Is Orphan based on a true story? The case that inspired the horror film (2024)

Lowenna Waters16 August 2022

Orphan, Jaume Collet-Serra’s 2009 horror film, tells the story of a family who adopt a child—but all is not as it seems.

The film centres on the story of a married couple named Kate and John who adopt a 9-year-old girl called Esther from an orphanage. But behind Esther’s initial charm are sinister intentions toward the entire family.

The success of the film eventually led to a sequel—13 years later— though the wait for fans is almost over, as Orphan: First Kill will be released in August.

Produced by Dark Castle Entertainment, the psychological horror film initially received mixed reviews. However, everyone agreed that the performance of Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther, the mysterious orphan, was haunting and exceptional.

Fans will be delighted to know that Fuhrman is reprising her role as Esther in the sequel. But what do we know about the woman who inspired the sinister character?

Here’s everything you need to know about whether Orphan is based on a true story.

Is Orphan based on a true story?

Is Orphan based on a true story? The case that inspired the horror film (3)

Warner Bros

Orphan is loosely based on a true story. The film is inspired by the story of Barbora Skrlova, a woman who was discovered posing as a 13-year-old boy in Norway, after she escaped from another family where she had facilitated extreme child abuse on the family’s other children.

Czech authorities and investigators spent months digging through Skrlova’s past, and they discovered that it was not the first time that the adult woman had conned her way into a family’s good graces.

Years prior, Skrlova had moved in with a family of two sisters, where she managed to manipulate one of them, and forced violent behaviour and punishments on the children, such as locking them in a basem*nt alone.

Ten years after Orphan’s release in 2009, another incident occurred, in which an Indiana couple—named Kristine and Michael Barrett—adopted a six-year-old Ukrainian girl named Natalia Grace, who had a form of dwarfism that made her around three feet tall but also gave her additional difficulties with mobility.

However, after being with the family for a few weeks, Natalia began threatening the family, and acting erratically, which caused the mother to become convinced that she was actually an adult.

Over time, the family reported that she wasn’t who she appeared to be, and that she frequently had violent outbursts. However, she later accused the family of neglecting her.

The father Michael claims that the couple knew Natalia was actually a child, while Kristine claims Natalia was simply posing as a child.

Orphan: First Kill will be released in cinemas on August 19.


Is Orphan based on a true story? The case that inspired the horror film (2024)
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