Real Horror Stories that Inspired the Movies

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Halloween. It’s the best time of year to dim the lights and settle down with one of your favorite macabre gore fests. But behind many film villains lies a true story that’s eerily close. It would be nice to think that vicious butchers live only in our nightmares, but the truth is that history has witnessed many of these gruesome characters.

Below we unmask your favorite horror movie villains to reveal the frightening reality behind their movie masks.

The Strangers – The Manson Family

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The writer and director of The Strangers, Bryan Bertino, confessed that he based the movie off the Manson family murders. The movie centers around a couple who are relentlessly stalked by a small band of weirdos. The truth is way worse and paved the way for a new generation of horror.

Pregnant actress Sharon Tate was home with friends when Charles Manson’s twisted family approached. In the movie the fictional characters find that the batteries from their cellphones have been removed. In reality, Tex Watson climbed a telephone line and severed the line with a pair of bolt cutters. When police came to the house the following day, they found five dead bodies. The victims had been bound, mutilated, slashed, and stabbed. The Manson Family had painted the house with blood to write “PIG” on the front door. The next night the family struck again, murdering the LaBianca family in a similar fashion.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – Ed Gein

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Is this the creepy house from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Nope, much worse. This was the house belonging to the man who inspired Leatherface, Ed Gein. Although his body count was much less than the movie version (he confessed to the murders of two women), Gein was a notorious grave robber — who made masks from human skin. When police ransacked his house, they found some of the most horrific home decor in history. In addition to finding a body flayed in the garage, they also found a belt made out of nipples, skulls on his bedposts, multiple household items made of human skin, and nine vulvae in a shoebox. He inspired both Leatherface and Buffalo Bill for his fondness of wearing human faces as masks. After the death of his mother, he was intent on creating a “woman suit” made out of actual women. Gein remains the stuff of nightmares.

American Psycho – Ted Bundy

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Will the real Patrick Bateman please stand up? There’s been plenty of speculation as to who inspired one of the most famous fictional serial killers of all time. Christian Bale allegedly based his screen adaptation of Bateman on another all-American psycho, Tom Cruise. But Bale also nailed some of Bundy’s famous mannerisms. Author Bret Easton Ellis read multiple books on Bundy before penning American Psycho, and both the film and book are peppered with Bundy references. Some of Bateman’s fictional crimes closely mirrored Bundy, including the murder of prostitutes in a gruesome fashion. Both men were supposed to be handsome and charismatic at first glance. Fun fact: Patrick Bateman’s personal hero, after Ted Bundy, was Donald Trump. Go figure.

It – John Wayne Gacy

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Stephen King’s It was the first piece of fiction to make clowns terrifying. But Pennywise the Clown had nothing on his real life counterpart, John Wayne Gacy. Gacy, pictured above, dressed up as Pogo the Clown to entertain his neighborhood. What his neighbors didn’t know is that he was one of the scariest serial killers in history. He was also responsible for murdering 33 young boys and hiding their bodies in the crawlspace beneath his house. Also known as “The Killer Clown,” Gacy pretty much inspired the entire “scary clown” genre.

Halloween – Edmund Kemper

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While director John Carpenter has never explicitly stated that Michael Myers was based on Edmund Kemper, it’s hard not to see the resemblance. Kemper was 6’9″; the actor who played Myers is 6″8″. Michael Myers murders his sister as a child; Edmund Kemper murdered his grandparents at 16. Both were committed to mental institutes after spilling first blood, and both had a close relationship with their psychiatrist. Well, as close as anyone can get to a remorseless psychopath. When Kemper left the asylum, he began killing and dismembering coeds. Sound familiar? Kemper was even worse than Myers. In addition to stabbing and strangling his victims – he also engaged in necrophilia after they were dead. He often took the heads of his victims as trophies and buried them in his backyard, facing up, so they would “look up to him.” Eventually he beheaded his mother and used her head as a dartboard before shoving her larynx down the garbage disposal. Kemper was finally caught in 1973. Halloween was released in 1978.

The Silence of the Lambs – Jerry Brudos

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The inspiration for Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs is supposed to be a composite of six different serial killers, including Jerry Brudos. Brudos strangled four young women to death and then would dress up in their clothes afterwards. He also kept human remains from his victims as trophies, including a severed foot which he used as a foot model. While in prison, the only thing he requested was shoe catalogues.

Wolf Creek – Ivan Milat

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Wolf Creek was based on Australia’s “Backpacker Murderer,” Ivan Milat. Milat was known to have killed seven backpackers between 1989 and 1993, when human remains were found in Belanglo State Forest. But police still believe that he is responsible for many more unexplained disappearances. Milat targeted backpacking tourists, and the bodies were found similarly arranged in a ritualistic style. One victim had been beheaded. To make the case even creepier, Milat’s work wasn’t finished once he was in prison. A copycat killer murdered a 17-year-old in Belanglo State Forest with an axe. It turned out that the copycat was none other than Ivan Milat’s great nephew, Matthew Milat.

Feeling queasy? The truth is often far worse than the movies. So the next time you settle down to watch a scary movie, lock the doors!