Whether you’re a believer or non-believer, a good ghost story will always be able to send a chill down your spine and keep you awake at night. In cinema, the horror genre is timeless, universal and almost risk-free, generating a higher return on investment than any other genre in Hollywood. Movies based on real-life events tend to create a lot more buzz than standard horror movies. They often make viewers question the rational part of their mind and ponder the great question, “What happens after we die?” While films like The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror prove that tight writing and a solid artistic vision is paramount; behind these pieces of creative genius lies real-life sinister stories that have already set the scene and provided a plot worthy of widespread recognition.
These 12 reports of paranormal activity are all destined for the big screen. While some of them have attracted the attention of Hollywood and already entered pre-production, none of them have had the solid green-light (yet).
12. The Death of Elisa Lam
Elisa Lam was a Chinese Canadian student who was last seen on the 31st of January, 2013, in the Cecil Hotel. On the day of her disappearance she was caught on a security camera, exiting and re-entering an elevator, gesturing to someone — or something — down the hall. Fourteen days later, interest in her case spiked when police released the eerie footage. This prompted thousands of theories from the public, many of which were related to possession. On the morning of February 19th, an employee checked the hotel’s water tank after receiving complaints from residents about the oddly colored, foul smelling water, and discovered her naked, decomposing body. An autopsy report and forensic examination found no evidence of foul play, nor did it provide any light on how she managed to get onto the roof — which was only accessible by hotel staff — or inside the water tank. Since Lam’s death, a horror script inspired by the investigation entitled The Bringing, has entered pre-production with Sony Pictures.
11. Dog Suicides on the Overtoun Bridge
During the past 50 years, over 50 dogs have leapt to their death on the Overtoun Bridge in Milton, Scotland. All of the dogs jumped at almost the exact same spot and most of them have been long-nosed breeds. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have stated that the phenomenon is a “heartbreaking mystery,” and that many owners are actively researching the cause of these “suicides.” Many believe that the dogs have acted on impulse after being spooked by a supernatural presence. Nowadays, most locals refuse to walk their dogs over the bridge. While a movie about dog suicides may not sound too engrossing, it could provide the perfect backdrop for something more sinister.
10. The Greenbrier Ghost
On a grey, morbid day in January 1987, Mary Jane Heaster watched her young daughter, Zona, as she was lowered into the ground. The coroner reported complications with child birth; however, during the time of her death she wasn’t even pregnant. In the coming weeks, Zona visited her mother from beyond the grave, telling her why, how and who murdered her. Mary Jane went on to testify in court, which led to the exhumation of Zona’s body. The autopsy revealed bruises on her neck — which was also dislocated between the first and second vertebrae — and a crushed windpipe, confirming evidence of brutal strength. Zona’s husband, Shue, was later arrested and charged with murder. The Greenbrier Ghost story has gone on to have two stage adaptations; however, it has yet to be made into a movie.
9. The Possession of Clara Germana Cele
In 1906, a 16-year-old girl named Clara Germana Cele from Natal, South Africa, confessed to her priest, Father Hörner Erasmus, that she had made a pact with the Satan. According to a nun working at St. Michael’s Mission — where the event took place — she was witnessed understanding and speaking several languages to which she had no prior knowledge, including Polish, German and French. Recordings also state that she demonstrated clairvoyant abilities, levitated five feet in the air, and made ghastly animal noises. Two Roman Catholic priests were called in to perform the exorcism, which lasted two days. Eventually the demon was abolished. While the movie The Exorcist, bears a striking resemblance to Clara’s case, the story is actually based upon a similar event which occurred in Maryland, USA, in the 1940s.
8. Bella and the Wych Elm
On April 18th 1943, in Hagley, England, four young boys snuck into the Hagley Woods, climbed up a witch-hazel tree, and found a human skeleton inside the trunk. They immediately contacted the authorities, who removed the near-complete body of a young woman. While her identity was unknown, the locals called her Bella. She had supposedly been dead for 18 months. With World War II in full swing, resources were scarce and the case was never solved. Since then, graffiti art of the phrase, “Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?” has become a familiar sight in the area. A period-based movie, among the backdrop of war-torn England, would be the perfect setting for this strange mystery.
