20 Horror Movies That Were Inspired By Spooky Real-Life Locations

A creepy location is a key element of any horror film, be it an abandoned hospital, a remote forest or an eerie mansion. But what we don’t often consider is that these locations sometimes have their very own horror story to tell…

We’ve rounded up some of the creepiest real-life movie locations, some of which have a darker history than the films they inspired.


20. The Shining

As soon as Stephen King stepped into the eerily deserted halls of The Stanley Hotel, he just knew it would make the perfect horror story setting.

King and his wife were allocated room 217, a room with a very ominous past.

In 1911, the chief housekeeper Elizabeth Wilson was killed in the room when a lantern she was lighting exploded – and it seems her spirit still haunts 217 to this day, with numerous visitors reporting sightings of a mysterious presence.

King also claimed to have seen a young boy disappear into a neighbouring room during his stay at the Stanley: impossible considering King and his wife were the only guests in the hotel during his stay.

In his film adaptation of The Shining, Stanley Kubrick changed much of the hotel’s layout, yet this did not detract from the hotel becoming one of the most notorious paranormal tourist destinations of all time.

King’s creepy hotel room has become so famous it’s inspired multiple parodies and references, including everything from The Simpsons to Ready Player One.

19. The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror was inspired by the real-life events that occurred in the notorious Amityville house.

In 1974, 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr. went on a murderous rampage, killing his mother, father and four siblings in a horrific attack.

The house was left vacant for 13 months before it was bought by the Lutz family for a bargain price of $80,000. They would end up leaving after just 28 days.

The Lutz family claimed they had seen a mysterious slime seeping through the walls, knives being thrown out of thin air and a red-eyed creature they likened to a pig.

George Lutz claimed he had seen his wife levitate out of the bed and was woken up at 3.15 am every morning, or the exact time that DeFeo launched his violent attack.

18. The Conjuring

When Carolyn and Roger Perron and their five kids moved into The Old Arnold Estate in the early 1970s, they had no idea of the horrors that laid in wait. These inexplicable occurrences started out as a series of harmless pranks, but soon escalated into something far more sinister.

Not long after moving in, Carolyn reported that she noticed piles of dust in the middle of her freshly swept floors, as well as the children reporting sightings of so-called “spirits”.

The family soon started noticing strange smells, which Roger described as “the smell of rotting flesh”. Every morning at 5.15 am, the children’s beds would shake, waking them from their sleep.

Roger also reported that the heating equipment located in the basement would often fail. When he went down to investigate, he was struck by the feeling of a “cold, stinking presence behind him”.

It was one spirit in particular, Bathsheba, who would go on to inspire the story told in The Conjuring.

17. Poltergeist

Spielberg’s 1982 classic might seem stranger than fiction, and that’s because, well…it is.

Poltergeist was based on the real-life experiences of the Hermann family, who moved into a house in Long Island, New York where they experienced a series of unexplained events.

Between February and March of 1958, the family were tormented by a relentless entity. Ornaments flew around the house and the family’s Virgin Mary figurine was violently thrown at a mirror.

When a police officer arrived to investigate these strange occurrences, he was reportedly attacked by a flying globe that missed his face by mere inches.

A British reporter also documented seeing his flashbulbs lift off the family table and hover in thin air.

16. Dahmer

As you might have guessed from the title, Dahmer is a movie about the infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Dahmer was a recluse and was hindered by his shy and anxious nature. In order to feel more powerful, Dahmer turned to murder.

The filmmakers took inspiration from the Dahmer house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the killer took the life of his 17 victims.

The film depicts how Dahmer lured men to his house, often with the promise of drugs or money. After ensuring his victims were dead, he then performed bizarre rituals on the bodies.

In a grisly twist, Dahmer preserved, and even ate, parts of his victims. Dahmer was captured after one of his victims broke free and escaped, alerting authorities.

15. The Haunting in Connecticut

The Haunting in Connecticut is one of the scarier horror movies of recent times, but what’s even more terrifying is the fact that the film was supposedly based on real events.

The story is said to be influenced by that of the Snedeker family, who moved into 208 Meriden Avenue in Southington, Connecticut in June of 1986. However, this was far from the idyllic family home they had dreamed of…

The family soon discovered that the house had been used as a funeral home throughout the 1920s, and to their horror, even discovered leftover mortuary equipment.

They also found a small cemetery in the garden and a drawer full of eerie corpse photos.

Mr and Mrs Snedeker reported being violently assaulted by an invisible being, and even claimed they saw apparitions of dead people. These apparent ‘ghostly happenings’ remain a mystery to this day.

