Is Netflix's Devil in Ohio based on a true story? The chilling novel behind the hit series

The chilling new thriller has viewers gripped, but is Netflix's Devil in Ohio based on a true story?

Devil in Ohio still from Netflix
(Image credit: Future/Netflix)

Devil in Ohio's dark subject matter isn't for the fainthearted, exploring what happens when satanic cult escapee Mae is taken in by a family in Ohio. But is Devil in Ohio based on a true story? And if so, what happened to the real Mae? 

Psychiatrist Dr Suzanne Mathis, played by Emily Deschanel, finds young Mae injured and on the run, and takes her in to her own family home. Soon, it becomes clear that Mae's backstory is darker than we ever could have imagined, and her past could soon be catching up with the present as we race towards that Devil in Ohio ending

It's clear that we've all got an obsession with the darker subject matters. The Sandman, a dark retelling of the graphic novels by the same name, topped charts upon its release, while psychological thriller Echoes remains a firm favorite among TV fans, eagerly awaiting to see if Echoes season two is on the cards. After bingeing season one of Devil in Ohio, we have all sorts of questions, like where is Devil in Ohio set and is it actually filmed in Ohio, but one of the most burning - is Devil in Ohio based on a true story?

Is Devil in Ohio based on a true story?

Netflix Devil in Ohio still

(Image credit: Netflix)

The answer isn't so straightforward, but to put it simply - yes, partially. The Devil in Ohio Netflix series is based on a book by the same name, which was released in 2017 by American author and playwriter, Daria Polatin.

The book is loosely (and we emphasize the loosely) based on a true story, and cults in general, focusing on the strange rituals and traditions that are part of their dark history. The cult itself, the Dodds, is completely fictional. 

“We made it all up,” Polatin, author of the book and showrunner for Devil in Ohio, told Tudum, Netflix's companion site. The website reveals, "She and her writers’ room spent months building up the cult’s lore, going as far as to write their own bible - the Book of Covenants - even including hymns and prayers to make it as specific as possible."

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“There are a lot of cult shows,” Polatin continued. “I really took this as an exciting task to create something that is unique and bespoke, but also feels real.”

“We wrote documents about the cult that we shared with our heads of departments and creative teams so everyone was on the same page.“

Our composer came up with this stunning hymn he wrote [after] we gave him the language of our cult - the Morningstar, the dawning. The costumes are inspired by our backstories: They came from Ireland, they were farmers, they lived in West Virginia, their crops failed, [forcing them to move to Ohio].”

Is Amon County real?

Amon Country, the ominous place where Mae Dodd descends from isn't actually a real place, but a fictional home to the infamous Dodd cult. 

Having said that, it was important to Polatin to keep the Ohio location as realistic as possible. 

“I wrote all the copy for the radio announcers - they’re talking about Ohio teams. Ohio is a great American bellwether state - it's very relatable and because of that, it also feels universal.”

Lauren Hughes

Lauren is the former Deputy Digital Editor at woman&home and became a journalist mainly because she enjoys being nosy. With a background in features journalism, Lauren worked on the woman&home brand for four years before going freelance. Before woman&home Lauren worked across a variety of women's lifestyle titles, including GoodTo, Woman's Own, and Woman magazine.