From dark folklore to modern day tales, urban legends and horror films have been intrinsically intertwined for years. Whether you believe them or not, these stories, originally conceived & written as cautionary tales, still pervade our collective culture as some of the most deeply rooted myths. In this article, we’ll take a look at a few of horror films’ most iconic legends, attempting to decipher if they be myth or reality.
The fact that some of these stories actually have their roots in reality, while the film versions may have strayed away from their source material, makes it all the more interesting to explore these stories, trying to piece together the real legend from the fictionalized adaptation.
From Halloween’s Michael Myers to The Blair Witch Project’s rustic Middle-American horror, let’s take a deep look inside five of some of the most iconic horror films to determine the truth behind each tale.
The Freddy Krueger Glove
The Freddy Krueger glove has become one of the most iconic movie props of all time, an immediately recognizable symbol for the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. But much like the campy version seen in the films, there are similar versions of this glove from around the world that were said to be used during certain folkloric rituals.
Lucas Saboya, a folklore researcher from Brazil, wrote extensively on this subject in his book Folkloric Aspects of the Slasher Genre. According to him, South-American cattle ranchers used to tie bells and metal tools to a glove as a way to ward off disease amongst their herds. A kind of ‘Glove of Fear’, so to speak.
So while the real-world inspiration may have been drastically misrepresented by the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, Freddy’s trademark weapon is grounded in reality.
The Michael Myers Mask
Next up, we have Michael Myers’ haunting white mask from the Halloween franchise. It’s easily one of the most iconic horror masks of all time, used to great effect to up the tension & fear factor in all of the Halloween films.
But it seems the inspiration for this mask might’ve come from a less horrific source – a store bought mask of the iconic TV character, Willie from the show Themost part, however, these so-called ‘Satanic’ cults probably weren’t real either.
The Killer from The Purge & Urban Crime Rates
Next, let’s take a look at the murderous masked figure from the 2013 horror movie The Purge, which has sparked endless theories about its real-world inspiration. Many folks were quick to point to the numerous crime waves that proliferated the 90s, suggesting that these events were a direct inspiration for the film.
But facts suggest otherwise. After its initial release, The Purge’s actual significance as a social commentary piece was put in question as Crime rates dropped to historic lows in the US during the following years.
Still, the film has indisputable staying power and has since spanned five sequels and a television series, becoming one of the most successful horror franchises in cinematography.
The Grudge’s Bedroom Poltergeist
The bedroom poltergeist in the 2002 and 2004 remakes of the Japanese horror classic Ju-On: The Grudge has become a staple in Asian horror films, spawning numerous spirited imitators.
But much like with Freddy Krueger’s glove, there’s a real-world version of this legend. Primarily seen in old Celtic and German folklore, it’s known as the Ker-Ftu – a spirit who visits children’s bedrooms late at night to recite extremely long riddles before devouring them in their sleep.
The truth, however, is probably much less spooky, being likely that these stories might’ve been a way to scare children away from wandering outside at night. On the other hand, some people believe in a supernatural culprit.
The Blair Witch Project & The Satanic Cults
Finally, we have the 1999 mockumentary classic, The Blair Witch Project. Although its clever marketing campaign managed to convince viewers that it was a found-footage horror piece, the true origin of the film may have had far less to do with horror and more to do with an urban legend.
The legend of the Blair Witch itself dates back to the 18th century, and feared a powerful witch living in the forests of Burlington, Maryland. It was said that several camps and cabins were destroyed in this area as a result of her supernatural powers.
It’s quite possible that the folkloric roots of this legend, blended in with the newly created ‘found footage’, were what instilled such terror in all the viewers of the movie.
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