7. Ghost Presidents of the White House
The White House is without a doubt the most famous haunted landmark in the world, and is said to house the ghosts of Henry Harrison, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, caught of glimpse of Lincoln’s apparition when he climbed out of the bath naked and walked into the bedroom. Startled at the sight before him, he said, “Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have met me at a disadvantage,” and then the apparition disappeared. Churchill reportedly refused to sleep in the White House after that night. The last reported sighting of Lincoln occurred in the 1980s by the operations foreman, Tony Savoy. The story about the White House hauntings is crying out for a comedy; perhaps a film about a useless President who relies on a board of ghost advisers to run the country?
6. Edison and the Ghost Machine
Thomas Edison is one of the greatest inventors of all time. While his story has been dramatized many times over in film and television, a film about his most unusual invention has yet to hit the big screen. In the 1920s, Edison wanted to create a machine that could communicate with personalities in another existence or sphere; a machine that would provide a better opportunity for ghosts to express themselves — rather than Ouija boards. Since his death, there have been claims that he actually invented — or tried to invent — such a machine; however, there is no conclusive evidence to show that he ever started constructing the device.
5. Horrors at the Cecil Hotel
The Elisa Lam incident was the latest story to make the headlines; however, many other horrendous deaths and crimes have occurred at the Cecil Hotel throughout the years. In the 50s and 60s, it was the spot of numerous suicides and murders: a woman named Pigeon Goldie Osgood was found dead in her room in 1964, after receiving multiple stab wounds; serial killers Richard Ramirea and Jack Unterweger both lived in the hotel for a number of months before they engaged in their murder sprees; and it was also the last place The Black Dahila – Elizabeth Short – was last seen alive in 1947. Too much has happened for all of this to be sheer coincidence. Being so close to Hollywood, it’s surprising that producers haven’t made a 1408 style movie based on these horrors.
4. The Silverpilen Ghost Train
The Silverpilen (Silver Arrow) ghost train is one of the most well-known urban legends in Stockholm, Sweden. Although the “real” train was decommissioned in 1996, workers in abandoned subway tunnels still report seeing it after midnight. Some people even claim that it has picked up passengers who have never been seen again. The phrase, “Only the dead are lowered into Kymlinge” is popular among the locals and refers to the unfinished Kymlinge Station, which is where most sightings have been reported from. While the story is erratic and doesn’t make much sense, it would form the perfect basis for a Studio Ghibli animation.
3. Berwyn Mountain UFO Incident
Commonly labelled the “Roswelsh incident”, the Berwyn Mountain UFO case is one of the most significant of all time. On January 23rd, 1974, residents in a nearby town heard a large noise and witnessed a bright light hovering in the sky. Ufologists believe that the British Government recovered living alien bodies from the crash site. Although scientific evidence suggests that the noise and shaking came from a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, and that the lights were mistaken for either meteorites or hunting lamps, the eerie mountainous setting of North Wales would be an excellent location for a UFO movie, rather than the typical flat plains of the Nevada Desert.
2. The Enfield Poltergeist
Between 1977 and 1979, two sisters (aged 11 and 13) claimed that a poltergeist was moving around furniture, channeling demonic voices, throwing rocks and toys, and even making them levitate. The reports garnered significant media attention, which prompted investigations from the police and a number of child psychologists. While many investigators believe that the girls were simply acting up and fabricated the story, there were a number of witnesses who supported their claims. Nevertheless, the story is one of the most documented hauntings of all time and has spawned a number of documentaries, radio plays and television programs. The highly anticipated sequel to The Conjuring, is currently in production and will be based on the Enfield Poltergeist.
1. June and Jennifer Gibbons
June and Jennifer Gibbons were ostracized at school for being the only black children. This trauma led them to develop their own language — which was unintelligible to others — so they could only speak to each other. At the age of 14 they were separated and sent to different boarding schools; however, both of them turned catatonic in each other’s absence and they were soon reunited. After committing a string of crimes, while trying to build careers as writers, both girls were sent to Broadmoor Hospital and placed on anti-psychotic medication. During this time they both agreed that one of them had to die in order for the other to lead a normal life. Jennifer wanted to sacrifice herself, but ended up dying of acute myocarditis. Some time after being liberated of her supposed affliction, June was released and moved back to Wales, where she continues to live a normal life. At present (2015) there are a number of British production companies interested in their story.