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Horror movies are about as far outside of our normal experience as you can get. Unless your workday is spent tripping over nothing as a supernatural menace pursues you doggedly, horror flicks just aren't realistic. Sure, every once in a while there's some gritty slasher that bills itself as "based on a true story," but for the most part they're about wolves that gain the power to control fire or something. But just because a horror plot is outlandish, that doesn't mean it couldn't actually happen ...

6
Mexican Drug Cartel Death Cults

Gwyn Photography/Photographer's Choice/Getty

"Santa Muerte," literally "Saint Death," is the patron saint of violent drug crime. Yes, the Catholics really do have a saint for everything. The Vatican has officially distanced itself from Santa Muerte and declared her worship to be blasphemous, but she's been adopted by the Mexican criminal underworld as someone you can pray to when Jesus is less likely to entertain your request. She was never a canonical Catholic saint, but rather the result of Central American Catholics mashing their religion together with Aztec mythology, and the Aztecs kind of had a thing for skeletons.


They sure made plenty of them.

Tradition holds that Santa Muerte will answer the kinds of prayer requests that make other patron saints say "fuck no, asshole," but she needs some kind of sacrifice. For little things, this might mean leaving her a shot of tequila, but bigger requests require bigger sacrifices, preferably screaming ones.

With alarming regularity Mexican police find mass graves of "offerings" with images of the saint tossed among them, as well as horrible "shrines" in deserted places where everyone from children to rival cartel members have been sacrificed to her. Sometimes, the only parts of the victims found are their heads, hearts, or their flayed skin resting in Santa Muerte's bony arms.


That's enough to confirm a murder ... we hope.

Once a very secretive practice, the sheer boldness and aggression of the cartels over the years have made Santa Muerte veneration a popular phenomenon, complete with "priests," public displays of devotion, and tens of thousands of followers. And it's not limited to Mexico anymore; people involved with very shady shit have practiced it in the United States almost invariably. So if you see a smiling skeleton statue in the middle of the road on a dark night, plow right through that shit and don't stop unless you feel like supplying a new flesh-cardigan for a Mexican skeleton god.

5
The Crime Writer Who Killed For His Craft

via murderpedia.org

In 2008, terror struck Macedonia when a serial killer began strangling old women with a telephone cord. Details about the killings spread through the media primarily via the work of journalist Vlado Taneski, who became a minor celebrity and multiple journalism award winner due to his chilling insight into the murderer's methods. But it wasn't too long before police began to notice that this included an eye for details that weren't available to the press.


"The killer licks the victim's eye, because that is the window to the soul."

Eventually, the police began investigating Taneski himself and discovered some damning details, such as the fact that all of the victims had been friends of his mother. He was arrested, and DNA evidence soon showed that his award-winning crime writing was the result of his unique ability to put himself in the killer's shoes. Literally, he put on the killer's shoes every morning. Because he was the killer.


Let's not talk about how he'd put himself in the victim's skin.

Taneski was arrested but never convicted of the murders, because shortly after his arrest he committed "suicide" by "dunking his own head into a pail of water," which we're sure the authorities were "super distraught about."

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4
A "Ghost" That Led Investigators To An Undiscovered Corpse

GetSurrey.com

In 2002, U.K. motorist Christopher Chandler veered off the highway outside of Surrey, drove into a ditch, and died. There were no reported witnesses nor signs of a crash visible on the road. The only indicator to his family that something was amiss was a dropped call to his brother from his mobile phone long after he should have been safely home, which was either a ghostly call from beyond the grave, or a post-mortem butt dial.


Remember, this was during the flip-phone era. Your ass had to work for that butt dial.

But that wasn't the only spooky occurrence in the wake of Chandler's death. The wreckage was not discovered until five months later, when some drivers called the police to report a car they witnessed careening off the road. Rescue crews rushed to the reported site of the accident but found no trace of a crash, until one of them spotted a car down in the ditch, obscured by weeds and leaves.

When rescuers accessed the wreckage, they expected to find a fresh crash, hopefully with the driver still alive. Instead, they found a skeleton.

GetSurrey.com
"Damn Aztecs."

Either the dead were rising from the grave and driving Vauxhalls, or this crash was much more than a few hours old. The corpse was identified as Chandler, who had died in the crash half a year earlier.

