9 "True" Horror Movies Vs The Real Stories They're Based On
We take a look at the true events that inspired some of the biggest horror movies. Obviously this post contains spoilers and disturbing images.
1. The Conjuring vs Bathsheba the witch and the Perron family
The film: The Perrons move into an old farmhouse with their five daughters. They find a barred-up cellar entrance, and a string of paranormal activities occur. Doors open and close on their own, and they hear random clapping. One of the kids starts sleepwalking and bangs her head against an old wardrobe, and the eldest child is attacked by the spirit of an elderly woman. The Perrons seek out paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who find a spirit has attached itself to the family, and that the home needs an exorcism. The Warrens find the home once belonged to Bathsheba, an accused witch. She was caught sacrificing her 1-year-old daughter, and spoke of her love for Satan before hanging herself on a tree by the lake. Many murders and suicides later took place on the property. They set up a bunch of equipment to catch the paranormal activity to get evidence and approval from the church for an exorcism to take place. During this, Lorraine Warren faces all the spirits of the people Bathsheba possessed and discovers she is trying to possess the Perron mother in order to kill her children. The exorcism fails and the mother becomes possessed. She tries to kill her children, but Lorraine gets through to her, breaking Bathsheba’s hold on her. The Warrens place the Perrons' music box in their possessed objects room.
The real deal: Andrea Perron, one of the Perron children, claims that The Conjuring "is a fair reflection of the chaos and danger we faced at the farm". Bathsheba was a real person who lived in the 1800s. There is no evidence pointing to her being a witch, but her child did die in her care. Reports said that the death was ruled to be a result of a sewing needle going through the child’s skull. People at the time believed that this was done as a sacrifice to the devil, as the movie suggests. The court ruled that she was innocent, although the public still believed she was a witch. But unlike in the film, she simply died of old age. The Perron family linked the paranormal activity to Bathsheba through the Warrens. The mother of the Perron family told them of a moment where she felt a pain in her leg, and when she inspected it she noticed blood pouring out of a circle on her leg. Her daughter wrote a book where she described the wound as a “perfectly concentric circle… as if a large sewing needle had impaled her skin”. The Warrens then told the Perrons about the story of Bathsheba and her child’s death, and from that point they believed that the spirit was in fact Bathsheba. Also in the book, one of the Perron children notes that there were several cases of suicide, death by natural causes, rape, and even murder on the farmhouse property over the years. However, the mother of the Perron family never tried to kill her daughters.
The main difference: The Perron mother did not try to kill her kids.
2. The Conjuring 2 vs the Enfield Poltergeist
The film: In England, Peggy Hodgson and her children experience a slew of paranormal activities starting with Janet, one of the four children in the family, sleepwalking and having night terrors. At first, Peggy pushes it aside, but they all soon start witnessing these activities like furniture moving, and even Janet levitating. The family discover that the former homeowner, Bill Wilkins, died in the house and he possesses Janet, taking over her body and speaking in a raspy voice when in control. The Warrens get involved and discover that another demonic spirit, Valek, is actually using Bill as a pawn. The Warrens manage to expel Valek back to hell, and the film ends with them back in America placing the children's music box in their haunted objects room.
The real deal: Also in England, the Hodgson family believed that they were in fact haunted by a spirit. A man by the name of Bill did happen to die in the armchair downstairs from a brain haemorrhage, and there is video footage of what is believed to be a possessed Janet speaking in a deep voice as "Bill". Similar to the film, there was unexplainable knocking from within the walls, the family claim they saw things moving, and a police officer even noted in her report that she saw a chair move in front of her and no “hidden wires”. There are images of Janet "levitating" and investigator Maurice Grosse claimed that she went from "horizontal to vertical in one-sixth of a second.” However, the images show Janet in a position that suggests she is simply jumping off her bed. The role that the Warrens played in the case was much less than what was portrayed in the film; they were simply one set of many paranormal investigators who visited the family during the paranormal events.
The main difference: The Hodgsons claimed to see only one spirit, and the Warrens really had a much lesser role.
3. The Exorcist vs the exorcism of Roland Doe
The film: The Exorcist follows the story of 12-year-old Regan, who complains her bed is shaking on its own. A slew of strange events happen, and Regan admits to playing with a ouija board. She urinates in front of her mother's party guests, and her bed levitates that same night. She undergoes medical testing to ensure nothing is wrong with her. Regan begins moving up and down in her bed, speaking in a demonic voice, and later is even caught masturbating with a crucifix. Furniture starts moving on its own, and her head spins completely. When priests come to exorcise her, they find she is covered in lesions and tied to the bed. Regan projectile vomits, speaks in a strange language (which turns out to be backwards English), and the worlds “help me” appear on her body as scars. During the exorcism, a priest casts the spirit into himself and commits suicide to expel it. Regan remembers nothing.
