Films and TV shows are considered to be a great pastime and a way to relax after a long day of work or stressful labor. However, since movies and TV inspire a lot of real-life events culturally, it is really essential to regulate what and how something is portrayed. Some movies and TV shows can be really gruesome and strangely enough, a lot of criminals are inspired by these media productions and end up committing heinous crimes in the name of being inspired by TV and movies. Termed the “Copycat Effect,” in recent times there has been a significant increase in copycat crimes inspired by scenes in movies and TV shows. Here are 10 real-life crimes inspired by films and TV shows.
1. Fuzz and the Boston burning
The movie Fuzz (1972) is a movie with a plot that follows cops searching for a bunch of Boston teenagers who light homeless people on fire, causing their death. On 3 October 1973, six teenagers in Boston forcibly burnt a 24-year-old woman named Evelyn Wagler using gasoline, very similar to the scene in the movie.
In the movie Fuzz, there exists a scene where a bunch of teenagers burn random people they consider “bums” or “hobos” with gasoline, and the plot eventually requires the protagonists played by Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch to catch these evil teenagers.
In the real-life incident which occurred on the evening of 3 October 1973, around six young Black teenagers forced 24-year-old Evelyn Wagler, who was White, to pour two gallons of gasoline on herself despite her continued protests, which they then lit.
Several authorities, including Commissioner Robert diGrazia who was in charge of the inspection, have cited this movie as the inspiration for the crime. This crime has also been said to be perpetrated due to racial hatred that was quite dominant in Boston at that time. (1, 2, 3)
2. Magnum Force and the Hi-Fi Murders
In the movie Magnum Force (1973), a prostitute is forced by a pimp to drink Drano, which is a corrosive drain cleaner. On the evening of 22 April 1974, several robbers entered a Hi-Fi shop in Ogden, Utah, and held the clerks and customers there hostage and made them drink Drano.
In the movie Magnum Force (1973), there is a scene where a woman, who is a prostitute, is killed by her pimp by forcibly making her drink Drano, a severely corrosive drain cleaner. It was found that the robbers involved in the Hi-Fi murders used the exact same method to torture the hostages they were holding captive inside the shop they were trying to rob.
They forced the hostages to drink the solution claiming that it was vodka laced with sleeping pills. Furthermore, they also severely hurt all the victims, eventually shooting two of them in the head. One of the robbers also brutally raped one of the hostages, and eventually shot her in the head, instantly killing her. She was just 18 years old. (1, 2, 3)
3. Breaking Bad and Jason Hart
Jason Hart, a 28-year-old man from Washington, strangled his girlfriend then attempted to dispose of her body using a weak acid in early June 2013. He got this idea from an episode in Breaking Bad where the character Jesse Pinkman similarly disposed of a body.
On the TV series Breaking Bad (2008-2013), one of the protagonists, Jesse Pinkman played by Aaron Paul, tries to dissolve a corpse by placing it in a bathtub which he later fills with strong acid. In this iconic scene, the acid dissolves the corpse in the bathtub and eventually breaks the ceiling of the lower story.
It has reportedly been found out that Jason Hart, who killed his 33-year-old girlfriend Regan Jolley the same way, had a DVD of that episode of Breaking Bad on his DVD player.
He is said to have strangled her to death and then tried to get rid of the corpse by following the same method that he saw on the TV show. The body was later found by Davis’ roommate, Dean Settle. (1, 2, 3)
4. The Town and the New York Burglars
A crew of alleged burglars arrested in New York claimed after they were caught that they learned tricks from the Ben Affleck film, The Town, to help carry out around 62 robberies in the area. They used several techniques inspired by the movie including pouring bleach on ATMs and wearing miners’ gear to see in the dark during the robberies.
The movie The Town (2010) is a classic heist movie starring Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner who both play the members of a gang of robbers. In the movie, for almost every heist, they make use of really innovative techniques to remain undetected or unidentified.
Similarly, in a real-life incident, a bunch of robbers plundered more than 62 places using a plethora of similar techniques, including dousing the entire scene with bleach, in an attempt to clear all DNA evidence.
5. Interview with a Vampire and Daniel Sterling
Daniel Sterling, 25, inspired by the movie Interview with a Vampire (1993), attacked his girlfriend, Lisa Stellwagen, who suffered seven stab wounds in the chest and back. Stellwagen, 23, said the couple saw Interview with a Vampire on 17 November 1994 and within two days, he stabbed her seven times and drank her blood.
Interview with a Vampire (1993) is a movie starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt and is about vampires. It consists of several scenes where the vampires drink the blood of other humans, pigeons, and sometimes dogs. In real life, a man named Daniel Sterling went with his girlfriend, Lisa Stellwagen, to watch this movie in a theatre on 17 November 1994.
Early morning the next day, he is said to have been creepily staring at her, and when asked about it, he threatened to stab her and drink her blood. She didn’t take this seriously, but eventually, he ended up stabbing her seven times in the chest and drinking her blood.