With the words “What you are about to see is inspired by true events” plastered on the opening screen of The Strangers, curiosity about the murders that inspired the sensational film was spurred. However, the web of crimes which led to the film’s storyline is more complicated than a mirrored real-life slasher story.

The Strangers: Slasher film of the century

The Strangers, written by Bryan Bertino, is one of the most unnerving slasher films in horror. What makes it so unsettling? The flick leaves no room for relaxation. It follows the story of a couple: James Hoyt and Kristen McKay. They are relentlessly pursued by a group of masked, nameless murderers at a vacation house who never express a genuine motive. Yikes.

The murderers’ chilling explanation for their reign of terror sent shivers up audience members’ spines: “Because you were home.” As the film enjoyed cult success, many horror lovers began to believe that the flick, which boasted ties to the real world, was based on the actual murders of a couple of the same names. However, the truth behind the film’s dark storyline is a little more complicated.

Universal Pictures/IMDB

Bryan Bertino’s inspiration for the flick

In reality, James Hoyt and Kristen McKay are not real (and if they are, they’re not murder victims). Their identities were fabricated for the film. Still, this doesn’t mean that the central point of advertising was a total farce. A series of several crimes inspired Bertino to produce a flick as disturbing as The Strangers. One such inspiration stemmed from a childhood memory. In the film’s production notes, Bertino stated:

“As a kid, I lived in a house on a street in the middle of nowhere. One night, while our parents were out, somebody knocked on the front door and my little sister answered it…We later found out that these people were knocking on doors on the area and, if no one was home, breaking into the houses.”

Another inspiration beyond the iconic movie? The Manson Family Murders. Unsurprisingly, the incidental slayings of Sharon Tate and her dinner guests could serve as a point of inspiration for the home invasion/murders in the film. Still, if you’re seeking a more specific source for the murderous storyline, look no further than the Keddie Cabin Murders.

The Keddie Cabin Murders

What were the Keddie Cabin Murders? On the evening of April 11th, 1981 in Keddie, California, disaster struck a family on the run. Sue Sharp and her five children (Greg, Rick, Johnny, Sheila, and Tina) had been staying in Cabin 28 at Keddie Resort for six months, fleeing from her abusive husband.

On the fateful night of the murders, Greg and Rick’s friend, Justin, was sleeping over. Johnny brought home his close friend, Dana. Tina came home late, and Sheila was spending the evening with a friend. While Greg, Rick, and Justin (who were the youngest), slept through the majority of the horrific crimes, most members of the family weren’t so lucky.

On the evening of April 11th, 1981 in Keddie, California, disaster struck a family on the run

Sometime during the night, Sue Sharp, Johnny, and Dana were all brutally slain in the living room of their vacation home. The killers kidnaped Tina, later murdered, and dumped her 30 miles away from the resort. When Sheila came home from her friend’s house on April 12th, she walked into the horrific murder-kidnapping scene. Despite police efforts to track down the killers, the case remains unsolved to this day.

The parallels between this case and The Strangers aren’t hard to spot—the vacation home, how they were murdered (stabbing), and their undefined motives. It’s enough to make anyone not want to answer the door.

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How much might Cabin 28 be worth?