The real deal: In 1949, a 13-year-old boy, known to the public as Roland Doe, was said to be possessed, and consequently an exorcism was performed. He was said to have been close to his spiritualist aunt, who introduced him to a ouija board. After her death in 1949, Roland used the board to try to contact his aunt, which is when the alleged paranormal activity began. This includes the family apparently hearing sounds, seeing furniture and religious items moving, things levitating and scratches appearing on Roland's body. The family called for an exorcism of the child, and he experienced 30 attempts over the course of two months. Similar to the movie, Roland reportedly spoke in a "demonic voice" – sometimes in Latin – and spat at the people who tried to help. His bed also seemed to shake and words ("evil" and "hell") are said to have appeared on his body. Following the slew of exorcisms, Roland never experienced possession again and grew up to lead a normal life. No one knows his true identity.
The main difference: The gender of the child, the number of exorcisms and deaths, and the lack of projectile vomiting in real life.
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre vs the murderer Ed Gein
The film: Five friends get caught up in a messy situation following the suicide of a hitchhiker in their van. The group face a number of killings at the hands of the murderer Leatherface, who uses a chainsaw and wears his victims' faces over his own to cover up his deformities. They seek help from the sheriff and some other people but later find they're all linked to Leatherface, making it seemingly impossible to escape. Leatherface takes many of his victims to his basement, hanging them on meathooks like in a slaughterhouse. Only one of the five friends manages to escape, and when police go to investigate the crime they are “attacked”. The film closes with the information that "the crime scene was not properly secured by Travis County Police. Two investigating officers were fatally wounded that day. This is the only known image of Thomas Hewitt, the man they call Leatherface. The case today still remains open."
The real deal: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is very loosely based on the Wisconsin murderer Ed Gein, who was active from 1954-1957, but had only two known victims. Like Leatherface, Gein did actually wear his victims' scalps and faces, and even mammary vests (skin sheets of the breasts and vagina). Gein didn’t use a chainsaw to murder his victims, he used a gun. But one victim was found hanging, gutted, and decapitated, which is somewhat similar to the movie. When officers searched Gein's home, they found many human remains that had been transformed into things such as utensils for eating (skullcaps for bowls), decorative items (human skin lampshades), and even fashion items (belts made of human nipples). Gein admitted to digging up graves of women who reminded him of his mother to create these items. No police officers were harmed during the investigations of Gein, the case is closed, and he was arrested and sent to a psychiatric facility, where he died.
The main difference: The use of a chainsaw and the number of victims. Well, calling the movie The Wisconsin Shooting of Only Two People just doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
5. Annabelle vs the real-life Annabelle
The film: A man named John gives a doll to his pregnant wife, Mia. They find themselves in a strange altercation with their neighbours, Annabelle Higgins and her husband, who are revealed to be members of a demonic cult called The Disciples of the Ram. They believe in summoning demons by claiming souls. During the altercation, Mia is stabbed in the side and Annabelle kills herself. A drop of her blood falls into the doll's eye and apparently causes it to be possessed. Mia asks her husband to dispose of the doll, as she suspects it’s linked to the strange occurrences happening around them. Following a series of even more unexplainable events, Mia gives birth to a healthy baby girl called Lea. The couple move to a new apartment, and as Mia is unpacking she notices the doll, now dubbed Annabelle, is back. Mia begins seeing visions of young girls and symbols, and decides to consult a detective. She also does some digging of her own with the help of Evelyn, a bookstore owner. She discovers that the presence haunting her wants her daughter's soul. While in the apartment without John, Mia becomes fed up with the spirit and decides to sacrifice herself for the sake of her daughter. She grabs Annabelle and prepares to jump from the window. Evelyn stops Mia, and instead decides to sacrifice herself, sparing the lives of Mia and her daughter. The film ends by saying Annabelle is in Ed and Lorraine Warren’s museum and that it’s blessed twice a month.
The real deal: Annabelle in real life was just a run-of-the-mill Raggedy Ann Doll, and was a gift from a mother to her daughter, rather than a husband to his wife. The owners had no links to satanic cults and never tried to dispose of the doll, so it never magically reappeared as it does in the film. However, they claim the doll moved into different positions and rooms on its own. What appeared to be blood was found on the doll's head and chest, and the owners called a medium. A seance was performed, and the medium said that the spirit attached to the doll was that of Annabelle Higgins, who had died at the age of 7 and whose body was supposedly found on the site of the family's apartment. The Warrens later got involved and contradicted this, saying the girl had died in a motorcycle accident outside the apartment building. Before the doll was given to the Warrens, it apparently attacked a friend of the owners by, in one instance, strangling him until he blacked out and another time giving him claw-like scratches that healed in two days. The Warrens recount that messages like “help us” would appear on parchment paper in childlike writing around the owners' home, and claim that Annabelle took the life of one person: a young man who visited their museum years later and got into a fatal motorcycle accident after taunting the doll.