14. As Above, So Below

If you’ve seen As Above, So Below, you’ll know that the film is set in the Paris Catacombs. However, far from being just another spooky filming location, the Catacombs have a dark history of their very own…

The Catacombs were built to help relieve overflow from the city’s cemeteries and now play hosts to the remains of more than six million people.

The underground tunnels remained relatively untouched save for becoming a novelty underground entertainment venue for the rich in the 19th century.

In 2004, police made a shocking discovery when they uncovered a fully equipped movie theatre in one of the caverns.

This included a fully stocked bar and a restaurant complete with tables and chairs.

13. Jaws

Jaws is one of the most iconic horror films of all time and has terrified its viewers for generations.

The events of Jaws are not just the figment of the writer’s imagination, however.

From 1-12 July 1916, four people were killed and one person injured in vicious shark attacks on the beaches of Jersey Shore.

The media went into an immediate frenzy, causing mass panic among locals and tourists alike.

On July 14th, officials finally captured the shark they believed to be the ‘Jersey Man-eater’ and killed it. In its stomach they found the remains of its victims.

12. Session 9

Session 9 is a 2001 American psychological horror film following an asbestos abatement crew as they experience the horrors of an abandoned mental asylum.

The asylum the crew visit is actually based on a real-life location: Danvers State Mental Hospital.

This was no ordinary mental hospital, however. Residents reported tales of mistreatment including being forced to undergo electric shock therapy, being injected with drugs against their will and even being tortured.

Most unnerving, perhaps, is the fact that the hospital is rumoured to be the birthplace of the frontal lobotomy.

Considering this, it comes as no surprise that Danvers State Mental Hospital is often considered to be one of the most haunted locations in the United States.

11. The Forest

The Forest (2016) follows the story of a woman who travels to Japan to find her sister in a ‘suicide forest’. Chillingly, this suicide forest actually exists, although it’s more commonly referred to by its given name, the Aokigahara Forest, and is located at the base of Mount Fuji.

The forest gained international fame due to its reputation for being one of the most popular suicide spots in the world. Since the 1950s, over 500 bodies have been discovered in the forest.

The forest is so notorious for being a suicide hot spot that there are signs at the entrance imploring visitors to reconsider their decision to end their life.

Even prior to it becoming infamous for being a popular suicide location, the forest was known for being haunted by the spirits of the elders who were left there to die during times of starvation.

As legend has it, their lost souls reach out to all who visit the forest and attempt to lure them to their deaths.

10. The Mothman Prophecies

Starring Richard Gere, this is not a film for the weakhearted. Based on the legend of The Mothman,  the movie is based on actual events that occurred between November 1966 and December 1967 in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

According to legend, the Mothman was a half-bird, half humanoid creature with luminescent red eyes. It would chase after cars, terrifying all who had the misfortune to set eyes on it.

On 15th December, 1957, the Silver Bridge on the outskirts of Point Pleasant collapsed, taking with it the lives of 46 people. Residents of the area claimed that many of the victims had reported sightings of the infamous Mothman.

The Mothman Prophecies takes a look at these events through the eyes of Washington Post columnist John Klein (Gere), and is based on the book of the same name written by parapsychologist John Keel.

The legend of the Mothman has gained huge notoriety in the years since the bridge’s collapse, with locals of Point Pleasant forever be haunted by that day’s events.

9. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the most iconic horror flicks of all time. Perhaps more disturbing is that the film itself is the fact that the story is based on real-life events.

The film is based on the crimes of Ed Gein, who killed two people and was a notorious grave robber. However, Gein’s weapon of choice was a rifle rather than a chainsaw.

Gein would take bodies from graves and use their skins to create various household items and accessories including lampshades and seat covers.

Despite the film’s title suggesting otherwise, Gein committed his crimes in Wisconsin and, compared to Leatherface, he looked significantly less terrifying.

Despite the location change, residents of Gein’s hometown were left disturbed and shocked by the film’s portrayal of the killer who was once in their midst.

8. The Legend of Boggy Creek

Unlike many of the films on this list, The Legend of Boggy Creek was actually filmed in the same location as it was set.

Based on the legend of the Fouke Monster, the film consists of interviews with real-life residents of the city of Fouke, Arkansas about their experiences with the monster that is rumoured to inhabit the area.

The monster apparently stands seven feet tall with reddish-brown hair and emits a foul odour. He is said to leave three-toed tracks in his wake.

