You'll Be Seriously Spooked By These Murder Movies' Backstories

Movies and TV specials about crime are suspenseful enough on their own. But when they're based on true stories, it can be downright terrifying. That's especially true for movies and TV shows inspired by real-life unsolved murders.
Stories about figures like Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer have lived on for decades, inspiring multiple movies, TV episodes, and books. It's not just the serial killings that are frightening — it's the fact that the killers actually got away with it. Our human desire to pin their crimes on someone, anyone, has led to the ridiculous claims that Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders could be the Zodiac Killer, despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary.
We've rounded up some of the most frightening unsolved murder stories throughout history and some of the movies and TV shows that they've inspired. Click through, if you dare.
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The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

In both the 2006 movie and the 1997 original, an American family becomes stranded in a no-man's-land, atomic wasteland. Then, a clan of psychotic cannibals begin to prey on them.
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Sawney Bean

Apparently, The Hills Have Eyes gets its inspiration from Sawney Bean, Scotland's most renowned cannibal. Seriously — that is a thing. Alexander "Sawney" Bean" was the leader of a 48-member, cave-dwelling clan, who supposedly lured over 1,000 people to their death over the course of 25 years.
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Delphine LaLaurie from American Horror Story: Coven (2013)

Kathy Bates played Delphine LaLaurie, the sadistic slave owner whose antics Bates called "five time worse" than Misery's Annie Wilkes. In the show, she creates a beauty balm from fresh human pancreases culled from her slaves, amongst other horrendous tortures.
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Delphine LaLaurie

Shockingly, Bates' character is based on a real woman who lived in New Orleans. Marie Delphine LaLaurie was a wealthy New Orleans socialite from the 1800s. In 1834, LaLaurie's ways were exposed to the public when a slave set the building on fire, hoping someone would come for help. Fireman arrived to the house, and the 70-year-old kitchen slave urged them to rescue the others in the attic. Knocking down the attic door, what the firemen found inside made them vomit. Barely holding on to life, men and women in various states of torture were flung abut the attic. Slaves had their bones broken, their mouths sewn shut, and their skin peeled off. Some were described as being "human crabs" or "human caterpillars."

An angry mob destroyed the LaLaurie house, but Madame LaLaurie and her husband escaped — no one knows what happened to them. Some estimate that the LaLauries tortured 100 slaves over the course of their lifetimes.
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Who Is the Black Dahlia (1975)

Elizabeth Short, a.k.a. "Black Dahlia," was killed in 1947, and her death still intrigues countless people today. The 1975 film Who Is The Black Dahlia explored the fruitless investigation into Short's death, with actress Lucie Arnaz playing Short. The Black Dahlia (2006) was also based on Short’s life and death.
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Photo: Getty Images.
Elizabeth Short, a.k.a. Black Dahlia

Short, an aspiring actress, was just 22 when she was killed in 1947. Her mutilated body was found dumped in a lot in Los Angeles. Though a number of people confessed to the murder, investigators don't believe any of them actually committed the crime, The Los Angeles Times reports. Experts have speculated that Short's killer may have been a medical expert, due to the precision with which her body was cut.

The "Black Dahlia" nickname was given to Short after her death as a play on the popular 1946 film, The Blue Dahlia, combined with Short's dark hair and propensity for wearing black clothing, according to the Times.
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Zodiac (2007)

There have been plenty of films inspired by the Zodiac Killer, a serial killer active in the 1960s and 1970s, but David Fincher's Zodiac may be the most well-known. The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo. It explores the life of Robert Graysmith, a true crime author and cartoonist obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer.
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Photo: Getty Images.
The Zodiac Killer

The Zodiac Killer terrorized northern California in the 1960s and 1970s. According to police reports, the Zodiac Killer killed five people, but he claimed to have killed dozens more. Though the Zodiac Killer's identity remains unknown, he sent messages to newspapers in the Bay Area through a series of codes. The killer himself originated the "Zodiac" nickname through the cryptic messages.

Police have investigated thousands of claims about the Zodiac Killer, though none have been supported by sufficient evidence. In his 2014 book, The Most Dangerous Animal of All, Gary L. Stewart alleged that his late biological father was the Zodiac Killer, but his claim hasn't been proven true.
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From Hell (2001)

There's no shortage of films inspired by Jack the Ripper to choose from, but this Johnny Depp film is one of the creepier ones. Based on Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's graphic novel of the same name, From Hell stars Depp as a detective investigating the unsolved murders in 19th-century London.
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Jack The Ripper

Jack the Ripper is one of history's most famous serial killers — and his identity was never discovered. The nickname comes from a letter allegedly written by the murderer, though experts have doubted whether its author was actually responsible for the killings.

