Horror Movie Scenarios That Became A Disturbing Reality

Art imitates life, as they say. Every year, there are more movies and TV shows that borrow their plots from real life. Turn on a marathon of Law & Order and count how many episodes' plots directly mirror something that happened in the real world. Even horror movies with taglines reading "based on a true story" are big hits, such as the recent Conjuring movies. Basing something on real life makes it seem all the more plausible.

But what about the reverse? What if all of those concerned parents, wringing their hands about the violence in horror movies and how it might create more real-world violence, were right all along? Okay, that's not happening on a mass scale or anything, but it has happened.

People have copied what they see on screen since the beginning of cinema, but when a criminal brings a horror movie to life, it makes the world just a little scarier.

A mother committed murder after watching The Exorcist

The 1973 film The Exorcist, frequently found on critics' lists as one of the scariest movies of all time, told the story of a young girl possessed by a demon (or possibly the Devil himself) and her mother's attempts to save her from the evil inside her. The novel the film was based on purported to, itself, be inspired by a true story of an exorcism the Catholic Church performed in the 1940s.

In 1980, Patricia Ann Frazier watched the film and, 10 days later, murdered her 4-year-old daughter and even cut out her heart, according to UPI. She claimed the child had become possessed by demons, and watching the movie had given her this idea. While no one has their heart removed in the film, Frazier's defense still maintained she was influenced by The Exorcist.

After over a year of drawn-out legal wrangling, Frazier was eventually found innocent by reason of insanity. Not everyone was convinced by this, though. The prosecution maintained Frazier had a history of abusing the child and that she was a completely sane, cold-blooded murderer. They claimed Frazier killed her daughter because she wanted to find a new boyfriend. After her acquittal, Frazier was not remanded to a mental institution, but was instead turned over to the custody of her mother, according to 92.9 KNIN.

A man blamed Interview with the Vampire for his blood drinking

1994's Interview with the Vampire, an adaptation of Anne Rice's book of the same name, rejuvenated the market for vampire stories. The film, starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Christian Slater (plus a very young Kirsten Dunst) tells the story of Louis, a man from 1790s Louisiana, his becoming a vampire, and the events of his unlife until the 1990s.

It was the night after viewing the film that Daniel Sterling was said to have told his girlfriend of eight years, Lisa Stellwagen, "I want to kill you and drink your blood," before stabbing her repeatedly and, indeed, drinking some of her blood. Sterling's defense claimed the film had "mesmerized" him, according to SF Gate. They tried to claim insanity, saying Sterling had lost his mental faculties after viewing the film and thought he was a vampire.

He didn't kill Stellwagen, though he nearly did, and she was able to testify against him. Turns out, Sterling had been abusive and violent well before the movie, and was angry she went out with another man and may have been planning to leave him. The prosecution argued Sterling likely drank Stellwagen's blood specifically so he could try to claim insanity when he was inevitably caught. In the end, the jury wasn't convinced by Sterling, who initially blamed the attack on a black male intruder who never materialized, and found him guilty of attempted murder.

The Purge inspired a real-life rampage

In the world of The Purge franchise, a malicious government quietly takes over America and then devises a scheme to rid the U.S. of undesirables: a once-a-year holiday where, for 12 hours, all crime, including murder, is 100 percent legal and even encouraged. The holiday is dubbed Purge Night. Claiming that annually venting aggression (purging) is necessary for the country to function, it becomes a big deal, and the series explores various people and what they do on various Purge Nights.

While the films weren't a critical or box office smash, the concept of Purge Night took hold in America's consciousness as a critique on class inequality, violence, crime, race relations, and various other subjects. Inspired by the concept of the movies, Indianapolis man Jonathan Cruz, already a career criminal, committed a spree of crimes over several nights in 2016, according to Fox 59. Between May 12 and 15, Cruz committed three murders, several robberies, an attempted kidnapping, and more.

During that time, he sent text messages to friends and told victims his actions were inspired by the movies. One message he sent chillingly read, "I purge every night now." What's more, he even recorded himself committing several of his crimes, and seems to have struck completely at random. Cruz was eventually caught and received a life sentence without parole.

The Queen of the Damned urged a man to kill

After the success of 1994's Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles series of books became a hot commodity. After several failed attempts to launch an adaptation of the sequel novel, The Vampire Lestat, Warner Bros. decided to combine the second and third books into a single movie: Queen of the Damned, released in 2002.

The film was heavily panned by critics and performed poorly, but it was notable for containing the second and final feature film performance by actor and singer Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash a few months before the film's release. She played Akasha, the titular Queen, an ancient vampire inadvertently awakened by Lestat.

