20 Horror Movies You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real Life Events

Horror movies terrify us because they tap into our greatest fears — real or imagined. They’re even scarier when they’re based on true events. Here are 20 horror movies based on real-life events — be warned, if you watch these, you’ll be sleeping with the lights on for a LONG time!

The Exorcist
Many people consider The Exorcist one of the scariest movies of all time -- with good reason! Though the movie shows us the demonic takeover of sweet Regan MacNeil, the film is actually based on a book which was based on the real life story of a boy named Roland Doe who was possessed by demons in 1949.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Though Leatherface has become a horror icon in his own right, the original movie that spawned several sequels and remakes is loosely based on the infamous serial killer Ed Gein who reportedly had masks made of the human skin of his victims. Gein also inspired another kind of famous movie that you may or may not have heard of...
The Silence of the Lambs
Hello, Clarice! Though the story behind this chilling thriller is largely made up by author Thomas Harris for his 1988 novel that inspired the film, it's been said that Buffalo Bill is inspired by serial killer Ed Gein who liked to rob graves and wear the skin of his victims. Lovely!
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The classic Alfred Hitchcock movie is also loosely based on.. you guessed it.. Ed Gein! (Ed has proven himself to be a true horror MVP, am I right?!) Psycho is considered one of the most beloved films in the horror genre and spawned two sequels, a 1998 remake that completely flopped, and a modern adaptation in Bates Motel. We'll *never* forget that shower scene!
Child's Play
This movie (and its many sequels) scared the living daylights out of anyone who's ever had a doll in their bedroom, and with good reason! Chucky does NOT mess around! The script for the first Child's Play was based on Robert the Doll, an early 20th century doll that was supposedly cursed with black magic. The doll’s owner, Robert Eugene Otto, claimed the doll haunted his family when he was a child. Yikes!
The Amityville Horror
The 1979 horror classic (and its forgettable 2005 remake -- sorry Ryan Reynolds!) is well known for being based on a family who (unfortunately) bought a house where a mass murder had been committed the year before. After the family moved into their new home, they claimed a series of frightening paranormal events occurred. Like many of the films on our list, this was first a book, that spawned the film and several sequels and remakes.
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The Conjuring
One of the most popular horror flicks in recent years, this one tells the story of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who had a particularly terrifying run-in with a paranormal entity (in the form of Annabelle the doll -- we're still terrified of that one!) in a family's home in Rhode Island in 1971. This film inspired a spin-off, Annabelle, and has a sequel coming in 2016.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
One, two, Freddy's coming for you! The movie that caused a generation of teenagers (and probably their parents, too!) to lose a LOT of sleep was loosely based on a group of Laotian refugees who had died in throes of a nightmare. The medical reports after their deaths said there was nothing wrong with them physically. OMG!
The Hills Have Eyes
This 1977 film will make you NEVER want to road trip through a desert -- trust me! The late Wes Craven, who created most of our absolute favorite scary flicks, was inspired by the legend of Alexander 'Sawney' Bean, the head of a 16th Century clan of cave-dwellers. They supposedly lived there for 25 years, torturing and murdering around 1,000 people before they were found out and killed. Oh my!
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The granddaddy of them all -- Jaws made legions of people afraid of the ocean (that music STILL gets us!) and many people don't know that Steven Spielberg's classic was based off a 1974 novel of the same name. The book was inspired by the story of fisherman Frank Mundus, who caught a great white shark in Long Island in 1964. It's also been said that the author, Peter Benchley, drew inspiration from a spate of shark attacks in the Jersey Shore in 1916. Dun dun..
The Strangers
Our literal worst nightmare -- being stalked by crazed killers simply "because we were home" came to life in this 2008 hit film, and director Bryan Bertino has said he drew inspiration from the murders by serial killer Charles Mansion and a series of events that took place near his childhood home. Our next vacation will be at a VERY crowded resort, thanks!
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Possession movies are a dime a dozen these days, but the really terrifying ones are based on true events. This one was based on a sixteen year old from Germany. She was thought to have been possessed by the devil in 1968, and it wasn’t until seven years later that two priests performed an exorcism on her that took ten months to finish. Crazy!
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Open Water
Well, this one will make you never want to cross scuba diving off your bucket list! The 2003 movie was inspired by real-life couple Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who disappeared near the Great Barrier Reef in January 1998 when a diving company left them behind by accident. Two days after they went missing, the company started a search for them, but they were never found. Gulp!
The Haunting in Connecticut
Though the truth behind this film is frequently debated, it's been said that it was inspired by the Snedeker family of Southington, Connecticut in 1986 who called in famed investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren when things went awry in their home. The Warrens believe the Snedeker house was a former funeral home where morticians committed necromancy and/or necrophilia with the corpses, and that there were "powerful" supernatural "forces at work" that were cured by an exorcism. Ahh!
Silent House

This 2012 film is a remake of the 2010 Uruguayan film, La casa muda (The Silent House), which was allegedly based on an actual incident that occurred in a village in Uruguay in the 1940s. It'll definitely make you lock ALL the doors (and check 'em twice!).

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The Entity
In The Entity, Barbara Hershey starred as a real-life single mom of four from California who was raped and tortured by some otherworldly beings. The film is based on a bestselling novel about a woman who had similar claims. Yikes!
The Possession
The Possession is based on a series of events that occurred in 2004 in which a "dibbuk box" that was purchased on eBay (no, really!) was the source of torment and anguish for the man who made that fateful purchase. Next time, may we suggest Amazon?
The Girl Next Door
Nope, this isn't the cute romantic comedy about a nerd who manages to fall for the girl next door turned porn star. This movie was based on a novel about an Indiana woman who was savagely tortured and murdered in 1965 by what many people call the worst ever crime to happen in Indiana. OMG.
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Wolf Creek
The inspiration for this slasher flick came from a combination of two separate hitchhiker killers in the '90s and in 2001. In the movie, three backpackers find themselves stranded in the Australian outback after their car breaks down. You can guess what happens next, and it ain't pretty.
The Mothman Prophecies

This 2002 Richard Gere flick revolves around the "Mothman," a winged creature in West Virginia that caused a flurry of disastrous events, such as a mysterious bridge collapsing. In the '60s, actual Mothman sightings occurred in Point Pleasant, West Virginia - one of which pre-dated the collapse of a bridge that killed 46 people. Shudder.