Is Netflix series Devil in Ohio based on a true story?

With spooky season right around the corner, Netflix is getting creepy content out early this year with the release of the unsettling limited series Devil in Ohio, based on the novel by Daria Polatin. Polatin also serves as a writer and executive producer on the show.

Starring Emily Deschanel as hospital psychiatrist Dr. Suzanne Mathis, Devil in Ohio follows a young woman, Mae (Madeleine Arthur), who escapes from a satanic cult and desperately needs help keeping herself alive and free from their influence. When Suzanne can’t find a foster home for Mae, she invites her into her house. Mae’s presence seems to cause strange things to happen to the Mathis family.

Any story with a creepy cult at its center is obviously going to generate interest, and some fans are already wondering if the show is based on something that happened in real life.

Is Devil in Ohio based on a true story?

Yes, Devil in Ohio is inspired by real events. The series is based on the 2017 novel of the same name by Daria Polatin and the writer has been open about her inspirations for the story.

In 2017, she wrote a blog post titled “My Top 5 Scariest Moments Researching Devil in Ohio,” and clued us into what her research process was like for the book. Since Polatin also served as the showrunner on the Netflix show, we know that many details transferred from book to screen.

One of the “moments” she listed as the scariest was talking to the source of the true story Devil in Ohio was based on. While Polatin did not want to name her source, she said it was horrifying for her to hear how this young woman had escaped from a cult she grew up in.

Here’s her full quote:

“I will never reveal details about my source, but suffice it to say, it was quite horrifying to hear the details of how a young woman escaped from the satanic cult she’d grown up in. Since many of the perturbing aspects of the story in Devil in Ohio were based on true events, my stomach churned whenever I heard about the scarring rituals, planting of mind-control triggers, and perhaps the most disturbing, how it tore a formerly tight-knit family apart.”

Inspiration for Devil in Ohio

She also cited a few other documentaries, films, and movies as sources for her research, including the Elizabeth Olsen film Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene; the documentary Holy Hell about the Los Angeles-based cult Buddhafield; and books like Remembering Satan: A Tragic Case of Recovered Memory by Lawrence Wright and Gillian Flynn’s crime thriller novel Gone Girl.

Polatin also recently spoke to The Columbus Dispatch, briefly discussing the case the story was based on, though, again, she remained vague so as not to reveal her source.

She said, “The bones of the story are true and happened, and I wanted to take that as a jumping-off point. It’s inspired by true events, but it’s not a documentary.”

Polatin did reveal that the real case did take place in Ohio.

It’s hard to point to the real story is behind the show without details, but PopSugar did some digging into similar cases in Ohio. The outlet noted that the Kirkland Farm murders are one of the state’s most notable examples of a cult.

The Kirkland Farm murders happened when several cult members murdered a family of five. Self-proclaimed prophet Jeffrey Lundgren started the cult based on his interpretation of teachings from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The murder occurred in Lundgren’s farmhouse, which the cult had repurposed into a center of worship.

However, that case doesn’t sound like a “satanic” cult, so it’s unclear if it’s the same one Polatin was inspired by for her story. It seems more like she got to know the victim, so it makes sense she wouldn’t want to share her story without permission.

Devil in Ohio is now streaming on Netflix.

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