From the “vampire killer” to the “Nut Cases,” some people not only get the wrong ideas from fictional works, they then bring those ideas to life.
Fiction offers its consumers a vehicle to other worlds — but what happens when people wish to bring elements from these worlds into the real world? The result is often harmless. Occasionally, however, individuals may commit a crime and cite a work of fiction as a motivating force behind their actions — think of the Slenderman murders, for example.
In the grand scheme of things, the number of crimes proven to be directly influenced by books, movies, or TV is quite low. However, some criminals seeking notoriety recognize the public hunger for these sorts of narratives, and use it to their advantage.
These five criminals imitated fiction — or were inspired by it — to a disturbing degree.
In 2008, Mark Twitchell was an aspiring Canadian filmmaker obsessed with Star Wars and the hit TV show, Dexter. That year, Twitchell would write and direct a horror film about dating websites — and kill a man named John Altinger, whom he met on a dating website.
Twitchell encountered Altinger, a 38-year-old oilfield equipment manufacturer, on a dating website, where he posed as a woman. Before meeting Twitchell, Altinger forwarded his co-workers an e-mail that included the location of his date — just in case.
This information proved handy, as Altinger never returned.
The address Altinger had forwarded his colleagues led police to an Edmonton, Alberta garage owned by Twitchell. They found no physical evidence of Altinger’s presence, but they did discover a laptop in Twitchell’s car. Upon searching it, police recovered a document titled “SK Confessions.” The SK, in this case, stood for serial killer.
The document describes one individual’s foray into serial killing, and the details of one particular murder. It recounts how the killer used a lead pipe to strike a blow to a man’s head and then stabbed him with a hunting knife. It then describes how the killer dismembered the victim’ body — just as the protagonist of Dexter had — and his several attempts to dispose of it.
Though police never recovered Altinger’s body, Twitchell admitted to killing Altinger, writing the document, and following its plot when he carried out Altinger’s murder.
Twitchell defended his actions by saying that he killed in self-defense and used the event to liven up his “screenplay.” The jury didn’t buy it and in 2011 charged Twitchell with first-degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison.
The penitentiary didn’t spell an end to Twitchell’s Dexter obsession, however. Twitchell reportedly purchased a TV for his cell in 2013 and says he has now seen all the episodes he missed.
Twitchell has also returned to the dating world, having created a profile on inmate dating site, Canadian Inmate Connect. On it, he states, “I’m insightful, passionate and philosophical with a great sense of humor…”
In his written confession, 17-year-old Evans noted that he had watched the movie — which depicts a young Michael Myers killing his sister and others — several times that week. He “was amazed at how at ease the boy was during the murders,” and began plotting on the morning of October 3rd.
Evans’ initial plan was to use a knife to kill his mother and 15-year-old sister, and then go to his grandparents’ house to murder them and his older sister. Evans’ third sister would die the next day, he wrote, as she’d be back visiting from college.
Upon further thought, Evans decided to steal a handgun from his grandfather. According to his statement, he “then spent probably over and [sic] hour walking nervously around the house thinking how life will never be the same and how I would never see them again.”
In the statement, Evans writes that a fear that “[his] own family were becoming the people I hate” drove him to commit the murders. Thus, he shot his sister as she exited her room, and shot his mother who was in the den. Upon hearing noises from his sister, Evans realized she wasn’t dead. He went back and shot her again, after telling her that he was sorry.
In emotional shock, Evans called 911 after killing two members of his family. “It just kind of happened,” Evans told the operator. “I’ve been kind of, uh, planning on killing for a while now…I guess this is really selfish to say but, to me, I felt like they were just suffocating me in a way…Obviously, I am pretty, I guess, evil.”
Evans — who said that what he did would “haunt [him] forever” — pleaded guilty on two counts of murder. In 2015, the Star Telegram reported that Evans was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
In an attempt to explain his brutal 2003 murder of Thomas McKendrick, Allan Menzies stated that the vampire Akasha from Queen of the Damned had ordered him to do it.
Then 22-year-old Menzies, a citizen of Scotland, stated that he had watched the film over 100 times. When his friend Thomas McKendrick, 21, insulted Akasha, Menzies snapped. He proceeded to repeatedly bludgeon McKendrick in the head and face with a hammer before stabbing him.
