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Monday, October 10, 2022

When Real-Life Horror Inspires Fiction


The other night, one of my favorite horror movies, John Carpenter’s “Christine,” came on TV. Adapted from a Stephen King novel, I enjoy it because it’s not your usual slasher flick—the antagonist is a possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury who weaves a hypnotic spell around every man who owns her. I went online to see if I could find any commentary on either the novel or the film and was shocked to learn a true story of an “evil” car inspired “Christine.” A 1964 Dodge 330 Limited Edition called “The Golden Eagle” has been given the title of “The Most Evil Car in America.” A police department in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, originally used the car. Three of the police officers said to have driven the car killed their families by murder suicide. After the car was sold to another family, several people who vandalized it in the 1980s and 90s came to tragic ends. That’s just the beginning. You can learn more by reading about it here

Here are a few other books that were inspired by real-life crimes: 

 • “True Confessions” by John Gregory Dunne is based on Hollywood’s Black Dahlia murder. 

 • “The Girls,” by Emma Cline, features the story of a 14-year-old girl and her involvement in Manson-like cult in the summer of 1969. 

 • Thomas Harris took the crimes of real-life serial killers to craft the characters Buffalo Bill and Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs.” 

 • In 2014, two pre-teens brutally murdered a friend and their defense was that they were attempting to appease a fictional character called Slender Man. Lauren Oliver wrote a young adult novel called “Broken Things,” where the two main characters become obsessed with a magical world featured in a book series and murder their best friend. 

One of my favorite procedural shows, "Cold Case," featured several episodes based on real-life crimes, such as "The Boy in the Box" mystery in Philadelphia, the murder of Adrianne Jones in Texas, and the Martha Moxley murder in Connecticut. Writing this made me think about how many times I’ve used real-life events to create fictional short stories. Since I research true crime a lot for my podcast, it gives me a lot of ideas for stories. North and South Carolina have a lot of intriguing ghost stories and I think it would be a fun project to explore one of them in a novel. 

Have you ever written a story based on a real-life paranormal event or crime? 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer whose story, “The Monster in the Woods,” is based on the 1977 Oklahoma Girl Scout murders. It recently took second place in the Genre Short Story Category of the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition.

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