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Is ‘The Girl Next Door’ a true story? Explore the Truth Behind this!

Films that shocked audiences so much often resurface years later. Audiences have been shocked, outraged, and captivated by the films of directors ranging from Luis Bunuel to Lars von Trier. Indeed, extreme films have a rich history, with some movies based on true events. The Girl Next Door is a classic example. Is this movie based on a true story?


Is ‘The Girl Next Door’ a true story?

According to sources, The Girl Next Door is inspired by actual events.  The murder of Sylvia Likens in 1965 inspired Jack Ketchum’s chilling novel and shaped the character played by Meg Loughlin in the film adaptation. She attended Arsenal Technical High School after being born in 1949 in Indianapolis, Indiana, to a family that included other siblings. The character of Ruth is based on a real-life single mother named Gertrude Baniszewski, whom she met through her children. Sylvia and her younger sister Jenny were urged to stay with Gertrude while their parents worked to improve their financial situation after the Likens’ family fell hard. Everything seemed to be going well when they first moved in, and they were accepted as family members. The situation changed when their parents started paying for Gertrude late.

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When did all the abusive activities begin?

Enraged and unable to vent her rage on her parents, she took it out on the two young female guests she had invited. They were both ridiculed and abused, but Sylvia eventually took the brunt. Gertrude’s abusive treatment of the little girl was likely driven by jealousy and self-consciousness over her beauty. Gertrude tortured her physically and included her children and the neighborhood children in the abuse. After some time had passed, Sylvia’s parents came to visit. However, her sisters allegedly never told them about their torture. Nonetheless, it is assumed that Gertrude’s presence in the room affected their quiet. Sylvia’s torture continued until her death on October 26, 1965, at the age of 16.

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What Happened After Sylvia Died?

In the final chapter of the true story that inspired The Girl Next Door, Jenny, Sylvia’s sister, delivered a statement that led to the arrest of Gertrude and others implicated (including Gertrude’s children) on murder charges. On December 30, 1965, Gertrude, Paula, John, Coy, and Richard stood trial for her murder. Gertrude was found guilty of first-degree murder, while Paula was convicted of second-degree murder and given a life sentence. The verdict for the three juvenile defendants was manslaughter. Unlike Gertrude and Paula, who received life sentences, these women received sentences ranging from two to twenty-one years. Gertrude passed away in 1990 from lung cancer-related complications.

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