'Slender Man' and 12 other horror films inspired by disturbing true events

Hanna Flint

The Slender Man is out in cinemas this Friday (24 August), introducing a new paranormal threat to the horror film genre.

It’s not an original concept though, rather it’s based on the internet meme that first appeared in the Something Awful forums in 2009.

The supernatural child stalker was developed by forum members who were asked to edit the Slender Man into real photos to make them seem paranormal and uploaded them to the site.

Slender Man is based on the internet meme and stars Joey King

The Slender Man movie is not the first to be inspired by the fictional legend; both 2013’s Entity and 2015’s Always Watching featured a similar character.

Here are 12 other horror movies that were inspired by real-life events.

Psycho (1960)

Psycho is Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous film

The reality: Shower-stalking mummy’s boy Norman Bates character was based on Ed Gein, who was arrested in 1957 for murdering two women – and digging up the corpses of countless others – who reminded him of his dead mum. A man with issues we suspect. The real Gein is below, accompanied by two US Marshals.

The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist

The reality: The film took its inspiration from the last known Catholic-sanctioned exorcism in the United States, where priests attended to a 13-year-old boy after his parents complained about his aggressive behaviour. The facts are a little murky, so whilst there may be some truth to reports that the boy spoke in a demonic accent and moved objects with his mind; he almost definitely didn’t spin his head entirely round, levitate or talk gobbledygook.

Even spookier, however, is the so-called Exorcist curse, which afflicted the film’s crew. Depending on who you ask, between four and nine people involved with the movie died either in production or shortly after; whilst filming was repeatedly delayed by a spate of mysterious fires and serious on-set accidents. 

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) 

A Nightmare on Elm Street was made by Wes Craven

The reality: Wes Craven based his movie’s marvellous MacGuffin on a real-life condition that became known as Sudden Nocturnal Death Syndrome (SUNDS). The affliction was found in Cambodian refugees who suffered recurring nightmares, after which they refused to sleep, fearing death if they did. Some were even proved right as they died shortly after. 

The Conjuring (2013)

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play the Warrens in the Conjuring series

The reality: The Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson characters are based on real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (she’s with Farmiga, below) of Amityvillefame. The events of the film are based on the 1971 Perron case, which saw the family’s home in Harrisville, Rhode Island haunted by a ‘witch’. The land that the house was built on was apparently cursed by a 19th-century woman called Bathsheba Sherman so that whoever lived there somehow died.

Silent House (2011)

Elizabeth Olsen stars in the horror film Silent House

The reality: This indie horror movie from Open Water duo Chris Kentis and Laura Lau is a remake of the 2010 film, La casa muda (The Silent House), which in turn was said to be inspired by a similar incident claimed to have happened in a village in Uruguay in the 1940s, though it’s yet to be verified.

Annabelle (2014)

Annabelle is part of The Conjuring Cinematic Universe

The reality: This follow-up to The Conjuring focuses on the terrifying evil doll from the first film. Again, we’re sorry to report that Annabelle is REAL. She’s based on the abomination below – a Raggedy Ann doll bought for a woman named Donna by her mother in 1970. Some of the doll’s real-life antics include switching positions and rooms at night and leaving cryptic messages like “Help Us” written on parchment that wasn’t even in the room. Also, one day blood mysteriously appeared all over it.

The Warrens (see The Conjuring) suspected the doll was inhabited by the ghost of a seven-year-old girl called Annabelle Higgins who’d died in a car accident. You can still go and visit it at their museum… if you dare.

The Girl Next Door (2007)

The film is based on the abuse and murder of Sylvia Likens

The reality: The film is based on the murder of Sylvia Likens by Gertrude Baniszweski, her daughter Paula and four other children in Indianapolis, Indiana, 1965. Likens was left with Baniszewski to look after by her Carnival worker parents, along with her sister, but after getting a late payment from the dad she led three months of torture and abuse until the 16-year-old’s death. 

Borderland (2007)

The film was inspired by a cult called the Narco-Satanists

The reality: This American-Mexican horror film is loosely based on the true story of Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo, a drug lord and the leader of a religious cult, called the Narco-satanists, who kidnapped and murdered University of Texas junior, Mark J. Kilroy, in 1989.

The Amityville Horror (1979)

Margot Kidder appeared in the Seventies horror

The reality:  Haunted house flick Amityville is based on the real-life experiences of the Lutz family, who had only just overcome estate agents, removal men and endless reams of bubble wrap before finding out that the house they’d moved into was haunted.

As in the film a mass murder had once take place in their new pad which perhaps explains how over a period of four weeks they experienced cold spots, inverted crucifixes and walls covered in green slime. That’s if they weren’t just making the whole thing up, which many suspected they were…

The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (2005)

Scott Derrickson directed the 2005 horror film

The reality: Scott Derickson’s 2005 film was based on the life of Anneliese Michel, a devout Catholic woman who had 67 exorcisms performed her between 1975-76 but sadly died on July 1st. Her parents and the priest who performed the exorcisms were charged with criminally negligent homicide. They were eventually sentenced to six months of jail with three years of probation after being found guilty of manslaughter.

Wolf Creek (2005)

Wolf Creek has been remade into a TV seriesy

The reality: Writer-director Greg McLean wrote the screenplay in 1997 but reworked it after learning more about the murders by Ivan Milat and Bradley John Murdoch. Milat was a sadistic killer who murdered seven people in New South Wales between 1989 and 1993 while Murdoch murdered British tourist Peter Falconio and assaulted his girlfriend Joanne Lees in the Northern Territory, in 2001.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Leatherface in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The reality: The movie played heavily on its ‘based on a true story’ schtick. But whilst the events themselves were entirely fictitious, the character of chainsaw-wielding cannibal Leatherface was another character based on Gein (see Psycho) who also skinned his victims in order to make a bodysuit made of human flesh. 

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