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Is "The Bye Bye Man" Based on a True Story?

Questioning the Story:

What inspired the horror movie?

The Bye Bye Man is based on a short story by Robert Damon Schneck. It is included in his compilation The Bye Bye Man: And Other Strange-but-True Tales, which was originally published in 2005 under the title The President's Vampire: Strange-but-True Tales of the United States of America. In the original book, the Bye Bye Man was featured in the chapter titled "The Bridge to Body Island." That chapter was retitled in the new book to coincide with the movie. Schneck says that someone in Hollywood heard him retell the story on the radio and shortly afterward they were interested in turning it into a movie.

How did author/historian Robert Damon Schneck learn about the Bye Bye Man?

Schneck claims to have heard the real story from a close friend named Eli at his Devil's Night party (the night before Halloween). Eli would invite all the guests who've had a spooky or paranormal experience to tell their story. He would then tell his own scary story last. That year, Eli, who had a degree in cultural anthropology and folklore, told the story of his encounters with the real Bye Bye Man when he was a graduate student living in the town of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in the fall of 1990. Schneck does not provide a last name for Eli and offers little evidence to help prove that this individual was indeed a real person, though he does mention in an interview that at one time Eli was the librarian at the American Society for Psychical Research in New York City.

Who is author Robert Damon Schneck?

Schneck is a folklorist and strange history expert. He makes a living writing about the weird and the unexplained, authoring works on everything from suicide clubs to killer clowns. According to the description on, he wrote most of the book that became The Bye Bye Man: And Other Strange-but-True Tales while sitting at his favorite table at a McDonald's in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

The Bye Bye Man movie is based on a short story by Robert Damon Schneck (right), a writer specializing in strange, obscure, and Fortean American history.

Did The Bye Bye Man true story involve three friends?

Yes. Like in the movie, the short story found in Robert Damon Schneck's book supposedly happened to his friend, Eli, a Wisconsin graduate student who was living with his girlfriend Katherine and a friend named Jonathan. For the movie, Katherine's name was changed to Sasha. The author claims to have gotten releases from all three individuals for the movie, though he says that Katherine and Jonathan wanted nothing to do with the film.

Did the true story involve a Ouija board?

Yes, according to the short story, someone had found an old Ouija board in an attic and gave it to the three friends who had been living together. The friends began conducting experiments with the board, and after they believed they had communicated with a number of spirits, they made an effort to contact a spirit that had actually lived. After a few sessions, the board eventually transmitted the story of the Bye Bye Man. The three friends, Eli, Katherine and Jonathan, were told via the board that the spirit of the Bye Bye Man had latched onto them and that he was coming for them.

Supposedly who was the real Bye Bye Man?

According to the author, the actual Bye Bye Man had supposedly been a blind albino born in Louisiana sometime in the 1920s. His parents put him in an orphanage in Algiers, New Orleans. Shunned, the boy eventually escaped the orphanage and turned to murder. Jumping on trains and traveling like a hobo to get around, he was accompanied by his companion called Gloomsinger, a sort of dog-esque creature sewn together from the tongues and eyes of his victims. He had somehow managed to bring the creature to life. When the real Bye Bye Man killed someone, he would supposedly add their eyes and tongue to a bag he carried around called the Sack of Gore. Of course it is at this point that the story starts to sound like a gory tall tale rather than something that could possibly be based in reality.

In the movie, the history of the Bye Bye Man is similarly traced back to a teenager who told a reporter that he killed his family because "the Bye Bye Man made me do it." The reporter, because he had been investigating and thinking about the Bye Bye Man, is later driven to mass murder after the Bye Bye Man comes for him. One of the three college-age friends in the movie then comes to learn of the Bye Bye Man from the late reporter's widow.

According to the tale, did the Bye Bye Man come for those who thought of him and/or spoke his name?

Yes. According to the supposed Bye Bye Man true story conveyed by author Robert Damon Schneck, like in the movie, the real paranormal being zeroed in on anyone who thought of him or spoke his name (let's hope writing an article about him doesn't count). Doing so transformed a person's mind into a sort of psychic beacon that called out to the Bye Bye Man. He then began riding the rails in their direction. When he got close enough, he sent out his grotesque creature known as Gloomsinger to locate the person. Once they were found, Gloomsinger would let out a shrill whistle to call for the Bye Bye Man. In the movie, sounds of a train and the appearance of coins or a large skinless hound precede the Bye Bye Man's arrival.

Elliot (Douglas Smith) is confronted by the Bye Bye Man in the movie after failing to obey the rules of the curse, "Don't think it. Don't Say it."

Is there a love triangle in the real Bye Bye Man story?

Yes, but in the supposed true story, Eli and his girlfriend Katherine break up first, and soon after the break-up, she begins to date their friend and former roommate Jonathan. In the movie, Elliot (Douglas Smith) suspects that his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) is cheating on him with John (Lucien Laviscount).

Are the deaths and violence in the movie based on the alleged true story?

No. Not surprisingly, the movie exaggerates the killing. In the short story told by author Schneck, no one gets hit by a train or a car, and the three friends don't kill each other or themselves. It's told as more of an eerie tale rather than all-out horror.

The movie exaggerates the horror. Here, Carrie-Anne Moss' character, Detective Shaw (left), is disfigured by a Bye-Bye-Man-induced hallucination. In another scene, John hallucinates and sees a maggot coming out of Kim's right eye.

Does any factual evidence exist to support the claim that The Bye Bye Man is based on a true story?

No. Robert Damon Schneck's I-heard-it-from-a-friend tale is impossible to prove, as there is no factual evidence to support the author's claims. Of course, that doesn't mean that horror fans won't find it enjoyable, as it's sometimes fun to imagine that the boogeyman is real. Like Eric Knudsen's Slender Man story that originated as an Internet meme in 2009, the tale of the Bye Bye Man is largely believed to be urban legend that began with Robert Damon Schneck's 2005 short story. The tale was subsequently spread in web forums, on late night radio shows, and retold amongst fans of the paranormal.

As there's no real way to prove the question "Is the Bye Bye Man real?" untrue, you're free to believe as much as you want. However, with the release of the movie, it's fair to assume a lot of people are thinking about and saying the name of the Bye Bye Man. Does this mean he will be coming for all those people? The fact that we haven't see a huge spike in murders and suicides after the movie's release sort of disproves the whole story altogether.

Does author Robert Damon Schneck claim he has verified the story?

No. "I did research and I was unable to verify any of the story," says Schneck of the Bye Bye Man tale that he says was told to him by a friend.

Who plays the Bye Bye Man in the movie?

The Bye Bye Man is portrayed by actor Doug Jones. The 6' 3½" actor has portrayed similar masked characters, having previously played one of the Gentlemen in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Abe Sapien in Hellboy (2004), and the Pale Man in 2006's Pan's Labyrinth (pictured below). The multi-talented actor also has experience performing as a mime and a contortionist.

American actor Doug Jones (right) has portrayed a number of masked characters, including the Pale Man (left) in Pan's Labyrinth.

The Bye Bye Man Interviews & Movie Trailer

Learn more about the supposed real Bye Bye Man by listening to an interview with the book's author, Robert Damon Schneck.

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