In honor of Halloween (and the end of spooky season), it’s another list!
After covering the spooky origins of movie monsters earlier in the month, it seemed only fitting to take a closer look at some of the movies inspired by real events. Not those ones that everyone knows about (or the ones already covered in The Corner of Film Podcast Minis) – no, these are the lesser known true stories that inspired horror films.
Some of the following inspirations are more high-profile than others, and some of the films are more popular than the rest, but the spine-chilling thread that runs through them all: they’re all true.
9. Child’s Play (1988)
Inspired by: Robert the Doll
Having written about the real life origins of Annabelle in a previous list, it might seem that another story of a haunted doll is something like overkill – however the story of Robert the Doll is too creepy to pass up.
Purchased as a gift for young Robert Eugene Otto in around 1904, Robert the Doll cuts a pretty terrifying figure (even by the standard of early 20th century dolls, which is saying something). He’s usually pictured wearing a white sailor suit, believed to have once belonged to Otto himself, and holding a slightly deformed stuffed toy. Pictures alone are enough to elicit nightmares, but Robert has a pretty terrifying legend attached to him.
Robert supposedly had the power to move, change his facial expressions, and – worst of all – make giggling sounds. Young Robert Otto would treat Robert the Doll as if he were a real person, and often talked about him in the first person, as thought he and Robert shared one identity. Otto then began to blame mishaps on Robert, which many dismissed as normal childhood behavior – although it might have been wishful thinking.
In the years since Otto’s death in 1974, there were numerous reports of Robert moving around of his own accord. He’d be left locked in one room or another, and Myrtle Reuter (who had purchased Otto’s house and inherited Robert along with it) claimed to regularly hear footsteps and giggling from the attic, where Robert was originally kept. Some believe that Otto and Robert were so connected that Otto’s spirit is somehow tied up in the doll, and others believe that Robert was brought to life by a voodoo curse. There are still others who believe that Robert the Doll is nothing more than an inanimate object, but even they will admit how creepy he is.
Robert did have a lesser known film based more directly on his creepy supernatural exploits, but he also reportedly served as the one of the many inspirations for Chucky, the quintessential creepy doll from Child’s Play – a film about a killer who is able to transfer his soul into a child’s doll, which an impressionable young boy makes a strong bond with. Sound familiar?