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Terrifying True Stories Behind Your Favorite Horror Movies

by Ossiana Tepfenhart 5 years ago in list / movie
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Some of the most terrifying true stories that you'll hear about in horror movies happen behind the camera...

It takes a very special person to write, direct, or even act in a good horror movie. After all, there's a certain spark of magic that needs to be added in every film in order for it to be truly terrifying. As many film aficionados can tell you, finding that "spark" can be very difficult to do.

That's why many horror movie writers have a tendency of basing movies after true events. In many cases, some of the spookiness seems to naturally transfer into the movie's creation. That's part of the reason why The Amityville Horror was such a terrifying film, right?

But, there's also a potential downside to this - if you believe the psychic community. According to some psychics, the negative, sinister energy that plagued the real people affected by the paranormal can bleed into the film, too. And, that can lead to tragedy for those on set.

No matter which way you cut it, there's something to be said about the unusually high amount of terrifying stories found in the horror movie industry. Here are some of the most famous true stories involving the movie's real life counterparts... or the actors on set.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Of all the horror movies to be based off of true events, A Nightmare on Elm Street might be one of the most unlikely candidates to make this list. However, there is a small kernel of truth to the basis of the movie franchise.

Director Wes Craven had explained in an interview that he had gotten the idea for the movie franchise when he had read anLA Times series of articles about a small group of Southeast Asian men who were dying in their sleep without any medical reason for them to have perished.

Prior to death, each guy who died refused to sleep because of the strange nightmares they were having. Each man would tell family members, "I've had nightmares before - but these nightmares are different. I don't want to go to sleep."

One man was given sleeping pills, but still stayed up for as much as six days because of the abject terror he had of this nightmare. Eventually, he had fallen asleep on the couch. Family members said that they carried him up to his room.

Only hours later, they heard screaming and crashing... and he was found dead on the floor. Upon searching the room, his family had found out that all the pills they had given him were spat out and hidden in a closet, right next to a coffee machine that he had been using to keep himself awake.

Wes Craven's inspiration from the articles launched the birth of Freddy Krueger, and the rest is history.

The Exorcist

When it comes to having strange tragedies happen on set, no movie chain seems to have it worse than The Exorcist. During the actual filming of the movie, a mysterious fire swept through the entire Regan house. Every bit of the household had to be rebuilt with an exception of Regan's bedroom.

According to sources, the ambiance of the movie set was so eerie that they actually had called a real priest to exorcise the movie set. The priest advised against an exorcism, and tried to talk to the film set about the importance of faith instead.

But, it wasn't only the house and the overall mood of the venue that sustained permanent damage thanks to the movie's creation. Actors, too, seemed to gain the wrath of the otherworldly during filming, in more ways than one.

While filming the scene where Regan tosses her mother away from bed, a stray harness caught Ellen Burstyn's hand and caused the actress to sustain permanent spinal damage. Linda Blair, too, suffered a back injury while she was being thrown around on the bed.

Scary as it is, those who just walked away with an injury may have been the luckier ones. A total of nine people died during the taping, and the death toll didn't even stop after it was a wrap. Film stars Vasiliki Maliaros (the actor who played Father Karras' Mother) and Jack MacGowan (Burke Dennings) both died before the film even hit theaters.

What's interesting is that The Exorcist was also based off of a story of a real-life possession that happened in the 1940's in Missouri. Could some of that bad juju made its way to Hollywood?

Child's Play

If you're a paranormal fan, you probably already might have guessed that there may have been some real-life inspiration for the storyline of Child's Play. Horror movie writer Don Mancini had come up with the idea of a killer doll after he heard about the story of Robert the Doll.

The story goes that a Key West painter by the name of Robert Eugene Otto had a Jamaican housekeeper who was hired by the family to take care of him. In 1904, the housekeeper had given him a handmade doll by the name of Robert to play with.

