Unspeakable Times

The Unsolved Keddie Cabin Murders Are The Grisly Inspiration For 'The Strangers' 

Laura Allan
Updated September 26, 2019 703.7k views 14 items

In 1981, a mother, two of her children, and a teen friend were strangled in the Sharp family home. The Keddie Cabin murders occurred in a remote, woodsy town in northern California. Many real life crimes have served as inspiration for movies, but few are as brutal and inexplicable as the one that inspired the 2008 film, The Strangers. The Plumas County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t know who committed the crimes or why, and the two main suspects in the case have since passed.

In 2013, the new county sheriff took a fresh look at the case. Cabin 28, where the killings took place, has since been torn down, but an old letter, a mysterious 911 call, and a found hammer keep the hope for justice alive in this highly publicized unsolved quadruple homicide

Sue Sharp Had Just Moved To Keddie, California, With Her 5 Children
Sue Sharp Had Just Moved... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Unsolved Keddie Cabin Murders Are The Grisly Inspiration For 'The Strangers'
Photo:  Courtesy Photo - Plumas County Sheriff's Office/via Plumas News/Fair Use

In late 1980, 36-year-old Sue Sharp moved with her five children - Johnny, 15; Shelia, 14; Tina, 12; Rick, 10; and Greg, 5 - to a 3-bedroom resort cabin in Keddie, California. Sue, a recent divorcée, was beginning to date again. The family was getting to know the neighbors and make friends in the rural Sierra Nevada community

Even though they were scraping by on a small income, everything seemed to be going well for Sue and her children.

The Sharp Children Had Friends Over That Night, But Only One Lived

On April 11, 1981, the two youngest boys of the Sharp family, Greg and Rick, invited their neighborhood friend Justin Smartt, 12, over for a sleepover. Johnny, the eldest, had his friend, 17-year-old Dana Wingate, over as well. The youngest girl, Tina, had just come home from a playdate with friends.

Sheila spent the night at a sleepover with the Seabolts, the neighbors who lived next door in Cabin 27, and was not present when the unknown assailants entered her family’s cabin.

The Events Inspired A Horror Movie
The Events Inspired A Ho... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Unsolved Keddie Cabin Murders Are The Grisly Inspiration For 'The Strangers'
Photo:  The Strangers (2008) - Focus Features/via Amazon/Fair Use

What transpired at the Keddie cabin was so shocking it inspired the well-known 2008 horror film, The Strangers. In the movie, three unknown masked assailants attack a couple - played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman - in the family’s cabin. 

When asked about the movie, creator Bryan Bertino said that he found inspiration in childhood experiences involving strangers who knocked on his door. He also mentioned the Keddie Cabin murders and how the unsolved case was particularly brutal and haunting. 

The Family's Surviving Daughter Found The Three Bodies

When 14-year-old Sheila Sharp came home from a sleepover on the morning of April 12th, she saw the scene from the front door: Sue, Johnny, and Dana were lying on the living room floor, dead. Shelia then raced back to her friend's cabin next door - where she spent the previous night - to find help. 

The Seabolts went to the back of the cabin where the boys were sleeping. Greg, Rick, and Justin were unharmed, and the neighbors notified the police. Inside Cabin 28, blood covered the carpet and couch. The bodies had multiple wounds, and investigators determined the victims suffered blunt force trauma. 

Sue was partially covered with a sheet, and the rest of the room was in a state of disarray, with cushions pulled from the couch and side tables knocked to the ground. There was no sign of Sue's daughter, Tina.