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20 Horror Movies Based On Horrific Real Life Events

When we see the words “Based On A True Story” across the screen at the beginning of a horror movie – we know it just got real. Gone is our only that comfort for when we are scared and can tell ourselves, “Don’t worry it isn’t true.” Filmmakers have to get their inspiration from somewhere and as the saying goes – nothing is scarier than the truth.

What lies ahead are movies that have adapted real-life horrific events to tell their story. Over the years, terrible crimes have been committed and people become curious with these tales. What makes matters worse is that your favorite horror film could have actually happened in real life.

20. Haunting in Connecticut (2009) 

The Movie

The film focuses on the Campbell family who discovered their new Connecticut home used to be a funeral parlor and morgue. It isn’t long before the dead come back to life, supernatural events occur, and the son, possessed by something evil, goes on a rampage with an axe.

The True Story

The Snedeker family moved into the low rent Connecticut home in 2006. Not long after, son Philip told his mother, “Mom, this house is evil. We need to leave here right away.” His words were ignored and the family experienced the evil first hand.

Their home had previously been a morgue, and the family had visions of funeral workers having sex with the dead bodies. The children claimed they could see and hear the spirits of the dead. Philip became increasingly violent and was sent to a Mental hospital. The parents were sexually assaulted by demons. If only they had heeded Philip’s advice at the beginning.

Famous paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, were called in. They performed an exorcism and cast out all the evil from within the house until finally the Snedeker’s found peace within their home. 

19. The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

The Movie

Richard Gere stars as John Klein, a journalist, grieving the loss of his wife. Shortly before her death, they had encountered a large flying beast that caused them to have a car accident. He decides to investigate the creature and discovers the myth surrounding the ‘Mothman,’ a giant moth-like creature with large red eyes and huge wingspan. Its appearance is said to coincide with an impending disaster.

True Story

John Keel, a reporter who investigated the ‘Mothman’ legend in Point Pleasant, based the film on a book. John moved there in 1966 and discovered around 100 people had seen the creature.

Eyewitness reports were similar in description. These included sightings of a large white creature with glowing red eyes and ten-foot wings. Some had seen the beast flying overhead, possibly at around 100 miles an hour. After sighting the creature, the witnesses suffered a painful swelling of the eyes, and in one case, bleeding ears, due to a loud noise surrounding the creature.

The sighting of the ‘Mothman’ lead to disaster when in 1967, the Silver Bridge at Point Pleasant collapsed, killing 46 people. Other sightings have since occurred, including one before the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

18. The Possession (2012)

The Movie

A young girl discovers an old wooden box at a second-hand yard sale. Her father discovers it is an ancient Jewish box that is said to contain a demon. With the help of a university professor, he attempts to fight the evil within. 

The True Story



A similar box has been passed around after appearing on eBay. One owner, Kevin Mannis, bought the box at an estate sale and gave it to his mother as a birthday gift. Within minutes of receiving it, she had a stroke. He then tried to give the box to other friends and family, but all returned it quickly, complaining the box smelled of cats urine.

Kevin finally sold it but within days, the box was back on his doorstep. The buyer had returned it with a note saying, “This has a bad darkness”. After suffering violent dreams, bad health, and bad luck, Kevin finally sold it on eBay to another unfortunate person, who experienced similar troubles.

The box now resides in a University museum in Kirksville. The curator, Jason Haxton, believes the box contains evil and has asked that the box is buried with him on his death, thus containing the demon within forever.

17. Eaten Alive (1976)

The Movie

The owner of the Starlight Hotel, situated within deep swampland, has a nasty way of dealing with anybody he takes a dislike too. Lurking within the swamp is a crocodile. Should any hotel guest outstay their welcome, it won’t be too long before they become crocodile food.

The True Story

In the 1930s, Joe Ball, alias the ‘Alligator Man,’ apparently killed numerous women and fed them to his pet alligators who resided in the backyard of his saloon, the ironically named ‘Sociable Inn’.

Joe entertained his guests by feeding stray animals to the alligators. People also believed that several women had become alligator food too after they completely disappeared from the town. Joe’s wife lost an arm, and it was believed Joe had cut it off and fed it to his pets.

When he came under investigation from the police, Joe killed himself. His handyman confessed to assisting Joe with the killings. The remains of some victims were found buried. Others were never found, leading to the assumption that they had been completely eaten by the alligators.

