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Scary Movies Based on True Stories

Updated on October 21, 2013

Horror films generally attract more buzz when they are marketed as scary movies based on true stories. Believing that the horrifying things portrayed on the screen actually did happen make the film seem more real and thus more terrifying. This translates to more ticket sales. So no matter how loosely rooted on real events these scary movies based on true stories are they usually get enough attention at the box office.

The following horror flicks claim to be scary movies based on true stories.

An American Haunting

The film generated buzz when it was marketed as “validated by the State of Tennessee as the only case in US history where a spirit has caused the death of a human being.” It is based on the tale of the Bell family who was haunted by a malevolent force, resulting in the death of John Bell who was allegedly poisoned by the entity.

Bram Stoker's Dracula

A film adaptation of the famous novel by Bram Stoker, the movie tells the story of the vampire Count Dracula. The character of Dracula is believed to be based on the real-life 15th century Prince of Wallachia, Vlad the Impaler. He was known for being brutal with his enemies, killing thousands.


The real event the movie was based on was a gathering in 1816 of the author Mary Godwin, poet Percy Shelley and Lord Byron at his villa. They talked about ghost stories and reanimation of the dead. That assembly resulted in Mary Godwin Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein and Byron and Polidori’s The Vampyre. In the movie, the characters’ fears and inner skeletons came to life.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

This is one of the scary movies based on true stories that can claim some degree of authenticity. The film is about the life of the infamous serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas. The movie shows Henry as being responsible for killing hundreds of victims. In real life however, he was only convicted of 11 murders even though he confessed to 600. Most of his declaration of guilt has been proven false as this was only done to improve his prison conditions.


Psycho is another movie adaptation of a novel that is loosely based on the story of a real-life murderer. Ed Gein was convicted of two murders and the skinning a number of corpses of women which he dug up. He used the skin to make socks, lamps and a suit which he wears to resemble a woman. He was psychologically disturbed. Psycho’s Norman Bates, which is based on Ed Gein, keeps his mother’s corpse in his room, dresses as his mother when he kills and is mentally ill.

The Amityville Horror

One of the most well-known scary movies based on true stories is The Amityville Horror. It portrays the Lutz family’s supernatural and terrifying experiences in a house in Amityville. The movie is based on the book that chronicled what the family encountered inside the haunted house. After so many years, however, Kathy Lutz alleged that the story is not real. This was refuted by other family members who claimed that all those things written in the book did indeed happen.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is loosely based on the true events that surrounded Anneliese Michel, a 16 year-old who suffered epileptic episodes, paralysis and alleged demonic visions for years. The family believed it to be a case of demonic possession and so exorcism was performed. This lasted months until she died of starvation. Her parents and the priests who performed the exorcism were convicted of manslaughter as the court ruled that she had multiple medical conditions and her death could’ve been prevented.

The Haunting in Connecticut

This is a story of the Campbell family who moved into a house that used to be a funeral home. They experienced haunting by a negative entity. The real-life story took place in Connecticut to the Parker family. They encountered paranormal happenings when they moved in a house which was a former mortuary. Their son Paul, was possessed by a negative force and assaulted his family.

The Hills Have Eyes

Some scary movies based on true stories have their origins in legends in history. The Hills Have Eyes is remotely rooted to the story of Alexander Bean of 15th century Scotland. It was said that he was the leader of a tribe that thrived in caves and practiced cannibalism. They lived like that for years before they were discovered and put to death.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Who could forget Leatherface? He is said to be inspired by the story of Ed Gein who skinned corpses and used the skin as suit and furniture cover. But the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is more of a work of fiction than a chronicle of real life events. Even so, this film is truly frightening.

Scary movies based on true stories range from those that genuinely depict real personalities and terrifying events in history, to being very loosely based that the resulting story is unrecognizable. Still, some of them still prove to be good scares.


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