Now, we're not saying that Chandler's ghost, frustrated by the lack of developments on his case, performed a spiritual re-enactment of the crash for the benefit of onlookers. It's possible that someone misreported the crash as having just happened, or even that someone had seen the crash when it happened, felt guilty about not reporting it, and figured five months late was better than never. Then, of course, there's always the possibility that another crash really had happened on the night of the report, and the victims lay in their car screaming for help while the cops dug up Chandler instead. But that's a bit more Twilight Zone than we're entirely comfortable with.

3
Birds Attacked An Entire Town

Zoonar RF/Zoonar/Getty Images

In 1961, two years before The Birds came out, the area of Monterey Bay, California, came under mass avian assault. Thousands of birds, particularly seagulls, began suicide attacks on homes in the middle of the night. People unlucky enough to be out driving, or stupid enough to go out with flashlights to investigate, found themselves under attack as the birds flew toward the light. They spent much of the day making life hell for humanity, causing injuries, regurgitating onto heads, and just shitting everywhere.

Nur Aqlily Riana / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images
"Oh, so we're monsters, but when Pollack does it, it's 'genius.'"

Then, as abruptly as it began, the strange behavior died down, as did almost all of the birds. For 50 years, the attack was left unexplained, until it was theorized in 2011 that the most likely culprit was toxic algae that contaminated the birds' food and messed with their tiny brains. Though we're not sure how "toxic algae that causes birds to want to murder humans" is less of a horror-movie explanation.

PhotoAlto/Christophe Lemieux/PhotoAlto Agency
"And the toxic algae came from an old Native American watering hole ... where those campers drowned 20 years ago today ... during the-"

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2
The Cannibals Who Baked Their Victims Into Pies

Steve Brown Photography/Photolibrary/Getty

Jorge Beltrao Negromonte da Silveira lived in a polygamous relationship with his wife and girlfriend in a small Brazilian town, and they made part of their living selling meat pies and empanadas to local neighbors, churches, hospitals, and schools. At the same time, the town was facing an epidemic of missing persons. Yeah, you know exactly where this is going.

CNN
Hint: The two on the right are Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

Silveira and his ladies killed their first victim in 2008, teenager Jessica Camila da Silva Pereira, and enslaved her young daughter. After that, they used the daughter as bait to hire a string of women as nannies, whom they would kill, chop up, and bake into savory pastries for their community.

They were eventually caught after the daughter got the attention of police and showed them the bodies buried in the backyard. After the killers were arrested, it was discovered that they had developed their own little cult, and had begun killing people as a way of "purifying" them. At least, that's the excuse they gave to the authorities. In the meantime, the locals are begrudgingly forced to get their savory pastry fix from 7-Eleven.

Theo Wargo/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
The origin of whose meat still hasn't been determined.

1
The Murderous Ventriloquist

Christian Television Network

Ronald Brown vindicated people's fear of ventriloquist dummies in the same way that John Wayne Gacy vindicated people's fear of clowns. Brown was a Florida puppeteer who landed a gig on a Christian Television Network kids' show called Joy Junction with his dummy, Marty, who hailed from a particularly terrifying province of the Uncanny Valley. Despite frankly sucking at ventriloquism (his mouth would often clearly move), Ron and Marty appeared on the show throughout the '80s and '90s, teaching kids about wholesome Christian values.


And yet the sight of the dummy proves God is dead.

Brown was arrested in 2012 after authorities discovered that the man who warned a generation of kids against "dirty pictures" possessed enough child pornography to fill an aircraft hangar. But even regular child porn was too vanilla for Brown. According to journals discovered in his house, he expressed desires to cook and eat children, and had drawn up a butcher's diagram of a child's body divided into steaks. He'd also been a member of an online community of baby-eating fetishists, because you literally can't imagine an activity that doesn't have a bustling Internet community dedicated to it.

Noam Galai/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"r/catbellies?"
"Yup."
"r/sharktits (nsfw)?"
"Yup."
"r-"
"Just gonna save some time; yup."

Thankfully, Brown was thrown in prison before he could actually act on his fantasy of kidnapping and devouring infants. So if you're still scared of ventriloquist dummies, just remember that it's OK, the dummy can't hurt you. But the operator will totally eat your babies. What? Is that not comforting?

Yes, horror movies exist in real life. Know what else? Curses. Like the cursed tomb that probably caused the largest, bloodiest invasion of World War II. Or how everyone who has had the telephone number 0888-888-888 has died. See those and more in The 6 Most Strangely Convincing Real-Life Curses and 18 Insane Coincidences That Will Make You Believe In Curses.

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