The Real-Life Jeepers Creepers!

By RodneyHatfieldJr for Into The Mind

Typical, the dog beats me to the couch. Dripping drooling and farting the way only a bulldog can do. I sat down with a skull stein full of ice tea and Kahlua with a small bowl of kettle chips with sea salt. We settle in as I flipped on Pluto TV and begin looking for something to watch. As I was scrolling down the guide, I see Jeepers Creepers. So I clicked on it since I haven’t watched it for a while, besides I can still look down the guide and see what else is on. After looking through the whole guide, I decided on Jeepers. While I watched it, I began to wonder if the sister played by Gina Philips had also played a Bajoran on Deep Space Nine(the one ST spinoff I watched faithfully). Since I was already comfortable and didn’t want to get up, I relied on the worst voice-activated piece of equipment in the world. I asked Siri. “Siri, pull up the IMDB for Jeepers Creepers." Naturally, Siri does not speak Southern nor my particular dialect of Hillbonics(look it up). If it is possible, I think Siri drinks heavily. What I got was “Real life killer that inspired Jeepers Creepers”.


Now that caught my attention. I try to keep all inspired by true event movies on my radar. But this one kinda threw me. So I had to do a search for it. I sat and read and watched different websites and the evidence they presented. After I finished I thought it would be a nice informative article. This is what I found out.


As I said, you might be surprised like I was to learn that 2001’s Jeepers Creepers was similarly derived from actual events. I had read and watched interviews about how Salva came up with the concept of Jeepers Creepers. The movie is of course about a winged monstrosity that yanks out human eyeballs, and though it may seem impossible that it was grounded in any sort of reality, it most definitely is. In 1990 a Michigan resident Dennis DePue became the subject of a police manhunt, after murdering his wife and dumping her corpse behind an abandoned schoolhouse. The story goes that the murder was an act of revenge, after his wife filed for divorce, with DePue shooting her in the back of the head. 


In Jeepers Creepers, the monster dumps bodies behind an abandoned church, much the same way DePue disposed of his wife, but it wasn’t DePue that inspired the film so much as it was the testimony of two witnesses who saw him dump the body. While driving around on a long stretch of Michigan road, Ray and Marie Thornton spotted DePue doing his foul deed, and then found themselves followed by the killer, who suspiciously tailed them in his van for several miles. Does this sound familiar? Because it certainly should, if you’ve seen Jeepers Creepers.


Now here is the kicker. The most interesting is that the TV show Unsolved Mysteries ran a story on the DePue case in March of 1991, ten years before Jeepers Creepers was made. The segment featured a re-enactment of Thornton’s story, which looks like the first half of Salva’s film. Below is a Youtube video of the Unsolved Mysteries segment, and the opening sequence of Jeepers Creepers. Notice that it was directly lifted from the episode, right down to specific shots and dialogue exchanges. Like the Thornton’s, the brother and sister in the film even pass the time by playing the license plate game.

Salva has credited Steven Spielberg’s Duel with serving as an inspiration for the film. I have never seen him give any sort of credit to Unsolved Mysteries. This leading me to believe that he hoped nobody would ever make the connection. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using a story from the news headlines as the basis for a film. To be honest, it makes for a better story. But to directly lift the Unsolved Mysteries re-enactment of that story is suspect. It’s ok but give credit. We had a direct reshooting of classic Psycho, so it isn’t anything new. However, copying scenes and not giving the proper credit is just wrong.

Shortly after the 1990 episode aired, Dennis DePue was committed suicide as he was being chased by police.

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