Less than a year after the film's release, Scottish man Allan Menzies had become obsessed with the movie and claimed to have watched it over 100 times, according to the BBC. He was especially taken with the character of Akasha, who he said visited him numerous times. When a neighbor, Thomas McKendrick stopped by and, in the course of the conversation, criticized Menzies' obsession with Akasha, Menzies said she appeared and ordered him to kill McKendrick and drink his blood in order to become a vampire. He stabbed McKendrick to death, drank his blood, and ate part of his head, then disposed of the body in the woods. Menzies was found sane at trial and sentenced to life in prison.

London After Midnight prompted a man to murder

1927's London After Midnight was a silent horror film (now considered lost after a studio fire in the 1950s) by Dracula director Tod Browning and starring Lon Chaney. In the film, Chaney plays Edward Burke, a Scotland Yard inspector investigating a possible murder arranged to look like a suicide. In a dual role, he also plays The Man in the Beaver Hat, a terrifying entity in a top hat, with scraggly hair and sharpened teeth. Think of the Babadook, whose appearance was based on Chaney's performance.

The year after the film's release, a Londoner named Robert Williams was found by police after slitting his own throat, according to Flashbak. Williams had attempted suicide after he murdered his friend Julia Mangan, whose body was nearby. According to Williams, he had decided to propose marriage to Mangan, which she rejected. Williams claimed he then saw a vision of The Man in the Beaver Hat screaming at him to kill Mangan.

At trial, Williams claimed he had had an epileptic fit and was driven temporarily insane. The initial trial resulted in a hung jury, so he was retried in 1929. The second trial returned a verdict of guilty after the prosecution argued there was no evidence Williams was epileptic, and Williams was sentenced to death, though this was later changed to life in a mental institution.

Cheesy 90s film Warlock inspired cannibalism

In the 1991 film Warlock, the titular Warlock is about to be put to death in 1690s America, but is instead sent forward to 1990s America by Satan himself and tasked with finding a book called The Grand Grimoire, which has the power to end the world. The Warlock is pursued by a man from his time called Redferne, who also went through Satan's time portal, and a 90s woman named Kassandra. The film was never well-reviewed, but it made enough money to warrant two sequels-slash-reboots that featured a similar character (played again by Sands in one) but were all completely unrelated to one another otherwise.

14-year-old Sandy Charles was a fan of the movie and reportedly became obsessed with it. In particular, he was interested in a scene in the movie where The Warlock murders an unbaptized child, takes the dead child's fat, and then boils it to create a flying potion. Charles became so enamored with the idea he recruited an unnamed 8-year-old boy, and in 1995 they planned to kill an unnamed 7-year-old child and attempt to make The Warlock's flying potion.

According to Global News, Charles and his accomplice beat, mutilated, and cooked parts of their victim. Due to their ages, Charles was tried as an adult for the crime while his accomplice was not charged at all. Charles was found not guilty by reason of insanity and has been in psychiatric care ever since.

A man killed his neighbor dressed as the villain from Scream

In the Scream franchise, teens are terrorized by various murderers (it's a different person, and sometimes multiple people, in each movie) in black robes with a mask based on The Scream by Edvard Munch. The killer has been called Ghostface by fans, regardless of who is behind the mask. Scream and its sequels were one of the bright spots of the 90s, which suffered through a drought of good horror movies, reigniting the slasher genre and inspiring countless knock-offs.

In the universe of the films, killers keep coming after Neve Campbell and her friends dressed the same way because the costumes were cheap and ubiquitous. This turned out to be true in real life, too, as the films inspired several copycat crimes across the world where people committed murder dressed with the iconic mask and robes.

Perhaps the most disturbing one happened in Belgium in 2001. Alisson Cambier, age 15, visited her neighbor, Thierry Jaradin, 24, to return some movies she had borrowed from him. Jaradin made romantic advances toward Cambier, according to The Guardian, which she rejected. Jaradin then excused himself to another room, came back wearing a Ghostface costume, brutally stabbed her to death, then posed her corpse on his bed. Jaradin said the murder was premeditated and the movies had inspired him. According to Sudinfo, Jaradin was sentenced to life in prison, where he remained as of 2018.

A young couple tried to recreate Natural Born Killers

Oliver Stone's 1994 movie Natural Born Killers starred Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as Mickey and Mallory Knox, two young criminals who go on a road trip across the United States, causing mayhem along the way and becoming a media sensation. It wasn't reviewed well at the time and was heavily criticized due to violence, but the film has taken on cult status in the years since.

Sarah Edmondson and Benjamin Darras, a couple from Oklahoma, were at Edmondson's parents' cabin taking drugs and watching the movie over and over in March 1995 when they decided they wanted to commit their own crime spree. The two drove out as far as Hernando, Mississippi when, short on money, they decided to commit their first murder. Darras shot William Savage to death in the office of his business and robbed him for just $100. The next day, in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, Edmondson shot a convenience store clerk, Patsy Byers, in the neck during a robbery, severing her spinal cord and rendering her quadriplegic, according to The Washington Post.

