Jeepers Creepers
via Amino

Plenty of horror movies have been inspired by actual events over the years, from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Child’s Play. In fact, as we recently told you here on iHorror, even A Nightmare on Elm Street had real-life inspirations, despite the fact that a burnt-faced dream demon of course never truly existed.

You also might be surprised to learn that 2001’s Jeepers Creepers was similarly derived from true events, a fact that wasn’t in the least bit played up by writer/director Victor Salva. The movie is of course about a winged monster that plucks out human eyeballs, and though it may seem impossible that it was grounded in any sort of reality, it most definitely was.

Image result for Dennis DePue
via Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

It was in 1990 that Michigan resident Dennis DePue became the subject of a police manhunt, after murdering his wife and dumping her body behind an abandoned school house. Story goes that the murder was an act of vengeance, after his wife filed for divorce, with DePue shooting her in the back of the head.

In Jeepers Creepers, the monster dumps bodies behind an abandoned church, much the same way DePue disposed of his wife, but it wasn’t DePue that inspired the film so much as it was the testimony of two eyewitnesses who saw him dump the body.

While driving around on a long stretch of Michigan road, Ray and Marie Thornton spotted DePue doing his dirty deed, and then found themselves followed by the killer, who suspiciously tailed them in his van for several miles. Sound familiar? Because it certainly should, if you’ve seen Jeepers Creepers.

Now what’s most interesting about all of this is that the TV show “Unsolved Mysteries” ran a story on the DePue case in March of 1991, a full ten years before Jeepers Creepers was made. The segment featured a re-enactment of the Thornton’s story, which bears a striking resemblance to the first half of Salva’s film.

As you’ll soon see, the opening sequence of Jeepers Creepers was directly lifted from the episode, right down to specific shots and dialogue exchanges. Like the Thornton’s, the brother and sister in the film even pass the time by playing the very same license plate game, making the inspiration undeniable.

Image result for Dennis DePue
via WickedHorror

To see just how similar the episode and the film really are, check out the video below, which joins together clips from both.

Oddly enough, while Salva has credited Steven Spielberg’s Duel with serving as an inspiration for the film, he’s never once given any sort of credit to “Unsolved Mysteries,” leading me to believe that he hoped nobody would ever make the connection. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using a ripped from the headlines story as the basis for a film, though the direct lifting of the “Unsolved Mysteries” re-enactment of that story is suspect, to say the least.

Shortly after the 1990 episode aired, real-life ‘Creeper’ Dennis DePue was caught, and subsequently committed suicide. So no, he never went on to stalk a bus-full of shirtless dudes, in case you were wondering!

28 COMMENTS

  1. Victor Salva is a disgusting man….i wish that it was someone else directing JC3. I dont know or care if his jail time actually rehabilitated him, but what he did is still horrible.

  2. I remember back when JC1 came out, a few horror message boards brought this subject up. Completely undeniable. But I still adore JC and loathe Salva. Sigh.

  3. I always feel unsure wether i should be watching some of his movies or not out of protest, but i remind myself that sometimes even the evil can be genius and feel better when i have obtained the movie for free and not paid for it.

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  5. What did victor salva do? I’m watching jc1 as I write this comment. Movie is from 2001 and I still love it!!!!! Someone comment back

  6. Mrs. DePue worked in the office at Coldwater H.S when I went to school there, she was always so quiet but a nice lady.

  7. She was such a mild mannered and kind hearted woman. She worked with/at Shelterhouse after her separation from Dennis. He had been abusive for years. I suspect that was why she was so quiet. The pic above was from the church directory (First Presbyterian) and I’ll never forget seeing him (rarely) there or at the little league games. He had crazy eyes and scared me =| Glad he’s gone; albeit due to his cowardness of suicide when he got caught, but still sad and angry with him to this day that he took such a wonderful woman’s life. 🙁

  8. it is not completely identical, as this news thingy suggest, and lots of people play that silly road games, it could actually be coincidence, maybe not, but it’s not completely identical

  9. Last time I checked, Wes Craven was responsible for informing me that there were real life inspirations for “a nightmare on elm street”, which he did in Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy circa 2010.

  10. THERE ARE MANY STORIES BASED ON TRUTHFUL EVENT’S HILL HAVE EYES LET THE HILL RUN BLOODRED. HAMPTONS THOMPSONS CANNIBALS FAMILIES WOLF CREEK DEMON ON THE MOUNTAIN BOGGY CREEK DEMON IN THE WOODS.

  11. Because That’s What Everyone Does When A Psycho In A Van Stalks You.. Go Back To Look For The Bloody Sheet, LOL

  12. The fact that isn’t identical doesn’t mean anything since getting insipration usually doesn’t mean copying everything at 100%, it mean just that, getting inspiration from… and everyone prefers that inspiration will come as new as possible from one you’re getting it so you’ll be as most original as possible, it’s the main difference of taking an inspiration instead of copying something. The comparison shows clearly the similarity ind different things, it’s not all about the silly game, it would be a very very very strange coincidence if that was a possibility, but in this case the begining is almost copying if it wasn’t for the fact that in the film the killer was throwing bodies, not just the sheet and he was an unrealistic monster etc etc.

  13. I forgot how much that show traumatised me as a child lol. Made me lolthink the world has disappearing folk and murderers on every street corner.

  14. The music is what made me want to crawl up my mothers dress it was so creepy and i loved watching it plus his voice lol scaryy.

  15. I think I was generally very easily scared by music as a toddler. Even when my folks watched Dr Who, that 80 synth intro…*shudder*

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