If you’ve ever been on a tour of a place that has experienced great tragedy, you already know that some places just have a bad vibe. For most of us, this will inspire us to tell ghost stories, take photos, and maybe also dare a friend to spend a night there. But, in the eyes of filmmakers, they are the perfect setting for their latest horror flick. Some of the most infamous horror stories in film history all started when a writer or a director visited to a haunted location or heard about a place that just sparked something in their imagination. If you have fallen in love with any of these films, thank the locations that inspired them. So, which locations are we talking about? Check out the 15 of the most iconic locations below!
15 Love Canal, New York
Most Toxic Avenger fans can tell you tons about this campy cult classic, including most of the trivia dealing with the inspiration. Technically, two different locations were the inspiration for the adventures of Toxie and his crew. The first, as many people might know, is a health club. After seeing a film festival, the movie’s creators decided to make a horror movie that took place at a gym. This explains why all the villains all enjoyed going to the gym so much, right?
The lesser known inspiration deals with the first Superfund site in history – Love Canal. This middle class suburban town made international headlines after it was discovered that birth defect-causing chemicals were dumped, buried, and left to seep into the ground. The toxic barrels leaked into homes, gardens, and even onto school grounds. By the time that people realized why they were getting cancer, birth defects, and chemical burns, the amount of poison leaked into the ground rendered the entire town uninhabitable.
Interestingly enough, many of the barrels dug up looked quite a lot like the ones in The Toxic Avenger. Coincidence? Not really. The place where Toxie was supposed to lurk was in New Jersey - the home to the highest number of Superfund sites in America.
14 Amityville, New York
The Amityville Horror was a movie that had made home ownership absolutely terrifying for many people. This is particularly true of the real-life horror house location, found on Ocean Avenue in the New York town of Amityville.
In the real-life version of this story, the Lutz family had gotten an amazing deal on a home, only to realize too late that they had moved into a house that had been the scene of a grisly murder. Only 13 months beforehand, a man by the name of Ronald DeFeo Junior had murdered his entire family. Apparently, the family’s ghosts were none too happy. After seeing spectral pigs staring into windows, watching slime ooze out of walls, and having a decent amount of poltergeist activity, the Lutz family moved out. (And they tell us there’s no truth in cinema!)
13 The Catacombs Of Paris, France
If you’re a fan of spooky, claustrophobia-inducing films, you’ve probably watched the film As Above/So Below. In many ways, this actually was a Hollywood production that really did push the boundaries. It was, for example, the first Hollywood movie to be filmed in the “off limits” area of the Paris Catacombs. So, there was some serious risk in making this flick.
But, all that play on claustrophobia, death, and darkness wasn’t totally made up. This found footage film was actually inspired by a real found footage film that featured a catacomb explorer wandering around the catacombs in an increasingly panicked pace. By the end of the film, he runs and drops the camera. To this day, no one actually knows what happened to the man in the real tape that was actually found in the catacombs. It’s assumed that he died, but his body was never found.
12 Beach Haven, New Jersey
For many horror movie fans and surfing fans, nothing quite is as classic as the movie Jaws. After all, it involves surf, sand, and sharks. (That’s a surfer’s trifecta, right?) As luck would have it, this movie was actually based on a real-life creature’s attacks in a sleepy little beach town in New Jersey during the mid 1910’s.
The real life Jaws claimed his first victim in 1916, and then went on a killing spree that seemingly traveled quite some distance up and down the Jersey Shore. The entire state went into hysteria for a couple of weeks. The shark itself was caught and killed only 11 days after its first kill – but many were still frightened to go in the water for months afterwards.
11 Wolfe Creek Crater, Australia
If you have watched Wolf Creek 1 and Wolf Creek 2, you already know plenty about the spine-chilling horror that random murders can wreak on an audience. What you might not be aware of is that this movie duo were set in a real location...and based off of a couple of real events. The movie was filmed at Wolfe Creek Crater National Park in Australia, which is also the place where the film’s creators were inspired to make a movie.
