9 Scary Movies You Don’t Know Are Based On True Stories

Can we all agree that almost every single movie coming out these days is either part of a superhero franchise, a mediocre sequel, based on a bestselling book, or inspired by a true story? It’s that last category that has always had longevity in the movie industry; some of the most classic and widely celebrated films of all time had a historical slant. But they’re having a resurgence, which means that some of the biggest movies lately have been somewhat biographical. Some are capturing moments that aren’t even that old; The Bling Ring is based on the shenanigans of teen robbers in the late ’00s, and Frutivale Station‘s retelling of Oscar Grant’s 2009 death at the hands of trigger happy police officers is, unfortunately, more relevant than ever. Later this year, Birth of a Nation is coming out, which tells the story of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, and there’s also Hidden Figures coming out in January, a film about black female NASA scientists in the ’60s. We all love a good movie based on a true story, but we usually find it in gripping dramas…less so in gory horror movies.

Yeah, I know. A horror movie that’s based on true events? It’s hard to believe. It’s like someone saying a fantasy movie based on a true story. I can pretend Harry Potter is real all I want, that doesn’t mean that the books or its movie franchise are based on a true boy wizard. But take a minute to get movies like The Ring out of your head and use your imagination. Exorcisms are, unfortunately, real things that happen, and murderers are real, too…and a ton of horror movies are based on those two things. In fact, they comprise of most of this list of nine horror movies based on true stories. Hey, why not make your favorite scary movies even scarier?


Alfred Hitchcock's classic was actually based on the life of serial killer Ed Gein, who killed women and played around with cadavers back in the '50s. This dude was seriously twisted; check out his Wikipedia page. He had everything from a belt made of women's nipples, to bowls made from human skulls, to the vulvae of nine different women in a shoebox, to lips on a window shade drawstring. He would use his victims' skin as upholstery for his furniture and dug up the bodies of women he thought resembled his mom! BYE.

The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror is about a young family that moves into a house where a murder took place, which is exactly what happened IRL. Back in 1975, the Lutz family moved into a home where a man by the name of Ronald DeFeo Jr murdered his family a little over a year prior. The Lutz family claimed to see green slime oozing out of the walls and red eyes staring them down in various rooms. Would you stick around a place like that for long? Nope, and neither did the Lutz family, who moved out less than a month after moving in. Of course, the movies take some serious creative liberties with the Lutz's original story, but still...creepy.

Child's Play

You might recognize this doll as "Chuckie." What you might not know is that he first appeared in an '80s horror movie called Child's Play, which is about a killer doll. What you also might not know is that this movie is allegedly based on the life of an author named Robert Eugene Otto. The story goes something like this: A nurse put a curse on him, which led to one of his childhood dolls becoming a possessed menace. Dolls are already kind of spooky, but this story is just next level "nope."

Nightmare On Elm Street

No, Freddy Kruger doesn't really exist, and we don't have any proof of anyone dying after being killed in their dreams. But Nightmare On Elm Street's director, Wes Craven, got inspiration of the idea from an unlikely source. Craven was intrigued by a series of reports in the Los Angeles Times about Laotian refugees who mysteriously died in their sleep. What's even scarier is that they were afraid of sleeping because they believed that they would die in their nightmares. Yikes.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

This is actually also based on Ed Gein--the serial killer who inspired Psycho, remember?--with chainsaws. Yeah, I don't know, go figure. Dude wears a mask made of leather skin--human skin--and slaughters people to death. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 1974 stood out as one of the most violent movies of its time, and while it was definitely a totally fictionalized take on Ed Gein's, er, adventures in dead people, it's still pretty eerie that it is inspired by a real dude.

The Conjuring

Yikes. Okay, so The Conjuring is about two paranormal investigators who try to help a family who moved into a home they claim is haunted. This is actually based on the story of two real paranormal detectives named Ed and Lorraine Warren who did just that in 1971. They claim that some seriously spooky you know what went down. As someone who, for some reason, low key believes in ghosts...I don't doubt them.

The Girl Next Door

Okay, this is legitimately sad: In 1965, while her family was on vacation, a 16-year-old girl by the name of Silvia Likens was being looked after by a family friend. She was eventually locked in a basement and tortured by that same family friend, her family friend's children, and neighborhood kids as well. She eventually died from malnutrition and internal bleeding. The movie documents her torture in lurid detail. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

The Strangers

If you're afraid of home invasion, definitely don't watch The Strangers. A man named James and his girlfriend Kristen are staying at James' family's summer home, and before long, they're visited by some creepy characters. Those characters end up breaking in and causing mahem. Oh, and they have masks on, which just makes everything creepier by default. This psychological s**tshow was largely inspired by the the Manson Family murders of the '60s. For those of you who don't know about Charles Manson and his crew of brainwashed young women who brutally murdered people in the late '60s...you have a Wikipedia wormhole to jump into right now.

The Exorcist

Unfortunately, exorcism is an act that still happens around the world, often with violent results. The exorcisms that the movie of the same name were based on, however, didn't involve any green puke like the film depicted. It is based on a group of priests in Maryland who tried to excise "Roland Doe," a boy who they claimed spoke in tongues, made objects move, etc. Hmmm, what do YOU think?

What’s your go to scary movie to watch whenever you feel like having the crap scared out of you? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

17 Horror Movies You’ll Actually Want To Watch

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