Some of our favorite horror fiction is actually inspired by true events. In fact, there are plenty of tales of terror that have gone down in recent years that continue to have an impact on our nightmares.
From gruesome murders to unsolved mysteries, here are 14 real life stories that will make you want to do a background search on your new neighbors:
The Doll Creator
Russian historian Anatoly Moskvin was confined to a psychiatric facility when it was revealed he dug into the graveyards of over 40 children, mummified them, and kept them as dolls in his home. Moskvin visited over 700 cemeteries over the course of 11 years, but it was reported that he only mummified a total of 29 girls. During his trial in 2011, he told one of the families of his victims, “You abandoned your girls in the cold – and I brought them home and warmed them up.”
His family didn’t think anything of the mummified children because they looked like life-size dolls.
Moskin is currently in treatment at the facility, but can leave once he is “cured.” It is likely, however, that he will remain there for the rest of his life.
The Disappearance Of Béla Kiss
Béla Kiss was an Hungarian serial killer – and the original Catfish – who would lure women to his home with the promise of marriage and financial dependence. From 1900 to 1914, Kiss wrote love letters to women and promised them the world if they would come see him in Cinkota, Hungary (now present day Budapest). Kiss’ neighbors noticed he kept large metal drums outside of his house, but Kiss assured them and the police they were filed with gasoline because of the upcoming war. Kiss went off to the war and police discovered that the drums were filled with women. Investigators found 24 bodies, including his wife and another man, at his home. They believed Kiss strangled his victims, but didn’t know why they had puncture marks on their necks. Since they were unable to find Kiss, it was assumed he became a prisoner of war.
You can check out a semi-scary movie trailer inspired by his case above.
The Mute Twins
June and Jennifer Gibbons were twins who would only talk to each other. Born and raised in 1963 in the UK, the twins were the only black children in the town of Pembrokeshire, Wales and were constantly teased and taunted in school. Due to a speech impediment, they kept to themselves and spoke in a high-speed patois that eventually their family was unable to understand. The twins grew up and continued to live a life of silence without communicating with anyone else. Even though they both had high IQ’s, they were deemed psychopathic and were admitted to Broadmoor Hospital for 14 years.
During their time in the hospital, the twins wrote fan fiction and created rituals. They determined one of them had to die in order for the other to live a normal life. Jennifer agreed to be the sacrifice. During a transfer to another facility in 1993, Jennifer died. It was later determined that she died of an enlarged heart. No foul play was suspected in her death, but June started speaking with the general public. Her first words were reportedly, “I’m free at last, liberated, and at last Jennifer has given up her life for me.”
The twins did speak to one woman, journalist Marjorie Wallace, who brought attention to their story. As of 2008, June was living in Wales with her parents and has put her mysterious past behind her.
“Gloomy Sunday,” aka The Suicide Song
“Gloomy Sunday,” a song by Hungarian composer Rezso Seress, came to life in the 1930s after his girlfriend died. The song took on a life of its own when it was reported that many people committed suicide thanks to the song’s lyrics. It was later referred to as the “Hungarian Suicide Song” when Seress took his own life in 1968. While the song reminded Seress of his fallen love, it was a hit with many others, including Billie Holiday, who recorded her own version in 1941. You can listen to Holiday’s version above.
The Real Life Rapunzel
You might not know the story of Russian supermodel Ruslana Korshunova, but you might remember one of her most famous ads for Nina Ricci’s signature perfume. The 20-year-old model committed suicide in 2008, leaping to her death from her Manhattan apartment. The model was known for her innocent look and phenomenal hair.
Upon her death, many noticed her rich long locks were damaged and brittle. No explanation was ever given about the model’s death or reason her hair was severely damaged, but it was later revealed that Ruslana was part of an infamous cult called Rose of the World.
During the first days in the program, students are forced to retell their most haunting stories. While some spoke of rape and substance abuse, Ruslana spoke about her father’s death and a failed romance. Rose was filled with people constantly pouring out their emotions on a daily basis in the dark halls. The extreme process – referred to as Lifespring – was so severe, the group was banned in the U.S in 1980 after many students suffered mental damage. The teachings proved to be a success in the model’s eyes but to others, she would break into random fits of rage and started cursing for the first time in her young life.
Many people believed the teachings at the cult drove her to suicide and caused her to resent one of her most stunning features – her hair.
Delphine LaLaurie’s Slave Mansion
Delphine LaLaurie’s estate in New Orleans served as a torture mansion for her slaves in 1834. LaLaurie kept the slaves locked away in an attic, where they were chained and bound with iron neck collars. One slave, who was shackled to the stove, intentionally started a fire in a suicide mission to escape LaLaurie’s wrath. Rescuers found the 70-year-old woman after the fire, and she instructed them to go to the attic to free the other slaves. Many of them were mutilated and left for dead. The well-known sadist fled to Paris. Once people found out about her devious past, she was blackballed by high society.
LaLaurie’s story would later serve as inspiration behind Kathy Bates’ character on American Horror Story: Coven. Check out Bates and the other actors talk about LaLaurie above.
