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The Shocking Truth

Night of the Living Dead

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Scream

The “Scream” movies featuring the iconic Ghostface killer are one of the most popular horror franchises of all time. The four films have grossed more than $330 million dollar in North America alone. It also spawned a successful TV series in 2015. But the roots of the story go back to a horrifying murder in Florida in the early 1990’s. Screenwriter Kevin Williamson was inspired to draft an 18-page script treatment about a young woman, alone in a house, who is taunted over the phone and then attacked by a masked killer. He borrowed elements from the real story of serial killer Danny Harold Rolling, a.k.a “The Gainesville Ripper” who murdered four female college students in Florida in 1990. Williamson changed the location from a college to a high school for the original film. The opening scene of the first “Scream” movie featured the gruesome murder of a young woman played by Drew Barrymore. Her grisly murder closely resembles the first brutal slaying committed by Rolling.

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The Fugitive

“The Fugitive” was the third highest grossing film of 1993 and was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture. Tommy Lee Jones won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for playing a relentless U.S. Marshal who pursues the wrongfully convicted inmate Dr. Richard Kimble. But the Shocking Truth is that both the movie and TV series are based on a real crime. In 1954, Dr. Sam Sheppard, his wife Marilyn and their young son Sam were living in a two-story house in a Cleveland suburb. On July 4th, Marilyn Sheppard was beaten to death in her bedroom while her husband slept downstairs on the couch. Dr. Sheppard was woken up by the cries of his wife. He immediately ran upstairs to their bedroom. As he entered the bedroom, he saw what he described as a "form" in the room. This “form” later morphed into the infamous “one-armed man” character in both the series and the film.

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The Godfather

The Best Picture winner for 1972 has several underworld inspirations. Don Vito A. Corleone is based on real mob boss Frank Costello. Don Corleone was born in the same year as Costello, and like Costello earned vast illegal incomes from gambling and bootlegging, and enjoyed unrivalled political clout through friends in the power. Carlo Gambino’s life also inspired Don Corleone’s character. Both were low-key gangsters, and quite different from their contemporaries. Gambino was careful enough never to be imprisoned, and died in his own home. Like Gambino, Don Corleone had three sons and a daughter. Also like Don Corleone, Gambino’s activities came under heavy FBI scrutiny with wiretaps, bugs and lip-readers being employed to gather evidence, but Gambino knew how to conduct his business “in silence” and escaped without any jail time.

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Friday the 13th

The story of a hockey-mask wearing serial killer stalking his victims at a summer camp has inspired numerous sequels and reboots since its debut in 1980. But the Shocking Truth is that this horrifying story has its roots in the Nordic region of Europe. On Sunday, June 5th of 1960, four young teenagers were camping out on Finland’s Lake Bodom, a picturesque locale that bears a striking resemblance to the faux Crystal Lake. Between 4am and 6am, an unknown maniac wielding a knife brutally murdered three of the youngsters. The fourth victim managed to escape with a fractured jaw and a concussion. A handful of suspects were questioned by police, including a maintenance man, a vagrant and even a KGB spy, the latter of whom showed up at a local hospital the day after the murders, covered in red stains. Despite the fact that one of the suspects confessed to the murders, sufficient evidence was never found to convict him of the crime, and to this day the bizarre case remains unsolved

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Night of the Living Dead

The cult classic feeds off the Haitian belief in zombies could be based on the (admittedly rare) cases where a person was poisoned by tetrodotoxin and later revived inside the coffin and taken from the grave. Furthermore, he added, there was much more to the zombie phenomenon than simply the powder; it was only one part of a deep-rooted sociocultural belief in the power of witchcraft. In Haitian culture, voodoo priests do much more than create zombies; they are said to bring both blessings and curses through magic.

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Saw

This famous franchise featuring the vengeful Jigsaw Killer and his elaborate death traps have grossed nearly a billion dollars worldwide. But the Shocking Truth is that this gruesome and bloody franchise is inspired by a century-plus old case. In the late 1800’s, H.H. Holmes began his criminal career by stealing cadavers in medical school. He would mutilate them and then make fraudulent insurance claims on them. In 1886, he moved to Chicago, building a giant hotel to cash in on the Chicago World Fair - but this was no ordinary hotel. The building was designed like a labyrinth, with no windows on the top two floors, staircases leading to nowhere and soundproofed rooms. His victims were often homeless men, who had no idea of the hellacious torture they were about to endure. Director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio will also revisit this macabre story in their upcoming film “The Devil in the White City.”