Is Dear David really based on a true story?

Dear David movie
Dear David movie /

It’s always exciting for a fandom whenever something they’ve collected lore over for years finally makes it to the big screen, and the creepypasta, Dear David, that dominated Twitter in 2017 is no exception.

Now playing in theaters, IMDb delineates Dear David as the story of a comic artist named Adam Ellis who claims he’s experiencing unprovoked paranormal activity both in his dreams and eventually in real-time. Deciding to document his odd case on Twitter, he begins to tell his followers about the ghost of a boy haunting him, who he claims is named David. The online thread that he updates eventually takes its toll on Adam, blurring the lines between what’s really happening and what’s all in his head.

Given that this internet story first came out a good six years ago (which, by online standards at least, is a considerable amount of time), the question plenty of horror fans and casual viewers alike is whether or not Dear David is based on a true story. A handful of indie films of late have had their roots in some folklore or urban legend and this one is no different.

How did the Dear David story begin?

The comic artist plagued by the ghost of David is in fact an actual Twitter saga that took place between August 2017 to December of that year, with the protagonist being a real-life, honest-to-goodness person. Adam Ellis was, at the time, a comic artist working at BuzzFeed experiencing sleep paralysis issues.

While several online platforms have covered the entire saga (with YouTuber @HannahTheHorrible compiling the entire timeline), the actual Twitter thread begins with Adam writing that he believes his apartment is being haunted by the ghost of a murderous little boy. When the tweet immediately set off an influx of followers curious as to what truly was happening, he began detailing how he was under the impression that his sleep paralysis was being caused by this dead boy named David.

The tweets evolved from being just simple descriptions of his lucid dreams of the macabre kid with a misshapen head, to Adam taking videos of his cats being spooked specifically at midnight and looking directly at the door. He’s even provided footage of his pet camera documenting his cats once more looking bothered by something that cannot be seen, as well as Instax Polaroid shots taken through the peephole of his front door, capturing a blurry image of someone lurking in the corner.

Dear David official trailer

Upon the collective insistence of his followers (as well as his growing need for peace of mind), Adam elects to move to the apartment above him, theorizing that there was no reason for this nonsense to continue if it was simply just his sleep paralysis bothering him. Much to his dismay and that of Twitterverse, Dear David continued his unwelcome visits at night, progressively straining the comic artist to the point where he turned to the use of salt and sage, which are common items used in dispelling bad energy. The nightmares began turning into sounds that went bump in the night (overhead in the crawlspace of the apartment, to be exact), to him seeing uncanny reminders of the ghost during his vacation to Japan.

His tweets began to eventually decline in frequency after he posted the worst of all his documentation—he had set up a time-lapse camera next to his bed as he slept which captured several eerie photos of a small boy with a distinctly caved-in head hovering over him. Regardless if one believed Adam’s story or not, there was no denying that this collage of his sleeping form being watched by David was unequivocally terrifying. It didn’t matter to the audience at this point if it was photoshopped or rigged, everyone universally agreed that the photos were the stuff of nightmares.

Dear David followers may never know the truth

The internet was evenly divided into a camp that believed something sinister and supernatural was truly plaguing Adam Ellis, while the other side simply lauded the thread as a very well-written ARG, or alternate reality game—a project in which content creators tell a fictional story in an elaborate and immersive manner. While the argument for his documentation being easily set up with the help of a friend or two debunks the possibility of the story being true, many have claimed that there had been too many occurrences and too many coincidences meshing together for anyone to have constructed this haunting.

Others have sat on the fence, claiming both sides had valid points: perhaps Adam truly did suffer from sleep paralysis, had a very graphic nightmare and decided to run with it. This defense of the Dear David yarn, however, came under fire when Adam announced on Twitter that he was offered a deal to make his story a movie and fast-forward to 2023, it has become a reality. Many people have claimed that if the hauntings were indeed true nobody in their right mind would sell their story to make royalties off a ghost. Criticism has already begun to roll in regarding how the movie was beyond bland and disappointing, decrying how it lacked the white-knuckle anxiety that the original story brought on.

Whether for better or for worse, Adam never really tied the loose ends as to what happened after the last set of disturbing photos, leading people to again believe that this was an intricate ARG or, conversely, that Adam had been completely possessed by the ghost. The internet may really never find out what the truth is about the boy with the deformed skull, but then such is the nature of urban legends. What all can agree on, however, is that Dear David for all its lackluster feedback hopefully will trigger a chain of creepypastas becoming more than just internet lore.

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