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17 Real-Life Stories That Were So Messed Up, Hollywood Literally Turned Them Into Movies

I still can't believe The Exorcist was based on a TRUE story.

We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us the best movies they've seen that were actually based on true events. Here are the wild results.

Note: Some submissions include topics of sexual assault.

1. When a Stranger Calls (1979)

Columbia Pictures, The Hutchinson News / newspapers.com

Suggested by Hayden Thomas Veach, Facebook

In 1950, 13-year-old Janett Christman was babysitting a little boy in Missouri, but when his parents returned home, they found a broken window and Janett's lifeless body covered in a pool of her own blood. This unsolved murder was so gruesome that it inspired an urban legend called "the babysitter and the man upstairs," which has since been adapted into several stories, including the 1979 and 2006 movies When a Stranger Calls.

Here's the movie trailer:

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Columbia Pictures / youtube.com

2. Scream (1996)

Dimension Films, State of Florida Corrections / Public Domain / Wikipedia / en.wikipedia.org

Suggested by spenceralthouse

Danny Rolling, aka the Gainesville Ripper, murdered five students in their Florida apartments over a four-day period in 1990. His weapon of choice was always a knife. These gruesome attacks were the inspiration for Scream, introducing the world to Ghostface, one of the creepiest movie villains of all time.

Here's the movie trailer:

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Dimension Films / youtube.com

3. The Strangers (2008)

A person standing outside and then disappearing
Universal Pictures

Suggested by baileyd7

A quadruple homicide in a cabin in the woods of rural California was part of the inspiration for The Strangers. And why not? There's nothing scarier than thinking you're alone (and safe) but quickly realizing you're not — that's why the Keddie Murders is one of the creepiest unsolved crimes ever.

Here's the movie trailer:

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Universal Pictures / youtube.com

4. The Exorcist (1973)

The little girl being possessed in her bed
Warner Bros.

Suggested by bast13137

In the 1940s, Roland Doe was 14 years old when he allegedly became possessed. Claw marks would randomly appear on his body, and objects would be moved across the room by an unknown force. He and his family tried moving away, but the supernatural being followed. These accounts were documented by a priest, and several exorcisms were performed on Roland, which led to the novel that inspired a movie of the same name: The Exorcist.

Here's the movie trailer:

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Warner Bros. / youtube.com

5. Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

A demon in a little girl's room
Screen Gems

Suggested by autumnbke

Ralph Sarchie was both an NYPD sergeant and a demonologist who participated in dozens of exorcisms. His memoir, Beware the Night, outlined several of his supernatural and spooky encounters, which inspired the movie Deliver Us from Evil. Nope!!!!!

Here's the movie trailer:

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Screen Gems / youtube.com

6. House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

People burning things next to a giant cross
Universal Pictures

Suggested by Bj Sanders-Lunsford, Facebook

The Bloody Benders were a family of serial killers who murdered 11 people (and possibly even more!) in the early 1870s. Their heinous crimes loosely served as inspiration for the movie House of 1000 Corpses, and I promise you it's very creepy.

Here's the movie trailer:

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Universal Pictures / youtube.com

7. In Cold Blood (1967)

A man surrounded by police in "In Cold Blood"
Columbia Pictures

Suggested by katiechristinec

This movie was based on Truman Capote's book of the same name, which recounted the real and brutal murders of four members of the Herbert Clutter family in Kansas in 1959. The movie may not be particularly scary, but knowing that an entire family was murdered for no reason at all is absolutely terrifying.

Here's the movie trailer:

View this video on YouTube

Columbia Pictures / youtube.com

8. The Conjuring (2013)

Multimedia Entertainment / youtube.com / Warner Bros. Pictures

Suggested by madisonb4

In 1971, a couple moved into an old farmhouse in Rhode Island with their five daughters. Spooky things started to occur, including several ghostly encounters and even a possession. The family was haunted for nine whole years, which sparked interest from two real-life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, who The Conjuring follows. In fact, the real Lorraine Warren was actually a consultant on the film, so you KNOW the adaptation is both accurate and scary as hell.

Here's the movie trailer:

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Warner Bros. Pictures / youtube.com

9. The Possession (2012)

A child opening up a dybbuk box
Lionsgate

Suggested by magsaloo

There are several legends and horror stories involving dybbuk boxes, i.e. containers which are said to contain evil spirits. But in 2001, Kevin Mannis bought one, and verrrrrry strange things started to happen. Those events inspired the movie The Possession.

