ByMelissa Thomas, writer at
Horror blogger. Find more of my work at Email me at [email protected]
Melissa Thomas

It's just a movie, right? Sometimes, yes, but some of horror's biggest titles are based on true events so gruesome and disturbing even the most tortured minds couldn't dream them up. Titles like Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are based on real-life serial killer Ed Gein, but The Hills Have Eyes is based on a man and his family that committed such heinous acts it makes Ed Gein look like a model citizen. The story of Alexander "Sawney" Bean and his family is one that is sure to keep you out of the hills and caves for a long time.

A 1977 Horror Classic

'The Hills Have Eyes' [Credit: Blood Relations Co.]
'The Hills Have Eyes' [Credit: Blood Relations Co.]

In 1977, horror maestro Wes Craven introduced us to Papa Jupiter and his cannibalistic family that trapped, murdered and consumed anyone that dare cross their path.

On the way to California, a family has the misfortune to have their car break down in an area closed to the public, and inhabited by violent savages ready to attack.

The Hills Have Eyes quickly became a classic and continues to boast a heavy cult following 40 years after its release. Everything about this film is terrifying; it's based on a true story, everyone fears what they can't see (especially in a setting they are unfamiliar with) and everyone knows that cannibalism is real and is still practiced in parts of the world today. This classic spawned a 1984 sequel as well as a remake in 2006.

Real Life Is Scarier Than Film

During the 15th century, Alexander "Sawney" Bean, the son of a landscaper, was not very fond of the idea of following in his father's footsteps. Not wanting to be forced into the family business, Bean took his family and fled to a system of caves in Bennane Head, Scotland. Bean didn't just live in these caves with a wife and a couple of kids; all together he had eight sons: six daughters, eighteen grandsons, and fourteen granddaughters, most of whom were the result of incest.

The Bean clan would sleep all day and wait for the cover of darkness to ambush their unsuspecting prey: humans. They would rob and murder any traveler that dared come near their territory. They would then drag the lifeless corpses of their victims back to their cave where they would dismember, cook and consume them. Occupants of the village below became aware of the disappearances and would even find the occasional body part washed up onshore, but they had no idea who was behind it all.

Their reign of terror came to an end when they attempted to ambush a young man that was a bit better with a sword than they had anticipated. The young man held the family at bay until help arrived. Now that the residents of Bennane Head were aware of their presence, they sent word to King James VI of Scotland to bring them down. King James's men descended upon the Bean family cave with bloodhounds and vengeance. Inside the cave, they found not only the Bean family, but the possessions and half-eaten bodies of their victims.

Alexander Bean and his clan were taken to Edinburg and were condemned to death without a trial. The men were castrated before having their hands and feet cut off and slowly bled to death. After the women and children were forced to watch the brutal torture that the men of the clan were subjected to, they were burned alive. Their 25-year reign of terror was finally over. It is believed that over the two and a half decades of murder and cannibalism, the Beans claimed the lives of over 1000 people.

Keep this story in mind the next time you are sitting alone in the dark, clutching a pillow and telling yourself "it's just a movie." Exercise a bit more caution and be more aware of your surroundings the next time you pass by a cave or stumble into the hills — the hills have eyes.


Are horror films that are based on real events more terrifying than fiction?


Latest from our Creators