The crimes attributed to Jack the Ripper include a series of murders in London's Whitechapel district in 1888. Jack the Ripper's victims included at least five female prostitutes from London's East End. The victims' bodies were mutilated, with their organs removed.
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Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: JonBenét and the City of Boulder (2000)

This CBS special explored the death of JonBenét Ramsey, whose body was found in her Colorado home when she was just 6 years old. Much of the film focuses on Ramsey's parents, who were cleared of involvement in her death in 2008.
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JonBenét Ramsey

Ramsey was found dead in her family's home in Colorado in 1996. She was 6. Analysis of Ramsey's remains showed that she was strangled and had been struck in the head. Ramsey's killer was never found.

John Mark Karr, a schoolteacher, confessed to killing Ramsey in 2006, but his confession was not considered valid, because his DNA didn't match that found on Ramsey's body, CNN reported.

And no, she's not Katy Perry.
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"The Axeman Cometh," American Horror Story: Coven (2013)

American Horror Story: Coven's Axeman was loosely based on the so-called Axeman of New Orleans. In the show, the serial killer's spirit is awakened through an Ouija board. The AHS Axeman also types a letter that was written by the real axeman in 1918 and 1919.
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The Axeman Of New Orleans

The Axeman, who terrorized New Orleans in 1918 and 1919, earned his nickname because his victims were usually attacked with axes. Most of the victims — there were at least six — were Italians. At the time, local newspapers suspected that the killings were related to the Mafia.

The strangest part of the story — other than the fact that the Axeman was never caught — was the killer's apparent affinity for jazz music. In a letter allegedly sent by the axeman to the local papers, the author detailed his love for the genre. The letter claimed that anyone listening to a jazz band would be spared from death. Although the killer was never caught, the deaths stopped in October of 1919.
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Memories of Murder (2003)

Inspired by the first known serial killer in the Koreas, Memories of Murder looked into the true crimes that took place in Hwaseong, in South Korea's Gyeonggi Province, between 1986 and 1991. The film focuses on two of the detectives investigating the crimes. Inspired by the real-life Hwaseong crimes, the victims in the movie were strangled with their own clothing.
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Photo: Getty Images.
Hwaseong Serial Murders

Memories of Murder doesn't explicitly mention a body count, but according to reports, 10 women's deaths are believed to be connected in the case. The victims, who were killed between 1986 and 1991, were raped and murdered. They were strangled to death with their own clothing, including pantyhose, socks, and underwear, according to Korea's The Dong-a Ilbo.
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The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

This horror film was inspired by the real-life Texarkana moonlight murders, which took place in 1946. A serial killer attacked eight people that year, five of whom died. The Town That Dreaded Sundown takes place in Texarkana, TX, where the murders occurred. In both real life and in the movie, the so-called "Phantom Killer" was never identified.
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Photo: Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.
The Phantom Killer/The Texarkana Moonlight Murders

The "Phantom Killer" was active for less than three three months in 1946. But during that time frame, the serial killer managed to attack eight people near Texarkana, TX, killing five of them. In 2014, Texarkana's James Presley, a reporter, published a book claiming the killer was Youell Swinney, though he was never charged, The Texas Monthly explains.
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The Boston Strangler (1968)

This film focused on the investigation into a series of murders that took place in Boston between 1962 and 1964. Albert DeSalvo, who died in 1973, confessed to the murders, but was never charged. Some people believe there were multiple people responsible for the killings. Tony Curtis played DeSalvo in the 1968 drama.
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Photo: Getty Images.
The Boston Strangler

A total of 13 women were murdered in and around Boston in the 1960s, and the deaths were attributed to a mysterious killer referred to as the "Boston Strangler." Several of the victims were sexually assaulted and some of the victims were strangled using stockings, according to The Boston Globe.

After 50 years of uncertainty, in 2013, investigators linked the DNA found at the house of the strangler's last victim, 19-year-old Mary Sullivan, to Albert DeSalvo, who died in 1973. He had confessed to the murders, but was never charged, The New York Times explains. However, the prosecutors noted at the time that while DeSalvo may have been linked to Sullivan's death, he wasn't necessarily a suspect in the other deaths attributed to the Strangler. Many people believe the victims of the Boston Strangler were killed by more than one person and that DeSalvo did not commit all of the murders.
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The Strangers (2008)

The film tells the story of a couple who are murdered by strangers with doll masks on a trip to a cabin in the woods. According to the trailer, the film was "inspired by true events." Some people believe the "true events" behind the film are the Keddie murders, a quadruple homicide that took place in 1948 and went unsolved. Others, though, are skeptical of how heavily the film was actually inspired by true events.
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Keddie Murders

In a chilling case in 1981, three people were murdered while staying in Cabin 28 in Keddie, CA. The victims included 36-year-old Glenna Sue Sharp; her 15-year-old son, John; and his 17-year-old friend, Dana Wingate. In 1984, the body of Sharp's daughter, Tina, was discovered after she went missing from the Keddie cabin that night. Arrests were never made in connection with the murders.