5 Real Life Mad Men That Inspired Movie Killers

5 Real Life Mad Men That Inspired Movie Killers

When I was a kid I had a really overactive imagination. That’s not such a bad thing to have during the day but when it came to night time it was murder. I’d lie there tucked up all safe and warm in bed worrying about Freddy Krueger, Pinhead and how Jason Vorhees could quite easily be hiding behind my garden shed. There was enough space in there between the back wall of the garden and the back of the wooden shed, a good three feet and even though he was tall if Jason stood pressed up against said shed, underneath the apex of the roof then you wouldn’t be able to see him from my bedroom window. Plus we lived behind a train track. The train track was at least one hundred feet away and there was nothing but a big empty field separating our house from any monsters sneaking up and hiding in our garden.

Genuinely those were the type of things that would run through my head at night. As I got older common sense would eventually prevail but there are real monsters. Horrendous people who do horrendous things. The crimes they have committed seem like they could only be lifted out of a Hollywood movie but unfortunately, this is not the case and their atrocities have influenced the films that terrified you as a kid.

Here are five real-life killers who inspired movies.

Ted Bundy

Theodore Robert Bundy was an American serial killer who kidnapped and murdered young girls. He would then have sex with the bodies. His atrocities started in the 1970 and long after he was convicted Bundy confessed to thirty murders but it’s believed his tally is much, much higher.

Bundy biographer Ann Rule stated that he was  “a sadistic sociopath who took pleasure from another human’s pain and the control he had over his victims, to the point of death, and even after. He once called himself “the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet.”

Bundy was a handsome young man and used his charisma to lure young girls near his car. It was there he would hit them over the head with a tyre iron and drive them into the woods where he would kill them, torture them and have sex with the bodies. Sometimes he would decapitate the young women and keep their head as a souvenir.

When Bundy was arrested for the last time (he had escaped police custody on two separate occasions) and his trial began there was a media frenzy. He was sent love letters, naked pictures from obsessed women and even marriage proposals. He was an intelligent, charismatic and handsome man and the media loved him. During his trial, he became a celebrity.

Ted Bundy Real Killers Who Inspired Movies

This frenzy for a man who butchered and raped the dead bodies of young girls had an influence on “Natural Born Killers.” Although Bundy wasn’t a direct influence in Mickey and Mallory Knox per se you can draw a parallel between the celebrity status they received for killing people on the road and the media notoriety Bundy received on his trial. Mickey and Mallory Knox have fans of their “work” and to this day there are still women who call themselves “Bundyphyles” even after Bundy was killed by Electric Chair in 1989.

Grace Mulberry was the young girl who lived to tell the tale of Mickey and Mallory Knox who then later testified in court shares some similarities to Carol DaRonch the girl who escaped the clutches of Bundy and who subsequently identified him in a police lineup.

Natural Born Killers Real Murders Who Inspired Movie Killers

There are some obvious similarities between Mickey and Malory and Bonnie and Clyde but it was Bundy’s trial that changes the stereotype of a serial killer and the way the media reacted. Before Ted Bundy killers were always perceived as “deranged” individuals no one could believe that a man like Bundy who had a college education could commit such crimes.

Sawney Bean

The tale of Sawney Bean and his family of inbred cannibals has been used to scare the children of Scotland for centuries. Alexander “Sawney” Bean was born in East Lothian in the 1500s and married “Black” Agnes Douglas and soon after they set up home in a cave in Ballantrae, South Ayrshire, Scotland.

Sawney Bean Real Life Killers Who Inspired Movies

They had children, who then had children, who then had children. The story has it that there were three generations of inbred Beans living inside the cave.

The Bean Clan attacked and devoured over one thousand people during their reign of terror. They would attack and kill travellers who passed the nearby roads and then eat their victims. Only one person was lucky enough to evade the onslaught. A couple were travelling the back roads of Ayrshire when they were attacked by the sadistic family. The husband fought for his life while he watched his wife murdered in front of him. Fellow travellers heard the screams of the couple intervened. It was at this point King Jame VI marched a thousand strong army across Scotland to capture the family. The families crimes were so horrific and so dreadful that the court decided to ignore the law completely and have the Bean’s executed immediately. The males of the Bean family had their arms and legs cut off while the women watched only to be burned at the stake like witches after having witnessed the demise of their husbands, fathers and brothers.

