"The Strangers" versus keddie cabin murders

Horror movies based on real-life events are always the most chilling because they are even more preposterous than a writer's license would dare allow.

A horror movie I found to be absolutely chillingly scary was “The Strangers” staring Liv Tyler. It was a brilliant film that depended more on sound and the unknown to scare the crap out of you. This is a very hard film to watch alone and in the dark. It’s definitely one of those “I would do this…” or “I would do that…” kind of films where you look around the surroundings and come up with plausible defenses should it ever happen to you. That’s the point of how they film is so horrifying – it’s humans at their most vulnerable; in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. I admit I can’t camp. I don’t like knowing only nylon comes between me and others who wander at night while I’m fast asleep and no witnesses are nearby. That’s the feel of this film, except the tormenters aren’t swift; they’re slow and unpredictable, creepy, and unseen.

I was surprised to find this movie was based on a true story, although I shouldn’t have been surprised. There are mass murderers who simply stalk and kill quick and clean and then there’s the cat-like ones who play with their prey and feed off the terror before they give the final blows; this movie is definitely the latter.

The concept for the movie “The Strangers” was based on a real life unsolved mystery and the moviemakers took the concept and filled in all the blanks that we’re left with. The real-life story doesn’t involve a couple, but a family.

From Wikipedia, here is the description of this still to this day unsolved murder mystery:

In 1981 American quadruple-murder that took place in Keddie, a resort town in Northern California. The victims were Glenna Sharp, known as Sue (age 36), her son John (age 15), and his male friend Dana Wingate (age 17). The final victim, Sue's daughter Tina Sharp (age 12), was missing when the murder was discovered; her remains were found in 1984 in Feather Falls, Butte County. Sue's two youngest sons and their friend were uninjured; found in a room with the door wedged shut by a chair to keep them in. A second daughter, Sheila, had stayed the night with neighbors. No arrests have been made in connection with the murders. The cabin in which the murders took place was demolished in 2006.

The following morning, Glenna's 14-year-old daughter, Sheila, who had spent the night with a friend at a neighboring cabin, found the dead bodies of her mother, brother, and brother's friend lying in the front living room; all had been bound with electrical wire and duct tape, and were beaten and stabbed beyond recognition. Tina Sharp was nowhere to be seen.

The savage nature of the crime was undeniable; the walls were covered with knife cuts, and the furniture had been destroyed. A sheriff patrol commander, Rod DeCrona, who arrived to the scene remarked that "There was blood sprayed absolutely everywhere". Upon examination of the bodies, it was clear that each of the victims had been bludgeoned with a claw hammer and stabbed repeatedly with steak knives. DeCrona also said that one of the knives discovered at the scene had been used so forcefully that the blade had bent entirely in half.

The case soon grew cold, and Tina Sharp's bizarre disappearance went unsolved as did the murders. The town of Keddie began to lose its visitors, and the resort turned into a ghost town. Three years after the crime, in 1984, the dismembered head of Tina Sharp was discovered near Feather Falls, roughly fifty miles downhill from the cabin resort. After this discovery no new information regarding the crime ever surfaced. No arrests have ever been made in regard to the crimes, nor have there been any solid leads as to the motivation of the killer(s). The murders remain unsolved to this day.

A documentary was made based on the murders and you can find out more about the whole crime and the video here.

If you’ve seen “The Strangers,” does the movie seem so farfetched from the actual crime or do you think the actual crime was much more dark and tormented?


  1. such a sad tragedy. it's really scary that there are such sick and twisted people out there.

  2. Sandra;
    I'm with you. I think the more we consider how very real it is, the more we can prepare ourselves to be poised to defend and understand what we're fighting for. Once when I was in high school walking home on a busy street, a work truck pulled over. The driver remained inside, the passenger came up to me and was telling me they were going to take me to Payson for the day and the three of us would have some fun. I started to run, but he caught me and dragged me to the truck. I remember in that moment getting a glimpse in my mind of my mother having to write an obituary for her 15-year-old and I screamed at the top of my lungs with anger (no one on the street stopped to help) and I placed my foot on the tire of the truck and remembered something my dance teacher said about how women's legs were stronger so in battle we have to use that leverage. He had me by the arm and I shoved off the tire, turned, and brought him down with me. Then, I scrambled away and ran into a nearby business. I look back at that incident (and many other close calls) and think, if I hadn't realized how final the act of pulling me into the truck was, I would have thought "I'll just outsmart them when we're on the road." Wrong! I'd rather have them shoot at me as I run away then get in the car. I hope others read these sort of things and realize that you never give in. You probably will be hurt, maybe even killed, but at least you're not held and tortured before death. It's on your terms acting to defend your life instead of being offered up as a victim. I watched that movie and it scared me a lot, but mostly it made me mad about how they handled it. Then, I reminded myself--it's fiction--they can't get away easily!

  3. Your description of a family murder reminded me of the slaughter of an enlarged family by a 17 year old adopted child in 1996in San-Diego.

    The murdered people were relatives of mine, I never saw or spoke to any of them in my life ( I've discovered about them in the course of my genealogical quest). And yet I felt devastated for weeks: had nightmares and other various symptoms.

    The woman (my great grandmother's grandaughter) was murdered together with her husband, her daughter, her son-in-law, her 10 year old grandaughter. AWFUL!