16. An American Haunting (2005)

The Movie

In the 18th-Century, a witch curses the Bell family, a spirit attacks the youngest daughter, Betsy, and the head of the family, John Bell, struggles to contain the evil within the home. Long forgotten memories of the past rise to the surface and John have to face real and personal demons.

The True Story

The film was based on the ‘Bell Witch’ legend that surrounded the Bell family in 19th-century Tennessee. A witch, for no apparent reason, cursed them and objects were violently thrown around the house, terrible noises could be heard, and the children were physically attacked. Despite the terrifying events inside the house, people came from miles around to have a look at the terrifying phenomenon.

John Bell died on December 20, 1820. On his death, the spirit made a confession. It allegedly said, “I gave ‘Ol’ Jack a big dose of that last night, which fixed him.” John Bell had been poisoned.

The Bell Farm still exists today, and so apparently do the spooky events within. Later occupants have heard voices and witnessed strange phenomena, but none has been as violent as the events in 1820.

15. Psycho (1960)

The Movie

Norman Bates, the unhinged owner of the Bates Motel, welcomes wary guests with a twitch and a smile. One guest named Marion Crane is on the run from the police and takes solace at the Motel. Unfortunately, she is not going to survive her stay.

The True Story

Norman Bates was loosely based on the serial killer Ed Gein. He had a troubled childhood and an overly emotional relationship with his mother. When she died his obsession with her continued.

Ed created a copy of his dead mother by skinning exhumed corpses from nearby graveyards. He made a ‘woman suit’ and face mask from the skin of the dead.

When police investigated Ed after a local woman went missing, they found that he had also killed at least two women. A decapitated head was found in his shed. The police also found leggings made from human leg skin, four noses, a belt made from human nipples, a brain, and other gruesome discoveries.

Ed spent the rest of his life in a variety of mental institutions until his death in 1984.

14. The Amityville Horror (1979)

The Movie

Lutz Family

Lutz Family

When the Lutz family move into their new home, they discover that its previous owner had killed his family with an axe. It seems he had been possessed by a demon, and the family discovers that it still lives within their house, turning their dream home into a house from Hell.

The True Story

In 1974, 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo shot and killed his family with a rifle. In court, he pleaded insanity, telling the jury that he heard voices telling him to kill. Despite this, he was tried and convicted of murder with intent. Did Ronald hear voices? Was he possessed by a demon? We may never know.

On 18, December 1975, the Lutz family moved into the infamous Amityville house. When hearing of their homes violent history, they asked a Catholic priest to bless the house. The priest found the rooms to be particularly cold and had a premonition of evil lurking within. Whilst blessing the rooms, a sinister voice told him to “Get Out” which he promptly did. Later, when trying to contact the family, he struggled to get through due to a lot of noise interference on the phone. Was something trying to prevent him from speaking to them?

The family experienced terrifying events within their home. They had visions of a demonic pig-like creature with red glowing eyes and green slime oozed down the walls. The house was plagued by a swarm of flies. A crucifix attached to a wall turned upside down, gave off an unpleasant smell and demonic forces physically assaulted them.

After a terrifying ordeal that lasted a month, the family decided to move out, physically and emotionally battered by their experiences. 

13. The Exorcist (1973)

The Movie

Based on the novel by William Peter Blatty, the film is directed by William Friedkin and is now considered to be one of the scariest movies ever made.

A 12-year-old girl begins to act strangely after using an Ouija board. She makes unholy noises, exhibits abnormal strength, and acts blasphemously. Her mother calls in two priests, and they conclude that she has been possessed by the demon, Pazuzu. The exorcism is not going to be an easy one. 

The True Story

The film was based on the real-life incident of a 13-year old boy named Roland Doe. He became possessed by a demon after using an ouija board.

His desperate family turned to the Catholic Church who declared the boy needed to be exorcised. He was sent to a Jesuit hospital, where staff tried to contain his troubling behavior. Father Hughes was the first to try to exorcise the possessed boy, who was screaming aggressively and levitating from the bed. Father Hughes asked the demon its name. A voice came from Roland’s mouth saying, “I am legions.” This indicated there were multiple demons living within him.

