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Cataloged in Creepy / True Crime

5 Real-Life Murders That Inspired Your Favorite Horror Movies

It can seem harmless to watch a horror film which is said to be based on true events. After all, marketing companies have been often known to exaggerate in order to convince audiences into buying movie tickets. However, there are some films that are not just works of fiction. Sometimes, real-life murders are so startling and so brutally terrifying that they inspire entire movie franchises. Here are some movies and the shocking true events they were adapted from:

1. The Amityville Horror (1979)

There is a place called Amityville, a village situated in Suffolk County, New York. For most people, it rings a familiar bell because the horrible events that took place there have been re-imagined on the big screen several times over the years. In 1974, Ronald Defeo, Jr. brutally murdered his family in their home. His parents, his two brothers, and his two sisters, aged between 9 and 18 years old, were found dead, in their beds. Although, at first Defeo tried to cover up what he did, he later confessed to shooting his family members in their sleep. In 1975, he was found guilty and imprisoned for the six murders. Two years later, a book detailing what happened after the murders was published by Jay Anson. He wrote about the new family that moved into the Defeo house at 112 Ocean Avenue. The Lutz family apparently experienced supernatural occurrences while staying there such as nightmares, cold spots around the house, and paranormal activity at the exact time the Defeo murders happened. In 1979, the first horror movie based on the events was released. Even though there have been many adaptations and reinterpretations of the events over the years, the 1979 film is still capable of causing chills and making audiences wonder what exactly happened at 112 Ocean Avenue.

2. The Girl Next Door (2007)

Sylvia Likens was a 16-year-old girl who, along with her sister, was left by her parents in the care of their neighbor, Gertrude Baniszewski. But, nobody could have imagined the terrifying abuse and ultimate death Sylvia would have to go through. Baniszweski was a mentally unstable woman and her intentions were evil to say the least. She encouraged her children and their friends to torture Sylvia by burning, starving, and sexually assaulting her. In the end, the little girl died of malnutrition and a brain hemorrhage. Even though the woman was sent to prison for life for her crime, she was paroled in 1985. The 2007 movie adaptation follows the last days of the young girl and the horrifying assault she had to endure before succumbing to her death.

3. Wolf Creek (2005)

Between 1989 and 1994, young backpackers visiting New South Wales, Australia were being kidnapped and murdered by a serial killer. Nobody was able to find any trace of the backpackers until 1992, when the bodies of the first two victims were found. One year later, two more bodies were discovered. One month later, three more bodies were found and they all shared similar patterns of abuse as the ones before: stabbing and gunshot wounds. As a police investigation began, a man came forward and told police about a man who offered to give him a ride but ultimately tied him up and kidnapped him. Fortunately, the man was able to escape and later identify his abductor as Ivan Milat. Later, the police were able to tie the Backpacker Murders to Milat and sentenced him to life in prison. The 2005 movie Wolf Creek is an adaptation of these real-life murders and follows three backpackers as they are abducted and hunted through the Australian outback by a vicious killer.

4. Scream (1996)

In 1990, just as classes were about to start at the University of Florida in Gainesville, the Gainesville Ripper was beginning his killing spree. The first murder happened on August 24, when the Ripper killed students Sonja Larson and Christina Powell. His third victim was Christa Hoyt on the very next day. One week later, there were two more victims, 23-year-olds Tracy Paules and Manny Taboada. The killings caused panic in the city of Gainesville and students lived in constant fear for their lives. Furthermore, the presence of the media in the city did little to calm the atmosphere. The Gainesville Ripper, Danny Rolling, was executed by lethal injection on October 25, 2006. These terrible events were the inspiration for the 1996 movie, Scream. Just as Gainesville, the town of Woodsboro became overwhelmed with panic and fear as the killer was loose.

5. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976, 2014)

In 1946, the town of Texarkana, Texas, was ravaged by an unknown killer. Over the course of 10 weeks, a total of five people were murdered and three other were injured. The killer’s first two victims were attacked while still in their parked car in the area’s lover’s lane. They survived, but the next two victims did not. As the masked maniac became known as the Phantom Killer, the residents of the town feared sunset and began the lock themselves in their homes with guns and ammunition. Even though the police patrolled the streets on a regular basis, they never caught the killer. To this day, the murders have remained unsolved. The 1976 slasher movie that was inspired by the events was actually filmed in Texarkana. TC mark