As I was surfing through the oceans of movies on Netflix Streaming, I came across ‘Killer Legends’ a documentary about some of the origins of some of the most popular Urban Legends, that have influenced the creation of some of our favorite horror movies. ‘Killer Legends’ was written and directed by Joshua Zeman.
‘Killer Legends’ investigates several legends, in detail by visiting the place where they originated, interviewing people tied to the events and researching police records. The film begins with the story of the couple on lovers lane who see a strange figure and drive away. When the couple stops they find a bloody hook hanging from the car’s door handle.
The next investigation explores the “Phantom Murders” also known as “The Moonlight Murders”. In 1946 a series of brutal murders rocked the town Texarkana. Young couples parked on lover’s lanes began turning up dead. Most of the young women were raped before being brutally murdered by a man in a mask. The name the “Phantom Murders” was given to the mystery killer by journalists, inspired by a movie playing at the time, “The Phantom Speaks”. Even though there were several suspects, the killer went free. In 1976 a movie was made based on the true accounts surrounding the murders, the movie was titled ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’, the movie was directed by Charles Pierce. Several of the murder scenes in the movie took place in the exact spot where the actual killings occurred. A remake of ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’ was made in 2014 by director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. If you are interested in seeing the movie, the remake is available on Netflix Streaming.
‘Killer Legends’ also explores the man who ruined Halloween. This tale explains the concern of parents about tainted Halloween candy and the possibility of hidden pins, razors blades and poison laced candy. The man is known as the “Candy Man”. In 1974 the first case of tainted candy spread like wildfire through the media. Eight year old Timothy O’Brian has just returned home with his sister Elizabeth. His father Ronald gave each child a giant pixie stick after dinner, that he had received from a neighbor. Within minutes Timothy went into convulsions, foaming at the mouth. His sister was next. The kids were rushed to the hospital. Elizabeth was able to be saved, but Timothy died in his father’s arms. The Pixie Sticks were laced with cyanide. The police escorted Ronald around the neighborhood. He pointed out a man, but his alibi was rock solid. After a full investigation Ronald O’Brian was arrested for murdering his own son. It took forty five minutes for a jury to convict. His motive, to cash in on the life insurance he had taken out on his kids. O’Brian was executed several years later on Halloween. The murder not only caused a panic, it influenced several movies, including the 2007 movie ‘Trick ‘r Treat’ as well as ‘Candy Man’.
We’ve all seen or heard the story about the babysitter who gets a call from a stranger inside the house. I can think of at least three movies about the story. The legend is actually based on he true story of Janet Christman. Janet was babysitting a young boy on March 18, 1950. The boys mother called to check in and got a busy signal. Soon the mom arrived home to find Janet dead on the floor. She had been strangled with an electrical wire. The phone was hanging from he wall, when the woman went to call the police she found that the police were already on the line. Janet had dialed 911 during the attack but was unable to tell the police anything. An officer heard her murder over the phone. A mentally challenged man was executed for the crime, but most people believe he was innocent. The man people believe killed her was the son of a well off couple, named Robert Muller.
Next the documentary moves on to killer clowns. Let’s be honest, clowns are creepy. In the early 1980’s a series of kidnappings swept across the country, many of the abductions involved men dressed as clowns luring kids to their vans with the promise of candy and toys. The abductions started again in 1990 around the same housing complex that the movie ‘Candy Man’ was set in, Cabrini-Green. The kidnappings were not the only clown involved crimes. Between 1972 to 1978 a Chicago business man named John Wayne Gacy, who spent his weekends dressed as Pogo the clown, murdered 33 teenage boys and young men. Gacy made the mistake of stashing 29 of the bodies under his house. Gacy was convicted of twelve of the murders. While on death row he was given the nickname “Killer Clown”. I can’t help but wonder how many movies the legend of killer clowns influenced.
I have to say I really enjoyed ‘Killer Legends’. They did a lot of research and included more details than any horror documentary I have seen in a while. I strongly recommend you check it out.