The main difference: The doll was never really possessed on the hunt for a soul, and no one sacrificed themselves. Plus, honestly it's kind of hard to be creeped out by a doll that is made of cotton, and responsible for a couple of scratches.
6. The Girl Next Door vs the murder of Sylvia Likens
The film: The film is centred on David, who gets new neighbours when Megan and her younger sister, Susan, move in with their Aunt Ruth and her three sons, after they were left orphaned by a car accident. While Aunt Ruth is considered cool, and her home is the neighbourhood hangout, Megan's life there isn't good. The boys subject Megan to tickling and groping, and Aunt Ruth punishes Susan for this. Megan reports it to the police and Ruth then locks her in the basement, tying her to the support beams by her wrists. She places Megan on a pile of books, and removes one book at a time when Megan doesn’t confess. She then lets one of the boys cut her clothes off and leaves her to hang there overnight. David, who is sleeping over, sneaks her a knife and leaves the basement unlocked so she can escape, but Megan gets caught when trying to also sneak Susan out. As a result, Megan is subjected to even worse treatment. She is tied to a metal box spring while someone rapes her. Someone then suggests that they cut her, and Ruth carves a message into her stomach with a hot, sharpened bobby pin. They then perform female circumcision on her. David is punished for trying to help Megan, and gets tied up too, along with Susan. He starts a fire to escape, and a police officer saves them, but unfortunately Megan dies from her injuries.
The real deal: The film is pretty closely based on the murder of Sylvia Likens. Like the film, Sylvia and her sister, Jenny, were given to a family with kids to be taken care of. However, they weren’t orphans but the children of a divorce, and their father couldn’t care for them. The real Ruth was a woman named Gertrude Baniszewksi, who had seven kids of her own and charged $20 a week to care for the Likens children. She was not related to them in any way. Their torture began because their father had forgotten to pay on time. They were beaten with a paddle, and all the other kids were encouraged to mistreat Sylvia. Like in the film, Gertrude used a hot metal object to carve a message into Sylvia’s stomach, “I am a prostitute and proud of it.” Gertrude would also lock Sylvia up for days and starve her. She also stuck a glass Coke bottle into Sylvia’s vagina. All this torture took its toll on Sylvia, and she died from internal bleeding, shock, and malnutrition. Gertrude was caught, and went to prison, but she was released and not remorseful of her actions stating that “Sylvia needed to be taught a lesson.” In real life there was no David character, and no one helped Sylvia before she died.
The main difference: Ruth wasn't really her aunty in real life, and no one helped her before she died.
7. Wolf Creek vs backpacker murderer Ivan Milat
The film: Aussie traveller Ben and British tourists Liz and Kristy are stranded at Wolf Creek Crater when their car breaks down. Local man Mick finds them and offers them a place to stay, saying he will fix their car in the morning. Liz wakes up to find herself tied up in the shed. She breaks free and finds Kristy tied up in the barn. The girls manage to escape, but Mick follows. They create a diversion and Liz returns to Mick’s house, where he has a garage full of cars. She tries to take one, not realising Mick is in the back, and he kills her. After waiting a while, Kristy flags down a car on the highway, but Mick shoots both her and the old man offering her help. Ben, all the while, is nailed to a wall. He manages to pull himself free and collapses on the highway, where some tourists find him and take him to the hospital. The film ends with Ben at the girls' funerals, and the information that their bodies were never found. Ben was questioned for months over what happened to his friends.
The real deal: Wolfe Creek is a real location where a crater exists, as described in the film. However, the murders the film is based on didn’t occur in Western Australia, but rather in Belanglo State Forest in New South Wales. The murderer who inspired the character of Mick is the "backpacker murderer", Ivan Milat. He murdered five tourists and two Australians, whose bodies were dumped in the forest. His victims were typically shot, stabbed, and/or decapitated, similar to the movie. It’s also believed that Milat spent time with his victims, specifically on his campsite, much like the film shows. He was arrested when a man who escaped his grasp identified him. He is currently serving seven consecutive life sentences.
The main difference: In real life the murderer was caught, and that ended his reign of terror. And the garage full of victims' cars and the crucifixion/torture devices are all just inventions of the movie.
