Horror experts on Hollywood's 'true' horror stories: Fact or frightful fiction?

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Horror experts on Hollywood's 'true' horror stories: Fact or frightful fiction?

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“The Exorcist” (Photo: Warner Bros.)

But movie taglines are sales pitches, not binding contracts. How real — really — are Hollywood’s supposedly fact-based tales of terror?

It Came From…</a> and former executive editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland. “Filmmakers often use said true story as a jumping-off point, and then embellish to heighten the scare factor.”” data-reactid=”38″>“Most true-story horror films are only very loosely based on the reality of actual events,” says David Weiner, creator of the pop-culture site It Came From… and former executive editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland. “Filmmakers often use said true story as a jumping-off point, and then embellish to heighten the scare factor.”

We called on horror and true-crime experts to help us sort the truth from the “truthiness” in some of Hollywood’s most iconic fright films. Here are the findings.

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“The Exorcist” (Photo: Warner Bros. courtesy of Everett Collection)

a boy in St. Louis —</a>&nbsp;variously identified as Roland Doe, Ronnie Doe, Robbie Mannheim, and Ronald Hunkeler — is possessed by a demon and requires an exorcism. Sometime after, Georgetown University undergrad William Peter Blatty, who penned the same-titled, bestselling novel that he would adapt into the Oscar-winning Exorcist screenplay, hears a theology professor [riff] about a case of demonic possession that had recently occurred in the Washington area,” Washingtoniannoted in a profile of the writer. “Something about it struck a nerve.”” data-reactid=”68″>The legend: In the 1940s, a boy in St. Louis — variously identified as Roland Doe, Ronnie Doe, Robbie Mannheim, and Ronald Hunkeler — is possessed by a demon and requires an exorcism. Sometime after, Georgetown University undergrad William Peter Blatty, who penned the same-titled, bestselling novel that he would adapt into the Oscar-winning Exorcist screenplay, hears a theology professor [riff] about a case of demonic possession that had recently occurred in the Washington area,” Washingtoniannoted in a profile of the writer. “Something about it struck a nerve.”

acclaimed</a> podcast series&nbsp;Inside The Exorcist. “To some degree, this was intentional. He promised the priests who told him about the original exorcism that his version of the story would not too closely reveal the true facts. They were concerned about the privacy of the victim of possession. This is one reason, for example, why the gender of the victim was changed from male to female.”” data-reactid=”69″>The truth: “Blatty’s novel is not at all true to the events which inspired his story,” says Mark Ramsey, host and producer of the acclaimed podcast series Inside The Exorcist. “To some degree, this was intentional. He promised the priests who told him about the original exorcism that his version of the story would not too closely reveal the true facts. They were concerned about the privacy of the victim of possession. This is one reason, for example, why the gender of the victim was changed from male to female.”

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“The Conjuring” (Photo: AP Photo/New Line/Warner Bros.)

[living] among the dead</a>,” as family-chronicler Andrea Perron would put it, and reach out to the Warrens for help.” data-reactid=”99″>The legend: In the 1970s, the Perrons of Harrisville, Rhode Island, find themselves in a quaint farmhouse “[living] among the dead,” as family-chronicler Andrea Perron would put it, and reach out to the Warrens for help.

told</a> Rhode Island’s Providence Journal in 2014. “There’s no reason a ghost would exist in this house. … It’s not real.” Sutcliffe and her husband sued the studio behind The Conjuring, seeking damages for the curiosity-seekers they say the film has brought to their door.” data-reactid=”103″>Indeed. The Warrens, the Perrons, the 1970s, the Harrisville farmhouse — these are all points where the historical record matches up with the movie. The rest is notoriously fuzzy. Exhibit A: The couple who currently lives in the Perrons’ former Harrisville home bitterly disputes the structure’s tortured on-screen backstory. “There were no murders, no suicides,” owner Norma Sutcliffe told Rhode Island’s Providence Journal in 2014. “There’s no reason a ghost would exist in this house. … It’s not real.” Sutcliffe and her husband sued the studio behind The Conjuring, seeking damages for the curiosity-seekers they say the film has brought to their door.

