• Tessa Barron

Horror Writing Prompts Inspired by Terrifying Real World Events

Updated: Sep 29

It's hard staying on top of your game in the scare industry. Sometimes we need a little help getting inspired, but fortunately for us, our world is more terrifying than anything you can conceive of in your worst nightmares.

For us horror writers, that is a good thing.

So today, I decided to change things up and describe a couple of crazy unsolved mysteries, followed by a writing prompt where you relate the horrible, dreadful, and terrifying tale of what you think really happened.

I started with a list of 10 stories for this post, but I got carried away with the word count and decided to cut it into a few parts. So these horror writing prompts will be cut into a series of two per post. So stay tuned for more of these in the future. And I would love to read what you come up with. Look below for details on where to send your pieces.

So if you are a horror writer looking for inspiration or just need a little dose of heebie-jeebies, here are some real-life horrors that remain a mystery.

These all actually happened...Maybe. I didn't go hard into research for this post, so assume some of this is me just propagating internet rumours. But to inspire the next awesome horror, it'll do.

The Missing Sodder Children.

At the end of the second world war, in Fayetteville, West Virginia, lived George Sodder. George, an immigrant from Italy and an outspoken critic of Mussolini, had nine children with his wife, Jennie. No, that's not the horror part of the story, though for some, nine kids might sound like a nightmare. But let's move on.

In the fall of 1945, a life insurance salesman came to the house, peddling his wares to George. George was uninterested in this man and refused him, but the salesman became enraged.

He began to yell, "Your goddam house is going up in smoke! Your children will be destroyed."

This is all according to some witness or another. A few days later, the older boys reported to their parents that they saw some creep watching their young siblings on their way home from school.

The night before Christmas, one of the older girls got up. She heard a loud noise on the roof, but apart from being a little curious, she went back to bed. Later that same night, the family woke to a fire. They got four children to safety, but five, who shared bedrooms upstairs, they could not get to.

George tried everything to save his remaining children. He went to get the ladder from his usual spot, but it was missing. Next, he tried to start both of his trucks in hopes that he could use them to climb up to his precious babies, but oddly neither would start.

Stranger still, the fire department took 7 hours to reach the house even though it was only a few miles from the station. It seems that everything that could go wrong that night did go wrong.

However, when authorities searched the ashes later, they found zero evidence of any burned remains. They told the family that the fire must have reached such temperatures that nothing was left of them.

Now, some people might tell you that this is unlikely. However, house fires can reach temperatures of 1100-1500 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than a crematorium furnace and more than sufficient to completely incinerate even bone. However, houses do not burn evenly, and unless the heart of the fire was in the upstairs right where the children were asleep, chances are something would be left behind.

...The fun things you learn when fact-checking for manuscripts.

But there do remain some bizarre things about this case. Why wouldn't George's trucks start, and where was his ladder? Who was the man watching his children? Was it the angry salesman?

But there is more. A woman in the next town says she saw the children the day after the fire, having served them breakfast. And a hotel employee saw the children with two men and two women.

Years later, George sees a picture in the newspaper of a high school girl in New York and is convinced she is his daughter. But the family of the girl refuses to let him see her. (Could you blame them.)

There is much more to this case if you would like to look it up for yourself, but what do you think happened to these children.

Did they die? How and why? or were they taken?

Writing Prompt: Your child is presumed to have perished in a fire, but no remains are found. A stranger comes to you a few weeks later and tells you they served your child in a diner just a few days ago.

The Heel Bone is Connected to the Ankle Bone

This one is for my fellow British Columbia, Canada residents.

In 2007, a girl decided to take a stroll along the Vancouver beach when she came upon a ratty old sneaker. Being a curious sort, she picked it up (lord knows, I have never felt the need to pick up an old dirty shoe).

The shoe felt heavier than it should, and she saw a sock still inside. Perhaps thinking there would be drugs, money, or gold within, she reached into the sock. And what did she find?

A foot, of course! What else would be inside a sock inside a sneaker, silly?

This was just the beginning of what would become a common occurrence on Vancouver beaches. Old sneakers, housing feet. Just the feet. The police connected the feet to 5 men, 1 woman, and 3 of unidentified sex.

There are many theories about where these feet came from. One is that since all the shoes were made before 2004, the feet must be remains from the Asian Tsunami of that year. However, that still begs the question of what it is about tsunamis that specifically separate people from their feet. Maybe sharks eat the people but don't like the taste of Nikes, so spit just that part out...kinda like how we eat shrimp.

There is another theory about a plane crash which seems even more unlikely. Some believe that the feet come from those who have committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. One of the men, the only one actually identified, as for as I know, was suicidal.

But again....why just feet? Seems strange that during this time, only feet would be washing up, and only in Vancouver. The most likely explanation is a serial killer who leaves feet as a calling card. All the sneakers are oddly similar in design and colour too.

Sidenote: I have heard all the "logical" explanations from doctors about why remains in shoes might find their way to the shore. But that is boring and analytical-minded people have no sense of fun.

Writing Prompt: You have this fixation on sneakers that won't go away, no matter how hard you try to ignore it. One day you go into the Sport Chek and see this beautiful specimen trying on a brand new pair of Nikes. You wait until this person has paid and follow them out of the store. What happens next?

I really want to see what you come up with for these! Send your short stories to tessabarron@foulfantasyfiction.com

Any stories that I really love will have the chance to get featured on FFF!


Have you reader our horror title, Human Beings by Rachael Llewellyn? She is a master of scary.

our Amazon affiliate link and check it out: https://amzn.to/3UNU65D