8. The Exorcism Of Emily Rose vs the exorcism of Anneliese Michel
The film: Lawyer Erin is assigned to defend Father Richard Moore, who is charged with acts of negligence during Emily Rose’s exorcism that led to her death. The medical team claim Emily suffered from epilepsy and psychosis, which provides reasons for her abnormal behaviour. In a flashback, Emily is drawn by the smell of burning at 3am, and sees doors opening and closing by themselves. She also sees items in her room moving on their own and is attacked by a presence that chokes and seemingly possesses her. Her parents believe she is possessed and call for an exorcism. The lawyer starts to experience the same things, and the priest warns her that she's subject to the same possession because she's trying to expose the spirits. A doctor who was present during the exorcism comes forward with audio from the night. This audio reveals that during the exorcism the holy water began to evaporate as it hit the walls, and that Emily spoke in tongues. She then broke free of the ties holding her to the bed and ran to the barn, where there were strong winds and demonic screams. The spirit possessing her revealed that it was six individual spirits and not just one. Father Moore explains to the court that Emily refused any more exorcisms and refused to take her medications, simply accepting her fate. Father Moore is ultimately found guilty, but is given a sentence of time served.
The real deal: The film is based on the series of exorcisms that took place on Anneliese Michel. She was born into an extremely Catholic family in Germany and at 16 she began experiencing convulsions that were diagnosed as epilepsy, like Emily Rose did in the film. She saw visions while praying, heard evil voices, and started reacting badly to anything religious shown to her. She also began to smell, and after being taken to many priests, who advised that she should be taken to a doctor, one said she needed an exorcism and so one was performed. All medical treatment on her was stopped in 1975, and exorcisms were the sole treatment she was given. In under a year, over 67 exorcisms were performed on her with her approval. Similar to the film, Anneliese claimed she was possessed by many spirits (Annaliese claimed it was Judas, Nero, Hitler, Cain, Lucifer, and more). She also spoke in tongues. Believing it would weaken the spirits' hold on her, she stopped eating and she ended up dying of dehydration and malnutrition at the age of 23, weighing only 68 pounds when she died. Her father, her mother, and the two priests who performed the exorcisms were charged with negligent homicide, like the priest in the movie was. In the film there were voice recordings of the exorcism played in court, and in real life, 42 of the 67 exorcisms were recorded and used in the trial.
The main difference: The film should've really been the 67 Exorcisms of Emily Rose or the Eight-Year Possession of Emily Rose.
9. The Amityville Horror (2005) vs the Lutz family
The film: The Lutz family move into their dream home in Amityville, New York, which is inexpensive because it was the scene of the brutal murders of the DeFeo family by their son Ronald, who shot them with a rifle. Once moved in, the Lutz family face a series of strange activities, like the magnets on the fridge spelling out "KATCH EM, KILL EM". One of the kids says they've made friends with someone called Jodie, which was the name of one of the DeFeo children. She also mysteriously has a teddy bear that belonged to and was buried with Jodie (a priest later confirms this). The father starts spending more time in the basement, where he hears voices and sees the time 3:15 constantly, which is the time the DeFeos were killed. The boathouse doors always unlock themselves, and blood often seeps from the walls. As a result of all the paranormal activity, the family call on a priest to bless the house. He is scared off when his holy water starts to evaporate as it touches the walls and he is attacked by flies. The mother does research and learns that the house once belonged to Reverend Ketcham, who tortured and killed Native Americans in the basement. The dad becomes fully possessed after seeing a vision of Father Ketcham and his victims, and like Ronald DeFeo, hunts down his family with a shotgun. The mother knocks out the father in the boathouse, and he warns them to all flee the home and never return.
The real deal: One of the Lutz children in 2005 told Inside Edition that "the only thing [Hollywood] got right is that our family moved into that house and we left". In 1974, Ronald DeFeo did in fact kill his parents and siblings with a rifle as they slept, as the movie truthfully depicts. Also, like the film, Ronald DeFeo did say (in court) that he had heard voices that told him to kill his family. However, in 2002 he told Primetime Live that he did it because his parents were abusive and he was drunk. A priest, Father Ralph Pecoraro, did supposedly bless the house and feel some sort of presence. He said while sprinkling holy water he heard a voice directed at him say “get out” and felt a slap on the face despite no one being there. But, unlike in the film, no flies swarmed him. There were no ghosts, no bloody walls, no secret torture chambers, and no Ketcham figures. The father of the Lutz family never tried to kill his loved ones, and there was no one in the DeFeo family called Jodie.
The main difference: Well sure, the DeFeo family story was true, but there was basically nothing similar to the Lutz clan.