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Just a short while ago, I took a look back here at a very disturbing 2010 documentary called Cropsey about the real-life disappearances of five children in Staten Island and the urban legend it spawned. Now from Chiller TV, the director of Cropsey Joshua Zeman, is back with a new and equally unsettling documentary taking on four more classic urban legends and the real-life crimes that inspired them. Zeman and researcher Rachel Mills travel across the U.S. and dig deep to find the truth that inspired some of America’s most chilling campfire tales…and truth is always scarier then fiction.

Zeman and Mills first travel to Texarkana to investigate a series of brutal murders of teens at a popular make-out spot that occurred in 1946 and inspired not only the urban legend of the “Hookman” but the chilling horror classic The Town That Dreaded Sundown. We get another chilling investigation into a series of attacks and murders by a man dubbed “The Phantom”, a crime spree that was never solved and even more unsettling is how the town is still haunted by these horrific events decades later and it has provoked some equally disturbing customs from the residents.

Zeman and Mills then travel to Houston, Texas to investigate the murder of a little boy poisoned by tainted Halloween candy and quite possibly the case that started the popular fear-inducing Halloween urban legends of candy filled with glass, razor blades and poisons…of which there are actually no recorded incidents aside from this sad tale. We learn of the death of 8-year-old Timothy O’Bryan in 1974 and the intense police investigation which culminated in the arrest, conviction and eventual execution of the “Candyman”, the man who poisoned the Pixie Stick that lead to Timothy’s death and the start of these scary Halloween tales. Even more shocking was the man’s name was Ronald Clark O’Bryan…the boy’s own father. Proving the most frightening ghouls and goblins are the ones living in our very own backyards.

The duo next take us to Columbia, Missouri to tackle the popular urban legend of babysitters being stalked by unknown fiends with the heartbreaking rape and murder of young Janett Christman in 1950, who was sexually assaulted and strangled while babysitting for a local family. We are treated to an investigation that finds how the popular urban legend was fueled by the possibility that the same man may have committed a number of similar crimes and was never caught…though some unfortunate individuals were blamed for his heinous acts. Even more chilling is their research points to a man who was questioned, but never connected to the crimes…a man some of the victims knew as a neighbor and friend. This segment was particularly disturbing to think that someone got away with murdering these poor young women and actually might have lived among them in plain sight.

Our final segment is sure to send goosebumps rippling up and down arms with a story touching on the fear of clowns and some really creepy clown cases and tales from the windy city of Chicago. For decades Chicago has suffered reports of clowns driving around in white vans trying to lure children inside and even more disturbing is that there are actually police reports and eye-witness accounts of this occurring…and the reports suggest there were more than one of these ‘clowns’ stalking the city. Thankfully, no children were abducted…that we know of. It’s a case that has never been solved. We also get an in-depth look into a city that was home to the world famous Bozo The Clown show and to perhaps the spookiest clown creep of them all…John Wayne Gacy, who was convicted of killing over 30 people. Where did the fear of clowns originate?…Chicago apparently!

All these stories are given some very thorough investigations by the documentary filmmaker and his researcher. We get some bone-chilling facts, shocking crime scene photos, interviews with those involved and visits to some of the actual locations which these real-life crimes and occurrences took place. It’s very informative and the information provided can really be unnerving as we find the true start to some popular urban legends and the movies they inspired. And Zeman and Mills take us on this journey of discovery, eagerly trying to get to the bottom of these cases from which some of our culture’s scariest bedtime stories have spawned. They dig deep and it’s not only fascinating, but also quite horrifying that, in most cases, the perpetrators were never caught, or worse still, the wrong person was charged or suspected of the crime. And what better way to start an urban legend than an unsolved real incident! Zeman and Mills are more then happy to give us some hauntingly all-too-real facts that will make one sleep with a light on, far more effectively than any movie or bedtime story. A very effective and disturbing documentary that chills and informs equally.

3 and 1/2 stars.

three and one half stars rating




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What better way to follow up yesterday’s review of last year’s fun paranormal documentary Real Fear: The Truth Behind The Movies but, with a review of the new installment Real Fear: The Truth Behind More Movies set to debut this Friday 9/6/13 on Chiller TV. (check your local listings!)

