10 Terrifying Books Based On True Stories, Because Real Life Can Be Horrifying
How many horror movies have you watched that claim to be based on a true story, or inspired by actual events? There's something so much more terrifying about a horror story that contains even a nugget of truth — the same applies for terrifying books based on true stories. Maybe the more ridiculous elements of the horror story aren't true (let's be real, most of those movies take some ridiculous liberties with the "true story" they're based on), but the idea of a haunted house or a demonic possession happening in any form is pretty scary stuff. So what if a little girl didn't crab-walk down the stairs; thinking about someone whose demonically possessed doing anything is horrifying.
"Based on true events" isn't just a line for movies, however. Plenty of scary books have taken their cues from actual events, even if they do stretch the truth a bit (or a lot). Of course, even books that claim to be a faithful account of a particularly nasty haunting are open to a lot of speculation. Even I, someone with a rock-solid belief in ghosts, find it hard to believe everything I read. I can buy that you found your daughter levitating atop her bed, but claiming that the walls ooze some kind of weird substance? I don't think I can believe that.
Whether you believe it or not, the books below are based on some pretty eerie tales. Personally I can sleep better at night if I convince myself that most of them are fake, but if you're braver than I am maybe you'll be more willing to read them as fact rather than fiction.
1. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
AKA the book or movie that gave your parents nightmares when they were younger.
The Exorcist is know as one of the most terrifying movies ever created. But before that, it was a book. But before THAT, it was an actual story of demonic possession. Or, at least, it's supposedly based on an actual possession and exorcism that the author learned about. While there probably isn't a "good" way to get demonically possessed, I hope that the supposed source of the tale didn't suffer the same way Regan, the possessed girl in the novel, did.
2. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
You probably already know this story: a family moves into a house, only to be frightened out by a demonic presence. The Amityville haunting is one of the most popular and well-known haunted house stories in America, and spawned a few movies as well as this book. Like many stories of hauntings, however, this terrifying tale hasn't exactly withstood the test of time, and many doubt the authenticity of the family's claims. But honestly, even if only a quarter of what the "victims" said happened is truth, this is still an absolutely terrifying story.
3. Audrey Rose by Frank DeFelitta
DeFelitta swore that he wrote this story based on his own son, who he suspected was the reincarnation of a talented piano player after watching the boy display remarkable talent at a very young age. Okay, so maybe that isn't exactly like Audrey Rose, which involves a young girl named Ivy who finds herself the object of obsession for a stranger. The man claims that Ivy is the reincarnation of his daughter Audrey, who died at the exact moment of Ivy's birth. As you can imagine, Ivy's parents aren't too thrilled about this situation. The novel has a much darker ending than DeFelitta's real-life reincarnation tale, which basically just ended with his son being great at the piano.
4. The Devil in Connecticut by Gerard Brittle
This book will probably dissuade you from ever using the excuse "the Devil made me do it" in court. Featuring demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (they pop up a lot in tales like this), this story begins with the apparent demonic possession of a young boy after his family moves into a new home. After his condition worsens and the family brings in priests to perform an exorcism, the demons allegedly possessing the boy take over the body of another man, forcing him to later kill his landlord. Regardless of if you believe in demonic possession or not, I'll give you a spoiler: the jury didn't buy it.
5. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Well, half of this book is pretty scary, at least. Larson chronicles the stories of two very different men who played a part in the 1893 Chicago World Fair. One was an architect tasked with tacking a large part of the fair's design who did absolutely nothing murder-y The other was a charming psychopath who saw the fair as an opportunity to lure more victims to their doom. Guess which one is the reason this book made the list? H.H. Holmes constructed a hotel that doubled as his killing chamber, where many of his "guests" met their untimely and gruesome end.
6. The Uninvited: The True Story of the Union Screaming House by Steven A. LaChance
When LaChance and his family found the perfect house in Union, Missouri, they probably didn't expect to worry about anything other than renovating the kitchen or redecorating the living room. Instead of installing new carpeting, they found themselves faced with a bunch of demons who didn't take too kindly to strangers. Though they had the good sense to leave with their souls still intact, when the next owner of the house contacted LaChance for help, he felt compelled to save her from the same evil that drove his family away. Though this is apparently a true account of a haunting, you're welcome to read it as fiction if it helps you sleep better.
7. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Stevenson's tale of a man who can turn into a monster at will in order to anonymously indulge in his vices may not be an actual biography of Decon Brodie. It was, however, based off of the Scottsman's dual life as a respectable citizen and criminal. By day, Deacon Brodie worked repairing locks around Edinburgh, and by night he would then break into the homes of the wealthy and rob them. The money he stole would go towards his mistresses and gambling habit. Bad, yes, but not exactly scary, which may be why Stevenson stepped the violence and horror up a notch by making him transform into the murderous and horrific-looking Mr. Hyde.
8. This House Is Haunted: The Investigation of the Enfield Poltergeist by Guy Lyon Playfair
Points for the extremely matter-of-fact title. The Enfield Poltergeist is a famous and well-documented case of a haunting in Enfield, London. It involves pretty typical poltergeist activity: strange voices, things being moved without anyone apparently touching them, little girls being levitated and thrown around. You know, pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. This book is written by one of the original investigators, and tries to make a solid case for the occurrences being of supernatural origin. Of course, that's really for you to decide for yourself.
9. The Sallie House Haunting: A True Story by Debra Lyn Pickman
If you have to have a ghost in your house, it's fine as long as it's a friendly little girl, right? Maybe, but you better make sure it's actually the spirit of a friendly little girl first. When a family moves into a new home and begins sensing a supernatural presence, the wife becomes convinced that it's the spirit of a child and sees no reason to try to get rid of it. However, the "child" begins to turn violent, and as the haunting gets more extreme the couple begins to suspect that something much darker is in control of their home. This is supposedly an account of the actual haunting, and the moral of the story is: don't try to befriend your ghost.
10. The Dibbuk Box by Jason Haxton
Be careful what you pick up at a garage sale or second-hand shop. After an apparently haunted wine case changes hands a few times, it ends up with Haxton, a museum curator who's fascinated with its reputation. Called the Dibbuk Box after the spirit apparently inhabiting it, Haxton begins to experience strange occurrences in his home after coming into possession of the box. Haxton tries to present a fair case for the box being supernatural as well as a hoax, so depending on your belief in spirits you can either read this as a scary tale or the disproving of a fake ghost story.
Images: Warner Bros.