All seemed well until the housekeeper had a falling out with Otto's parents over an unknown issue. According to Otto's family, the housekeeper cursed the doll - and that's when weird things began to happen.

Otto's parents began to notice that their son began to act very strangely. He insisted that the doll was talking to him. At night, he would suddenly scream in his bedroom and beg to be taken away from the doll. Around the house, things would go missing and reappear in unlikely places. Eventually, Robert Otto ended up deciding that the doll was his best friend, and he was inseparable from it.

Much of this could be attributed to normal childhood imagination, but the strange events continued to happen as he got older. Otto's family then began to notice that the doll would move from room to room, even when their son wasn't there to pick it up and move it.

Eventually, the Otto family moved and left the doll for the new homeowners. They, too, began to get creeped out by the doll and insisted that it wanted to kill them.

Today, the cursed Robert doll is in a museum in Key West...and people still claim to see the doll move on its own.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Writers behind the 60's movie classic villain Leatherface loosely based The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on serial killer and necrophiliac, Ed Gein. Gein was known for killing a couple of women, but that wasn't what made him so terrifying.

What really chilled officials who discovered his crimes was what they had found in his home when they decided to interrogate him about the disappearance of a local hardware store owner by the name of Bernice Worden. Inside his home, they had found chairs upholstered with human skin, eating utensils made of bones, and yes, clothing made out of dead women's faces.

Among the awful apparel police found were a dress, masks, leggings, and even a corset...all made of human skin. Needless to say, Leatherface got his taste in couture from Ed Gein.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre wasn't the only movie that was inspired by Gein. Writers behind Psycho said that they had gotten a lot of inspiration for Norman Bates after hearing that Gein himself was obsessed with his mother (and killing women that looked like her).

What's more terrifying is the aftermath of the movie's screening. Shortly after Psycho hit movie theaters, a real-life madman decided to use the movie as inspiration for his first murder.

His victim's name was Myra Davis. Incidentally, that also happens to be the name of Janet Leigh's body double that was used for that very shower scene.


Surprisingly, Poltergeist couldn't actually be traced back to one particular source of inspiration. But, despite not being associated with any one event's energy, something was terribly, terribly wrong on the movie's set. More specifically, the movie seemed to have a major problem with the kids who played the Freeling siblings.

Oliver Robbins, who played Robbie Freeling, had the fright of his life after he was almost choked to death by the evil puppet's arms. Thankfully, Steven Spielberg realized that he was legitimately choking, and freed him.

A couple of years later, Heather O'Rourke (Carol Anne Freeling) died during a routine surgery. Her cause of death was due to complications. Then, the final sibling, Dominique Dunn (Dana Freeling), was strangled to death by a jealous ex-boyfriend.

Could it be the movie's bad vibes that caused all three actors who played the Freeling siblings to die? Or, was is just a weird coincidence?

The Crow

The Crow was one of the very movies that were made off of an indie comic book, and it wasn't a comic book that was based on real events. Despite that, writer James O'Barr was able to capture the darkness and dreary circumstances that made The Crowinto one of the biggest horror hits of all time.

And, he had every reason to make the script as sorrowful as it was. O'Barr later admitted that the reason that he was so wrapped up in creating the original comic was because he was using the writing as a grieving outlet after his fiancee had died.

Another tragedy O'Barr heard about involved a couple being killed over an engagement ring that cost only $30. Between the two terrible tragedies, the inspiration for The Crow: The Movie was born.

But, there were a slew of problems on the set that may make some believe that there was more going on than met the eye. Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, was cast as rockstar Eric Craven...and was promptly killed on set when someone had replaced the fake gun with a real one.

The film was a hit, and this movie's filming actually had a happy ending. A large portion of the profits were donated to charity, which means that someone out there got a "happy ever after" ending despite the film's beginnings being filled with tragedy.


About the author

Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of New Jersey. This is her work account. She loves gifts and tips, so if you like something, tip her!

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