Katrina Weidman (Paranormal State, Real Fear #1) is back with returning crew members John McGarry and Chris Holt along with new Real Fear team members Becky Weingrad and veteran Ufologist Richard Dolan. Together they take us on investigations of the real stories behind The Haunting In Connecticut, Fire In The Sky, A Nightmare On Elm St. and The Blair Witch Project and this gives us a nice mix of angry spirits, abducting aliens, nightmare inducing entities and cryptozoological creatures. As a fan of horror flicks and paranormal shows, you had me at… well, all of it.

Second installment is a lot of fun and already has me hoping for a third. The team, especially the returning novice members, have some experience under their belts now and with investigator Weidman and grizzled veteran Dolan, they have matured into a fairly sturdy team of investigators. While we don’t quite have the fun of watching the newbies get spooked so easily like last time, it has all the more impact when they do get spooked as they are more experienced…and delightfully, they do get spooked quite a few times during the show. The gang travel to Connecticut to investigate that famous haunting and the film it inspired. They talk not only to mom Carmen Reed, portrayed in the flick by Virginia Madsen, but also TVs Haunted Collector John Zaffis, who was one of the original investigators on that infamous case and now owns some interesting relics from it in his haunted collection. We, as last time, get a run down of what allegedly actually happened compared to what was portrayed in the movie and the team even gets to spend the night at a nearby house where a local Paranormal team is dealing with an escalating haunting of their own.

Next they travel to Pennsylvania to look into the background of the creepy alien abduction flick Fire In The Sky. They interview Travis Walton, the man who was allegedly abducted and was the subject of the film, who tells his side of this bizarre occurrence as compared to what Hollywood presented. Things get a bit creepy when the group also investigates a death which may be related to Walton’s tale and spend some time at night in the woods where the film and real life incidents supposedly took place.

While the first two segments are a bit interview heavy, as those cases have no new developments, the next two segments are the real meat of this fun meal as the team goes into the field to investigate A Nightmare on Elm St. and The Blair Witch Project

To look at Wes Craven’s classic, the team goes to the abandoned Pennhurst Asylum in PA. where we are told patients suffered from recurring dreams and visitors, who now enter the closed facility, are also haunted by recurring nightmares as well. Craven’s film was supposedly based on a group of Asian immigrants who all suffered from the same dream, some of which who died in their sleep and in the style of A Nightmare On Elm St. part 3, the team decides to spend the night in the dread filled asylum. Add to that, veteran psychic Chip Coffey…who is a hoot here as always…and you get a delightfully goose bump filled segment that would entertain Mr. Krueger himself.

The show wraps up with my favorite segment…as it takes place in the Pine Barrens, N.J. how could it not be…with an investigation of The Blair Witch Project and the similar tale of accused witch Mrs. Leeds and her infamous 13th child. While the Blair Witch itself is not based on the Jersey Devil lore, it is similar to The Last Broadcast a found footage flick made a year earlier that was. There is no proof that Blair Witch is inspired by Last Broadcast, but the similarities in the films and the Jersey Devil legend sends the team to the infamous stomping ground of my home state’s most famous resident aside from Sinatra and Bon Jovi. They gather witness testimony and then decide to camp out there for the night and it’s a most eventful and spooky night indeed.

Sure the novelty of the first special has worn off somewhat and it has a bit less of the fun ‘Scooby Doo‘ vibe as the team has matured into their roles a bit more and with the addition of older, veteran investigator Dolan, but we do get more intensive investigations to entertain the paranormal fan and a lot more analysis of the films in question, which intrigues the movie fan. Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, it’s fun to watch the team connect the paranormal dots between the reported incidents and the movies they inspired. Personally, I think the best segments are the ones that get the team out in the field and staying in spooky spots. I really enjoyed all the history, interviews and analysis, but the show really comes alive when the team puts themselves in a position to meet the unknown…and sometimes the unknown wants to meet them. That’s where the real fun in Real Fear is and hopefully future installments get them into haunted spots even more. I had a really good time with this new chapter and hope Katrina and the gang go to the movies again real soon!

Real Fear: The Truth Behind More Movies premiers Friday 9/6/13 on the Chiller Network. Check your local listings for times.

3 and 1/2 spooks !

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