13 Scary Movies Based on True Stories
The Amityville Horror house is based on this actual house and stories from its residents. The movie is just one of many that are at least partially based on actual events. (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)
Alfred Hitchcock's classic is one of many famous horror movies based loosely on Ed Gein, a Wisconsin man who murdered two women and dug up graves of many others in the 1950s. Part of his dark obsessions was emulating his mother, which the character of Norman Bates also tried to do.
The Exorcist (1973)
While the supernatural elements of 'The Exorcist' are no doubt exaggerated to some degree, the book that inspired the movie drew its own inspiration from a string of events in the 1940s and 1950s concerning the actual exorcism of a 13-year-old boy in Maryland.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Although the psychotic chainsaw-wielding "Leatherface" and his deranged family never really existed, the concept of a man wearing the skin of his victims was inspired directly by Ed Gein, who made masks and dresses out of human skin and plenty of household items out of bones and teeth.
The story of the movie obviously made its heroes more, well, heroic. But the shark attacks that plagued a New Jersey coastline for a terrifying two-week period in 1916 provided the basis for the backstory of the novel and movie version of 'Jaws.'
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
The basis for the movie, in which a clan of bloodthirsty cannibals terrorizes a lost family on a trip through the desert, is inspired directly by the legend of Sawney Bean, who led a 0-person clan in the hills of Scotland who (according to the legend) murdered and ate over 1,000 people in the 15th century. The story's variance has transformed it into a myth, with historians questioning its veracity - but all documentation points to a basis of at least some truth to the story.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
The decades that have passed since the original story of 'The Amityville Horror' havs led it to be increasingly questioned by historians and even thought to be a hoax. But the Lutz family swears to this day they were terrified by the ghosts of dead bodies and plenty of demonic imagery that eventually drove them out after just a month living there.
The Entity (1981)
The lack of damning evidence makes the story that much more frightening: in 1974, a woman claiming to be repeatedly attacked and even raped by a demon possessing her body drew paranormal investigators to her house. The two men witnessed other paranormal activity like lights and objects moving around when they visited her house, and their story provided the basis for what became 'The Entity.'
Henry: Portait of a Serial Killer (1986)
This movie is inspired directly by real-life serial killer Henry lee Lucas, who confessed to over 600 murders between 1960 and 1983. Thought most of them have been questioned or disproved, they provided the basis for much of the movie, which portrays Lucas as the most prolific killer of all time.
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
The movie is based on a book detailing creepy voodoo practices in Haiti, where one man claims he had been drugged with a special white powder that simulated death to him, only to be resurrected and used for field work as a zombie. The movie obviously exaggerates all these details, but the fact that zombies have kinda existed in real life makes the story more chilling.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Hannibal Lecter is such an iconic character in horror, it's hard to believe he was even inspired by anyone else. But bits and pieces from the backstory of notable killers and cannibals like Albert Fish likely helped author Thomas Harris craft the character, who Anthony Hopkins most famously portrayed in 'The Silence of the Lambs.'
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Emily Rose is partially inspired by the story of Anneliese Michel, a 16-year-old German girl who suffered from demonic possession for what is thought to be over a decade. The 10-month-long exorcism process by two priests in 1975 ultimately led to Michel's death, and manslaughter charges for the priests and her parents. The whole thing has a "swept-under-the-rug" feel to it, so it's fair to theorize that the movie is based on true events.
Open Water (2007)
'Open Water' addresses a core human fear, being alone with a deadly creature in an area where you cannot be protected. In this case, it's sharks and the open ocean. The movie is based on an Australian couple that disappeared after being left behind by a scuba diving crew in the open ocean.
Wolf Creek (2007)
Originally written as fiction, the script for 'Wolf Creek' was eventually changed with inspiration from real-life killers in Australia who abducted, tortured and killed tourists and hitchhikers between the '90s and 2000s.