If you haven’t heard of the “Gone Girl case”, you’re in for a wild ride. Netflix’s docuseries American Nightmare shares the unimaginable chain of events that couple Denise Huskins and her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, went through after a home invasion. On March 23rd, 2015, Quinn awoke to a two men in scuba suits shining a bright light in his face before demanding that he lie face down on the bed. The couple were then forced to tie each other up, put on black-out goggles and take sedatives. Huskins was thrown in the back of a trunk and taken away from her home. Quinn was interrogated by a Vallejo police detective for hours, being accused of being involved in his girlfriend’s disappearance. Unfortunately, Quinn failed his polygraph test, leading to more suspicion surrounding his involvement.
In a shocking turn of events, Huskins reemerged seemingly unharmed with her traumatic kidnapping story. After being accused of faking the abduction, the couple’s case went viral. In the media, it was referred to as the “Gone Girl kidnapping.”
Gone Girl was a popular thriller novel written by Gillian Flynn in 2012. A few years later, David Fincher created the adaptation of the same name, and it became a commercial and critical success. The film was mostly faithful to the book, keeping the story’s overall arc the same. While there were a few key differences, the unbelievable twist was unaltered. In the fictional story, Amy (Rosamund Pike) meets and falls in love with Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). At first, they experience intense sparks and have a fiery romance, though the fire doesn’t take long to fizzle out. Nick heads to the beach to gather his thoughts about what to do with his relationship. He decides once he returns home, he will break up with Amy, but instead, he opens his door to find what looks like a crime scene and a missing wife.
(Spoiler alert) Amy never went missing – at least, not due to anyone else’s actions. In reality, she was traveling far away in a car paid for with cash and a sophisticated plan to pin Nick for her murder. Things don’t go well for Amy, and she eventually reappears with a truly unbelievable story, claiming her ex (Neil Patrick Harris) kidnapped her. As the audience, we know the story is hard to believe because it never happened. However, she’s cunning enough to trick nearly the entire world, causing her to become somewhat of a true crime celebrity.
So, when Denise Huskins went missing and shared her harrowing experience with detectives a year after the film’s release, they weren’t buying it. “Haven’t you seen Gone Girl?” one of the officers allegedly says. While you may think you know the entire story based on the case’s catchy nickname, there’s a slight twist. Rather than Huskins being a master manipulator capable of spinning a dramatic tale based on a fictional movie, she was actually telling the truth.
American Nightmare is a three-part series that documents exactly what happened from start to finish. Part one focuses on Quinn’s story. He dives deep into the traumatic night of the break-in and what it was like becoming the first suspect of his missing girlfriend. In part two, we learn more about everything Huskin’s went through during her captivity and being tormented a full 48 hours, including two counts of sexual assault. Unfortunately when she released and safely home, she’s further tortured not only by the thoughts of the horror she endured over the last two days, but by law enforcement claiming it was all a hoax. Additionally, the couple experienced a lot of public shame once it became a media frenzy, with so many believing they faked it all.
“I still have nightmares every night,” Huskins shared during court. She continued, “Sleep is not rest for me. It is a trigger.” Unfortunately, by part 3 we learn that Huskins wasn’t the only victim of the set of kidnappers. After more attempted kidnappings, detectives are led to a new, unexpected suspect. After everything the Vallejo Police Department put them through, the couple file a defamation lawsuit against the city and police department.
Although there have been cases involving people who have pretended to be kidnapped (Sherri Papini) it’s incredibly rare. Hopefully the events in this docuseries will be a wake-up call to law enforcement, and even media sources looking for the next big story.