  4. Duta;
    That's heartbreaking! I can't think of anything worse than losing a whole family all at once. The ramifications are far-reaching. All those lives that you wonder could have made a difference in the world if they could have finished playing out their potential. I remember one time when my husband, son and I were on a plane trip. We were stopped in Ohio to change planes. I looked across from us and saw my father-in-law and mother-in-law sitting directly facing us. I was shocked. It ended up they were coming back from Europe and headed back to Phoenix on the same plane. The coincidence is absolutely insane! Every hair on my body rose that this wasn't good for all Clauss family to be on a plane together. As it turned out, we got on the plane. Sat a long time. The plane was broken. We moved to another plane. Sat a long time. The plane was broken. We got hours later into a third plane and finally took off. It was the longest flight of my life. I kept thinking about all the three generations lost if this plane was broken. It seemed like as freaky as the fate was that we ended up on the same plane, we'd just entered the possible realm of being "hit by lightning" or "winning the lottery" and this was not a good thing. Sometimes, these events cosmically come together. When it comes to killers, though, equal opportunity compared to the "fates" which frightens us even more.

  5. Okay i just read you last couple of posts and Petros is not here and it is 12 27 am. I have turned up all the lights( it is kinda like New Years if you think of it) and i am trying to not be so freaked oout. If i got that scared by your stories i definitely should n't watch the movies. And by the way, i have never even thought of that aspect of camping. I am never doing that!
    Ps. thank you for all the wonderful ideas for supernatural shows. I was familiar with most of them(especially charmed that i love)but i have totally forgot medium. I have only watched the first two seasons. Yeih!!!
    Brightest blessings**

  6. Georgina;
    We are with you in spirit and protecting you. You can do what I do when I'm home alone, turn on all the lights and TV. Perhaps when I get my novels published, you should read those when you are definitely not home alone. Glad to help with the shows. If I think of some more, I'll let you know. Have you seen the classics like "Night Stalker" "Twilight Zone" "Night Gallery" and "Outer Limits"? Those are great too!

  7. Trish and Rob;
    You absolutely won't regret it--very well acted out but especially wonderfully directed.

  8. I saw this movie but not the documentary. I don't think it was that far fetched. There are some sick and demented people in the world.

    When I was watching the movie, I was definitely in "I would have done this or that differently" mode. Like the cell phone, for example. I wouldn't have let that thing out of my sight, at least until the police were called. I think these days people have forgotten their value during emergency situations or they would keep them fully charged at all times and glued to their person.

    It's just so sad that someone had to die in order to inspire such a chilling movie.

  9. Andrea;
    Life does inspire writing. I write horror and, for instance, I'm doing a short story right now about sleep paralysis using a situation I actually experienced. I'm also working on a werewolf novel and the setting is a place I've been to. It makes it mor real in the artist's eye to have something to refer to that is actually real. Luckily, also more stringent also exist because of such murderers like capital punishment--thank goodness! I agree with you, that movie really had me shaking my head--some people are like lambs to the slaughter, but then it wouldn't be a movie without the vulnerability.

  10. I'm a horror writer too and I understand that life inspires art. Its just something about capitalizing on a person's murder that seems a bit sleazy. I know it brings the case back in to the public eye and thus offers a chance to solve the crime but it still seems a bit sleazy.

  11. Andrea. True. There are elements of stories that definitely inspire. This murder case was changed quite a bit for the movie and it was total artistic license on how these killers tormented or killed the people. Now, a movie like "Amityville Horror" that recreates the mass murder of a family at the beginning of the movie and supposes a haunting because of it was pretty sleezy. I think there's a TV show that highlights real life murders for its episodes. Very nasty. It's a fine line and people always have to show a little class and creativity too. Murders are tricky thing to write about. I couldn't use a real life murder as the basis of a story because those were real people and real tragedies. I really believe in karma.

  12. Autumnforest, your advice is right on. Do whatever you have to do, fight to the death, to prevent being taken away from the scene by your attacker - because the only reason they want to get you away is so that they can do what they want to you without anyone seeing, and that is what you want to avoid at all costs -- nothing could be worse, not even being shot...and really, they most likely won't shoot you as you are running away, they will probably let you go and just go look for an easier target.

    I saw The Strangers last year, alone on a rainy night...BAD IDEA!! very frightening. Another good movie that is similar, if you don't mind subtitles, is a French/Belgium made film called "They". Google it, great film, fairly recent, also very creepy.

  13. Jennifer;
    Yup--I love "They" because it's so much like "The Strangers" and the setting is awesome. If you back further, there was a 70s/80s movie called "Alone in the Dark" with the theme of a family stuck in a house with mental patients tormenting them. I love this theme.

  14. wait...was it "They" or "Them"? I am not sure...but it WAS french and had subtitles, think it was filmed in Romania.

  15. Yeah, it was "Them." I love the scene in the woods the most-that just freaked me out, although down under ground it was pretty cool too and the attic in the house--darn, I just loved all the locations!

  16. omg, the underground part had me so claustrophobic, and then at the end when she was at the grate...what a movie. Definitely left you with a sick feeling when it was through.

    Also, if you have any questions, I experienced sleep paralysis from around 12 years old up until my mid thirties, though it was the worst during my teenage years and early 20's, sometimes weekly. My experience ran the whole gamut of the condition, the hallucinations, thinking someone was there, seeing things, hearing voices, that overwhelming feeling that something evil was there, etc. And the worst thing is, I didn't know what it was, didn't know anyone else who experienced it, even my doctor had no idea. I don't believe I ever even knew it had a name or was a real condition till about 10 years ago.

  17. Hey Jennifer;
    I suffer from sleep paralysis and night terrors, so I can totally relate. They're extremely rare now, about once a year or two. Usually the same scenario with a face right up against mine and I scream my head off and my heart pounds wildly and I break through and finally am able to sit up and thrash around. Any times people have ghosts in their bedroom during sleep time, I have to wonder because I've really had some amazing occurrences in there and I know what the mind can do in a semi asleep state.


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