Wes Craven said that he used the story of Sawney Bean and his cannibal family as the main source of inspiration for the 1977 film “The Hills Have Eyes.” Craven pretty much lifted the story from the Scottish coastal caves and dropped it off in the deserts of Southwest America. Originally the film was going to be called “Blood Relations” a nod to the inbreeding of his characters and Sawney Beans family. Producer Peter Locke hated the title and so it was changed. The grotesque executions of the Bean clan is credited as the inspiration for the Carter Family who chooses to become as disgustingly aggressive as their attackers when seeking out their revenge.


However, the Bean Clan may be completely fictitious for a number of reasons. Sawney’s cannibalistic endeavours happened in the 1500’s but the story never surfaced until 200 years later in the 1700’s when it showed up in The Newgate Calendar, the catalogue of crimes from London’s Newgate Prison. There are no official records whatsoever of the incidents which King James VI was directly involved in and that would be strange considering the King personally marched his army to Ayrshire from Edinburgh. There is also very little in the way of evidence that the Bean Clan had been executed for their crimes.

Ivan Milat

Ivan Milat was the man responsible for the backpacker killings that took place between 1989 and 1993 in New South Wales, Australia. He killed 7 people in total, all of them backpackers.

Ivan Milat Real Life Killers Who becamee MoviesOnly one person ever escaped Milat. Paul Onions, a backpacker from the UK was offered a lift from a truck driver called “Bill” in January 1990. “Bill” attempted to tie Onions hands using a rope. He pulled a gun on him at which point Onions was able to escape. He ran for his life while “Bill” shot at him multiple times. When Onions was able to get clear enough from his attacker he flagged down a passing motorist who drove him to safety. He then filed a report to the police and four years later he was able to identify Ivan Milat as the man who had attempted to kidnap him. Fifty police officers were sent to Milat’s property to arrest him.Milat would offer backpackers lifts in his truck to nearby towns but they would never get there. He would tie them up and take them far into the Australian outback where we would brutally murder them. His victims had been found in shallow graves with multiple stab wounds and many were shot in the head up to 10 times. The burial site was often found next to suspected campsites which meant that Milat was spending time with his victims and torturing them long into the night. 

Wolf Creek Real Life Serial Killers Who Influenced MoviesMilat’s crimes inspired the film “Wolf Creek,” the story of three backpackers who are offered help by a local man after they are stranded in Australia. The film was originally described by director and writer Greg McLean as a “standard slasher” film. He wrote the first script in 1997 and never really liked what he had produced. When Ivan Milat’s case came to light McLean went back through the script and made some major changes to the main protagonist. McLean made Mick Taylor out to be the type of person who, on the surface was willing to help anyone out if they needed it but underneath was a vicious murderer.

The crimes committed by Milat had such an influence in the direction of the film that the sign at the opening to the mining compound where Taylor takes his victims is called the Navithalim Mining Co. you can spell Ivan Milat using those letter. This was a rather disturbing nod from director Greg McLean.

Alfredo Ballí Treviño

It didn’t come to light until 2013 when the 25th Anniversary Edition of “The Silence of the Lambs” was released with a new forward from the author Thomas Harris about Alfredo Ballí Treviño was in actual fact the real influence for Hannibal Lectre.

Alfredo Ballí Treviño Killers That Inspired MoviesTreviño was a surgeon before he was convicted of sedated his boyfriend, putting him in the bath and slitting his throat letting the blood drain from his neck down the plug hole. He then dissected his victim up into small pieces so they would fit perfectly into a box. Treviño was also suspected of murdering several hitchhikers but this was never proven.Harris first met Treviño while he was in Nuevo León, Mexico during the 1960s. He was in Topo Chico Penitentiary working on a story for Argosy (an American Magazine.) He was there to meet Dykes Askew Simmon, a man who was sentenced to death for a triple murder. Simmons had bribed one of the prison guards to help him escape. The guard took his money but during the escape attempt, the same guard shot and nearly killed Simmons. It was Treviño who treated his gunshot wound and saved his life Treviño was in prison at the times serving a twenty years sentence for a crime of passion.