Menzies admitted to police that he drank some of McKendrick’s blood, and “ate a bit of his head.” He buried his friend in a shallow grave on Fauldhouse moor.
Menzies pleaded guilty to culpable homicide, but denied the murder charge. Nevertheless, a jury unanimously found Menzies — whom at age 14 had been sentenced to three years for stabbing a student — guilty, and sentenced him to a minimum of 18 years in prison.
Not even the prospect of prison seemed to deter Menzies of his ultimate goal of becoming a vampire, however. Throughout the arrest, trial, and sentencing, Menzies sent letters to his home, wherein he provided the Queen of the Damned character with updates on his life.
One reads, “Dear Akasha, Everything is going as planned. I will kill for you again soon. These humans are nothing but animals, fodder for us.” Menzies signed the letters “VAMP,” in what appeared to be blood.
The so-named “vampire killer” did not live to serve out his sentence. Menzies committed suicide in his cell about a year after the murder.
In late 2002, a group of self-described “Nut Cases” took the video game Grand Theft Auto III to a whole new level – reality. Getting high and playing the game during the day, the six-person group (five young men and one woman) acted out violent scenarios from the game at night.
Roaming the streets of Oakland, California, the Nut Cases would choose their victims seemingly at random — which tipped police off that this string of crimes differed from those that normally took place in Oakland and often involved illicit drugs.
Gunfire from the gang sprayed onto the streets and into homes. Altogether, the gang was responsible for five murders, nine robberies, and more than 100 muggings in their months-long shooting spree.
A witness brought the crimes to a halt by reporting the partial license plate number of a Buick seen at one of the robberies. The car belonged to a young woman named Aminah Shanta Dorsey-Colbert, whose record didn’t show any serious criminal activity. But things came together when police went through all reports involving the vehicle — and found other adolescents at the wheel.
The Nut Cases included Leon Wiley, 25; Joe Ralls, 26; Demarcus Ralls, 18; Jhomari Sutton, 20; and Deonte Donald, 17. The registered owner of the car, Dorsey-Colbert, was the lone woman in the group. She had masterminded one of the murders — that of a former lover, Joseph Mabry.
None of the Nut Cases denied that Grand Theft Auto III inspired their crimes. “We played the game by day and lived the game by night,” one of the perpetrators was quoted as saying to the police.
Juries sentenced three of the criminals to life in prison without parole. Gang members who didn’t commit felonies took plea deals for lesser terms. When families mentioned Leon Wiley’s victims in court, the ringleader chuckled. Upon hearing his life sentence, Wiley said, “I don’t give a f—.”
On July 20, 2012, one film held the midnight slot at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado: The Dark Knight Rises. The man who opened fire on the movie-going crowd, James Holmes, killed 12 people and injured 70 more that night. It marked the deadliest mass shooting in Colorado since the Columbine school shooting in 1999.
Holmes obsessed over the Batman franchise, and did not keep it a secret from others — even under police questioning. In talks with area police, Holmes claimed he was “the Joker” when asked to identify himself. His apartment was filled with Batman paraphernalia, including a mask of the superhero.
Upon his arrest, Holmes informed authorities that his apartment was booby-trapped with explosives — which included 30 handmade grenades and 10 gallons of gasoline. Thankfully, a bomb squad defused the threat.
Several weeks prior to the theater shooting, Holmes watched a trailer for The Suffocator of Sins, a Batman spoof. He contacted its creator, Dave Aragon, to learn about the motivation behind some of the violent scenes.
“He said he watched it a hundred times…he wanted to know if it was selected killing. Does he make a list of people he wanted to kill or is there just a mass body count throughout the whole movie?” Aragon said.
In addition, less than a month before the attack, Holmes left a disturbing voicemail for the owner of a gun club. Glenn Rotkovich reports Holmes’ voice during the call was “freaky,” “guttural,” and “incoherent and rambling”. “In hindsight,” Rotkovich told Fox News, “I would have gotten the Joker out of it”.
Though Holmes pleaded not guilty due to insanity, in 2015 a jury found him guilty of 24 counts of murder and 140 counts of attempted murder, and sentenced him to serve 12 consecutive life sentences. The booby-trapped bombs in his apartment add on another 3,318 years for the attempted murders of everyone in his building.