We’ve celebrated the past and present of horror films all through October. With one day left before Halloween, we’re taking a little break from that… so that we can discuss the hopeful future of horror films and the frightening past and present of real life. Keeping with a newly-established tradition, here are seven more frightening real-life stories that I think would make incredible horror films:
1. The Hands Resist Him
When a California couple purchased a painting from eBay, they likely had no idea that they were about to spark an entire internet-borne mythology.
But after they hung the painting The Hands Resist Him in their house, things got weird. They claimed that the painting’s subject and his soulless doll wandered around the painting. Certain versions of the story claim that the couple saw the boy and his doll outside of the painting, walking in the room in which it was displayed. Many have claimed that looking at the picture makes them feel ill or on the verge of fainting. Some who have tried to print the picture claim that their printers reject the job and shut down.
Of course, the internet being what it is, this could all be viral, source-less storytelling. But Bill Stoneham, the artist who painted the picture, was tracked down a few years ago, and though he claimed he knew nothing about the painting being haunted or cursed, he did confirm that the art critic who reviewed the work and the gallery owner who first displayed it died within a year of coming into contact with the work.
Tips For a Potential Filmmaker: The terrifying doll, the dead-eyed boy, his doll, and the darkly impressionistic hands. The picture, from its haunting title to its nightmare aesthetic, almost makes this too easy. Don’t push the film any farther than necessary.
2. The Chupa Chupa of Colares
In 1977, a wave of UFO sightings in Colares, Pará (Brazil) was unique because of one very frightening detail. The UFOs were firing beams of light at residents, many of whom reportedly sought treatment for radiation burns. The hysteria of the citizens, who had taken to calling the UFOs Chupa Chupa (meaning “sucker sucker”) was justifiably out of control. The mayor of the city requested the assistance of the Brazilian Air Force.
The request was taken so seriously that the government initiated Operação Prato headed by Captain Uyrangê Bolivar. Bolivar and his men spent months investigating the situation, capturing several photos of strange lights, and then regaining order within the town.
To make the story even more compelling, Bolivar died twenty years later, hanging himself after giving an interview to a UFO reporter.
Advice for a Potential Filmmaker: Use as few special effects as possible. What makes this story so frightful is the consistency and thoroughness of the town’s reaction to the attacks. This is a very human horror story.
3. The Least Expected Tormentor
In 1989, when police found Richmond nurse Cindy James dead in an abandoned house with her feet tied and her hands bound behind her, it was a tragic discovery, but not a surprising one. Two weeks before, Cindy had gone missing and the discovery of her bloody car had suggested the terrible outcome. But more than that, Cindy had been the victim of well-documented, violent, and over-the-top harassment from an unknown stalker for seven years. What had started as numerous threats made from magazine letters escalated to her phone line being slashed and her porch lights being destroyed. On two different instances, Cindy was discovered in startling condition– once a private investigator stumbled upon her with one of the aforementioned letters stabbed into her hand and another time a friend happened upon her unconscious body with stockings tied around her neck. In both instances, Cindy had no recollection of how she ended up in the position. And it all culminated with her basement being set on fire.
As intense as all of this victimization reads, the story doesn’t get truly bizarre until the investigation. You see, Cindy didn’t die from any wounds or injuries, according to the medical report. She died from a morphine overdose. And the fire in her basement was suspicious because no exterior damage was found on the house, indicating the fire was started by someone already inside. So, after weighing the evidence, police decided that Cindy James’ stalker and murderer… was Cindy James.
Advice for the potential filmmaker: Wait, wait. Wait. Do not make this another schizophrenic twist movie. Those have been played out since before the credits of Fight Club stopped rolling. Dig a little bit. There’s a better horror movie in this story. See, Cindy wasn’t the only person being tormented. Cindy’s boyfriend was attacked by someone on numerous occasions (but always unable to describe the attacker). Cindy’s ex-husband frequently received terrifying phone calls and messages (one of which you can hear in the video below, around the 5:00 mark). This is where the horror story should be anchored– a movie that starts with a character concerned for the safety of his victimized girlfriend or ex-wife, only to have his concern give way to suspicion that something far more sinister and dangerous might be going on.
4. Dobhar Chu
The Dobhar Chu is an exceptionally frightening cryptid, a fish/hound hybrid with immeasurable water speed, seemingly programmed to hunt and kill.
Of course, there is no real scientific record of the beast, aside from its being cataloged in an 1896 edition of The Journal of Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. But legend and local folklore tell of countless eye witness accounts, stories of attacks, and even credited human kills. A headstone in Glenade is enscribed with details of its occupants having been killed by the monster, and her husband’s having killed the creature in retaliation.
