Real Events That Inspired Horror Movies

Have you seen these movies?

They say that real life is stranger than fiction. But is it also scarier than fiction? Horror writers seem to think so. Lately, being “based on a true story” has become a major selling point for many of the most popular horror films. Below, read about some of these terrifying events and the movies that brought the stories to the big screen.

10. Real Events That Inspired Horror Movies – Audrey Rose

A still image from the film Audrey Rose
Horror News

One day, Frank De Felitta’s six-year-old son walked up to a piano. The father expected that his young son would just bang on the keys to hear the piano make noise. However, De Felitta was stunned when the young boy began to perfectly play ragtime music. De Filitta began to believe that his son’s surprising ability was left over from a past life. He visited two different psychics who both confirmed this belief. The incident inspired De Felitta to write a book about reincarnation.

The novel was a hit, and was soon adapted into a horror movie titled Audrey Rose. In this film, a 10-year-old girl begins to notice a strange man following her and her family. She later discovers that the man is obsessed with her, as he believes that she is the reincarnation of his deceased daughter.

9. The Blob

A still from the movie The Blob, a movie inspired by real events
Den of Geek

In 1950, several Philadelphia police officers were on duty when they noticed what they believed to be a parachute falling from the sky. Believing that someone was parachuting illegally, they drove to the spot where they thought the skydiver had landed. When they arrived, they didn’t find a human with a parachute. Instead, they found something much stranger: a six-foot purple blob. The blob was filled with strange crystals and emitted some sort of mist. One of the officers touched the blob, which left his hand covered with a sticky, odorless residue. The officers called for backup, even calling the FBI. However, within 25 minutes the blob had completely dissolved into the earth, leaving the grass beneath it completely unaffected.

Eight years later, The Blob hit theaters. Much like the real-life blob, the monster in this movie comes in the form of an amorphous alien that mysteriously appears in a small town in Pennsylvania. The blob terrorizes the town by devouring anyone who crosses its path before a group of police officers come up with a daring plan to stop the alien blob.

8. Real Events That Inspired Horror Movies – The Dybbuk Box

A photo of a dibbuk box.

In 2004 an old wine box went up for sale on eBay. The box contained two locks of hair, one granite slab, one dried rosebud, one goblet, two wheat pennies, and one candlestick. According the seller, it also contained a spirit guaranteed to bring terrible luck to whoever buys it. The box’s first owner claimed that it had caused the items in his furniture refinishing shop to by inexplicably destroyed. Another owner claimed that the box brought them horrible nightmares in which a friend transformed into a horrifying hag who then beat them mercilessly.

In 2012, the story of the dybbuk box became the inspiration for a film titled The Possession. In this film, a young girl purchases and antique box at a yard sale. She becomes obsessed with the box. Her family later finds out that the box had been haunted by an evil spirit that is now possessing the young girl.

7. The Backpack Killer

Photo of Ivan Milat

Between 1989 and 1993, seven young backpackers went missing while hiking in New South Wales. None of the seven were locals; three were from Germany, two from Britain, and two from Melbourne. In all seven cases, the victims were young. The bodies were all found hidden in the Australian bushland. In each case, police found evidence of a campsite nearby and indications that the victims had been restrained for a time, suggesting that the killer had kept his victims prisoner for a while before killing them. In 1993, investigators received a call from a man who said that while hitchhiking a few years prior, he had accepted a ride from a man calling himself Bill. The man had eventually pulled out rope and a weapon. The young hitchhiker managed to escape and reported the incident to police. Using the old police report, the investigators arrested Ivan Robert Marko Milat for the crimes.

Similarly, in the 2005 film Wolf Creek, a group of three young adults decide to take a backpacking trip through the Australian Outback. Their carefree trip soon becomes terrifying as a rural madman begins hunting them.

6. Real Events That Inspired Horror Movies – Joe Ball

A black and white photo of Joe Ball

In the early 1930s when prohibition was in full swing in the United States, Joe Ball made good money operating an illegal bar. Many locals flocked to the Texas watering hole not for the booze, but to get a look at the five alligators Ball kept chained behind the building. Ball regularly fed small animals to the reptiles to entertain his patrons. However, the customers had no idea what else the alligators were eating. Police later discovered that Ball killed at least two women, but probably many more, and disposed of their bodies by feeding them to his alligators.

In the 1977 film Eaten Alive, it isn’t a bar but a rural hotel that serves as the backdrop for the gory tale. In this film, the proprietor of the hotel keeps a pet crocodile. His unsuspecting guests unfortunately become his victims, and their bodies become crocodile food.