Harris described Treviño as having “a certain elegance about him,” basing his character Hannibal Lecter on his persona. 

Surprisingly enough Treviño served his twenty-year sentence and after leaving the prison system went on to continue his work in medicine until he died of natural causes in 2009.


Ed Gein

Edward Theodore Gein was born in Plainfield, Wisconsin on the 27th of August in 1906. When it comes to horror films it is safe to say the crimes of Ed Gein have been used time and time again to create some of the world’s most recognised killer characters. Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Silence of the Lambs and House of a 1000 Corpses all draw influence from Gein. Even bands like Slayer, Mudvayne and Blind Melon have written songs about him.

Some things are so heinous that they transcend reality and will live forever in the bosom of infamy. 

Ed Gein Killers Who Inspired MoviesThe youngest of two sons born to George Philip Gein and Augusta Wilhelmine, Ed Gein had a turbulent childhood. His father was an alcoholic and his mother was a fierce Lutheran who preached constantly about the innate immorality of the world, the dangers of drinking and how all women were born as prostitutes and agents of the devil. The family lived in isolation which allowed the boy's mother to protect her children from the dangers of the outside world. When George Gein died of heart failure at the age of 66 the two brothers, Henry and Ed would do odd jobs for extra cash around the town for extra money. Henry often worried about his brother and the influence their mother had on him and because of this Henry would often question his mother’s teachings and call her out for being a bad mum. This would shock Ed to the core.

In 1944 the two brothers were burning away marsh vegetation on their farmland when the fire got out of control. The blaze spread across the fields and the local fire crew were called in to help get rid of the blaze. When the fires had subdued Ed reported his brother as missing. A search party was sent out and Henry was found face down in the field. He had died from apparent heart failure but according to Gein biographer, Harold Schechter, Henry had bruises on his head. The coroner officially announced that Henry had died from asphyxiation and no foul play was ever suspected. Gein was now alone with his mother and he dedicated his life to her and her teachings. Augusta suffered a paralyzing stroke the next year and her health deteriorated rapidly. She passed away on the 29th of December 1945 and Ed Gein had “lost his only friend and one true love. And he was absolutely alone in the world.”

On November 16th, 1957, Plainfield hardware store owner Bernice Worden was reported as missing. It came to local authorities attention that Ed Gein was the last person to have been in the hardware store before the disappearance and bloodstains had been found on the cash register and on the floor. The local authorities had wanted to question Gein about other disappearances and upon arresting Ed Gein on suspicion of murder they found Bernice Worden in the Gein barn hung upside down by ropes at her wrists, with a crossbar at her ankles. The torso was “dressed out like a deer” but that isn’t all that they found. Inside the house, the police unearthed:

  • Wastebasket made of human skin
  • Human skin covering several chair seats
  • Skulls on his bedposts
  • Whole human bones and fragments
  • Female skulls, some with the tops sawn off
  • Bowls made from human skulls
  • Leggings made from human leg skin
  • Masks made from the skin of female heads
  • Mary Hogan’s (the local tavern owner) face mask in a paper bag
  • Mary Hogan’s skull in a box
  • Bernice Worden’s entire head in a burlap sack
  • Shrunken Heads
  • A mammary vest made from female torsos
  • Bernice Worden’s heart in a plastic bag in front of Gein’s potbellied stove
  • Nine vulvae in a shoe box
  • A young girl’s dress and “the vulvas of two females judged to have been about fifteen years old”
  • A belt made from female human nipples
  • Four noses
  • A pair of lips on a window shade drawstring
  • A lampshade made from the skin of a human face
  • Fingernails from female fingers
  • Socks made of human flesh

For nine years Ed Gein had robbed graves and used the bodies to make all manner of horrific artefacts. He was deemed criminally insane and unfit to stand trial. Overnight the little town of Plainfield became the most notorious place in America and in 1958 the Gein household went up for auction. The rumour was that it would be sold and become a tourist attraction but before a single bid could be placed the house mysteriously burned down. When Gein learned about what had happened he simply said: “Just as well.”

Ed Gein Killers Who Inspired Movies


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