Edmondson and Darras then returned to Oklahoma, where they were caught and sentenced — Darras for life and Edmondson for 35 years. They admitted the film inspired their crimes, and the family of Byers even filed suit against Stone and Warner Bros., though the case was thrown out in 2001, according to the BBC.

1965's The Collector gave two serial killers ideas

On June 2nd, 1985, Charles Ng was caught shoplifting a vise from a hardware store in San Francisco. A friend of Ng's arrived and offered to pay for the stolen goods, but was too late. Police had already arrived. When they checked the second man's ID, they found it was actually someone else's, so they arrested both men. This ended up being the downfall of two of the deadliest serial killers of the 1980s. The friend, Leonard Lake, killed himself by swallowing cyanide pills he smuggled into jail. Ng escaped and fled to Canada.

Lake and Ng had been partners on what they called "Project Miranda," kidnapping and murdering people at Lake's secluded cabin. By the time they were caught, they were believed to have killed 25 people, according to History. Ng and Lake were fans of the 1965 film (and the 1963 novel upon which it was based) The Collector, which features a man kidnapping a woman named Miranda and locking her in the basement of his secluded farmhouse.

Ng was eventually extradited from Canada and put on trial. He claimed he was a passive observer in the murders, but he and Lake filmed many of their crimes, which proved that untrue. They also found drawings and writings by Ng that definitively linked him to the crimes. Ng was sentenced to death in 1999 and is still on death row as of 2019.

TV's Dexter inspired a copycat killer

From 2006 to 2013, premium cable network Showtime aired Dexter, a TV series about blood spatter analyst Dexter Morgan, who lived a double life as a serial killer that took out other criminals. He was directed to do so by a kind of inner identity, which Dexter referred to as his "Dark Passenger." He also had a particular way of disposing of his victims by dismembering them and placing the parts in trash bags, which he tossed off his boat. The show was quite popular with critics and viewers, with several of its seasons being regarded as the best television of their respective years.

In January of 2014, Steven Miles, a teenager from England, was arrested at home for the murder of his girlfriend Elizabeth Thomas. According to Miles, he was instructed by a voice in his head, which he called Ed, to commit murder. After killing Thomas, Miles dismembered her body and placed the parts in various trash bags. 

Unlike Dexter Morgan, who flew under the radar for years, Miles confessed his crime within a short time of committing it, at which point he was arrested without incident. At trial, Miles admitted he had been influenced by the television series, according to the BBC. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to life with a possibility of parole after 25 years.

A phone call out of Saw nearly killed a woman

The long-running Saw series features gruesome traps, bizarre twists, a creepy puppet, and most iconic of all, eerie voice recordings where the Jigsaw killer explains his motives. While the films started out as a fresh take on slashers, later entries didn't stray very far from the formula of the original, which caused the series to stagnate. One reboot has already tried and failed to reignite the franchise, but in 2020, a second reboot starring and written by Chris Rock could possibly fare better.

In 2007, two unnamed 13-year-old Tennessee girls were attempting to imitate the Jigsaw killer's threatening recordings when they randomly prank called a woman named Beverly Dickson, leaving her a voicemail. In the message, using many of the same lines from the films, the girls informed Dickson that one of Dickson's friends was trapped in her house and toxic gas would be released if she didn't free the friend in 10 minutes, according to NBC News.

While it's arguably a pretty corny prank that probably wouldn't fool many people, Dickson didn't listen to the message until the following day while she was at a funeral. Hearing the threat along with the stress of the funeral caused Dickson to panic and have a stroke. She was rushed to the hospital, but did survive. The girls were charged with phone harassment.

A Friday the 13th fan committed a Jason-style murder

The Friday the 13th films portrayed iconic hockey mask-wearing, machete-wielding murderer Jason Vorhees as he set out to punish anyone who dared come near Camp Crystal Lake, where he was left unattended by camp counselors and drowned. Except for the first one, that killer was his mom, Pamela Vorhees, and you can absolutely win at trivia night with that factoid.

In 1988, at the height of the series' popularity, Massachusetts teen Mark Branch became obsessed with Jason, and allegedly came to idolize and even identify as the character. On October 24, 1998, a woman named Cheryl Gregory found her twin sister Sharon brutally murdered, according to UPI. Police quickly suspected Branch. Although the exact reason why they concluded Branch was the killer was never made public, it's rumored they found a pair of boots and a hockey mask, the same kinds worn by Jason, at the murder scene along with similar ones at Branch's home.

Since the murder happened a week before Halloween and Branch remained at-large, a local Halloween parade was cancelled and trick-or-treating was rescheduled for daylight hours. Once deer hunting season started a month later, Branch's body was found hanging in the woods. Some internet sleuths have posited Branch could have been lynched by angry locals who found him, or even that he had been framed and was killed to cover it up, but his death was officially ruled suicide by police.