Is Jeepers Creepers Based on a True Story?

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Is Jeepers Creepers all fiction, or could it be that there was some true story inspiration for such a terrifying opening, not to mention the bloody events that follow?

Victor Salva’s millennial cult classic Jeepers Creepers (2001) was an important film in the lives of many budding horror fans. Its story of a brother and sister’s road trip crossing paths with the twisted and deadly Creeper captivated audiences in its day. Though packed with genre clichés and predictable cheese, the film features one of the more imaginative and effectively chilling openings of the 2000s; a long and sparse shot of a rural stretch of road where an increasingly menacing-looking van approaches our protagonists’ car. While the rest of the flick doesn’t quite retain the nail-biting tension offered here, Jeepers Creepers still remains a fun and gory horror outing for nostalgic or less-demanding viewers.

The Horrific Story of Dennis DePue

Dennis and Marilynn DePue

Here we introduce Dennis DePue, a disturbed murderer and a direct influence on the character of the Creeper himself. Dennis’ story, and that of his wife Marilynn and their three children, follows unsettlingly similar beats to that of Salva’s 2001 pseudo-slasher, though the reality is far more horrifying than any fictional, bat-winged killer scarecrow could hope to be.

Marilynn had many, many opportunities to treat me fairly during this divorce, but she chose to string it out, trick me, lie to me. And when you lose your wife, children, and home, there’s not much left. I was too old to start over.

Dennis DuPue

Following building tensions on an already tense marriage, forty-six-year-old Dennis DePue had murdered his forty-eight-year-old wife Marilynn earlier that day, beating and pushing her down a flight of stairs, as reports go. He carried her body to the car, telling their children that he was taking her to the hospital. They never saw her again. her body found by an eerie old school bus also ties back to Jeepers Creepers as it is similar how the creeper stores his bodies.

DePue was found only when his story aired on Unsolved Mysteries. Having changed his name and attracting a new girlfriend, Mary, DePue was living happily as Hank when his story was made public. After he disappeared and Mary discovered who he really was, she contacted the police immediately and DePue was located within just four hours. After firing a couple of warning shots at approaching officers, DePue then turned the gun on himself, thus ending the grim saga.

Comparing the intro to DePue’s Story

AndersYdna on youtube got creative and spliced together the intro from Jeepers Creepers and the Unsolved Mysteries story about Dennis DePue to show the similarities. It’s a quick 10 min watch.

The Thornton’s True Story Inspiration

April 15th, 1990. A couple, Ray and Marie Thornton, set off on their weekly routine of a peaceful country drive outside of Coldwater, Michigan. Little did they know that their usual Sunday tradition would this week land them in the centre of a horrific and bloody mystery. As they drove south on Snow Prairie Road a strange van revved loudly from behind as it sped past them. Marie noticed that the van’s license plate began with “GZ”, exclaiming, “jeez, he’s really in a hurry”.

Some miles down the road, the Thorntons passed an old schoolhouse where they saw the mystery van a second time. The van was parked between the school and a huge tank, and its driver was carrying a blood-soaked blanket across the grounds. Not long after this, the now-clearly-dangerous stranger was behind them once more, this time tailgating them within inches for at least two miles. As Ray pulled off the highway, the van parked itself at the side of the road and the bold Thorntons decided to swing back in an attempt to see the rest of its license plate. When the mystery driver was seen changing his license plate, the Thorntons decided to head back to the schoolhouse where they found the bloodied blanket partly stuffed into a rabbit hole. They immediately went to the police.

Jeepers Creepers Film poster featuring a scary eye peeking through a sack

Is Jeepers Creepers Based on a True Story?

While many Jeepers Creeper fans will see a lot of similarities between what the brave Thorntons did (and saw) that day and the establishing minutes of Jeepers Creepers, the reality is no less harrowing than Salva’s reimagining. Although DuPue seems to have a direct influence on the Creeper it does not appear to be based purely on him.


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Is The People Under the Stairs Based on a Real Story?

Scary Movies and Series

Is The People Under the Stairs Based Upon a True Story?

The People Under the Stairs (1991) was one of Wes Craven’s greatest horror movies of all time. It gets a little less publicity than most of his other films, but it is a diamond among the rough! The movie is a little edgier than most horror films, but it pays off in huge scares and real terror. A wicked family keeps their sheltered daughter hidden from the world while collecting a number of other people ‘under the stairs’. Although the movie received mixed reviews from critics, it is without a doubt a cult classic and one of Wes Craven’s finest films.

The True Inspiration Behind The People Under the Stairs

The horror that transpired within the house that harbors the ‘people under the stairs’ is grim and the atrocities of this family are sincerely twisted.  Here is a little about what inspired The People Under the Stairs.

Wes Craven’s Inspiration Behind The People Under The Stairs

The real inspiration behind the movie came from a newspaper excerpt that Wes Craven was reading, about a family that got into trouble after police were called to a burglary scene.  Apparently, burglars tried to break into a house, but instead of finding the perpetrators…the police found locks everywhere and children who had never been allowed to go outside, raised in total abuse, totally indoors.

Although he would take the movie to an extreme, with the idea that the family was on the search for a perfect brother to match their ‘perfect daughter.’  Each boy that did not meet the standards, had their tongue cut out and now resides in the basement, in cages under the stairs.  They are malnourished and scary looking. One of Wes’ most interesting twists in the People Under the Stairs, is turning the home burglars into protagonists and the property owners into antagonists (normally the home owners would be victims of a home invasion or robbery, not the antagonists).

The movie was also meant to be a sort of adventure type of film. There are contraptions and traps everywhere, both to help and harm the protagonists. There are hidden rooms and a whole network of tunnels made throughout the walls of the house.  There is even a tale of gold to be had at the end!  The action is pretty solid as well, but still in a horror-thriller, suspenseful kind of way.

Modern Day Example: Real Life People Under The Stairs

People under the stairs horror movie actor illustration

Recently there was a case that came to light from the woodwork. A strongly religious family, much like the belief system of Alice’s parents in the movie, were found to be keeping their 13 children captive in their home basically their entire lives.  Although they appeared younger than they actually were, the children were all different ages, some even in their 20s. The David-Louis Turpin family is a perfect example of a real life People Under the Stairs situation.  Despite the fact the children were not abducted, the girl in the movie (Alice), was not abducted either, but apparently the family’s natural born daughter.

Another case a few years back also shines light on the possibilities.  Ariel Castro abducted Michelle Knight (one of three women abducted, actually), and kept her captive for more than a decade. There are several other cases of the similar sort, where victims are mutilated. Whether through abduction or natural child birth, unfortunately these are all very real fears that exist in the world, making such a movie about children kept captive for years in a basement so much more scary.

A Realistic Fear the Audience Can Feel

The story line behind The People Under the Stairs is absolutely heartbreaking and truly realistic in presentation.  There are real life thugs like Leroy, and there are hurting families out there willing to do nearly anything to help their situation.  Unfortunately, there are sadistic families that truly do keep their kids captive from the world, and it really is possible to have them mutilated as well. 

Be safe out there, as there is real evil in the world very similar to the evil seen in this movie, and you never know when there may be some people living under the stairs!

Fun Fact: Wes Craven once said he would remake The People Under the Stairs, alongside Shocker and The Last House on the Left, however, sadly he only had a chance to remake the last of the three.


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