Skip To Content

    14 Disturbing Stories About Scary Movies That The Studios Probably Never Wanted Anyone To Know

    Welp, guess I'm not sleeping tonight.

    Note: This post contains subject matter that may be disturbing to some.

    1. Scream was actually inspired by the case of a real-life serial killer called "The Gainesville Ripper."

    closeup of a woman screaming

    According to Slash Film, In 1989/1990 Danny Rolling murdered eight people in Shreveport, Louisiana, and Gainesville, Florida. Sometime later, Scream writer Kevin Williamson saw a TV special about the murders. Apparently, the TV special (as well as being alone, house sitting at the time) was enough to inspire Williamson to write what would eventually become the script for Scream.

    2. Scott Glenn, who played FBI Agent Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs, was "emotionally scarred" while doing research for his role because what he saw, real-life cases, were so gruesome.

    closeup of a man with his arms crossed behind his head

    In an interview with AV Club, Glenn explained that he'd spent a lot of time with John Douglas (the real-life member of the FBI Behavioural Science team) and that the things he saw were just awful. Glenn said, "It was kind of emotionally scarring, in a way, because John made me privy to stuff that you really don’t want to have roaming around inside your head. And it was real case studies. I don’t really want to go into the details of it, but pretty nasty stuff."

    3. The set of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was covered with actual dead animal flesh.

    a woman getting into water filled with bones

    In the book, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Film That Terrified a Rattled Nation, author Joseph Lanza explained, "The set was littered with dead dog and cattle parts and fetid cheese for atmosphere, giving off an unbearably rank odor."

    4. And, apparently, actor Marilyn Burns, who played Sally in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, got cut in real life.

    Lanza also wrote, "The prop knife they used, which contained a tube of fake blood that Hansen was to squeeze onto Burns’ finger, had malfunctioned. They tried many takes, and finally, Hansen grew so impatient that he surreptitiously sliced her finger for real before exposing her to Dugan’s saliva.”

    5. While filming The Birds, Tippi Hedren had to endure real birds being thrown at, tied to, and pecking her.

    large bird attacking a woman

    According to People, in her memoir, Hedren said that she "endured five days of filming where handlers hurled ravens, doves and a few pigeons at her: 'It was brutal and ugly and relentless.'" The memoir continued, "On the final day of shooting the scene, live birds were loosely tied to Hedren’s costume while she lay on the floor. The actress says when 'Action!' was called, the birds that were tied to her started pecking her and the wranglers again threw live birds directly at her."

    6. The bees used in the Candyman films were real, even the ones coming out of Candyman's mouth, and actor Tony Todd actually got stung 23 times.

    bees coming out of a man's mouth

    Todd told The Guardian, "I negotiated a bonus of $1,000 for every sting during the bee scene. And I got stung 23 times. Everything that’s worth making has to involve some sort of pain. Once I realized it was an important part of who Candyman was, I embraced it. It was like putting on a beautiful coat."

    7. On the day she completed filming The Conjuring, Vera Farmiga went home, then woke up the next day with claw marks–like bruises on her thigh.

    woman mesmerized by a music box

    Farmiga explained to Cinemablend, "It wasn’t incredibly painful. It might have felt like a bruise… It was these three, very distinct, what looked like claw marks, that long nails or long fingertips, like thin fingertips could make. But it didn’t hurt."

    8. Real skeletons were used while filming that terrifying pool scene in Poltergeist.

    closeup of a woman yelling at a skeleton in the water

    In a VH1 interview, actor JoBeth Williams (Diane Freeling) explained, "I would have to go into this huge tank of what I thought were mud with these skeletons — which, by the way, I thought were plastic, but later found out they were real skeletons. It was a real nightmare."

    9. And the clown doll in Poltergeist almost strangled child actor Oliver Robins, who played Robbie, to death for real.

    According to Screenrant, "The arms [of the mechanical doll] tightened to a dangerous degree, causing Robins to yell out that he couldn't breathe. Hooper and Spielberg mistakenly thought Robins was just improvising a reaction to the scene, but when Robins' face started to change color, Spielberg realized the kid was no longer acting. Spielberg rushed over to Robins and pried off the mechanical clown doll, saving his life."

    10. Filming for The Amityville Horror (2015) was disrupted by an actual dead body that floated to the surface where they were filming.

    woman shouting

    In an interview with Radiofree.com, actor Melissa George, who played Kathy Lutz, explained, "We were filming at the boathouse, and the police came by. They were on the water there, and they said that they found a dead body that had floated to the surface. We were like, 'Awesome!' [laughs] 'That's making everything much more comfortable in this movie!'"

    11. Ruby Rose almost drowned while filming The Meg.

    ruby rose

    She explained to Cinemablend, "It was a scene in which I'm in the water and have to swim back to a boat. My clothing, including a layer of thermals to help with the cold, made it really difficult to swim. Everyone loved how it looked and thought I was doing a great job, (but) they didn't realize my shoes had filled up with water and were making me sink to the bottom of the tank we were shooting in. The next thing I know, safety divers were grabbing me. I drank a lot of tank water, which I have a feeling is not particularly good for you."

    12. William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, would literally have people fire guns on set just to scare the actors.

    priest praying over a person in bed

    In a Reddit AMA some years ago, Friedkin explained, "I would sometimes have the prop man fire blanks off the set to get a sudden reaction from the actors. [...] It's of course very difficult to say to an actor, 'Now you are looking at the face of the demon' and expect him or her to be frightened when he or she is in fact looking at the face of a 12-year-old girl in makeup. The unexpected sound of a gun helps to produce the desired response."

    13. Multiple sets, including some of the most famous ones, from The Shining mysteriously burned down near the end of filming, and the cause was never figured out.

    two adults on the floor looking scared

    The film's still photographer, Murray Close, explained on theoverlookhotel.com, "We had a very big fire [...] in one of the sound stages. It was the stage that had the set of the Overlook Hotel with the lounge set where Jack typed and he chased Shelley Duvall around with a baseball bat. [...] We never really discovered what caused that fire, and it burnt down two sound stages and threatened a third at Elstree Studios."

    14. William Castle, the producer of Rosemary's Baby, received so much hate mail, including death threats, while making the movie that the stress eventually lead to kidney failure.

    woman looking into a baby cradle holding a large knife in hand

    According to Vanity Fair, "In April 1969, sick with worry from the hate mail he received constantly, [Castle] was suddenly stricken with severe kidney stones. While delirious in the hospital, he hallucinated scenes from the film and was said to have yelled, 'Rosemary, for God’s sake, drop the knife!' Castle recovered, just barely, and never made a Hollywood hit again."

    What's a traumatizing fact about a horror (or non-horror) movie you know? Tell us in the comments below, and who knows, maybe there'll be a part two!

    Watch Once Upon A Time In Londongrad from BuzzFeed Studios, a new true crime docuseries based on the explosive BuzzFeed News investigation, now streaming on Peacock.