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12 Movies That Were Based On Real Life Terrors

You might want to sleep with the light on.

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1. The Exorcist


The story that sparked a million nightmares was actually based on the real-life exorcism of Roland Doe. Priests who visited the family's home reported that the bed shook, objects flew around on their own, and Doe spoke in a voice that wasn't his own.

2. The Amityville Horror


Although what happened with the Lutz family in the former home of Ronald DeFeo, Jr., The Amityville Horror has still been the source of mystery and terror since the book came out in the 70s and has sparked multiple movies.

Allegedly, the year after DeFeo Jr. shot and killed six family members in the home on Ocean Avenue in Amityville, George and Kathy Lutz moved in with their three children and only lasted 28 days before they moved right back out, citing paranormal activity.

3. The Girl Next Door


No, not the one about the porn star.

The movie follows 16 year old Sylvia Likens, a girl who was tortured in 1965 by Gertrude Baniszewski, her children, and some kids from the neighborhood. The murder was called one of the worst in Indiana's history and sparked several books, both fiction and non-fiction, and two films.

4. The Haunting in Conneticut


Although there have been some questions about whether or not this movie was really based in fact, the promotion for the movie touted it as being based on the Snedeker family of Southington, Connecticut and the paranormal phenomena they experienced there in the 80s.

Ed and Lorraine Warren reported that the home had been potentially used for necromancy by the former owners and that it had "powerful supernatural forces at work," but investigators remain skeptical and claim the reports may have been made up at the request of the family.

5. The Town That Dreaded Sundown


The Texarkana Moonlight Murders was a name given to a string of unsolved murders in Texarkana in the 1940s by a serial killer who was given the name of "The Phantom Killer." The killer allegedly attacked eight people in ten weeks, killing three of them.

While the killer was on the loose, the area was in a state of panic and at dusk, the people of the area would lock their doors and windows and police patrolled the streets. The original movie from 1976 and its more recent remake claim to have been based on these killings with "few names changed," but much of the story has been changed and reflects the legends surrounding the killer and less of it is actually about what happened.

6. The Exorcism of Emily Rose


One year before Jennifer Carpenter was Dexter's foul-mouthed detective sister Deb on Dexter, she played Emily Rose, a girl who was reported dead of malnutrition after an exorcism.

The real Emily Rose was named Anneliese Michel and in 1968, she started experiencing strange things like uncontrollable shaking, seeing things, and hearing "demons" tell her to do things. In 1973, her parents requested an exorcism for their 20 year old daughter and after a year of supervision, Pastor Ernst Alt requested one and the church granted the request in 1975 after her behavior worsened.

7. The Conjuring


Ed and Lorraine Warren were paranormal investigators who have sparked multiple movies about their investigations, including both The Conjuring and its sequel, The Amityville Horror, Annabelle, and others.

The Conjuring follows the story of the Perron family and their experience in their Rhode Island home in 1970. The family was allegedly haunted by the spirit of Bathsheba Thayer and almost immediately after moving in, they started hearing strange voices and having their furniture move around by itself.

8. Psycho


Widely regarded as one of the best horror movies of all time, Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film was originally met with controversy because of the fact that it showed the main character, Marion Crane, in a bra and in bed with her lover, Sam. At the time, showing so much sexuality and violence in a film was considered taboo.

Many horror movies have been inspired by real life serial killers, including Psycho, which was allegedly inspired by Ed Gein. Psychiatrists suspected Gein was making clothing out of women's skin in order to pretend he was his recently deceased murder, which inspired the author of the book that Psycho was based on.

9. Compliance


Although the 2012 movie may not be considered a horror movie in the traditional sense that it lacks any jump scares, demons, or witches, the events in the movie and the real life strip search phone call scam that inspired it are terrifying.

Over the course of approximately 10 years before an arrest was made in 2004, a man would prank call restaurants claiming to be a police officer who needed to talk to the manager because one of their employees had been stealing and, until they could get a police officer to the location to do a further investigation, he needed the manager to strip search the suspect. This is what happens in the movie Compliance, with the events going farther and farther into the realm of being downright disturbing and the fact that this really happened makes it even scarier.

11. Annabelle


As if people needed any more reason to be scared of dolls, Annabelle is based off of Ed and Lorraine Warren's experience in investigating a Raggedy Ann doll that was given to a nusring student in 1970 and was allegedly haunted by the spirit of a dead girl.

Although skeptics pass off many of the Warren's haunted artifacts and stories as being false, Robert is another supposedly haunted doll that many people do believe in, so it's hard for many believers in the paranormal to write Annabelle off as a hoax.

12. The Strangers


When The Strangers was released, the marketing materials claimed it was based on true events, which will instantly make any horror movie either significantly scarier to people who believe in it or make skeptics write it off entirely as being made up to sell more tickets.

Bryan Bertino explained that his inspiration behind the movie came from a combination of the Manson family murders and series of break ins that he recalled from when he was a child:

“As a kid, I lived in a house on a street in the middle of nowhere. One night, while our parents were out, somebody knocked on the front door and my little sister answered it. At the door were some people asking for somebody who didn’t live there. We later found out that these people were knocking on doors on the area and, if no one was home, breaking into the houses.”

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