This first exorcism failed when Roland attacked Father Hughes with a broken bedspring. The priest had to take time away to heal, so Father Bowden was called in. After a horrific and exhausting battle of will, the exorcism ended. Another voice spoke from Roland’s mouth. It cried out “Satan, I am St Michael! I command you to leave this body now.” The boy went into a violent spasm and the demon left. The exorcism had been successful. 

12. Borderland (2007) 

The Movie

Three college friends head to Mexico for a weekend of strip clubs and booze. Unfortunately, their trip does not turn out as expected and they are forced to do battle with a human-sacrificing cult.

The True Story

Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, a drug dealer and cult leader who practiced ritual animal sacrifice during the 1980s, inspired the film. It was thought his voodoo spells were responsible for the success of the drug cartels he supported.

Adolfo made some powerful enemies, and it is thought he turned to human sacrifice to dispose of them. Around 20 people were killed, mainly from rival cartels, and their body parts were allegedly used in ritual sacrifices. Body parts of the dead were later found, including ears, eyes, and in one case, the spinal column of an unfortunate victim.

Adolfo’s henchmen abducted pre-med student Mark Kilroy, from Texas, while he was on a spring break with friends in Mexico. They murdered him with a machete, and his mutilated body was later found in a shallow grave, along with 14 other bodies.

The cult leader was eventually caught and shot to death by the Mexican Special Police in 1989. On investigating his ranch, the police discovered mutilated corpses, a dead cat, and a human brain. All were evidence of sacrificial voodoo practices.

11. Open Water (2003)

The Movie

A married couple on a scuba diving trip found themselves stranded after the boat they traveled on accidentally leaves them in the middle of shark-infested waters.

The True Story

In 1998, American tourists, Tom and Ellen Lonergan, disappeared from their round the world trip. They had scuba dived from a passenger boat, but on surfacing discovered the boat had left without them.

When the boat’s crew realized their mistake, a search began but to no avail. Several months later, fishermen found a dive slate which read ‘To anyone who can help us: We have been abandoned on Agincourt Reed. Please help us, come to rescue us before we die. Help!!!’

The couple’s diving equipment later washed up on shore. There was no evidence of a shark attack, but as their bodies have never been discovered, there is no conclusive evidence to mark their demise.

10. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

The Movie

A family’s holiday is cut short when their car breaks down in the Nevada desert. To make matters worse, they meet a family of cannibals, who are hunting for their next meal.

The True Story

The film was based on the legend of Alexander “Sawney” Bean, who, in the 15th-century, raised a large family through incest in Scotland. This family would ambush travelers under the cover of night, take them back to their cave, dismember and eat them. Local villagers searched for those who had vanished, but with no success.

One night the Bean family ambushed the wrong person. They attacked a married couple and mutilated the wife. However, the husband put up a brave fight, keeping the savages at bay. During the conflict, a number of townspeople arrived to help and the Bean family fled.

Word was sent to King James IV of Scotland who hunted down the cannibals. On their capture, the Bean family was condemned to death. The men were castrated, had their hands and feet severed, and slowly bled to death. The women and children were all burned alive – a horrible end for a savage family.

9. The Entity (1983)

The Movie



A single mother is attacked and raped by a number of demons. Despite attempted exorcisms, the demons are in no hurry to leave. 

The True Story

In 1974, a single mother, Doris Bither, hired paranormal investigators to exorcise her home in California. A former resident of the home, who declared the house was evil, had warned her. Doris didn’t take the woman seriously and even began to contact the dead herself through seances. All hell broke loose. She was physically and sexually attacked by demons, in full view of her children.

The paranormal investigators arrived and were alarmed at the bruising on Doris’ body. They filmed the attacks and noticed the demons differed in size. Two of the demons seemed to hold her down while the other raped her. Unfortunately, the investigators could not help Doris. They also had no clear evidence on film.

Doris left her home, but she claimed the demons followed her to each home she moved into. Nothing has been heard from her for many years. 

8. Shadow People (2012)

The Movie

A radio talk show host investigates the ‘Shadow People’ after being inundated by callers with eyewitness claims. Initially skeptical, he begins to realize these ‘people’ may be behind a number of disappearances.

The True Story

Shadow People movie

Shadow People movie

Many people have claimed to see the ‘Shadow People.’ They are usually described as tall, male looking, and with no facial features. Some have claimed the beings wear a long overcoat and wide-brimmed hat. Others have described them as a solid black outline.