The plots of both movies also owe a lot to Wolfe Creek, since both movies were based on real crimes that happened in the vicinity. The ones that inspired it were an attack on a group of British tourists, and the “Backpacker Murders” of the 1990s.
10 Danvers State Mental Hospital, Massachusetts
Danvers has been long known to be a location that gives even the most steadfast person the heebie-jeebies. This mental hospital has inspired indie horror flick Session 9, as well as H.P Lovecraft’s horror-filled Arkham Mental Hospital. Incidentally, this also means that Danvers is the inspiration for Batman’s Arkham Asylum as well. Oh, and just in case that wasn’t spooky enough, this hospital was also an inspiration source for the writers of American Horror Story.
The actual hospital’s history was just as terrifying as the stories it conjured up. This state hospital was infamous for patient abuse, a lack of sanitation, and a spectacularly high death rate for both patients and caretakers. Moreover, it’s also rumored to be the birthplace of the frontal lobotomy. Because patients were regularly drugged, tortured, and lobotomized until they no longer were capable of functioning on their own, it makes sense why this was rumored to be one of the most violently haunted mental hospitals in the United States.
The actual mental hospital is now gone, and has been replaced with apartment buildings. However, there have been rumors that the eerie energy from the psych ward still lingers there. Needless to say, we wouldn’t rent there.
9 Point Pleasant, West Virginia
If you love cryptozoology, then this entry on our list shouldn’t come as any surprise to you. The smash hit Mothman Prophecies was actually based on a real series of events that happened during the late 60’s in the town of Point Pleasant. Much like the movie that hit cinemas in 2002, the original happenings in Point Pleasant also involved the Mothman being an ominous sign of disaster.
According to the records taken by police, over 100 different paranormal sightings of a tall creature with wings and glowing red eyes were seen in the span of 11 months. The strange Mothman sightings, as they were known, were said to foretell a major disaster. After the local Silver Bridge collapse, the Mothman seemingly disappeared. Was it a coincidence, or was there really more to this cryptid’s sightings?
8 Adams, Tennessee
Though you may not actually recognize the name of the town, this location has been the inspiration of a slew of major films. Why? Because this is the location that supposedly housed one of the most vicious, extreme hauntings of the entire 19th century. It was here that local farmer John Bell and his family were terrorized by an unseen voice, dogs that had heads of rabbits, and poltergeist activity that eventually lead to John’s death. The Tennessee legend was so popular that it had even piqued the interested of President Andrew Jackson...who was too terrified to actually venture into the area alone!
The “Bell Witch” town, as it’s often known, has been a place that has inspired to major motion pictures. The Blair Witch Project actually took inspiration from the legend of the Bell Witch. The other film, An American Haunting, takes quite a few pages from the Bell Witch legend’s book. Chances are high that there were even more movies that took a cue from this legend and location, so don’t be shocked if you see more about it elsewhere.
7 The Stanley Hotel, Colorado
Most horror fans won’t be surprised to see this hotel on the list, especially considering that it’s common knowledge that author Stephen King had written The Shining after having stayed here. Legend has it that the eerily empty hallways, combined with a nightmare brought on by the strange vibe of the hotel ended up making King so uneasy that he had to write something down on paper. And thus, The Shining was born.
The actual Stanley Hotel has long been known as a paranormal hotspot, so it isn’t too surprising that King may have felt something spooky in the atmosphere. The most common hauntings reported at this hotel include the voice of a disembodied child, apparitions of people who just disappear at the drop of a hat, as well as poltergeist activity.
6 Aokigahara Forest, Japan
If there is one place on this list that was practically begging for a horror movie of its own, it’s Aokigahara Forest, located at the base of Mount Fuji. This forest became internationally famous as one of the most popular suicide locations in the world, with at least 500 suicides having been discovered there since the 1950’s. This forest is such a common suicide site that they actually have warning signs posted pleading with people to rethink their decision to end their lives at the outskirts of the forest’s trails.
