Strange Real-Life Stories Behind Cinema’s Scariest Movies

Most fans of Hitchcock’s 1963 avian frightfest The Birds are familiar with the filmmaker’s nod to a 1952 short story of the same name, written by British author Daphne du Maurier. The director modeled his aerial terror after Du Maurier’s tale about a community in England that find themselves under attack by massive flocks of seabirds. Hitchcock’s story takes place in California, which happens to be the site of a similar real-life event that also inspired the auteur’s famous film.

A group of scientists recently solved the unusual mystery behind a 1961 incident, in which disoriented seabirds crashed into houses — suicide-style — across California’s Monterey Bay. It appears that the birds ingested toxic algae (thanks to the area’s leaky septic tanks), which caused confusion, seizures, and death. Hitch studied the poisonous headlines for his thriller, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Since life is usually far more frightening than fiction (just look at the potential presidential candidates), we decided to dig into several other real-life stories behind scary movies past the break. Leave us your own picks below.



Real-life creepy killer, the “Vampire of Düsseldorf” Peter Kürten, was one of several German psychopaths that director Fritz Lang found inspiration in for his 1931 noir thriller, M. Lang’s story about a tormented child murderer terrorizing the youthful population of Berlin bears the biggest resemblance to Kürten’s violent sex crimes, which shocked the 1920s. Lang has denied a direct influence, but Peter Lorre’s Hans Beckert could easily be a cinematic Kürten — who was executed by guillotine after being charged with multiple rape-murders. Lang’s movie has even been dubbed The Vampire of Düsseldorf in several other countries, like Spain.