of the authorities she told thankfully one of them believed her. She provided enough information to prove she was in the home at some point. This combined with the fact that the couple’s statements didn’t match up meant there was no getting out of it. Thankfully the detective was able to figure out where the other girls were buried. These acts have been labeled the Moorhouse Murders.
In the actual film a girl is taken and held against her will. The story tells of the girl’s attempt at an escape. It may have been inspired by other murderous couples and not just the Birnies. You can read more about the film and their filmmakers’ choices here.