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The Real-Life Murderer That May Have Inspired Jeepers Creepers

In 2001, the Academy Award-nominated jazz standard "Jeepers Creepers" saw itself redefined as horror iconography, just like so many William Shatner masks, stripy red-and-green sweaters, and pieces of hockey equipment before it. It was all thanks to a singular new movie monster, as well as Justin Long's ability to look startled. The film "Jeepers Creepers" introduced a generation of moviegoers to The Creeper, an ancient demonic force with a love for human organs. The Creeper had a lot going for him. He could incorporate the body parts of his victims into his own physiology, making him functionally unkillable for as long as there were spare guts around; he had giant bat wings, implying that, at some point, he stole the bits off of a "Gargoyles" action figure; most importantly, he had something that most animalistic hellspawn from the dawn of time don't seem inclined to pursue: a functioning understanding of the rules of the road.

It's actually the character's time behind the wheel that piqued the interest of true crime enthusiasts when "Jeepers Creepers" was first released. More specifically, it was the way that his driving at the beginning of the movie very nearly mirrored shots from an episode of "Unsolved Mysteries" and the story of Dennis DePue. 

The Long odds of a Jeepers Creepers connection

Here's what we know for sure (via Fandom): On April 15, 1990, 46-year old property assessor Dennis DePue went to pick up his children from the house of his ex-wife, Marilynn. An argument ensued, with Dennis reportedly beating Marilynn and throwing her down the stairs. Hoisting her, semi-conscious, into his van, he told the kids that he was taking their mother to the hospital, then disappeared for nearly a year.

Or rather, he almost disappeared. Ray and Marie Thorton were startled by DePue when his van came tearing down the road, passing them in a hurry. The couple spotted the van a few minutes later, pulled over next to an abandoned schoolhouse, with DePue standing nearby with what appeared to be a bloody sheet. Not long after that, the van pulled up behind them again, tailgating the couple for miles before they nervously pulled off the highway.

The description of this vehicular back-and-forth has marked similarities to the first act of "Jeepers Creepers," but the most remarkable parallels come from the season three episode of "Unsolved Mysteries."

The similarities between Jeepers Creepers and Unsolved Mysteries

The aforementioned "Unsolved Mysteries" episode recreated the Thortons' account of the events. Some of the shots used on the program are nearly identical to the ones from the movie, which has brought up plenty of speculation as to whether director Victor Salva was purposely cribbing a decade-old television show.

A lot has been made of the similarities between the "Unsolved Mysteries" episode and "Jeepers Creepers," and most of it is speculative or poorly researched. Some people have asserted that (via Screen Geek), like The Creeper, DePue disposed of a body behind an abandoned building — he didn't, Marilynn was found in a ditch by highway workers — while others have pointed out (via Screen Rant) that, like the main characters from the film, the Thortons were brother and sister; "Unsolved Mysteries" states that they were married. Whatever the case, it just goes to show that the real monsters are the people who refuse to keep a healthy three-second following distance between cars on the highway. The Associated Press reported that Dennis DePue killed himself during a shootout with authorities shortly after his episode of "Unsolved Mysteries" aired.