Reality Behind Hollywood’s “True Horror” Stories

“Based on a True Story” simply add these words and boom! Suddenly you get all the attention, but come on! Film making is filmmaking after all, and this is the best trick to spice up your movie and gain the audience’s attention.


Let’s begin with the earliest ones first!

Nosferatu (1922) “A Symphony of Horror”

This movie is a knock off of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. When the filmmakers were not allowed to adapt the novel to make a film of it. What they did instead was that they made certain changes to the original story trying to escape copyright issues.

In Stoker’s novel, the main villain is named Count Dracula; the filmmakers changed it to Count Orlok. Anyways years before the movie, already enough fiction was written regarding Vampires and Draculas. Such as Lord Byron’s poem The Giaour (1813), the penny dreadful Varney the Vampire (1847) and the lesbian vampire novel Carmilla (1872)

Some fan theories suggest Stoker’s Dracula was inspired by Vlad the Impaler. Also known as Vlad III Dracula, a 15th-century ruler of Wallachia in Romania. In the Wallachian language, Dracula means the Devil.

The Exorcist (1973)

It’s highly unlikely that you haven’t watched one of Hollywood’s greatest classic horror movie, “The Exorcist.” Despite being released in the early ’70s, this is one movie that still has not been forgotten.

So what exactly happened? In 1949 the Washington Post ran a story about a 14-year old boy’s exorcism Maryland. As per the newspaper, “the boy broke into a violent tantrum of screaming, cursing and voicing of Latin phrases—a language he had never studied.”

This inspired author William Peter Blatty to write the 1971 novel The Exorcist. However, in Blatty’s novel, the main character is a girl named Linda Blair and not a boy.

But what was the real story behind it? Mark Opsasnick, a Marylander, investigated deeper to find out the truth. He published the investigated reports to Strange Magazine in 1999. Interviewing several people in the area and those who knew him. Mark concludes that the boy was psychologically disturbed and not possessed.

The Amityville Horror (1979)

23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr murdered all his family members on November 13, 1974. A year later, the Lutz family purchased this New York house, Amityville house.

Maybe the idea was just to seek attention or help Ronald. The couple George and Kathy Lutz started to claim that they felt a demonic presence in their house. Also claiming to see demonic characters and stuff like green slime oozing out of the walls. Oh! And of course, family members levitating in the air.

The claims made brought in so much intrigue and curiosity in the general public that in 1977. Jay Anson released the book “The Amityville Horror,” which was turned in to a movie in 1979 by the same name.

But what happened later on, proved all was rubbish. Butch DeFeo’s lawyer later admitted that he, George and Kathy had “created this horror story over many bottles of wine.”

By then, the story had reached the famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorriane Warren. They also gained great popularity due to the case.

As per Benjamin Radford, deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer “They set themselves up as psychics and clairvoyants who investigate ghosts and hauntings,”

Further adding, “They would hear about stories either in the news or just sort of through the grapevine, and they would sort of introduce themselves into the story.”

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Wade Davis, a Harvard graduate, published a book by the name “The Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist’s Astonishing Journey into the Secret Societies of Haitian Voodoo, Zombies, and Magic.”

Davis claimed that secret Haitian societies used a toxin found in pufferfish. Tetrodotoxin, to make people believe they have been brought back to life as zombies. While many scientists debunked his theory, Tetrodotoxin expert C.Y. Kao, called it “a carefully planned, premeditated case of scientific fraud.”

Filmmaker Wes Craven was however, inspired by the story and adapted the book into a movie in 1988 The Serpent and the Rainbow.

The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)

The Amityville ghost hunters, Ed and Lorraine Warren return. This time getting involved with the Snedeker family. Allen and Carmen Snedeker claimed experiencing paranormal activities in their Connecticut house; the story goes back to 1986.

What’s weird here is that both Snedeker’s claimed that demons raped them. However, according to skeptical investigator Benjamin Radford, there is “little or no proof that anything supernatural occurred at the house.”

Adding further, “Part of the modus operandi of the Warrens was to solicit help in publicizing these stories,” It is also claimed that novelist Ray Garton was hired by the Warrens to write about the house. However, he too realized that not much made sense.

When in 2009 the movie “The Haunting in Connecticut” was released. Garton commented “I suspect the movie will begin with the words: ‘Based on a true story”.

Adding further “Be warned: Just about anything that begins with any variation of this phrase is trying a little too hard to convince you of something that probably isn’t true.”