10 Real People Who Survived Horror Movie Situations

Everyone enjoys a good horror movie, but what happens when the nightmares leap off screen and come to life? These people are all survivors of real-life horrors that make anything that happened in A Nightmare on Elm Street look like small potatoes. From stalkers and serial killers, to ghastly medical traumas and crimes of (lost) passion, these horror survivors have seen it all and lived to tell about it. Who knows – maybe the "based on a true story" version of their haunting tales will hit the theaters someday soon. 

The survivors of real-life horror proved that they have what the protagonists of horror movies do not: common sense and resilience in the face of extreme terror. Rather than accept their fate and submit to whatever gruesome foe is pursuing them, these fighters decided that they wanted to live another day – and often took their opponents (real and metaphorical) down with them. Think trickery, quick wits, gut instincts and just plain old optimism in the face of trauma; sometimes that's all anyone needs to outdo even the greatest horror villains. For these seven people who survived such horrible terrors in their real lives, they could easily hold their own in the scariest of horror movies. Way to make the rest of us look like wimps, guys. 

Photo: Paulo Valdivieso / Flickr / CC-BY-SA 2.0

  • Escaping Jeffrey Dahmer's Nightmare Apartment

    The Horror

    Jeffrey Dahmer is one of the most notorious serial killers of all time, killing and dismembering 17 young men between 1978 and 1991.He turned a quiet Milwaukee apartment into a horror show, luring victims inside and ultimately using them for everything from medical experimentation to necrophilia and cannibalism. So he probably didn't have anything especially pleasant in mind when he invited Tracy Edwards over to drink beer and watch The Exorcist III.

    When Edwards arrived, he discovered Dahmer's friendliness was a veneer, and soon the killer was brandishing a butcher knife and telling Edwards he would eat his heart.

    How He Escaped

    Dahmer insisted Edwards lie on the floor as he wielded the knife. As the film played out television, Dahmer grew increasingly manic, swinging between apoplectic excitement and inconsolable self-pity. Edwards attempted to calm him down, allowing Dahmer to put handcuffs on just one of his wrists. Having distracted the killer, Edwards struck Dahmer and fled, flagging down a police car and leading authorities to the apartment, where they discovered body parts including four human heads in the fridge. 

  • Worst Fiancé Ever Buries Woman Alive

    The Horror 

    Michelina Lewandowska did not have the most loving relationship with her fiancé, Marcin Kasprzak, but she was probably anticipating a nasty public breakup or a confession of cheating when their relationship finally ran its course. Instead, when Kasprzak "grew tired of her," he and an accomplice attacked her with a stun gun, bound her hands and legs, and tried to think of how to get rid of the mother of his 3-year-old son, no less.

    His gruesome idea was to dump Michelina into a cardboard box, drive her out into the wilderness, and bury her alive under a few inches of dirt and a 90-pound tree branch so she would suffocate.

    How She Survived

    In an interview she gave after the ordeal, Michelina recalled waking up in her shallow grave with thoughts of her child. She decided that she needed to survive in order to protect him from the man who did this to her. Thinking quickly, she was able to cut through her bonds with her engagement ring and claw her way out of the grave, where she had been for over two hours already. Though she escaped with her life, the psychological and physical effects haunted her for weeks; she suffered from insomnia and paranoia, and had difficulty breathing and walking. Both her attackers were sentenced to 20 years in prison. 

  • The Only Surviving Victim

    The Horror 

    Holly Dunn and her boyfriend, Chris Maier, were having a casual night out when they crossed paths with the wrong stranger. While on their way home from a friend's party, the couple was approached by a mysterious man at a train station asking for money. Little did they know that he was Angel Resendiz, a famed serial killer who had already murdered six and would ultimately claim the lives of many more.

    After showing them an ice pick, Resendiz tied the couple up and ushered them into a nearby ditch. He then bludgeoned Maier to death with a 50-pound rock. Not satisfied with the one kill, Resendiz proceeded to brutally rape Holly, stab her in the neck with the ice pick, and beat her savagely with a wood plank until she passed out.

    How She Survived

    When Holly woke up, she discovered that Resendiz was gone - he mistook Holly's unconsciousness for death, giving her the chance to escape. She was able to drag herself to a nearby house and call for help for her various injuries, including a broken jaw and shattered eye socket. Nearly 10 years later, Holly testified in court against "The Railway Killer" (he used the train system to move between states and find new victims) in the trial that gave him the death sentence; she was the only one of his 15 victims to ever get away.  

  • Eluding a Highway Murderer Down Under

    The Horror

    British tourists Joanne Lees and Peter Falconio were driving a van through the Australian Outback at night when another motorist signaled for them to pull over. On the roadside, the man informed them that their van's exhaust pipe was emitting sparks. When Falconio got out to investigate, the motorist, Bradley John Murdoch, shot him on the roadside.

    Intending to take Lees as his sexual prize, Murdoch attacked her then bound her hands with cable ties.

    How She Survived

    Murdoch, high on amphetamines, hauled Lees out of the van, where she fell face down on the asphalt. Despite a blow to the head that left her momentarily dazed, Lees was aware enough to leap at a brief opportunity in which Murdoch was distracted as he moved Falconio's body. She fled into nearby bushes, emerging from her hiding place over five hours later to flag down a passing car for help. Murdoch was convicted of the murder, but he has never revealed the whereabouts of Falconio's body.

  • Woman Goes on Vacation and Gets Flesh-Eating Bacteria as a Souvenir

    The Horror 

    Aimee Copeland was having a blast on vacation in her home state of Georgia when she decided to give ziplining a try. The outdoor enthusiast wasn't worried about anything going wrong - she had always been up for an adventure and never shied away from the chance to try something new.

    But when Aimee ziplined, the wire snapped and caused the graduate student to plummet into the murky water below, where she contracted necrotizing fasciitis in an open wound.

    How She Survived

    After doctors determined that Copeland had contracted the flesh-eating bacteria, which is often fatal, they worked as fast as they could to stop the spread before it could hit her vital organs. Her hands and both legs were amputated in order to save her life; since the incident, she has been fitted with prosthetic legs and bionic hands that allow her to live a bit more normally. While anyone else would probably curl up in a ball and never go outside again, Copeland gained national attention during her ordeal not only for beating the bacteria, but for her overwhelming positivity in the face of terror. 

  • Red Riding Hood Outsmarts a Big Bad Wolf

    The Horror

    Elizabeth Shoaf was on her way home from school when a man claiming to be a police officer declared she was under arrest, handcuffing the 14-year-old and taking her to his home deep in the South Carolina woods. The kidnapper, an unemployed construction worked named Vinson Filyaw, chained her in a booby-trapped bunker beneath his isolated trailer, regularly assaulting her over the course of ten days.

    Her parents reported her missing, but the police treated it as a case of a teenage runaway.

    How She Escaped

    Knowing that no one would be able to find her, Shoaf spent several days deliberately building up her captor's trust. Eventually, Filyaw allowed her to use his phone to play games. Naturally, she used it to text her parents and friends. Before long, the authorities used the phone's signal to find her approximate location. Panicking, Filyaw asked his victim what to do, and Shoaf, fearing he might kill her, advised him to run. He did, and she carried herself out of the bunker on her own. Filyaw, meanwhile, was captured and eventually sentenced to 421 years in prison.