If you’ve ever read some of my other posts, which I highly suggest in a totally unbiased way, you might get the feeling that I have a strong love/hate relationship with scary movies.
The hate: I having nightmares. Unfortunately for me, I can’t watch a scary movie without having a nightmare. Most of the time, my nightmare doesn’t even connect to the movie! But something in my brain gets triggered and I’m waking up in a panicky cold sweat.
The love: I love being terrified, kept on the edge of my seat, forced to think about the unthinkable, confronted and somewhat dealing with my deep-seeded fears. I love all of that. That’s why I also have a fascination with scary real life horror stories.
Strangely enough, there are some seriously haunting true stories that are either just now being worked into movies, or haven’t been made at all! Either way, I haven't seen these stories in theaters yet, and I'm waiting anxiously for them to come out.
The Cecil Hotel
The horrors that happened at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles are straight out of The Shining and 1408. Shockingly, it still has two stars on Yelp. The hotel was built in 1927, but in the 1950's and 60's it became a suicide destination. There were numerous deaths from people jumping out of the windows of the higher floors. Helen Gurnee (1954), Julia Moore (1962), and Pauline Otton (1962), who also killed 65-year-old George Gianinni who was walking on the street below her window, all committed suicide at the Cecil Hotel. But in 1964 it also became a house for murder. "Pigeon Goldie" Osgood was found dead in her ransacked room after she had been stabbed, strangled, and raped.
Even more notorious than the suicides were the tenants themselves. The Cecil Hotel was known for housing the serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger. Ramirez, also known as "The Night Stalker" lived on the top floor of the hotel in 1984. Ramirez died on California death row after being found guilty for 13 murder charges. There is a 2002 movie based on Ramirez called Nightstalker, but it doesn't focus on all of the horrors of the hotel.
Unterweger, who killed prostitutes in a number of countries, lived in the hotel for 5 weeks in 1991, while he was working as a journalist for an Austrian newspaper. After being convicted of the murders, Unterweger committed suicide. The hotel was also rumored to be one of the last places that Elizabeth Short, the young starlet who was murdered and coined The Black Dahlia, was seen before she was murdered in 1947.
More recently, the Cecil Hotel made headlines after the death of Elisa Lam in 2013. Nearly 3 weeks after the 21-year-old student was reported missing, her body was found in the water tanks of the Cecil Hotel after residents had complained of low water pressure and that it tasted funny. Her death was eventually ruled an accident, but all of the evidence was definitely suspicious. The scariest thing about her death is this video which likely show some of her last few minutes alive:
Who or what was she hiding from? Why didn't the doors close? Even if she had pressed the hold button they probably wouldn't have stayed open that long! And at the 2:00 she is talking to someone and her arms are moving in an almost unearthly way.
Luckily for horror fans, a movie based on Lam's story called "The Bringing" is slated to be made. A spec script for the film is being written by Phillip and Brandon Murphy, supported by producer Michael De Luca, and, as of February, acquired by Sony. This movie will hopefully focus not just on Elisa Lam, but also be able to shed some creative light on the evil forces that are at work in the, now closed, Cecil Hotel.
Dr. H.H. Holmes
H.H. Holmes is one of the first known American serial killers. Holmes moved to Chicago in 1886, and soon after started construction on a castle. During the 1893 World's Fair, Holmes opened his estate as a hotel that he used to lure in unsuspecting victims. The hotel had been build according to specific instructions, which optimized his killing potential.
The house was fitted with tiny rooms in the upper floors where Holmes could torture and kill his guests, employees, and lovers alike. Some of these rooms were even fixed with gas lines so that he could asphyxiate the occupants whenever he felt the urge. The castle also had chutes, trapdoors, and kilns so that Holmes could easily dispose of the bodies and evidence.
His demise eventually came from the insurance scam that he was also running at the time. He and his partner and carpenter Benjamin Pitezel worked together to collect thousands of dollars from a life insurance company by faking Pitezel's death. Holmes actually ended up killing Pitezel and collecting the money. He was jailed briefly in Texas where he made a partner out of his fellow inmate Marion Hedgepeth. Holmes had agreed to pay Hedgepeth to be a partner in his schemes. But when Holmes didn't come through on his share, Hedgepeth tipped off the authorities.
Holmes was found guilty for murder, he was hanged at the age of 34 in 1896. It is still unclear exactly how many murders Holmes committed. People speculate the number is anywhere between 27 and 200. And there is a shockingly small amount of information actually known about him as a person, especially prior to 1883. This means that he is a perfect near-blank slate for any actor wanting to play him!
Again, it looks like this one is somewhat in the works as we speak! Leonardo DiCaprio bought the rights to the book The Devil in the White City for his production company Appian Ways Production. Unfortunately, he bought it way back in 2010. Even though that was awhile ago, hopefully we're not too far off from seeing this real life horror become a real life horror film!
Note: Yes, there is a documentary about H.H. Holmes called H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer, but I could see his story getting made into a really interesting/scary biopic. The documentary is currently on Netflix and I highly recommend it!
The Silent Twins
Honestly, one of the scariest things to me is children. I'm still at an age where I want nothing to do with those little demons normally, let alone when they're possessed, ghosts, or clairvoyants! That's what makes the true story of the Silent Twins so terrifying.
Jennifer and June Gibbons were identical twins born in Wales in 1963. The pair exhibited strange behavior and were inseparable, even more so as the only black children in their community. Jennifer and June were considered selective mutes and wouldn't talk to anyone except for each other. And when they would communicate, it was a made up language that they shared.
Jennifer and June allegedly had a very strong love/hate relationship, constantly wavering between being best friends and enemies. Jennifer once tried to strangle June, and June threw Jennifer off a bridge, which Jennifer miraculously survived.
The twins grew to be authors, writing published novels with titles like The Pepsi-Cola Addict and Discomaniac. As young adults, the girls went on to commit a string of petty thefts and arson. They were eventually placed in the Broadmoor Hospital, a high-security mental institution, and stayed there for 14 years.
But the story is far from over. In 1992, the twins made a pact. The two agreed that there was no way the two of them could continue to live this way. They believed that the other was, in some way, taking away the life force of the other. The fact that they both lived made it impossible for the other to survive, to be free (This will later be called, by me, the Harry Potter/Voldemort Prophecy Syndrome).
"Nobody suffers the way I do. Not with a sister. With a husband—yes. With a wife—yes. With a child—yes. But this sister of mine, a dark shadow robbing me of sunlight, is my one and only torment."
June and Jennifer told Marjorie Wallace that Jennifer would be the one to sacrifice herself. Jennifer reportedly stated "Marjorie, I'm going to die. We've decided."
In 1993 Jennifer and June were transferred to the lower security Caswell Clinic in Wales. Soon after, Jennifer died suddenly from a rare, undiagnosed heart problem. Since Jennifer's mysterious death, June has been able to lead a much more normal lifestyle. She lives independently, without psychiatric supervision, near her family and is an accepted member of the community.
There was a 1986 TV movie, but I think that this story deserves more than that. Just imagine all of the untapped potential of their story! So granted, they wouldn't be creepy children throughout the entire film, but could you just imagine the story a screenwriter could put behind their youth and discovering their haunting connection? It could be a pretty scary and tragic tale.
So although these movies could be in the works as I write these very words, we haven't seen them yet. And the film industry can be a finicky business. Hopefully there won't be much more time before these real life scary stories will finally be put on the silver screen. I just know that each of these stories would give me some serious nightmares, and I can't wait!