On May 31, 2014, two 12-year-old girls from Wisconsin lured their friend to a wooded area and stabbed her 19 times. They did it all to impress Slender Man, a faceless bogeyman whose mythology has proliferated on the Internet. The victim survived and is recovering, and the pair are being tried as adults. A second Slender Man-inspired attack occurred on June 5, when a 13-year-old girl from Ohio swung a knife at her mother while wearing a white mask.
'The Dark Knight Rises'
Aurora, Colo., was a little-known Denver exurb until July 20, 2012, when James Holmes tossed smoke bombs into a darkened movie theater and opened fire on the crowd at an opening-night screening of The Dark Knight Rises. His hair dyed red, Holmes declared, “I am the Joker” upon arrest. He took 12 lives and injured 70.
The popular Showtime drama Dexter went from TV screen to real life for Anthony Conley. In 2009, Conley was sentenced to life in prison after strangling his brother with his bare hands, saying he "identified" with the character, who is a forensics expert by day and serial killer by night.
'Grand Theft Auto'
Sometimes, video games become more than a virtual reality. In March 2014, 14-year-old Eldon Samuel III was charged with two counts of first-degree murder after being accused of killing his father and younger brother. Samuel told police about his deep admiration for Trevor Philips, a character from the Grand Theft Auto series.
In 2012, Jake Evans personified the horror film Halloween when he killed both his mother and sister. Evans later said he was fascinated by the screen killer Michael Myers because he was able to kill easily and feel little remorse.
The Beatles’ White Album was more than just a record for Charles Manson, the notorious cult leader who in 1969 ordered his followers to undertake a mass killing spree around Los Angeles. "Helter Skelter," a song referring to a carnival slide, had a deeper meaning for Manson: It suggested to him that a race war between whites and black would soon erupt, and he hoped the murders would help to precipitate it. Nine were killed, including starlet Sharon Tate and her unborn child.
'Natural Born Killers'
On March 5, 1995, after watchingNatural Born Killersand taking LSD,Sarah Edmondson andBenjamin James Darrasspent the following days shooting two people, killing one and injuring the other. Darras received life in prison and Edmondson received 30 years, but she’s now out on parole. The 1994 Oliver Stone film has inspired multiple crimes, including the 1999 Columbine High School shooting: Shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were confirmed fans of the movie.
1996's smash-hit slasher film Scream took quite the serious turn in 2001 when 24-year-old Thierry Jaradin stabbed his teenage neighbor 30 times. Jaradin dressed up as the Scream killer, donning everything from the Edvard Munch-inspired white skeleton mask to the black robe. He’s now serving life in prison.
Scarily, there’s been more than one TheMatrix-inspired madman. The most famous is Lee Boyd Malvo. Malvo, better known as the younger of the two Beltway Snipers, was fascinated with the sci-fi classic's blurred realities and mind control. "The outside force has arrived, free yourself of the Matrix 'control,' " Malvo wrote on a drawing used as evidence during his trial.
While 2008's Twilight made most teens fall in love with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, a 10-year-old boy from Des Moines, Iowa, fell in love with the idea of vampires instead. After seeing the movie, he bit 11 classmates in one month. He was referred to juvenile corrections.