The Mysterious Swedish Twins
Ursula and Sabina Eriksson were twin sisters from Sweden that allegedly suffered from folie à deux, or “shared psychosis.” The twins’ chaotic episode was seen by the world when they appeared on BBC’s Motorway Cops in 2008. Sabina and Ursula threw themselves into traffic for unknown reasons. Ursula was the first to run onto the highway. She was able to dodge traffic, but Sabina was hit by a truck. Both women tried to run from the cops, especially Sabina, who regained consciousness and ran to the other side of the highway. Ursula broke her legs in the accident and was taken to the hospital. Sabina was arrested and held in the police station for just 24 hours. After she was released, she killed a man who offered her shelter. She jumped off a bridge to escape from police, but was captured. The courts were unable to prove she was mentally ill at the time of trial, but she only served five years in jail. The twins’ whereabouts are currently unknown.
The Baby Farm Killer
Amelia Dyer is known as one of the most terrifying serial killers in history, because she killed newborns for the love of money. For 30 years, the English Dyer would take in illegitimate babies, promising parents she would adopt them at her baby farm or place them in better homes. While the mothers believed they put the babies in good care, Dyer would kill the children, wrap them in brown paper bags, and toss them in the river. In 1895, police found over 40 babies in the Thames River and linked them back to Dyer. She was executed in 1896.
The world-famous Player Theater would sing of Dyer and her crimes in the song called, “Mrs. Dyer, The Baby Farmer.”
Here’s the chorus:
That old baby farmer the wretch Mrs Dyer,
At the Old Bailey her wages is paid,
In times long ago we’d have made a big fire,
And roasted so nicely that wicked old jade.
The ‘Dating Game’ Serial Killer
Rodney Alcala is a convicted rapist and serial killer who is currently sitting on Death Row for four killings in the ’70s. Alcala is reportedly suspected of killing over 130 women. Alcala would pose as a photographer and lure women in with his “charm.” During his spree, the killer made a cameo on the popular Dating Game show and won. The woman didn’t go on a date with Alcala (thank goodness), but check out footage of his appearance above.
Man or Mannequin Mishaps In Florida
Florida isn’t a stranger topuzzling news, but two cases this year proved to be out of the ordinary when human bodies were mistaken for mannequins. The incidents happened earlier this year, when the body of an elderly woman was thrown in the trash by an apartment security guard who mistook her for a mannequin. The other discovery happened in July, when movers cleaned out an apartment in Tampa Bay. They found a body hanging in the garage and tossed it after thinking it was a Halloween prop. Police discovered that the body was hanging in the evicted home for over a month before anyone noticed.
The Jolly Black Widow
Nannie Doss would be remembered for two things: the crimes she committed, and her boastful laugh when she confessed to them.
Doss fell in and out of marriages since the age of 16. She also had a weakness for romance and when things didn’t work out with her suitors, she would poison them and collect the insurance money. Doss killed her mother, four out of five husbands, her sister, two out of her four daughters, brother-in-law, and one of her mother-in-laws because “they got on her nerves.”
During her confession, she laughed about the murders and bragged about killing a total of 11 people. She was sentenced to life in prison in 1955 and died of leukemia in 1965.
The ‘Power Ranger’ Murderer
Child actor Skylar Deleon is currently sitting in jail for the murder of Tom and Jackie Hawks of Prescott, Arizona. Deleon, who had a minor role on the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers series in the ’90s, killed the couple in an attempt to steal their boat in 2004. Deleon answered an ad about the boat and went for a test ride with the couple out to sea. While on the boat, Deleon and an accomplice beat Tom and forced him to sign the Bill of Sale before attaching the couple to an anchor and throwing them in the water. Their bodies were never found.
Deleon says he did it to get enough money to leave his wife and have sex-reassignment surgery.
The Story of Hart Island
The story of Hart Island goes back decades, as the island serves as the largest cemetery in the country. Located on the edge of the Bronx, it was previously a psych ward and a reform school. Since 1869, it became the area of a mass burial of over one million children, the homeless, and the poor. One thousand bodies are sent to the island every year.
The government has since blocked public viewings of Hart Island, and many useful documents outlining its beginnings were destroyed in a fire in 1970.
A bill was introduced to the city council to expand access to the graves last year, but didn’t get far. Another was reintroduced in January, with Queens officials wanting the Parks Department to step in and make it a family-friendly park (Insert major side eye).
The Valentine’s Day Murderer
Toni Jo Henry was the first woman to be electrocuted in Louisiana for killing out of crazy, stupid, love. In 1939, Henry married Claude Henry, who was sentenced to 50 years in jail for killing a man during a bar fight. Toni, 23, promised she would do whatever it took to get her 26-year-old husband out of prison. From then on, Toni used her good looks to meet two men: Finnon Burks and Joseph Calloway. Toni and Burks would rob stores together and planned to rob a bank so she could use the money to get her “Cowboy” out of jail.
After hitchhiking a ride from Calloway on February 14, 1940, Toni shot and killed the 41-year-old and stripped him naked so Henry would have something nice to wear.
Because of Toni’s beauty, the case would make national headlines and go on until 1942. Toni admitted to killing Calloway after Burks was initially sentenced to death in an electric chair for the crime. Toni’s curly black locks were shaved off when she was also sentenced to the chair. Henry was released from jail in 1944, and gunned down three months later.
A movie highlighting the case titled The Pardon was released in 2013, with Jamie King playing Toni (above).