Ten Books Based on Real World Hauntings

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore

This summer finally sees the release of the latest entry in a surprisingly successful cinematic franchise. 

No, I’m not talking about Loki, or Black Widow, or any part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m talking about The Conjuring universe, which stretches to nine films with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do ItThe Conjuring franchise succeeds where so many other cinematic universes have failed not just because of their strong filmmaking and compelling performances. Many people love the Conjuring films because they tell true ghost stories

Based on the case files of ghost hunters Ed & Lorraine Warren (portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), the Conjuring movies are part of Americans’ long history of fascination with real-world hauntings and paranormal experiences. But before they were blockbuster films, these stories were successful books, which captured victims’ encounters with the mystical in the written word. 

If you just can’t get enough of real-world hauntings, here are ten other collections, sure to keep you up at night. 

The Haunted House – Walter Hubbell

One of the earliest non-fiction haunting novels, The Haunted House set the standard for the genre. Published in 1879 and written by actor/amateur sleuth Walter Hubbell, The Haunted House adapts a diary kept by the author during a summer spent in the Teed House in Nova Scotia, Canada. Hubbell was drawn to the location after learning about teenager Esther Cox, who began undergoing unexplainable phenomena after escaping sexual assault. Even before Hubbell arrived in the town, local witnesses saw the moving furniture and threatening messages left by malevolent forces. The novel captures all these details, which served as the basis of a lecture tour Cox embarked upon after finally escaping the ghosts’ thrall. 

The Amityville Horror Book Cover

The Amityville Horror – Jay Anson

Ghost stories have been around longer than the United States itself. But the modern American version starts with The Amityville Horror. Not only did the story launch one of the longest-running film franchises, but it set the standard for 20th century haunted house stories. The book follows the 28 days in which the Lutz family stayed in their Long Island house on 112 Ocean Drive. A year earlier, young Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered six members of his family, reportedly driven to act by demonic voices. Combining strong reportage with powerful prose, Anson brings the reader into the horror that the Lutzes endured during their month of dread. 

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The Haunted – Robert Curran

When Jack and Janet Smurl moved into their new Pennsylvania home in the summer of 1986, they expected a few pests. But nothing could have prepared them for the demon occupying the house since 1974. Written by journalist Robert Curran and based on case notes from the Warrens, who were called upon to investigate the house, The Haunted is one of the classics of true American ghost stories, rivaled only by The Amityville Horror. Curran captures in vivid detail the Smurl’s harrowing experiences, from the ghastly smells that filled the house to the inexplicable pounding they had to endure. 

the world of LORE Dreadful places book cover from he LORE podcast

The World of Lore: Dreadful Places – Aaron Mahnke

Started as a mere experiment in marketing, the podcast Lore by Aaron Mahnke quickly grew into a sensation, spawning two television series and several books. In many ways, the show’s success is no surprise, as Mahnke does diligent research to bridge the gap between creepy folklore and true facts, often revealing that actual history is far more terrifying than anyone could make up. The World of Lore collects some of the best stories that Mahnke has uncovered, from hauntings in Colorado’s Stanley Hotel, the same place that inspired the Overlook Hotel in the Stephen King classic The Shining, to specters floating along the streets of New Orleans. 

The Demon of Brownsville Road Book Cover

The Demon of Brownsville Road – Bob Cranmer and Erica Manfred

When Bob and Lesa Cranmer got a deal on their Pittsburgh dreamhouse, they thought it was just a stroke of good luck. The previous owners were ready to sell and accepted Bob’s lowball offer with no more negotiation. But shortly after the Cranmers moved in with their four children, they understood why the previous owners wanted to leave. Paranormal instances of lights turning on themselves developed into full-on mental attacks on members of the family, forcing them to reach out for help from the Catholic Church. Working with editor Erica Manfred, Bob Cranmer talks not only about his family’s ordeal but traces the evil through the years to 18th-century violence. The Demon of Brownsville Road is available at Horror Hub Marketplace.

