How the chilling real-life murder of a servant girl inspired cult horror flick The Ring

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THE Ring, is one of the most successful horror movies of all time, grossing £190m at the box office.

This week the spooky tale – about a ghostly figure crawling out of a watery grave to claim anyone who watched a cursed tape – turned 15.

 The Ring's terrifying Samara rose from the well to claim her victims after they watched a spooky tape

Dreamworks
The Ring’s terrifying Samara rose from the well to claim her victims after they watched a spooky tape

But, believe it or not, the terrifying tale of well-dweller Samara is based on a ‘true’ story which, itself, spawned a ghostly fable in Japan.

Okiku was a servant girl who worked in Himeji Castle – which was built in the 14th century and still stands high on a mountain in Western Japan.

Her master, a Samurai named Tessan Aoyama, fell in love with her and said he would leave his wife for her but she refused his advances.

One of her duties was to look after ten precious gold plates and the spurned Samurai, furious at her rejection, hid one of the plates and accused her of stealing it.

 Okiku is traditionally pictured with long black hair and a white dress

Wikipedia
Okiku is traditionally pictured with long black hair and a white dress

He then hung her above a well where he tortured her by dipping her headfirst into the water and beating her when she came up, before cutting her free so she fell and perished.

That’s where the spooky ghost story kicks in.

Locals believed that Okiku crawled out of the well on a nightly basis and haunted the castle, counting the plates and throwing a violent screaming fit when she found the tenth was missing.

 Himeji Castle in Japan was the site of the servant girl's death

Alamy
Himeji Castle in Japan was the site of the servant girl’s death

Legend has it that her nocturnal screeching eventually drove Aoyama mad.

A well, known as Okiku’s Well, can still be seen outside the castle – surrounded by wrought iron bars, perhaps to keep the vengeful spirit inside.

In drawings of Okiku she looks very similar to Samara, with flowing black hair and a long white dress.

 Okiku's Well at Himeji Castle

Alamy
Okiku’s Well at Himeji Castle

The story went into Japanese folklore and inspired several books and plays, including Ringu by Kôji Suzuki, which spawned a 1998 film of the same name.

The Ring, the 2002 Hollywood remake, starred Naomi Watts and Brian Cox.

We recently revealed the chilling tale of a “demonic doll” that inspired The Conjuring.

A real life abduction and murder, known as the Death at Devil’s Teeth, was blamed on a teenage witch coven but remains unsolved 45 years later.

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