Truth is stranger than fiction. As a horror fan, I have seen my share of movies that claimed to be based on true stories. For some films, it is just to get more publicity like The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2007) while for other films like Jaws (1975) and A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), they are the real deal. Welcome back to the creepiest page on the internet. I’m your narrator, Kevin and today I will be counting down my top picks for 5 Horror Films Based On True Events. From the infamous shark movie that kept swimmers out of the water for decades to the slasher film that made you never want to sleep again. I will be talking about some of the most famous horror films that were based on real life occurrences. Let’s begin.
5: Jaws (1975)
Disclaimer: Jaws is not really based on a true story but the plot of Jaws and the events in which I’m about to tell you are eerily similar. In 1916, swimming at beaches as a pastime was still new back then. During the 4th of July weekend, Americans came to Beachtown, New Jersey to escape the worries of the war going on in Europe and to escape the polio epidemic that was taking place in New York. Unfortunately, what was thought to be a fun getaway would turn into a nightmare. On July 1, Charles Vansant decided to go out for a quick swim before dinner, his dog was with him too. Vansant got out as far as 3 and a half feet deep when a shark clamped onto his left leg and refused to let go. As people were pulling him to safety, the shark held on until they got closer to shore. He was carried to the lobby of the Engleside Hotel where he bled to death. Before Vansant, shark attacks were unheard of. Many scientists believed that sharks were shy creatures and avoided people. Experts dismissed the attack as an accident saying that the shark was most likely going after the dog which was near the victim. Other attacks were happening including 12 year old Joseph Dunn who was attacked in a brackish water creek. A shark was caught off the coast of South Amboy by shark hunter Michael Schleisser. He gutted the shark which contained human remains but could not be identified. Since then, there were no more attacks. The shark responsible was suspected of being a bull shark but they don’t inspire as much fear and terror as great whites do in the movies.
4: The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Best known for A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), Wes Craven directed The Serpent and The Rainbow four years later. The film is about an anthropologist who travels to Haiti in search of a drug that turns people into zombies. The film was based on a book of the same name written by ethnobotanist Wade Davis who traveled to Haiti to research the case of Clairviuss Narcisse. Narcisse checked into a local hospital when he wasn’t feeling well in 1962. He was suffering from ailments such as a fever, difficulty breathing, and claimed that bugs were crawling all over his skin. Narcisse was pronounced dead soon after and was buried a few days later. At least that’s what everyone thought until one day in 1981 when his sister Angelina saw him wandering the streets. Davis’ trip to Haiti introduced him to a type of voodoo priest known as a bucor. Bucors are believed to be able to reanimate the dead and use them as slaves. Davis believed that Narcisse was drugged with a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin (TTX) which is commonly found in pufferfish and porcupine fish. He also believed that Narcisse was drugged with datura (a hallucinogen) mixed with grounded up human bones. These are the ingredients for making zombie powder. The tetrodotoxin put him into a death like trance which made him appear dead to the doctors and the datura caused his amnesia and made him delirious.
3: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Like Jaws, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is mostly fictional but it does take some inspiration from one of the most infamous serial killers, Ed Gein a.k.a. The Plainfield Ghoul. Gein was responsible for two confirmed murders and the desecration of nine corpses. He used the skin and bones of the corpses to make furniture and masks which both appear in the film. He even preserved the corpse of his mother.
2: Ravenous (1999)
Probably one of my favorite horror films from the 90s, Ravenous is about Captain John Boyd, a war hero who is exiled to an Army outpost in the Sierras. Soon after his arrival, a wounded man named F.W. Calhoun comes to Fort Spencer with a gruesome tale of how his travel guide went rogue and cannibalized his travel party before Calhoun got away. Boyd and his regiment set out to find this supposed guide and the bodies. The film is not based on a singular true story but pays homage to several. One being the Donner Party, a travel party that became snowbound in the Sierras and stayed alive by eating the members of their party that succumbed to the harsh cold. Another is Swift Runner, a Cree man who came to an outpost telling the people that all of his family members starved to death. It did not make sense because Swift Runner did not look malnourished, he was healthy as can be. Some people went to his cabin and were not prepared for what would wait for them inside. They found the bones of his family picked clean of their flesh, skulls bashed in, and even the marrow was sucked out of them. They also questioned why he could not have gone to the outpost which was within reasonable distance of where he and his family was staying and the outpost provided emergency rations. Some believe that Swift Runner was possessed by a wendigo, a cannibalistic spirit from Algonquin lore.
1: A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Probably one of the most iconic slasher films in the horror genre would be Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street. We all know the story, teenagers are being terrorized by a burnt man who wears a glove with blades attached and once they fall asleep, they will never wake up. I bet what you didn’t know is that it’s based on a true story. One of the things that inspired Craven were a few newspaper articles about refugees from Vietnam who were suffering from horrific nightmares and were afraid to go to sleep. One story in particle was the son of a family from Cambodia, he was afraid that if went to sleep, he would never wake up. After he finally went to sleep, his parents thought the worst was over that is until they heard a scream in the middle of night. They went to his room and found him dead. Think about that when you go to bed tonight.
It’s scary to think about when you’re watching a horror movie like Scream or The Strangers and thinking, “This could really happen.” It’s scarier when the horror films that you watch that are based on true events are the ones you would least suspect. I hoped you enjoyed reading this and if you have not seen any of these movies, I would recommend giving them a watch. Please, give this a like and share this story, it would really help. Be sure to keep an eye out for new stories written by yours truly for more creepy content. I’ve been your narrator, Kevin Harness. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time.