Urban legends abound in modern society. The terrifying tales with a kernel of truth make for great campfire stories and often serve as a warning to children and teenagers against stepping out of line.
Some people insist these scary urban legends are actually true!
What is an Urban Legend?
An urban legend (or urban myth, urban folklore) is a modern equivalent of a fairy tale. They are stories set in modern times of dates gone wrong, terrifying creatures lurking in the woods, and nefarious criminals laying in wait for their next victim.
The stories are fictional but told with a seriousness that makes listeners wonder whether there’s some truth behind them. Some may even be based on real events, though they’ve been so greatly embellished over the years that no one remembers what the truth might be.
The Best Urban Legends from Around the Country
Here are the best Urban Legends to share around campfires today. Watch out, though! You never know who might be listening!
There’s Someone In the Back Seat
A woman driving alone at night gets harassed by a truck driver who constantly flashes his brights and tailgates. When she escapes, she discovers he wasn’t trying to hurt her; he was trying to warn her about the crazed murderer in the back seat.
The Hook Man
There are many iterations of the hook man story. All include a deranged lunatic who escaped from prison or asylum with a hook for a hand. He terrorizes a young couple trying to enjoy a date night in a secluded forest.
If you say Bloody Mary 7 times in a dark bathroom mirror, Mary will appear. She’s not your friend, though. Some say it’s the ghost of Mary I, the Catholic Queen of England who earned the nickname “bloody Mary” after sentencing 300 protestants to death.
Every Halloween, parents fret about their kids trick-or-treating due to all the myths about poisoned candy and razors in chocolate.
The mythical creature hails from Puerto Rico and is said to feast on the blood of livestock.
Before social media, we had chain letters. Some came with deadly instructions. If you didn’t pass the letter on to five new people, you’d perish.
Don’t Turn on the Light
Never turn on the light when you come home late at night and find your roommate sleeping. In this Urban Legend, a college student tries to respect her roommate by keeping the lights off and staying quiet. When she wakes up the following day, she discovers her roommate was murdered and sees the message written in blood:
“Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?”
The Jersey Devil
A legendary creature lurking in Northeastern forests resembles a mini pterodactyl with hooves. It has a goat-like head, bat wings, and walks on two legs.
Big Foot, sasquatch, yeti – they all describe a similar creature. This ape-like humanoid makes his home wherever there’s a large enough forest.
Though classified as an urban legend, we can’t discount the possibility that some other species still exist out in the unexplored woods.
That Poor Pup
A little girl goes to sleep with her trusted dog lying on the floor by her bed. Throughout the night, she hears scary noises but puts her hand out under the bed and feels a sense of calm when her fury friend licks her hand.
When she wakes up, she learns the horrific truth. Her dog was gone, and someone wrote on the wall:
“Humans can lick too.”
An Ancient Burial Ground
Movies like Poltergeist popularized the urban legend that big real estate developers build new homes on ancient burial grounds. Of course, the spirits are displeased with their new roommates, wreaking havoc until they leave.
The half-man/half-goat hybrid reminds us of the satyrs from Ancient Greece. They’re far less fun, though, as they’ve traded in the wine for feasting on dog flesh.
Those who believe in UFOS also think the aliens abduct and experiment on people, returning them hours later with no memory of what happened.
The Rat King
New York’s sewers are infested with rats. According to legend, if a bunch of rats bundles together, they’ll form a giant super rat to rule them all.
The curse of the Bambino and the curse of the goat were both broken in recent decades, but they held strong as reasons why popular teams couldn’t win the title. The Boston Red Socks earned their curse by trading star player Babe Ruth, while the Chicago Cubs faced a century-long losing streak when the owner kicked a goat off the field.
A woman wanders the streets near Resurrection Cemetery in Chicago, looking for a ride home. Kind travelers who offer her a ride say she vanishes after getting in the back seat.
A famous blues musician famously made a deal with the devil by making a demon deal at a rural crossroad. Legend has it that if you perform the right spell at the Crossroads, a demon will come and make your wildest dreams come true. But there’s always a price.
How To Lose a Kidney
A modern urban legend plays on people’s fear of black market organ trafficking. The story goes that unscrupulous sellers will drug folks, take their kidneys, and leave them soaking in an ice bath in a hotel bathtub.
The 1960s Mothman sightings in West Virginia spawned a horror/thriller movie starring Richard Gere. The Mothman is said to be a man with white wings, and residents hold him responsible for any horrific events near their town.
Alligators in the Sewer
New Yorkers need to be watchful of their sewers. Legend has it some kids bought alligators from a black market pet store but dumped them down the toilet when they started getting too big to handle. Now, giant alligators lurk in the NY sewer systems.
Don’t go out alone at night in Utah and Nevada. Skinwalkers are evil beings who can shapeshift and lure people away from civilization. They’re never seen again.
A Nasty Spider Bite
Spiders don’t lay eggs with their jaws, but that didn’t deter the popular spider bite urban legend from making the rounds. According to the story, a girl gets bitten on the cheek by a spider. The bite grows over a few weeks, and eventually, it bursts, revealing scores of baby spiders.
Don’t go searching for the wailing cries of phantom babies in Utah. They’re actually water spirits attempting to lure people to their doom.
One of the newest additions to the list of Urban Legends, Slender Man, originates from creepy stories people posted online. Unfortunately, some kids took him far too seriously. Two little girls attempted to murder a third to appease the Slender Man.
The Good Guard Dog
A woman discovers her beloved Doberman choking and is shocked to find human fingers lodged in his jaws. The incident causes her to search the house, where she finds an intruder nursing his severed hand.
Not All Urban Legends are Scary
Urban legends don’t have to be scary. Some are pranks or half-truths designed to trick unsuspecting folks or scare kids. For example, cow tipping is physically impossible, yet a legend persists that young people in rural areas tip cows for fun.
Urban Legends and Conspiracy Theories
Sometimes, Urban legends develop into conspiracy theories. The Lizard people and alien shadow government conspiracy theories likely began as urban legends that became so popular (and believed) that they morphed into theories that people actually believe.
The clown scare of the 1990s and the more recent Slender Man incident also highlight the danger of urban legends. Although they’re all fun and games, when everyone agrees it’s make-believe, they can become dangerous if people take them seriously.
Enjoy the Urban Legends
For the most part, urban legends are fun stories we can tell around campfires. They’re creepy and spooky, but overall, a harmless bit of fun.
So continue enjoying them, and let’s keep the legends alive!
Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.