Legend marks the Dobhar Chu as a somewhat romantic creature, always partnered with another of the species, and before a Dobhar Chu dies, it is said that it emits a piercing cry to warn its partner, a chilling noise that can be heard from land. More scientific speculation accepts that it may be an amphibious hunter, more akin to a crocodile than neighboring cryptid Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster.
Tips for a potential filmmaker: Use the cold dark water for obscurity. Don’t hide the reported natural partnership as a twist; embrace it from the opening and in the open. The Dobhar Chu has great potential as a creature horror, a mix of Jaws and The Descent.
5. Boy A
The severed head of 11 year old June Hase was placed at the front of a school. A piece of paper with a taunting message to police was shoved into the victim’s mouth.
That’s the beginning of this story.
The killer, who self-identified as “Seito Sakakibara” (a name built of symbols that mean apostle, sake, rose, and devil) sent letters to the media that exhibited the evil of his intention and the joy he got from his murderous deeds. He referred to children as “vegetables” that he would destroy and explained that he only felt at peace when he was killing. The discovery of more victims revealed that cops were searching for a serial killer.
More shocking? When they found their suspect, the entire country was shocked to learn that it was a 14 year old boy. Because of his age, his real identity was protected and media referred to the killer as Boy A.
Though he was found guilty, his juvenile status determined his sentencing. When “Sakakibara” was released on probation in 2004 and then granted full freedom in 2005, the then 21 year old almost immediately penned a tell-all book about his history, which was published against the wishes of the victims’ family. To make matters worse, Sakakibara sent each of the mourning families an apology letter, taped to a copy of his book, an act wholly void of remorse.
Today, the killer runs his own vanity website, which presents the killer’s art, his commentary on books, and nude photos of a masked man. The site invites viewers to believe the photos are of Sakakibara and offers an email address so that he can receive comments and feedback.
Advice for a potential filmmaker: Keep it as absurdly horrific as it is, don’t make a decision without consulting Takashi Miike, and do everything you can to fictionalize the narcissist’s pleasure out of the product.
6. The Mysterious Faces of Belmez
In 1971, in the small Spanish town of Bélmez de la Moraleda, María Gómez Pereira discovered a stain on the floor. She attempted to scrub it away to no avail, and the next day, the stain had morphed into the shape of a face. Haunted by the unsettling face, Pereira’s husband decided to destroy the concrete upon which the face appeared. New concrete was laid. A week later, the face reappeared.
Neighbors came to inspect the face and the Mayor of the town announced an investigation. The excavation reportedly uncovered a grave of skeletons, some decapitated, dated as corpses from the 13th Century.
The remains were given a Catholic burial and the kitchen rebuilt. And then more faces appeared.
When Pereira passed away in 2004, any theories of her being a con artist were put to rest, as the faces continued to form.
Tips for a potential filmmaker: Many had speculated that the images were psychically imposed upon the floor, an expression of María’s psychological state. This reading could make for a very rich and perhaps metaphoric horror drama, the perfect material for a Michael Haneke-like thriller.
Source: The Line-Up
Photo Source: dollartheatermassacre.com
7. “I Murder so that I May Come Back” – Mary Bell
Court psychiatrists in the murder trial of 11 year old Mary Bell cautioned that she was cunning, intelligent, and dangerous.
After the body of four year old Martin Brown was discovered in an abandoned house, Mary and a friend broke into a nursery not far away and left cryptic notes. “I Murder so THAT I May Come Back,” one note stated. “Look out THERE are murderers about,” said another. Others directly confessed her guilt, but were, at first, seen as a misguided joke from a troubled child. “Oh I know he’s dead,” she told Martin’s mother, “I wanted to see him in his coffin.” Suspiciously, Mary had also drawn a picture of Martin’s body in the same position in which it was found.
And then, two weeks later, when three year old Brian Howe went missing, Mary suggested he might be found in a vacant lot of concrete slabs. And he was. Brian’s body was discovered amongst the slabs, strangled and mutilated. It was discovered later that Mary had returned to her victim days after his death to carve an “M” into his belly.
Mary was charged with manslaughter and, though she was a problematic inmate with a number of assaults on her record, she was released from prison at the age of 23 and granted anonymity. She lives free today and recently became a grandmother.
Tips for the filmmaker: Though horror culture is rich with creepy and murderous children, I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a kid character as bone-chilling as Mary. Documentary would be the only form to convey this and I would (shamefully) love to hear from Mary as an adult.
Read our first entry in this series here.
Featured Image: YouTube