It has been 5 years since Anissa Weisser and Morgan Geyser stabbed 12-year-old Payton Leutner 19 times and left her for dead in the woods of Waukesha, Wisconsin. When a crime so horrific occurs, society has the need to know “Why?” Why did these 12-year-old girls physically harm their peer? What possessed them to commit this atrocity? As we later learned, the girls committed this crime because of the movie Slender Man.
While we would like to believe that a story like theirs happens once in a blue moon, it turns out there are many killers who either copy what they saw from a movie, or feel compelled to appease the creatures within those stories. Here we will delve into several nefarious crimes where acts of atrociousness played out.
In the late winter of 1993, 10-year-olds Robert Thompson and Jon Venables were skipping school, a pastime of theirs, and spent part of their day stealing junk food, a troll doll, batteries, and a can of blue paint. While the pair were shoplifting, nearby Denise Bulger and her son, James Bulger, were out and about at Strand Shopping Centre in Liverpool. They were in a butchers’ shop when Denise took her eyes off of James while being served and when she turned to check on her son, he was gone. In the hours following, police were able to identify James from the CCTV along with two boys who appeared to be in their early teens. Police searched the canals, the railway lines, and wasteland. Concerns over James Bulgers’ safety heightened as the second night of his disappearance came to a close.
On February 14, 1993, the body of a toddler was found cut in half on railway tracks two miles from Strand Shopping Centre, but due to the nature of the injuries on his body the police were able to rule out that is was an accident. Thompson and Venables were both charged with murder 6 days later thanks to a woman who recognized them from an enhanced CCTV image. The two boys were driven to different locations for questioning where detectives learned the gruesome details of Bulgers’ death.
Once Thompson, Venables, and Bulgers’ arrived at the railway, both 10-year-old boys began to throw bricks, and the can of blue paint they stole earlier, at Bulgers’ face. One of the boys dropped a 22 Ib iron bar on James, batteries were forced into his mouth, and police suspect that the 10-year-olds sodomized James with the batteries as well. James Bulger sustained 10 skull fractures, and had an overall of 42 injuries—none could be pinned as the fatal blow. Due to James Bulgers’ pants, socks, shoes, and underpants being removed, police suspect that there was a sexual element as well, which was backed by a report stating that his “foreskin had been forcibly retracted.”The life of a young child was ended, and while the two boys have not spoken as to why, the judge and public had placed blame upon the film Childs Play 3, which contains a scene of Chucky being splattered with paint and having his face beaten.
In Maida Vale, London in April 2012, 25-year-old Matthew Tinling was found guilty for the murder of his flatmate 45-year-old Richard Hamilton. Both men “were driven by the need for drugs and sometimes the use and abuse of alcohol,” and it was this need that drove Tinling to stab Hamilton 17 times in his head, neck, and legs. According to reports, Tinling was trying to get his flatmates’ PIN and account number through torture so he could get more cocaine. What makes this crime horrific isn’t just the stabbing, but that Tinling copied a scene from the horror franchise ‘Saw’ and attempted to sever Hamiltons’ spinal cord.
For years Lesley Savage had sought help for her son, Daniel Gonzalez, who was diagnosed with a personality disorder. “Every time we asked for help for Daniel… we were told we would have to wait for a crisis to occur.” In September of 2004 that crisis arrived. While drugged up, and wielding a knife, Daniel left his house and murdered four people at random, and attempted to murder two more. His victims’ ages ranged from the late ’40s to late 70’s—As they would be less resistant to his attacks.
Despite being diagnosed as mentally ill, the prosecution insisted he was not and described Gonzalez as a “callous, cold person who wanted to emulate the slaughter inflicted by the evil figure of Freddy Krueger” from the supernatural slasher film Nightmare on Elm Street. Following his arrest, a tear-struck Gonzalez made the following statement, “I saw this bloke. I thought ‘Ok. Ready, steady go…’ Then I jumped up and stuck it all the way in. It was such a long knife. There was no chance for the poor guy, no chance.” In 2007, Daniel Gonzalez was found dead, one year after being given six life sentences.
In Pittsburgh, PA, 17-year-old Karen Hurwitz was in her backyard on October 27, 1989, when she was strangled then stabbed six times with a 36-inch “ninja” sword. The brutality she faced was wrought by 18-year-old Michael Anderson. While Anderson was in for questioning he stated “Whenever I feel that I am going to get into some kind of trouble, I will put on the Clockwork Orange T-shirt,” a shirt he wore when Hurwitz was brutally murdered. Even Andersons’ attorney, Jon Botula, made claims that the movie ‘A Clockwork Orange’ incited Anderson to kill. The prosecution rejected the claim.
Even if the movie did not incite the killing of young Hurwitz, during the trial it was brought to the court’s attention that Anderson was suffering from Bipolar Disorder and reflected psychotic features, but without sufficient psychiatric evidence within two hours Anderson was found guilty and sentenced to life for the first degree murder of Karen Hurwitz.
On August 5, 2016, 19-year-old Brittany Dwyer and Bernadette Burns drove to Dwyers’ grandfathers with intentions of robbing him. While Dwyer was with her grandfather, 81-year-old Robert Whitwell, looking at photographs and home videos, Burns waited outside in the car. After reminiscing of the past with her grandad, Brittany had to send a text to her friend Burns that she “couldn’t go through with it.” Burns texted her back stating “she had to because ‘they had come all this way.’” After her hesitance, when Whitwell was walking out of the kitchen Dwyer stabbed her grandfather in the neck and chest. He asked his granddaughter “Why” while she helped apply a bandage to his neck then proceeded to wash the dishes with no response as he bled out. Dwyer and Burns ransacked his house finding $1,000 and missing the $110,000 that Whitwell had saved in his shed; What the women were both after.
