We already knew the macabre story of the Cecil Hotel in California, which inspired one of the seasons of the horror series “American Horror Story”. But did you know that the cult “Scream” saga also drew its inspiration from a terrible true story? Kevin Williamson, the screenwriter of the first two and the fourth installment (1996, 1997 and 2011), indeed relied heavily on Danny Rolling to imagine the character of Ghostface and the plot of the feature films. Nicknamed by the media “the ripper of Gainesville”, the serial killer was rampant in the United States in the early 1990s.
Who is Danny Rolling, “The Ripper of Gainesville”, who inspired “Scream”?
Danny Rolling was born in 1954, in Shreveport, Louisiana. Tormented and mistreated by his father throughout his childhood, he became known to the police at a very young age for burglaries and acts of voyeurism. But on November 4, 1989, the then 35-year-old man committed his first murders in his hometown. That evening, he enters a house and stabs its three occupants: William Thomas (55), Julie (24) and Sean (8). The body of the young woman, who was also raped, is found in a strange staging.
In May 1990, after a failed murder attempt on his father, Danny Rolling packed up and moved to Florida, to Gainesville. At the end of the summer, the man is guilty of a series of bloody murders. Between August 24 and 27, he kills five students including four women: Sonja Larson (18), Chritina Powell (17), Christa Hoyt (18), Manuel Taboada (23) and Tracy Paules (23) . Each time, his modus operandi is clear: the killer breaks into homes, taps the mouths of his victims, ties their wrists, rapes the women and stabs them in the back. He washes certain inanimate bodies and arranges them in infamous scenes. These appalling murders, highly publicized at the time, earned him the nickname “The Ripper of Gainesville”. A wind of panic blows over the city of Florida and the police cannot find the culprit.
On September 7, 1990, Danny Rolling was arrested by the police in Ocala for burglary. The latter then found at his home – a makeshift hut near the campus – tools that could correspond to the weapons of the crimes as well as voice recordings confessing the murders. To his exhibits is added an important testimony. That of a certain Cindy Juracich, originally from Shreveport, who makes the link between the crimes that occurred in November 1989 in Louisiana and those recently committed in Florida.
Danny Rolling ends up confessing to the triple murder of Shreveport as well as the five assassinations of Gainesville. Sentenced in 1994 to the death penalty, the one who, according to « The Sun », wanted to become a “superstar in the image of American serial killer Ted Bundy”, was executed in 2006.
The birth of an inescapable saga
In the mid-1990s, one evening, screenwriter Kevin Williamson sat down in front of his television set and came across a documentary dedicated to Danny Rolling. “I was watching this Barbara Walters special on the Gainesville murders and I was so scared,” the screenwriter told « CNN » in 1998. “During the commercial, I heard a noise. I had to search the house. I went into the living room and a window was open. I had been in this house for two days. I hadn’t noticed the open window. So I was very scared. I went into the kitchen to get a butcher’s knife, took my cell phone and called a friend of mine, ”he explains. After this fright, Kevin Williamson finally goes to bed. “I was having nightmares and woke up around three or four in the morning, and started writing the opening scene for ‘Scream’. A cult saga was born.