People have seen the ‘Shadow People’ out of the corner of their eyes and up close. The shadowy figures then fade from vision, darting quickly into the corners of the room before disappearing. Witnesses to the phenomenon claim to have experienced feelings of dread, powerlessness, and paralysis.

So do the ‘Shadow People’ really exist? And if so, why are they here? Some think they are benevolent beings who act as our guardians; others believe they are evil. Suggestions have also included ghosts, aliens, or manifestations of negative energy and trauma.

7. The Town That Dreaded Sunshine (1976)

The Movie

In 1946 Arkansas, a hooded killer terrorizes a small town. The townspeople live in fear, as each night, the ‘Phantom Killer’ looks for his next unsuspecting victim.

The True Story

Based on the ‘Phantom Killer’ who, in the 1940s, murdered eight people within ten weeks in a small Texas town. In fear, the townsfolk began to lock their doors and windows, fearful of going out at night. People suspected their neighbors. They booby-trapped their homes to foil the killer, and brave teenagers laid out traps in popular dating spots, ready to catch the ‘Phantom’ in action.

The first attack happened in the February of 1946. 24-year old Jimmy Hollis was on a date with his girlfriend,19-year old Mary Jean Larey. At a secluded spot in the park, the killer struck. Waving around a .32 caliber pistol, the killer ordered them to get out of the car. They were both assaulted, but the killer ran when another car approached. It was a lucky escape, but others were not so fortunate.

The horrors in the town continued. People were attacked, raped and murdered. The case became known as the ‘Texarkana Moonlight Murders,’ as the killer only struck at night. Despite the police being on high alert, the killer was never found. One day the killings just stopped as suddenly as they had begun.

6. The Conjuring (2013)

The Movie

Famous paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, investigate a haunting at a dilapidated farmhouse in Rhode Island, the home of the Perron family, whose daughters have been targeted by spirits. The pair discovered the house had once belonged to an ancient child-killing witch, known as ‘Bathsheba.’

The True Story

The real-life Ed and Lorraine Warren did journey to Rhode Island house to investigate a haunting by an apparent witch known as Bathsheba Sheran. In the 19th-Century, Bathsheba’s child had been found dead whilst in her care, a large sewing needle impaled through the skull. The townsfolk believed she had sacrificed her child to the devil.

The Perron family moved into the house in 1971. Soon, it became apparent the house was haunted. There were smells of rotting flesh, beds levitated, and spirits appeared. Some of the ghosts appeared harmless. They smelled of flowers and kissed the girls goodnight. One female ghost swept up, as evidenced by small piles of dust found by the family. Other ghosts were not so friendly and frequently attacked the family.

The ghost of Bathsheba was said to have looked like a desiccated beehive, her face was covered in cobwebs and had no human features. A nasty smell clung to the air whenever she was in the room.

The Warrens considered the investigation to be one of the most disturbing in their long career. Unfortunately, they failed to get rid of the demons within the home, but surprisingly the family continued to live there for ten years.

5. Primeval (2007)

The Movie

An American news team head to Burundi looking for a man-eating crocodile, where they discover the beast and find it significantly larger than they had expected.

The True Story

Nicknamed ‘Gustave’ by local people, a 20-foot crocodile lives in Burundi on Lake Tanganyika. Locals claimed the creature has eaten over 300 people in its 65 years of existence. Due to its large size, the crocodile cannot feed on fish and small mammals, as they are too quick for its hungry bite. Instead, it attacks slower prey, which unfortunately includes human beings.

One expert, Patrice Faye, followed the horrific path the crocodile had left in its wake. He discovered the remains of 17 people on the trail, some of whom were fishermen and bathers.

Patrice believes the crocodile should be allowed to live and kept for preservation. Obviously, local people do not agree. Whilst attempts have been made to catch and kill the creature, it still remains alive to this day.

4. The Sacrament (2013)

The Movie

Three journalists investigate a reclusive religious commune known as ‘Eden Parish.’ The community appears to be happy on the surface, but the visitors soon discover all is not right in paradise.

The sinister Father rules the flock, and his motives are not well-intentioned. It’s not long before the journalists are asked for help from the frightened community.

