The old adage, "life imitates art" is sometimes too true. And when seriously disturbed people draw the wrong messages from art, we've seen copycat crimes result. Did you know one movie inspired the attempted assassination of a President? Or that films in the horror genre became motivation for real-life serial killers?
Obviously, the filmmakers aren't to blame for these crimes, but it's a sorry situation all the same. While the majority of us know where to draw the line between imagination and reality, a dangerous few don't. That inability turned into these 28 copycat crimes, from school shootings to the formation of a violent gang. Read on to find out which fictional films, books, and characters inadvertently inspired real crime.
"The Dark Knight" motivated a terrifying movie theater massacre.
It’s hard to forget the 2012 Aurora massacre. James Holmes shot up a theater full of people who were there to see The Dark Knight Rises. Holmes had dyed his hair to resemble Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, and when apprehended, told Colorado authorities that he was the Joker.
"Natural Born Killers" drew a lot of the wrong attention.
Multiple copycat crimes have been connected to Natural Born Killers, including two school shootings: the Heath High School shooting, and the Columbine High School massacre. Both gunmen involved had watched the movie.
Another "Natural Born Killers" copycat crime let to the murder of a family.
In another scenario, 23-year-old Jeremy Allan Steinke and his 12-year-old girlfriend murdered her parents when they tried to stop her from dating someone so much older than her. Steinke even allegedly told his friends before the act that he was "going Natural Born Killer on her family."
After reading this Stephen King novel, one student took his high school class hostage.Stephen King’s book Rage (written under the name Richard Bachman) is about a high school student who kills his teacher and takes his classmates hostage. In 1988, a high school senior, Jeffrey Lyne Cox, took the words too seriously and brought a rifle to school. Thankfully, he ordered the teacher out of the room instead of opening fire, as he held his classmates hostage. However, when Cox rested his rifle between his legs, classmates tackled and disarmed him without any loss of life, ending the incident.
A man shot President Reagan after watching "Taxi Driver."
After watching Taxi Driver, a man named John Hinckley Jr. became obsessed with Jodie Foster…and decided to prove his love by killing the president at the time, Ronald Reagan. He did shoot Reagan, piercing his lung, but Reagan survived the encounter. Hinckley later told police that his shooting was an "unprecedented demonstration of love."
"A Clockwork Orange" had inspired copycat crimes all the way into the 21st century.
A Clockwork Orange was released in 1971—and the most recent copycat crime connected to it was in 2005. Following the film’s immediate release was a string of crimes that included beatings and the gang rape of a 17-year-old. After that, director Stanley Kubrick pulled the film from UK theaters. The most recent incident involved a gang of young men, and a teenaged girl, beating a bar owner to death in a manner similar to how it was done in the film.
Freddy Krueger is not a role model.
Serial killer Daniel Gonzalez murdered four people (and injured two others) during a killing spree in 2004. Later, in prison, he told his prison psychiatrist that he wanted to be Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street.
John Lennon’s killer was obsessed with "Catcher in the Rye."
via: GettyMark David Chapman actually considered his murder of John Lennon to be “Chapter 27" of Catcher in the Rye—the novel is 26 chapters in length. He even quoted the book at his trial!
One gang took its cues from "Grand Theft Auto."
The Grand Theft Auto franchise is all about committing crimes—unsurprising, given the name. Upon the release of GTA III, a gang actually formed around it in Oakland, California. They called themselves the Nut Cases, and they’d spend their days playing the game, before taking that game to the streets at night. They killed five people this way, and eventually, six of the Nut Cases were found guilty of murder and imprisoned.
One brutal murder was inspired by "Scream."
Thierry Jaradin couldn’t take no for an answer. When his 15-year-old neighbor, Alisson Cambier, rejected his advances, the 24-year-old stabbed her 30 times, while wearing a ghost costume. Jaradin then placed her body on his bed, slipped a rose into her hands, and called his father to confess to the crime. He later admitted that he was motivated by the Scream trilogy.
The KKK revived itself over one racist movie.
The Birth Of A Nation was groundbreaking when it first came out in terms of the filming techniques used. It was also a racist, one-sided portrayal of the Civil War and its aftermath, set in the South and disparaging the North as the villain. The film was used as a rallying cry for the Ku Klux Klan, which had declined almost into nonexistence in the 1870s. With the KKK’s positive portrayal in the film, sadly, the Klan made a comeback. The film, released in 1915, is one of the reasons the Klan still exists in America today.
The rage surrounding "The Last Temptation of Christ" led to a theater bombing.When Martin Scorsese’s film adaptation of The Last Temptation of Christ arrived in 1988, a group of religious fundamentalists (who had been excommunicated by the Catholic Church) threw Molotov cocktails into the St. Michel Theater. They injured 13 people and damaged the building extensively. The threat of violence and controversial subject matter of the film led to many countries deciding not the show it at all.
A man tried to become a vampire after watching "The Queen of the Damned."
In 2003, Allan Menzies killed a friend of his and drank his blood. He claimed to be acting under the orders of the vampire queen, Akasha, from Ann Rice’s novel and its film adaptation, The Queen of the Damned. "At the end of the day, I knew I would have to murder somebody anyway, so ... if you did not murder somebody you could not become a vampire," Menzies told the court at his trial.
A crime boss’s outspoken thoughts on "The Godfather" led to his assassination.
New York crime boss Joe Colombo caused trouble for other mafia families in the 1970s when he founded and used the Italian-American Civil Rights League to protest and influence the script of The Godfather. Colombo’s interference resulted in the word “mafia" being removed from the film, and he persuaded the people of Little Italy to be uncooperative to filmmakers. Colombo’s loud protests were drawing too much attention to the mafia’s operations, so they organized a hit. Colombo was shot three times and became a quadriplegic; he managed to live for another six years before passing away.