Here's the movie trailer:

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Lionsgate / youtube.com

10. Zodiac (2007)

The Zodiac Killer in a park in "Zodiac"
Paramount Pictures

Suggested by robertocf

Anyone who loves true crime already knows the basics about the Zodiac Killer, a murderer who terrorized the world after killing several people in Northern California in the '60s and '70s and sent cryptic messages to the police as a way to taunt them. This thriller follows one man as he tries to solve the case, which, spoiler alert, is famously still unsolved to this day. Absolutely terrifying.

Here's the movie trailer:

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Paramount Pictures / youtube.com

11. Silent Hill (2006)

A woman driving in her car and spotting a ghost in the road
Metropolitan Filmexport

Suggested by chessaf

A 1962 coal mine fire ~underneath~ the borough of Centralia, Pennsylvania, is literally still burning to this day, over 45 years later. The city is practically a ghost town now, though some people view it as a tourist attraction. This nearly abandoned area inspired screenwriter Roger Avary's depiction of the spooky village in Silent Hill.

Here's the movie trailer:

View this video on YouTube

Metropolitan Filmexport / youtube.com

12. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Leatherface attacking someone in his home
Bryanston Pictures

Suggested by emilydawn

Ed Gein, also known as The Butcher of Plainfield, was the inspiration for this movie's (and several others) terrifying villain, Leatherface. Gein killed two women and dismembered their bodies (as well as several bodies he exhumed from graveyards) and used their skin and bones to furnish his house, including a wastebasket made from human skin, bowls made from skulls, and a belt made of human nipples. Truly horrifying.

Here's the movie trailer:

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Bryanston Pictures / youtube.com

13. Annabelle (2014)

New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. ME / youtube.com

Suggested by makaylaj48

Remember Ed and Lorraine Warren, the paranormal investigators who helped inspire the movie The Conjuring? Well, they also examined a seemingly possessed doll that apparently levitated and "even attempted strangulation on a family friend." That doll, Annabelle, is currently kept in a glass box in a museum, but don't worry about it escaping: the box is secured with ritualistic prayers. The first movie about this doll was so successful that they even came out with two sequels in 2017 and 2019.

Here's the movie trailer:

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New Line Cinema / youtube.com

14. Jaws (1975)

Bruce, the shark, attacking someone in a boat
Universal Pictures

Suggested by jessicay44

In 1916, several people were killed in shark attacks off the Jersey Shore. The killings led to shark hunts and the closings of beaches up and down the coast, until one man ultimately killed the shark as it attacked his boat. This inspired the novel Jaws, which was released in 1974, and Steven Spielberg's blockbuster the following year.

Here's the movie trailer:

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Universal Pictures / youtube.com

15. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Emily Rose outside on a foggy day
Screen Gems

Suggested by fillionfan4002

The Exorcism of Emily Rose was based on the true story of Anneliese Michel, who lived until the mid-1970s. Michel had a seizure when she was 16, which ultimately resulted in temporal lobe epilepsy. After several years of hearing voices and being depressed — none of which were cured by psychiatric medications — her family became convinced that she was possessed by a demon. Her parents got priests to perform 67 exorcisms on her within a 10-month period. Michel later died, and her parents and the priests were found guilty of negligent homicide.

Here's the movie trailer:

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Screen Gems / youtube.com

16. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The main actor sleeping and in a bath tub
New Line Cinema

Suggested by Katie May, Facebook

"Sudden unexpected death syndrome" is a very rare but real thing. After Wes Craven read a newspaper article about a boy who literally died of fright because of how scary his dreams were, Craven created the premise for A Nightmare on Elm Street. Good luck falling asleep tonight.

Here's the movie trailer:

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New Line Cinema / youtube.com

17. And The Girl Next Door (2007)

A young girl tied up in a basement during a scene
Starz Home Entertainment

Suggested by ltodd5122

The torture and murder of 16-year-old Sylvia Likens in 1965 was considered "the most terrible crime ever committed in the state of Indiana." She was tortured in unspeakable ways for three months by the Baniszewski family while she lived with them (to be honest, I felt physically ill while reading about the things they did to her, so consider this your warning). These horrifying events have inspired several books and movies (like 2007's An American Crime starring Elliot Page), including Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door, which was later adapted into a film of the same name.

Here's the movie trailer:

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Starz Home Entertainment / youtube.com

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