The True Story

The film is based on the ‘Jonestown Massacre’ of 1978. It is now known as the largest mass suicide in history. Named after its self-proclaimed Messiah, Jim Jones, who led his adoring flock to Guyana, promising them refuge from the outside world. A self-sufficient community was formed, and the congregation built their own homes and grew their own food. Whilst many people doubted Jones’ views,’ they were fearful to express it, such as the power he held over them.

In November 1978, congressman, Leo Ryan, visited the community to investigate allegations of human rights abuse. An NBC news crew followed him and they were welcomed by Jones and his followers but it became clear that this was not the promised land. The news crew was given notes from residents asking to be rescued. When an attempted rescue mission took place, Leo Ryan, along with his staff, and some of the news crew were killed by Jonestown guardsmen.

A short while after the massacre, Jones ordered his congregation to kill themselves, promising them glory in death. Fruit drinks were laced with cyanide, and despite protestations and anguish from some, the 909 people of Jonestown laid down to die. 304 of them were children.

Jim Jones died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

3. Annabelle (2014) 

The Movie



A man buys a doll for his wife but it becomes a gateway for evil after Satanists invade their home and drip blood onto its porcelain body.

 The True Story

In 1970, a student nurse named Donna was given the doll for her 28th birthday. A Raggedy Anne Doll, rather than the porcelain one seen in the film, it seemed to have a mysterious power hanging over it.

Donna’s roommate was the first to notice something strange about the doll. During the day, it seemed to change positions, sitting upright one minute, kneeling the next. Sometimes it would even move to other rooms. The doll attacked Donna’s friend, one night it glided up his body and attempted to strangle him.

Donna called in a Medium, who claimed the spirit of Annabelle Higgins, a 7-year old girl who had died in the apartment, possessed the doll. However, Paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, disagreed. They said the doll contained an inhuman spirit that was tricking them into thinking it was a young girl. They successfully performed an exorcism on the doll.

‘Annabelle’ currently resides in the Warren Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut. Enclosed in a wooden box and adorned with a Holy Cross, a sign has been attached saying, “Warning: Do Not Touch.

2. The Quiet Ones (2014)

 The Movie

A college professor, with the aid of his best students, engage in an experiment to create a poltergeist, using the theory that paranormal activity is the result of negative human emotion. Dark forces are unleashed.

The True Story

In 1972, a group of Canadian students embarked on what became known as the ‘Philip Experiment.’

The students invented the character of ‘Philip’ and created a tragic back-story for him. They conducted a fake seance, and as they had hoped, a spirit latched onto the character and communicated with them. Despite calling itself ‘Philip,’ the spirit couldn’t answer any questions about him. It did have knowledge of real historical events, however.

The experiment was inconclusive. Had a real spirit been summoned or was it a manifestation of the groups subconscious? Was it mental phenomena rather than a spiritual one? Footage of the seance is available to view online.

1. The Blob (1958)

The Movie

The ‘Blob’ crashes to Earth and begins to eat the citizens of a small Pennsylvania town. There is no escape and nowhere to hide from the blobby mass. The more it eats, the bigger it gets.

The True Story

In 1950, two police officers witnessed something that looked like a parachute falling from the sky. On locating the object, it turned out to be around six feet in diameter, purple, crystalline and jelly-like.

The ‘blob’ spent 25 minutes on Earth. We will never know if its ultimate goal was to eat mankind, as it sadly evaporated when the police officers tried to lift it. Only a sticky residue remained on their fingers, the last indication of this strange phenomenon from space.

Similar ‘blobs’ have fallen to Earth since, landing in Scotland and the Lake District in Cumbria, England. One man claimed to have come across ten ‘blobs,’ all floating on puddles and as big as his foot. He thought it might have been residue from frog spawn. Scientists have named it ‘Star Jelly.’ They think the ‘blobs’ probably came down with meteor showers. As yet there are no definite explanations for the jelly-like substance.


About the author

Lee is an accomplished freelance article and creative writer. He contributes to a number of websites on a regular basis, submits book reviews for a publisher, and is currently working on his own novel. For much of his life, Lee has worked with people on the fringes of society. This includes working in socially deprived areas of the UK, mentoring troubled young people, and spending time in a prison giving advice and moral support to prisoners. Lee’s experiences of life underpin his writing, enabling him to write with passion and humour for people of all ages.

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