Movie “Scream” was based on actual evens, here the original story

June 08, 2024
  • The movie Scream was inspired by real-life serial killer Daniel Rolling’s horrific murder spree in 1990.
  • Daniel Rolling’s crimes were brutal, targeting college students and leaving a community in a state of shock.
  • Rolling’s capture and conviction shed light on his disturbing past and ultimately led to his execution in 2006.

Scream is widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made. With Neve Campbell in the lead role, the movie also set the foundation for a massively successful horror franchise. Written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes CravenScream single-handedly reinvented the once dead slasher genre for a new generation. While most might hold the 1996 film in high regard as an all-time great, it’s not usually seen as one of the scariest movies ever made. Ghostface is indeed frightening, but the tone isn’t as dark as say, The Texas Chain Saw MassacreScream aims to be fun. You get anxious, you jump, but then you laugh. There’s no fun to be found in its backstory though, as Williamson was inspired to pen his most famous creation after watching a show about one of America’s most heinous serial killers.

He may not be as notorious as Jeffrey DahmerJohn Wayne Gacy, or Ted Bundy, but Daniel Rolling – known as The Gainesville Ripper – was just as disturbed. In August 1990, he went on a four-day murder spree that would lead to the death of five Florida college students. Four years later, an aspiring screenwriter was watching an ABC show called Turning Point about The Gainesville Ripper’s crimes that left him so shook that it inspired him to write a screenplay that would later become Scream. Though The Gainesville Ripper wasn’t a teenager, nor did he prank call his victims or wear a mask, he planted the seeds of fear in Williamson’s mind, creating a feeling inside him that he wanted to recreate on the page.

The Gainesville Ripper’s Murder Spree Was Inspiration for ‘Scream’

Daniel Rolling is shown being sworn in at a court date
Image via

Daniel Rolling’s rampage started on Friday, August 24, 1990, when he broke into a Florida apartment in the middle of the night where two young college students slept. He found one, Christina Powell, on the living room couch, asleep. He watched her but he did not strike. Instead, he moved upstairs and found Sonja Larson asleep in her bed. He woke her, taped her mouth shut so that Christina would not hear, then stabbed her to death. He then moved back downstairs, sexually assaulted Powell, and killed her as well. He posed their bodies for the police to find, and if that wasn’t sick enough, he took a shower in their bathroom before he left.

The next night, he struck again, this time entering the home of Christa Hoyt. What made this part of the case even more creepy was that Christa wasn’t home, so Rolling patiently waited in her apartment alone for her to come back in the morning. When she arrived, he bound and assaulted her, before stabbing her to death. He posed her body too, but this time took it an extra gruesome step by cutting off her head.

After the weekend of horror, citizens were left in a state of shock. The crimes reminded many of Ted Bundy, who had killed several Florida college students in 1978. Rolling, sadly, was not done. Just two days later, on Monday, he broke into another apartment. He first made his way to the bedroom of Manny Taboda, where he murdered him. This would be the first time in the spree that he had attacked a man. His roommate, a woman named Tracy Paules, was in another room. When she heard Taboda trying to fight back against Rolling, she went to the bedroom, where she too was attacked. She was briefly able to get away to her bedroom and lock it, but Rolling broke through and stabbed her to death. Just as with his other female victims, Rolling posed Paules, but he did nothing with Taboda, which showed that he must have intended for all of his victims to be female, and he wasn’t expecting Taboda.

Daniel Rolling Had Killed Before He Arrived in Florida

Daniel Rolling, known as the Gainesville Ripper, at a court appearance.
Image via A&E

After this, Rolling stopped and went inactive for months. He could have stayed that way for the rest of his life or waited to strike again at some point, but his past would lead to his downfall. It turned out that the five Florida college students were not his first victims. He had killed the year before, in 1989. Not even six months earlier, on November 4, 1989, he murdered a family of three in Shreveport, Louisiana. He had broken into their home and killed a grandfather named Tom Grissom, his adult daughter Julie, and her 8-year-old son Sean. As with Taboda and Paules, he left the male bodies untouched, but he posed Julie Grissom for whoever would find her. Investigators noticed several similarities between the two murder sprees and believed it to be the same person responsible for both. While that helped, it didn’t tell them who that person was. The only thing they had to go on was the killer’s blood at the Shreveport scene, which told them that he had Type B blood.

The clues stopped there, but then Rolling made the all too common mistake that many killers have made. He couldn’t shut up. While in Shreveport, a Christian couple, Cindy Juracich and Steve Dobbin, befriended Rolling at their church. They even invited him to their home several times, but quickly discovered that he had a troubled mind they needed to get away from. In an ABC News interview in 2021, Juracich recounted her friendship with Rolling. “He’d come over every night for a while, and then one night, Steven came in, and he goes, ‘He’s got to go.'” Rolling had told Dobbin that he had a problem, and when Dobbin asked what he meant, Rolling told him that he “likes to stick knives into people.”

The Shreveport murders had already happened by this time, but Juracich dismissed his comments. When the news went out nationwide, however, that investigators suspected both crimes to be the act of the same man, the Florida location made her remember something else about Rolling that she couldn’t let go of. “He always told us … ‘ One day, I’m going to leave this town and I’m going to go where the girls are beautiful, and I can just lay in the sun and watch beautiful women all day,’” Juracich said. She called Crime Stoppers and told them, “‘I think there’s one guy y’all need to investigate — Danny Rolling.’”

Her call came just in time, because not only would this affect others from becoming potential victims, but it also may have saved the life of a Florida man named Edward Lewis Humphrey. He had been arrested for beating his grandmother, and was now being looked at as suspect number one in the Gainesville murders. Though he would later be cleared, some still think he was Rolling’s accomplice.

Was ‘Scream’s Inspiration Finally Captured?

Ghostface holding a knife in Scream
Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott on the phone in Scream
Skeet Ulrich as Billy Loomis' Ghost in Scream 5

Investigators didn’t have to do much to find Rolling, as he was sitting in a jail in Ocala, Florida, where he’d been since robbing a grocery store months earlier, just a week and a half after the last murders. Everyone now knew why the killings had stopped. It turned out a bank had been robbed on the same day as another murder, too. With this connection, investigators looked over evidence, including tape and tools, from the robbery, and discovered that they matched what had been used in the killings. Not only that, but Rolling had Type B blood, and in another sloppy, confessional move had talked about his crimes in a diary they found.

Rolling was arrested and put on trial. It was discovered that Rolling had suffered severe and constant abuse from his father, which may have helped explain a little bit where his madness came from, but it would not save him. Daniel Rolling was found guilty of his crimes and sentenced to death. On October 25, 2006, he was executed. In 1994, as the trial for Rolling was underway, ABC aired their show about it. Kevin Williamson was watching. While the screenplay he wrote was not about The Gainesville Ripper, it was about the fear he felt that night. Williamson then passed that fear down to all of us. We’ve been living with it ever since.

Credit: Collider

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