Ed & Lorraine Warren's Graveyard Book Cover

Graveyard: True Hauntings from an Old New England Cemetery – Ed Warren

“White Ladies” are one of the most popular genres of true ghost stories, tales about mysterious female figures who float along with fringe spaces in shimmering white clothes. In Graveyard, Ed Warren retells his own confrontations with a White Lady ghost who haunted Connecticut’s Union Cemetery. Although we can no longer see that footage that Warren claims to have shot of the Union Cemetery White Lady, we can read his detailed account of the events. 

Horror in the Heartland strange Gothic Tales from the Midwest book cover

Horror in the Heartland – Kevin McQueen

When one thinks of American horror, it’s usually the deep south or New England that leaps to mind. But in this academic book for Indiana University Press, Dr. Keven McQueen uncovers hauntings in the Midwest. Moving through states better known for their football teams and auto factories, McQueen describes spectral sightings in Wisconsin and unexplained phenomena in Ohio. Well-researched and thoroughly enjoyable, Horror in the Heartland reminds us that mysterious spirits can manifest anywhere. 

The Uninvited - True Story of the Union Screaming House

The Uninvited – Steven LaChance

Many of the books on this list come from ghostwriters or reporters who collected accounts of hauntings from the victims. But with The Uninvited, Steven LaChance shares his encounter with the supernatural. Told from a visceral and immediate first-person perspective, The Uninvited traces LaChance’s initial recognition of odd phenomena in his Union, Mississippi home to more horrific attacks, including murdered pets and even sexual assault. Although the story reads like a gripping paperback thriller, LaChance grounds it in his own life events, which only sharpens the terror. 

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Grave’s End – Elaine Mercado

Although undoubtedly intense, most hauntings tend to be fairly short. After all, who would stay in a haunted house for more than a month? But Grave’s End tells a different type of story, one not of escape but of endurance. Mercado relates incidents of spectral interference that happened to her and her two daughters over a thirteen-year period. Grave’s End features all the chilling detail you would expect from a ghost storybook, but it takes a unique approach, explaining how Mercado and her family found the strength to fight through the horror and make peace with the spirits surrounding them. 

House of Darkness real Haunted House book

House of Darkness/House of Light – Andrea Perron

This list could not be complete without Andrea Perron’s House of Darkness/House of Light, published in 2011. Perron’s account served as the inspiration for The Conjuring, describing the trials endured by her family in 1970. When the Perrons moved into a Rhode Island house, they quickly become inundated by attacks from a hateful spirit called Bathsheba, who targets Andrea’s mother Carolyn. Like many of the other books on this list, the story does involve intersession from the Warrens. But the real draw is Andrea’s perspective, who tells in her own words her family’s petrifying encounters. 

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre True Story

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Featured Scary Movies and Series

Was There a Real Life Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

The obnoxious sound of Leatherface’s chainsaw slicing through the wall in a decrepit, bone-filled house off the beaten path will strike pure terror in anyone’s heart. In fact, it is possible that many people would drop dead of a heart attack right away if they actually saw Leatherface in real life. Chainsaws are most certainly real.  Masks of flesh are most certainly possible. And deranged cannibalistic psychopaths are absolutely possible.  So, did the Texas chainsaw massacre happen in real life, is there a true story behind it?

Was Ed Gein the Inspiration for Leatherface?

1974 horror movie poster for Texas Chainsaw massacre claiming it is based on a true story featuring a masked man with a chainsaw and a tied up woman
Original Texas Chainsaw Massacre poster hinting that the movie was based on a true story.

Movie Marketing at it’s Finest

As seen above in the poster, the marketing for Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s original 1974 release certainly made claims that it was based on a true story. “What happened is true. Now the motion picture that’s just as real” is the sub text of the movie title.

The Real Inspiration for Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Despite beliefs that Texas Chainsaw Massacre was inspired by a true story, Tobe Hooper’s 1974 film Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its 2003 remake were actually based only loosely on Ed Gein, who is suspected to have taken victims between 1954 and 1957. The most notable similarity is the house in the movies, whose grisly contents were similar to those in Gein’s home seen below.

