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Was ‘Jeepers Creepers’ Inspired by This Terrifying True Story?

Jeepers Creepers True Story

Hit horror movie Jeepers Creepers captivated audiences with the simple story of a brother sister duo crossing paths with a bloodthirsty maniac called The Creeper. While it is a thrilling (some might say completely terrifying) feature, many fans don’t know the film appears to be based on a true story. Eleven years before Jeepers Creepers was realized, fugitive Dennis DePue was on the run, sought by the police after the discovery of his wife Marilyn’s body. Unsolved Mysteries aired the true story of the brutal murder of Marilyn DePue nearly a year after her death.

The Real-Life Story of Dennis DePue Inspired the Film Jeepers Creepers.

Marilyn was reported missing on April 15, 1990. Neighbors immediately suspected her husband Dennis was behind her disappearance. It was no secret the DePues had a rocky marriage. Dennis may have snapped when Marilyn filed for a much-needed divorce. After beating her in front of their three children, Dennis said he would take Marilyn to the hospital. Instead, he shot her in the back of the head.

DePue assumed he was alone when dumping Marilyn’s body. It is rare for anyone to drive along those desolate Michigan back roads. However, Ray and Marie Thornton were driving along that particular stretch of road at that very moment. The duo witnessed Dennis disposing Marilyn’s corpse behind a church. Her body wrapped in a bloody sheet. Before they could fully comprehend what was happening, Dennis got in his van. He followed close behind for several miles. Then, he disappeared completely until March of 1991.

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True Story Jeepers Creepers

Jeepers Creepers Parallels These Details in the Real-Life DePue Case 

The chase between Dennis DePue and the Thorntons plays out very much like the opening to Jeepers Creepers. Thus why we asses that the film was based on this true crime story. The DePue case directly parallels the opening scene where Darry (Justin Long) and Trish (Gina Philips) are taking the scenic route home from school.

Like in the DePue case, which surely inspired Jeepers Creepers, the brother and sister duo see a truck appearing out of nowhere that then attempts to run them off the road. Also, Darry and Trish witness the driver unloading a body wrapped in a bloody sheet outside a church. The driver then stuffs the body into an outside chute and the driver of the truck pursues them.

What’s especially interesting is that The Thorntons were playing the license plate game like Darry and Trish. Although predatory director Victor Salva has never cited the DePue case as inspiration, it’s hard to imagine the similarities as coincidental.

Authorities Apprehended Dennis Depue, The Presumed Real-Life Inspiration Behind Jeepers Creepers, After a High-Speed Chase

After  the episode featuring Marilyn DePue’s murder and the subsequent search for Dennis DePue aired on Unsolved Mysteries, Dennis panicked and fled the safety of his hideout. The locale kept him safe for the eleven months prior. Living under the alias Hank Queen in Dallas, Texas, Dennis was embroiled in a lengthy police chase, which ended with his suicide in Mississippi.

It’s fascinating to think how closely the events of Jeepers Creepers parallel the real life DePue case. There is little doubt that the DePue case is the film’s real-life inspiration. What’s interesting is that it took so long for anyone to make the connection regarding the true story that almost certainly inspired Jeepers Creepers. A video pointing out the similarities surfaced on YouTube in 2011. But that is a full ten-years on from the release of Salva’s film.

So, if you are ever driving along a desolate stretch of road and happen to come across a person dumping a body, take a picture, call the police, and get out of there!

Updated June 10, 2024

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Written by Syl
Syl is a professional criminologist who shamelessly spends her time listening to true crime podcasts, watching horror films, and bringing real life horror to her written pieces.
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