One woman pled not guilty because of "The Matrix."
Tonda Lynn Ansley became convinced that her landlord was trying to brainwash and kill her, and thus shot her landlord to death in 2003. The defense successfully argued that she was not guilty, because she’d thought that she was in The Matrix.
Another fan obsessed with "The Matrix" killed his parents.
Josh Cooke became fixated on the character of Neo and bought a replica costume and a 12-gauge shotgun with ammunition—the same as Neo used. One night, after dinner, he shot both of his parents with the shotgun and called the police, telling them “get your asses over here."
This Texas Chainsaw murder may have been a coincidence, or maybe not.
Just a few months after the release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974, Robert Elmer Kleasen kidnapped and murdered two Mormon missionaries, before dismembering them with a band saw. While the timing of this crime could’ve been a coincidence, there are definitely some chilling parallels.
This teen used Rob Zombie’s "Halloween" as a guide.
A Texan teenager shot his mother and sister to death with a .22 caliber pistol after watching the remake of Halloween in 2013. In a statement for the police, the teen wrote, “I started watching Rob Zombie's Halloween. In the movie, a 12-year-old boy murders his stepfather, sister, and his sister's boyfriend. It was the third time this week that I watched it. While watching it I was amazed at how at ease the boy was during the murders and how little remorse he had afterward. I was thinking to myself, it would be the same for me when I kill someone."
A pair of 12-year-olds conspired to kill over the fictional "Slender Man" tale.
In 2014, friends Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier attempted to kill one of their classmates over the fictional character of Slender Man. Geyser and Weier, both 12 at the time, came across the character on the Creepypasta wiki and decided to prove their loyalty to him by murdering Payton Leutner. They plotted for months and eventually stabbed Leutner 19 times before leaving her for dead. Thankfully, a passing cyclist rescued her, and Leutner survived the attack. Both girls were tried as adults and sentenced to many years in a mental hospital.
Jeffrey Dahmer was a fan of "The Exorcist III."
In The Exorcist III, a serial killer has the characteristic of keeping his victims’ body parts as trophies. Does that sound familiar to you? Dahmer likely got the idea to do the same thing (at least partially), from the movie.
Lawyers insinuated that their client is only in trouble because of "John Tucker Must Die."
In 2015, 19-year-old Tyler Kost was arrested for two counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor. His lawyers, however, argue that the whole thing was a set-up from women who watched John Tucker Must Die and made a plan to punish Kost for being a heartbreaker. Kost’s lawyers are seeking to access each of the women's Facebook accounts for potential proof.
One man used "The Purge" to justify his killing spree.
After Jonathan Cruz’s four-day killing spree in 2016, the 19-year-old blamed The Purge for his actions. Cruz told the police that he felt justified in committing armed robbery and three murders after watching the film.
The Unabomber repeatedly read Joseph Conrad’s novels.Ted Kaczynski (AKA The Unabomber) read Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent. This particular book’s plot discusses a plan to blow up the Greenwich Observatory; with other similarities between the book and Kaczynski’s action. The novel actually led the FBI to contact Conrad scholars in hopes of better understanding Kaczynski himself.
"The Basketball Diaries" was blamed for multiple school shootings.
Multiple sources were blamed for the Columbine massacre, including The Basketball Diaries. In the film, Leonardo DiCaprio plays a teenager who imagines shooting up his school in a black leather trench coat. However, the evidence shows that shooters, Klebold and Harris, planned their shooting long before the movie; if anything, they were influenced in style alone.
"Child’s Play 3" was loosely connected to an abduction and murder.
Panic spread after two 10-year-old boys brutally tortured and killed 2-year-old James Bulger. It was suggested that they were imitating a scene in Child’s Play 3. The two boys, Jon Venables, and Robert Thompson kidnapped Bulgar, beat him to death with bricks, and left his body to be severed in two on nearby train tracks. Their connection to Child’s Play 3 isn’t terribly strong, though one of the boys’ father rented the film shortly before the murder.
One serial killer blamed "RoboCop" for the killings.
Serial killer Nathaniel White claimed that RoboCop 2 gave him the idea for one of his killings. White confessed to killing six women in total, and of the first one he murdered, White said, “I did exactly what I saw in the movie."
A "Saw" fan stabbed someone over 120 times.
Benjamin Scott, just days after being released from prison, stabbed his neighbor over 120 times in the face, head, and eyes. Scott reportedly wanted to be back to jail and wanted his girlfriend to prove her love by waiting for him during his sentence. When his girlfriend commented that Scott’s actions were similar to Saw, Scott agreed, saying, "Yeah. Like that."
Serial killer Robert Berdella was inspired by the film adaptation of "The Collector."When he was a teenager, Robert Berdella watched The Collector. In the book and movie, a woman is kidnapped and kept in her tormenter’s basement. Berdella would later torture and kill at least six men in his own basement and was apparently inspired by The Collector.
On person's obsession with "Dexter" led to murder.
The popular television series about a serial killer who kills other murderers and bad people drew negative attention. A Dexter fan, Andrew Conley, strangled his 10-year-old brother because he “just felt like him" (referring to serial killer Dexter).
"V for Vendetta" gave a group of hackers its look.
The film adaptation of V for Vendetta let to the hacking group, Anonymous, wearing masks from the movie. Alan Moore, who created the character V, was actually quite pleased! “I was also quite heartened the other day when watching the news to see that there were demonstrations outside the Scientology headquarters over here [in England] and that they suddenly flashed to a clip showing all these demonstrators wearing V for Vendetta masks. That pleased me. That gave me a warm little glow," he told Entertainment Weekly. Share this story with other fans of true crime!