Edward Theodore Gein Born August 27, 1906 – July 26, 1984, also known as the Butcher of Plainfield or the Plainfield Ghoul, was an American murderer and body snatcher. Gein’s crimes, committed around his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, gathered widespread notoriety in 1957 after authorities discovered he had exhumed corpses from local graveyards and fashioned trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin. Gein also confessed to killing two women: tavern owner Mary Hogan in 1954 and hardware store owner Bernice Worden in 1957. – Wikipedia

Gein was initially found unfit to stand trial and confined to a mental health facility. By 1968, he was judged competent to stand trial; he was found guilty of the murder of Worden, but he was found legally insane and was remanded to a psychiatric institution. He died at Mendota Mental Health Institute of respiratory failure, on July 26, 1984, aged 77. He is buried next to his family in the Plainfield Cemetery, in a now-unmarked grave. – Wikipedia

The Texas Chainsaw movies undoubtedly inspired by Ed Gein. Furniture that has been made out of bone and flesh, Leatherface’s masks made from the flesh of human faces, and a truly unkempt home are all parts of the movies that were inspired by Ed Gein. Still, there are real life examples of home decor, furnishings and masks found made by Ed Gein that show this type of corpse and body mutilation is more than possible, psychologically.  There are many documented cases of human cannibalism, some close to home in the past and some abroad in third world territories still occurring today. Obviously there are murders all the time. 

And thus, yes it is more than possible for a corpse mutilating, murdering cannibal to exist. Yes, it is possible for a real life Texas Chainsaw Massacre to happen. YES, it is possible for a real life Leatherface to exist.

What Would a Real Life Texas Chainsaw Massacre Be Like?

There are many components of a true Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie.  Here are some of the most commonly found attributes which make a Leatherface movie, a real Leatherface movie.

Unsuspecting Victims

Unfortunately for the victims, most do not realize what is happening until it is already too late. Leatherface may be really scary, but he usually does not show up right away. Instead, his family first begins interacting with the victims, almost as though they are normal, contributing members of society.  The victims usually have an ultra low guard by the time they are any where near Leatherface himself.

Tow Trucks and/or Immobile Vehicle Graveyard

A lot of Texas Chainsaw Massacre films feature tow trucks that respond to victim car crashes, and/or a full-on vehicle graveyard.  The vehicles in this graveyard are always immobile and appear as though they may have been there for a long while.

Gas Station and/or Rest Stop

The Leatherface movies almost always start out on the road somehow, and the victims almost always end up stopping at a gas station or a rest stop of some kind for one reason or another.  Usually, it is for gas. Sometimes, they get directions.  It is always unwise to follow those directions…but they usually do!

Blood

There would be lots and lots of blood in a real life Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The Sawyers (or Hewitts, depending upon which part of the franchise you are watching) are cannibals and furniture artists…and they prefer human-only parts!  This means being fully comfortable with cutting, slicing and dicing up human flesh and body parts. Not to mention the actual murders themselves.

Human Flesh and Bone Furnishings

Leatherface and his family love crafting the flesh and bone of their victims into furniture.  Their house is absolutely decorated with human body parts. There are human face lamps. There are chairs made of bone.  And a variety of other furnishings and horror decor.

Fun Fact: Did you know you can actually BUY Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Leatherface Inspired Horror Decor?

Yummy Dinner

Leatherface drags victims through his house and into his room for butchering, collecting parts for use in his family’s famous cannibal soup.

From Ed Gein to…???

leatherface ed with cleaver illustration

The funny thing about people like Ed Gein (only a grave robber and corpse mutilator) and serial killers is that normally they are discovered after the fact.  This means, unfortunately, if there could be a real life Texas Chainsaw Massacre, that it could be happening already.  So be careful out there on those Texas highways…and never take any unfamiliar detours not on your GPS!!  As one simply never knows when a real life Texas Chainsaw Massacre could be taking place off the beaten path, on some dirt road somewhere!

Check out Surprising Facts About Leatherface and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Movies to learn more!

Sources

Wikipedia

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