Three days passed by before his body was found and his granddaughter, and her friend, pleaded guilty to his murder. While robbery was the clear motivation behind Whitwells’ death, it came to light in court that Dwyer was also motivated by ‘American Horror Story.’ Dywer was sentenced to 29 years, while Burns received 20, but both women had their sentences reduced with Dwyer to 20, and Burns to 13 years.
“Perfect, dark, psychotic, isolated, smart, sophisticated, exact.” These were the words listed in a journal owned by 14-year-old Michael Hernandez, a list of what he strived to be. He also had a list of daily reminders, “Work out, read the Bible, worship and pray, learn to draw, switch pens bi-weekly, and learn to be a pimp.” The list doesn’t come off too far-fetched from what any young teenager would strive for, yet on another page in his journal revealed conflicting thoughts, “Carve cross, take right eye, leave note, stay alone, never forget God ever, have a cult and plan a mass kidnapping for new world, be an expert thief,” and at the bottom of one page, “Will become a serial killer.”
M. Hernandez fixated himself on mass murderers, cults, death, and had instructions to create his own Molotov cocktails and homemade explosives. And by adopting the behavior from serial killers in ‘American Psycho’ and ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ Hernandez proceeded to viciously stab and murder fellow classmate Jaime Gough on school grounds in the boys’ washroom. In court, the defense attempted to prove insanity and explained that Hernandez “ believed God agreed with him.” “He’s a boy whose fantasies blurred with reality.” With rejection from the jury, Hernandez was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Elizabeth Thomas was 17-years-old when she began defending fellow classmate 16-year-old Steven Miles from bullies and then later befriended one another. By January of 2014, the two were dating one another and Miles was spending time with his girlfriend at his family home in Oxted, Surrey. Little did she know that he had been referring to her as his “project.” Miles was a horror fanatic who wanted to mimic the actions of Dexter Morgan, a forensic analyst of Showtimes’ ‘Dexter’. On the 24th of January, Miles mercilessly stabbed and dismembered Elizabeth Thomas. He went on to copy Dexter Morgan by wrapping her dismembered body in clingfilm and dumping them in bin bags. By October 2nd of 2014, Steven Miles was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Thierry Jaradin, 24-years-old, was lonely when he met Alisson Cambier, a 15-year-old teenager. He invited her into his home, which was only a few doors down from her own, to share videotapes and chat. When he attempted to be intimate with her, Cambier rejected his advances, so he excused himself and went to another room to adorn a Scream costume. Wielding two kitchen knives he entered the room Cambier was in, placed his hand over her mouth to muffle her screaming, and impaled her 30 times, mutilating her left side. With her corpse on his bed and a rose in one of her hands, Jaradin called his father and colleague to confess to her murder, which he later told police was motivated by “the cinematic trilogy.”
“In shock I ran into my room and screamed at the top of my lungs that I am really messed up…” 17-year-old Jake Evans stole his grandfathers’ gun and had watched Rob Zombies’ ‘Halloween’ three times that week. He felt that it “would be the same for me when I kill someone.” With plans to kill all three sisters, grandparents, and parents, Evans hid a knife with intentions of killing his family the way Michael Meyers had in the film. Wanting his family to not feel any pain, though, he switched to the .22 revolver he had stolen, called his sister from her room and proceeded to shoot her several times, then walked downstairs to shoot his mother. He ran back into his room after and began screaming “at the top of my lungs that I am really messed up and that I killed my mom and sister,” he wrote in a four-page confession.
“As I emptied the shells on my bed, I heard noizes (sic) and realized that Mallory was still alive. While I loaded the gun back up, I was shouting that I was sorry and then ran as fast as I could to kill her.” He shot his mom once more to make sure she was dead. His dad was in Washington D.C. and his older sister was with their grandparents. Instead of continuing as he had planned, Evans called 911 and turned himself in. “I know now though that I’m done with killing. It’s the most dreadful and terrifying thing I will ever experience. And what happened last night will haunt me forever.” In court the judge ruled for the four-page confession to be available for the public to read. Jake Evans was sentenced in 2015 to 45 years and will be eligible for parole after serving half.
In 1999, Margaret Lauritsen was in her Calista home with beloved poodle, Susie, when her grandson, Anthony Lauritsen, came into her home with a lawn edger and hammer to murder Margaret. She was at the top of his kill list; Dying by her grandson’s hands, she was disemboweled and her head was almost severed off. Forensics had shown defensive wounds upon her hands and forearms suggesting that she tried to fend him off with all of her might. Anthony also brutally murdered her poodle and had planned to murder other family members, as well as a number of people whom he had named on a hit list. It was in court that they found that Anthony had repeatedly watched ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and was “fixated” on one scene where Hannibal attacks and removes the organs of a police officer.
20 years later and Anthony Lauritsen is ready for parole, despite being given a life sentence. While family members are able to take out restraining orders against him, one member stated that they “are all still living in fear of his release.”
“It is not a decision I made lightly,” Stated Attorney General John Quigley on the decision to send Lauritsen to a re-socialisation program. While it is a step towards freedom, the program does not guarantee that parole will be granted.
Nicole is a mother of two by day, and a horror-survival gamer by night. Between caring for her home and kids, Nicole is currently working on a young adult horror novel.