“It turns out that the Warrens were a lot less involved with the family than depicted in the film,” Weiner says.

participated in the marketing of </a>The Conjuring, definitely believe something was up with their house. (Angela Perron wrote a trilogy on the subject.) Lorraine Warren definitely thinks the filmmakers “did a pretty good job” in telling the story. And Weiner definitely thinks “director James Wan is not immune to goosing the story to serve the requirements of a summer popcorn flick.”” data-reactid=”106″>The bottom line: The Perrons, who participated in the marketing of The Conjuring, definitely believe something was up with their house. (Angela Perron wrote a trilogy on the subject.) Lorraine Warren definitely thinks the filmmakers “did a pretty good job” in telling the story. And Weiner definitely thinks “director James Wan is not immune to goosing the story to serve the requirements of a summer popcorn flick.”

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The Conjuring 2 (Photo: New Line/Warner Bros.)

newspaper to report strange doings in her house in the London suburb of Enfield. Soon, paranormal investigators, including the Warrens, beat a path to the family’s door. Pictures are taken. Recordings of Peggy’s daughter, Janet, speaking in a bark of a man’s voice ID’d as Bill are made. Skeptics are born, as are believers.

said</a>.” data-reactid=”136″>The truth: As with the Perron case of The Conjuring, the Warrens’ involvement in the so-called Enfield Poltergeist or Enfield Haunting was enhanced for The Conjuring 2. “They did turn up once, I think,” another paranormal investigator from back in the day said.

concluded in a piece on Janet Hodgson</a> for the London Telegraph. “I can only think, ‘Oh yes, Enfield. That was weird.’”” data-reactid=”137″>As for the rest: “I can’t achieve resolution,” Will Storr, who wrote a book about the paranormal world, concluded in a piece on Janet Hodgson for the London Telegraph. “I can only think, ‘Oh yes, Enfield. That was weird.’”

movies, as well. As Lorraine Warren currently closed) occult museum in Connecticut, would have been “much too innocent-looking” to star in the horror spinoff. A porcelain doll was cast instead.” data-reactid=”140″>This goes for the Annabelle movies, as well. As Lorraine Warren told us in 2014, a Raggedy Ann doll, a la the real Annabelle, the one kept in the glass case at the Warrens’ (currently closed) occult museum in Connecticut, would have been “much too innocent-looking” to star in the horror spinoff. A porcelain doll was cast instead.

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The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Photo: Dark Sky Films)

people get chased, and all but one killed by a chainsaw-wielding psycho, Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), and his family. The 2003 Michael Bay-produced, same-titled remake, billed as “inspired by a true story,” follows the same map.

wrote</a> in his 1974 review of the original movie.” data-reactid=”170″>The truth: “I can’t recall having heard of these particular crimes,” critic Roger Ebert wrote in his 1974 review of the original movie.

Ebert, of course, was not uninformed: There was no Texas chainsaw massacre.

“Butcher Ghoul” of Wisconsin</a>, who confessed to the murders of two women in 1957, but gained even more notoriety for his farmhouse of horrors where he fashioned clothes and other objects from human skin and body parts.” data-reactid=”172″>There was, however, Ed Gein, the “Butcher Ghoul” of Wisconsin, who confessed to the murders of two women in 1957, but gained even more notoriety for his farmhouse of horrors where he fashioned clothes and other objects from human skin and body parts.

movies linked to the grisly tale of Gein. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs are the others.” data-reactid=”173″>The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of three major horror movies linked to the grisly tale of Gein. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs are the others.

true-crime author Harold Schechter</a> (Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original Psycho).” data-reactid=”174″>“None of them is really ‘true’ to the Gein case, [but] each lifts a different [thread] from the story,” says true-crime author Harold Schechter (Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original Psycho).

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Psycho (Photo: Universal)

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The Silence of the Lambs (Photo: MGM)

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The Amityville Horror (Photo: MGM)