5. Sawney Bean

A painting depicting Sawney Bean. The real events inspired horror movies.

In Scotland in the 15th century, Alexander “Sawney” Bean lived under his father’s thumb. Sawney’s father expected him to take over the family landscaping business, but Sawney had other plans. He went away with his wife to live in a cave along Scotland’s coast. There, he raised a family of eight sons, six daughters, eighteen grandsons, and fourteen granddaughters. Many of his progeny were the product of incest, giving rise to the belief that they were grotesquely malformed. At night, the family left their cave and took up positions along the dark roads nearby. There, they would ambush travelers and drag their lifeless bodies back to the cave where they would eat the flesh of their victims.

The terrifying legend of Sawney Bean served as the inspiration for the 1976 horror film, The Hills Have Eyes. In this gory film, a family traveling through Nevada is terrorized by a clan of mutated cannibals when their car breaks down. Many find the film and its 2006 remake difficult to watch. This is unsurprising considering the macabre legend that was its inspiration.

4. Real Events That Inspired Horror Movies – Don’t Close Your Eyes

A still from Nightmare on Elm Street showing Nancy sleeping. A move that was based on real events.

In the 1970s and 80s, a bizarre phenomenon occurred among immigrants from Southeastern Asia. The immigrants were dying in surprising numbers. However, the strangest thing about the situation was that no one could explain what was killing them. The people, otherwise healthy adults, died in their sleep without any apparent cause. The condition is now called sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, and doctors still struggle to explain it.

In 1984, filmmaker Wes Craven heard reports of these strange deaths. His interest in the cases inspired the classic Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. In these films, bogeyman Freddy Kruger appears in the dreams of his victims, killing them while they rest in their beds. To others, the deaths seem unexplainable, as few adults are willing to believe in the dreamland killer.

3. The Dentist

Police photo of Dr Glennon Engleman

Between 1958 and 1980, a dentist named Dr. Glennon Engleman found himself on the fringes of murder investigations on several occasions. The husbands of the women in his life kept getting inexplicably murdered. The wives were often suspects in the killings, but only the hefty insurance payouts could link them to the murders. In 1980, when Sophia Marie Barrera was killed by an explosive device in her car, police finally had an answer. Engleman had spent decades beginning romantic relationships with women. He would then convince them to marry other men so that he could kill them and get half of the insurance money.

Many claim that the 1996 film The Dentist is based on Engleman’s killing spree. In this film, a successful dentist discovers that his wife has been unfaithful. In a gruesome twist, he turns to his dental instruments for gory revenge.

2. Real Events That Inspired Horror Movies – Alfred Griner Packer

A black and white photo of Alfred Packer. His story based on real events inspired horror movies.

During the American Gold Rush, a man named Alfred Griner Packer set out with a group of five other men to head to California and try their hand at gold prospecting. The group was expected to arrive in California a couple months later. Time went by, and the group never arrived. Everyone assumed they had been killed in their trek across the Rocky Mountains. Then, Packer arrived in California alone. While many were happy he had survived, others were suspicious. Packer seemed to be in much too good of shape to have spent months lost in the wilderness. Packer eventually confessed to eating the other members of his party.

In the 1999 film Ravenous, a soldier appears in a remote mountain fort during the Mexican-American war. He tells the other soldiers that he had been lost in the mountains for months. Much like in the real-life story, the soldiers are dubious of his story because of his physical condition. When the soldiers start dying, they begin to suspect their guest may be hiding a sinister secret.

1. Adolfo Constanzo

A photo of Adolfo Constanzo

Drug cartels are a very real and very scary problem in many Central and South America countries. In the 1980s, Adolfo Constanzo became actively involved in a local cartel. Constanzo was a “witch doctor.” He regularly robbed graveyards to steal the body parts of the deceased so that he could use them for spells. Believing that the rituals were responsible for the success of the cartel, Constanzo began killing locals as part of the rituals, thinking that live victims would bring his spells more power. He developed a cult following, and was only caught when he killed an American tourist in 1989.

In the 2007 film Borderlands, a group of American college students decides to take a trip to Mexico to take advantage of the looser laws surrounding alcohol and prostitution. After ingesting some psychedelic mushrooms at a carnival, one of the young visitors is abducted. His friends eventually discover that he is being held by a cult planning to use him as a human sacrifice for their “voodoo,” and make a daring attempt to free him.