Locals residents claim this mysterious creature has stolen and killed their animals, despite numerous attempts to capture the elusive beast.

It is also said that the creature once attacked a local family, an event which is depicted within the film.

7. Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek is based on events that took place in the Belanglo State Forest in New South Wales, the hunting ground for serial killer Ivan Milat, otherwise known as The Backpack Killer, in the 1990s.

Wolf Creek is loosely based on Milat’s crimes, although the film is set in the Wolfe Creek Crater National Park rather than the Belanglo State Forest.

The film tells the story of three backpackers who are hiking through the Creek when their car breaks down.

They unsuspectingly accept a lift from a seemingly well-intentioned passerby, only to find themselves in a rather sticky situation.

Their kind samaritan gives his passengers water laced with sedative, causing them to fall asleep. He then takes them back to his house of horrors where they are forced to fight for survival.

6. Scream

In August 1990, the residents of Gainsborough, Florida were tormented by a sadistic killer who targeted students across the city.

Danny Rolling, otherwise known as the Gainsborough Ripper, went on a four-day killing spree, taking the lives of five victims.

The 1996 film Scream, set in the fictional town of Woodsboro, California, was based on these events.

This critically-acclaimed slasher horror featured a star-studded cast, including David Arquette and Courteney Cox, and has become a cult classic in the years since its release.

In a true case of life imitating art, there have been reports that the film may have inspired real-life crimes and murders.

5. The Conjuring 2

The Conjuring 2, sometimes referred to as The Conjuring: The Enfield Case, is a sequel to the 2013 horror.

The film follows paranormal investigator couple Ed and Lorraine Warren as they travel to England to assist the Hodgson family.

In the film, the Hodgsons are plagued by a mysterious presence that had made itself at home in their Enfield council house.

The Hodgson family were, in fact, not a work of fiction and, according to them, neither was the Enfield Poltergeist.

The family recounted the eerie events they had experienced, ranging from sightings of disembodied voices, unexplained banging and even levitating children.

4. The Hills Have Eyes

Wes Craven was inspired to write The Hills Have Eyes after reading about the tale of Sawney Bean, the head of a cannibalistic Scottish cult in the 16th century.

The film tells the story of a family who become stranded in the Nevada desert and are targeted by a group of cannibal savages.

Although the film is based on Sawney Bean, the setting is very different from the rural Scottish landscape where the clan hailed from.

Craven instead set the film in the Nevada desert, a bleak, open space with very few places to hide.

The savages were supposed to look somewhat inbred, so they cast Michael Berryman, who was born with 26 birth defects, in the role of Pluto, the head of the clan.

3. Sleepy Hollow

Starring Johnny Depp, Sleepy Hollow is a 1999 gothic supernatural horror film directed by the king of horror himself, Tim Burton.

The legend of Sleepy Hollow is a well known folk tale, passed through generations and the subject of film and TV adaptations.

As legend has it, the New York village of Sleepy Hollow is haunted by the ghost of a headless horseman who rides around aimlessly.

The film was actually meant to be filmed on location in Sleepy Hollow, but the filmmakers ultimately decided to move to the nearby New York village of Tarrytown.

In the film, locals of Sleepy Hollow are plagued by a series of decapitations, which they believe to be the work of the infamous Headless Horseman.

2. The Exorcist

The Exorcist is based on the true story of the exorcism of Roland Doe, a 14-year-old alleged victim of demonic possession who lived with his family in Cottage City, Maryland.

After the boy started showing disturbing signs of possession, his family brought in their local vicar, Raymond J. Bishop, to exorcise him.

The 1973 film’s plot was similar, only with the protagonist being a 12-year-old and the setting changed to fictional Georgetown, which was inspired by Cottage City.

It would seem the movie production was cursed from the start. The set at one stage caught fire, and the two lead actresses suffered accidents from which they endured long term injuries.

The film was controversial in movie theatres, with audiences reporting instances of heart attacks after watching some of the film’s more graphic scenes.

1. The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next Door (2007) tells the story of a woman who tortures and abuses her niece, with everyone else in the house failing to alert authorities.

Sadly, this story is actually based on events that took place in the basement of a house in East New York Street, Indianapolis.

16-year-old Sylvia Likens was subject to weeks of abuse at the hands of her caregiver, Gertrude Baniszewski, who was paid by Likens’ parents to take care of their daughter.

Sadly, Baniszewski turned out to be a twisted sadist, who encouraged her sons and neighbours to partake in the abuse.

The film is shocking in its portrayal of the events, and divided both critics and audiences with its graphic nature.