Even before it became a pop culture reference to suicide, Aokigahara Forest was known for being heavily haunted by spirits of abandoned elders who were left to die there during times of starvation. According to the legend, these ghosts seek out those who try to wander the forest and trick them to wander off to their deaths. Does it come as any surprise that this landmark ended up being the inspiration for The Forest?
5 The Wonderland Murders House, Los Angeles
This little-known murder house was the scene where adult film legend John Holmes reportedly committed a gruesome murder. If you listen to the legend, it was in this unassuming house that the film star killed four drug dealers in a bout of vigilante justice. The attack actually inspired the Val Kilmer crime drama/horror classic, Wonderland.
What’s unique about this location is that the actual horror story is more intense than the one portrayed by Hollywood. While Wonderland focused more on vigilante attacks, the actual Wonderland Murder House isn’t just the scene of attacks. Locals swear that it’s one of the most dangerously haunted houses in the Los Angeles area. According to the rumors, the ghosts here are fuming over their deaths and make no issue of letting others know by hitting those who spend the night. The paranormal activity also intensifies to closer you get to the televisions, so you might not want to change that channel.
4 The Entity House, Los Angeles
This terrifying house was, as the name suggests, the inspiration for The Entity. Here, a local home owner by the name of Doris Bither became the target of a barrage of brutal poltergeist attacks. The house’s ghosts were extremely violent and would regularly throw objects at her, pull at her, and hit her. Eventually, she could no longer take the attacks and chose to leave the house. Unfortunately for her, the attacks seemed to follow her family over to their next home. Shockingly, paranormal investigators couldn’t debunk all of her claims, making this one of the most believable hauntings in America.
The home had gotten such a hardcore reputation for violent ghosts that it had become the inspiration for the 1981 horror film – and also became a local landmark that became a popular “drive by” tour location for teens looking for a thrill.
3 Texarkana, Texas
Back in the 1940’s, the small city of Texarkana was in full panic mode. A killer was on the loose, and he was taking out victims at random. Unlike most other murders, though, this killer left no clues as to who he is or why he did what he did. Local law enforcement called him “The Phantom” because of how he just seemed to disappear without a trace. To this day, no one knows who The Phantom really was. Doesn’t this story sound like a great movie plot to you?
The makers of The Town That Dreaded Sundown thought so too. This horror story featuring a crazed killer is purportedly loosely based on the mysterious case of the Phantom. However, unlike the actual Texarkana murders, this movie is supposed to take place in Arkansas.
2 Chernobyl, Ukraine
Chernobyl has gone down in history books as the site of one of the most horrific nuclear disasters in world history. With a death toll continuing to rise from the 1986 accident today, the Chernobyl area has become synonymous with post-apocalyptic nuclear disaster. Considering how terrifyingly empty and desolate the remains of this once-popular town look, it’s easy to see why this venue is a common hotspot for extreme tourists.
It’s actually that bizarre obsession with exploring this wasteland that sparked the horror film series Chernobyl Diaries. Though there aren’t any bloodthirsty mutants or escaped “patients” in the real Chernobyl area, the radiation can still kill you. Moreover, you can get arrested if you’re caught looting what’s left from the town – and trespassing is also strictly prohibited. So, you might want to skip that vacation unless you’re okay with that.
1 Centralia, Pennsylvania
In the earlier part of the 20th century, an underground fire spread to the mining town of Centralia. The coal-rich underground that held up the town soon began to feel warm to the touch. Eventually, cracks began to open up and emit smoke. Eventually, the town’s ground was weakened to the point that driving on streets was a risk, and one child almost fell into a hole that resulted from the fire. Most people abandoned the town shortly after the fire began to damage plumbing, gasoline lines, and streets.
Considering how lonely, eerie, and surreal this area now looks, it’s easy to see why it’s sparked the settings that were used in the Silent Hill games and movies. It also had been the spark for Nothing But Trouble, as well as a series of documentaries on industrial greed, ghost towns, and more. What’s amazing is that there are still people who live there, despite not even having a working post office anymore.