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5 Horror Characters You Won’t Believe Are Inspired By Real Life Killers

For decades, horror films have had us peering from behind cushions, too scared to look but too excited not to. But how would you feel if your favourite fictional killers were inspired by real people? Scary stuff…


1. Stephen King’s IT

If you managed to watch Stephen King’s IT all the way through without unplugging the TV and guarding yourself with that all-powerful monster killing duvet, you did better than me. King’s kiddy-snatching clown seems too terrifying to ever have been inspired by real life, but with John Wayne Gacy being arrested less than a decade before, the influence is clear. Gacy became known as ‘The Killer Clown’ because of his self-created alter-ego ‘Pogo the Clown.’ After killing at least 33 children, he spent 14 years on death row, where he spent his time creating some pretty eerie artwork…

2. The Amityville Horror

2005’s The Amityville Horror may not go down in history as a horror classic, but it certainly erected a lot of hairs on the backs of a lot of necks. Which was possibly made worse by the fact that the film is heavily influenced by real life events. In 1974 Ronald DeFeo was arrested for killing his mother, his father, and four siblings at his house in Amityville, Long Island. He claimed he could hear their voices plotting against him. In ’75 George and Kathy Lutz and their three children moved into the home, only to leave 28 days later claiming they were haunted by paranormal activity. Their claims have been steeped in controversy, but you have to admit, the house is pretty creepy…

3. The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The exorcism of Emily Rose had us all jumping out of our seats and raining a shower of popcorn over those in front of us back in 2005, but did you know it was based on a true story? Well…at least a little. In 1976 Anneliese Michel died, following a lengthy period of 10 months, with 67 exorcism sessions. Her family and the two priests in charge of the rites negelected her treatment for epilepsy and depression, in favour of the ancient ritual. She was found dead in July ’76, malnourished and dehydrated with pneumonia and broken knees.

4. American Horror Story

American Horror Story has received critical and commercial acclaim (and has had us all hiding behind our sofas). Series two’s Bloody Face, played by the wonderfully creepy Zachary Quinto, kidnapped, killed and skinned women. It is thought that this character was inspired by a real life killer and body-snatcher – Ed Gein. In 1957 police raided his house, only to find lampshades made of human faces, bowls made of skulls and a corset made from the skin of a human torso. His almost unbelievably horrific crimes have gone on to inspire an array of horror characters, including Norman Bates from Psycho, Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs.

5. Dexter

This one doesn’t quite fit the bill, but is somewhat terrifying nevertheless. The hugely popular TV series Dexter told the story of a man working as a blood spatter analyst by day, and killing criminals by night. Whilst this was not inspired by a real life story, it is thought to have inspired a real life killer. In 2008 Mark Twitchell was arrested for first degree murder, which he claims was inspired by Dexter. Following his arrest, Twitchell was controversially allowed a TV in his cell, which he used to watch the four seasons that he had missed.

The trend of starting horror films with a barely believable ‘This is 100% true’ or ‘This is real footage’ is a trend that is rapidly wearing thin, but it seems that some fictional characters and events are often steeped in truth, and that is pretty darn scary.

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