In this weekend’s “The Possession,” a young girl buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that it is actually a Dybbuk Box, a container from Jewish folklore that is used to house an ancient evil spirit. She begins exhibiting Linda Blair-in-“The Exorcist”-style tendencies and at one point, a hand crawls up from the back of her mouth. The movie’s hype has been based around the fact that it is “based on a true story.” So does that mean that hand thing actually happened?
What exactly is the true story behind “The Possession”? The real events surround a Missouri-based college student who sold an old Jewish wine cabinet box on eBay, claiming it had a history of bad luck. For example, as soon as he became in possession of the box, his hair began falling out — naturally, a demonic spirit must have been the answer. Speculation that it was in fact a real-life Dybbuk Box helped drive up the price of the eBay sale (a fortunate coincidence and nothing more) before it was purchased for $ 280 by a museum curator, who promptly set up a website for the box and began fielding inquiries from filmmakers and authors. But as he told the L.A. Times in 2004, he’s not looking for any attention. At no point in any of the reported bad luck incidents did anyone actually claim to see a hand crawling up from the back of their throat. But losing your hair in your 20s… that’s pretty horrific too.
Claiming that your horror movie is “based on a true story” is nothing new, but there’s definitely been an uptick in the number of recent movies to make that claim. But just how true are these movies? Moviefone takes a look back at recent supposedly true horror movies to separate the fact from the fiction. (WARNING: SPOILERS)
‘The Amityville Horror’ and Remake (1979 | 2005)
<strong>The Story:</strong> Rondald DeFeo bizarrely murders his whole family; a year later George and Kathy Lutz move into the DeFeo house and experience paranormal terrors. <strong>The Facts:</strong> The real priest who claimed to be assaulted by a paranormal presence has flip-flopped over the years, on whether he actually stepped foot in the house or not. Local Native American leaders dismissed that the house was built on a burial ground. When the Lutzs sued several authors and publications for misappropriation of their story, the judge threw their case out, claiming they were being coerced by Ronald DeFeo’s defense lawyer, William Weber, into fabricating the whole thing. Weber later told <em>People Magazine</em> that it indeed was a hoax. No future tenants have ever reported any strange occurrences.
‘The Mothman Prophecies’ (2002)
<strong>The Story:</strong> Richard Gere stars as John Klein, a reporter investigating the urban legend of the Mothman and the creature’s connections to his wife’s death and a catastrophic unexplained bridge collapse. <strong>The Facts:</strong> The bridge collapse was explained: the 40-year-old bridge did not receive proper maintenance and its eyebar supports could not handle the increasing weights placed on it. No Mothmen have ever been accurately documented.
‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ (2005)
<strong>The Story:</strong> The courtroom thriller examines the mysterious death of Emily Rose, who was allegedly a victim of demonic possession. <strong>The Facts:</strong> The real Emily Rose — a German Catholic woman by the name of Annelise Michael –was treated for epilepsy, depression and schizophrenia. She and her family rejected many treatments, claiming she was possessed. She passed away after a year of religious rites left her with extreme malnourishment and dehydration. Two year after her death, her body was exhumed when her parents claimed that a nun received a vision that Michael’s body was still intact, This turned out to be not true.
‘An American Haunting’ (2005)
<strong>The Story:</strong> A young woman in the present day is plagued by a terrifying dream; her mother then discovers letters indicating they live in the house previously owned by a young woman in the 19th century, that was terrorized by the Bell Witch of folklore. <strong>The Facts:</strong> Most accounts of the Bell Witch’s attacks have been lost to time. Historically, the poltergeist was theorized to be nothing more than a local schoolteacher who worked with several people to scare a family. The 21st century connection never happened anywhere. Ever.
‘Wolf Creek’ (2005)
<strong>The Story:</strong> British tourists are tortured in the Australian countryside by a sadistic Outback madman, who vanishes into the night. <strong>The Facts:</strong> The specific scenes of torture were never actually commited by a mysterious man who got away. The script was inspired by two of the most infamous — and convicted — killers in Australian history.
‘Primeval’ (2007) | ‘Rogue’ (2008)
<strong>The Story:</strong> Two giant man-eating crocodile movies, based on two giant man-eating crocodiles! (One in the Republic of Burundi, one in Australia) <strong>The Facts:</strong> “Primeval” is based on Gustave, an extremely rare big-ass croc. The numbers of his human death toll have never been properly documented outside of local legend. Due to the turbulent political-economic situation in the country, filmmakers and scientists have never been able to study the animal longterm. All of the movie’s marketing — in trailers and posters — failed to mention it was about a crocodile, when describing the “at-large, most prolific serial killer in history.” “Rogue” was based on a giant crocodile named Sweetheart that attacaked some boats in the ’70s, but never actually killed anyone. <em>Come on! </em>
‘Them’ (2006) | ‘The Strangers’ (2008)
<strong>The Story:</strong> In the French film “Them” (a.k.a. “Ils”), a couple is attacked by several hooded children who have a penchant for killing people that don’t play with them. In the American “The Strangers” (<em>that’s so totally not a ripoff you guys</em>) a young couple is attacked by masked grown-ups who have a penchant for killing people because they were home. <strong>The Facts:</strong> “Them” is based on one isolated incident of teenagers attacking a vacationing couple — and aged the killers down for the movie. “The Strangers” is based off an incident from the screenwriter’s childhood, involving a neighborhood robbery, and the notorious Manson family.
‘The Haunting in Connecticut’ (2009)
<strong>The Story:</strong> A family moves into a former mortuary, renovated as living quarters that are better situated for taking care of their cancer-stricken son. Paranormal forces subsequently attack the family. <strong>The Facts:</strong> The family who claimed their house was plagued by demons had their accounts verified by Ed and Lorraine Warren, the paranormal investigators/authors/TV personalities that verified the supposed Amityville hauntings. The Warrens co-authored an account with horror novelist Ray Garton, who dismissed the book and stated the family was suffering through drug and alcohol addictions, and constantly changed their story.