I loved horror books and movies when I was a teenager, and although I’m less into them now (partly because I find they affect me a lot more), I do still enjoy them. I always find myself revisiting the genre as Halloween approaches, watching clips of my favorite scary films on youtube, etc. This year I’ve been gravitating toward true (or supposedly true) spooky tales of various sorts…
The people that experienced the haunting of their home in Amityville in the 70’s still claim that it actually happened, though some of those involved on the periphery have come forward with different stories in recent years. It genuinely was a “murder house,” though the evidence that the house itself was evil is … well, kind of silly when you lay it all out. The odd events are explainable or obviously embellished by people that want to believe the place is haunted or possessed by something. There’s an interesting series here called the The Real Amityville Horror that interviews many of the people involved, including the murderer who unfortunately gave the house its reputation in the first place.
I’m sure I saw the Amityville film at some point, but it was never a particular favorite. I did read the book by Jay Anson, as well as one of his other books, 666, which also about an evil house. Hehe…
I finally saw the full version of The Exorcist a couple years back, when I decided to check out the new cut that was released. Previously, I’d only seen the edited-for-tv version, which still scared the crap out of me. I remember my Mom warning me that I shouldn’t read the book because it was even scarier, but of course that made it more attractive. My friend Debbie let me borrow her copy which had the cover completely torn off, making it safer to read in the afternoons when my folks were around. The book was terrifying, too. I slept with the lights on.
A year or so ago, I was chatting with a coworker about The Exorcist, and she mentioned it was based on a true story. I vaguely remembered hearing that before and decided to dig around on the internet to see what I could find about the real case. I happened upon this series of articles called The Haunted Boy of Cottage City, in which the writer describes his efforts to find out what really happened and who it happened to. It is a fascinating piece of investigative work. I’m surprised more people don’t know about it.
Jack the Ripper
This is more in the realm of true crime than horror, though the murders were pretty horrifying. (In reading a site that profiled the murdered women, I was surprised to find that one of the portraits of the victims was actually a photo of her after her death. Eesh.) This is a case that continues to captivate because it was never solved, of course, and there are many theories about who Jack the Ripper may have been. The case caught my interest when I watched the various miniseries about the murders that aired in the 80’s (the dramatized one with Michael Caine, as well as another, more documentary style one — I had them both on tape). I remember feeling like if I watched these carefully enough, I’d somehow solve the case myself.
I did pick up the Patricia Cornwell book that came out in recent years, offering a modern forensic look at the evidence in the Ripper case, but I never finished it once I read elsewhere that the DNA evidence was not conclusive. During my other readings, I also learned of the Maybrick diary, in which merchant James Maybrick confesses that he is Jack the Ripper and includes details of the grisly murders that, supposedly, nobody other than the murderer could know. When this diary surfaced in the early 90’s, ripperologists scrutinized it and showed that all those “unknowable” details were publically available in some way or another. What’s amazing to me is that the people who brought the diary to the publishers eventually confessed to writing it, and despite this, some people still consider it evidence that Maybrick was the Whitechapel murderer. Provides another theory, maybe, but evidence? I still find sites on the internet saying that the diary “might be” a hoax. Heh… wow. Talk about wanting to believe.
That’s what I find most interesting about stories like these. The Lutzes, Rob Doe (or at least his mother and grandmother), and the rest, all wanting so desperately to believe in something that they interpret events and evidence around them to match it. We all do this to some extent, but in these cases, it’s been magnified by the improbability of what what they believe, not to mention the public interest in it. The truth behind these stories is just as, if not more, compelling to me.