How many times has this happened to you? You are sitting in your cubicle, doing your best to look busy when your neighbor leans over and asks you if you have heard about the rumor floating around the office. You are then told in length all about something odd, or dangerous, or both, and if you don’t pay attention, it could mean terrible things for you. After he tells you about it, you check Facebook and somebody has put on their wall a story about the same thing. That night, television news reports it on their newscast. Should you be worried? Is this true?
According to merriam-webster.com, an Urban Legend is “an often lurid story or anecdote that is based on hearsay and widely circulated as true. We all hear Urban Legends at some point in our life. The term has been credited to Jan Harold Brunvand, a English professor at University of Utah, who wrote a series of books about them in 1968. Many today equate the urban legend to the folktale told by our ancestors. The word Urban is not meant to convey geographic location, like in a city, but instead to convey the story to be more recent than the old ones told around the campfire at night. Urban Legends are not necessarily meant to be true, but are told to convey a lesson or meaning to the listener. True or not, many of these stories remain the cultural memory, raising the question often about what is true and what is not true. Social media has made this phenomena all the more widespread, giving credibility to stories that would otherwise die within the halls of the office or school.
However, every once in awhile, we are shocked to find out that an urban legend happens to be true, or at least based in truth, before it made it to into its current form. We put together the following list of the most shocking true ones. Please be forewarned. Some of these tales are quite gruesome so read at your own risk, or at least get someone to read them with you so you can share in the horror.
10. Atari Landfill
In 1982, ET was a big blockbuster movie. The video game industry was in its infancy and sales looked to be declining for the first time. As Atari was the market leader in the industry, the company saw an opportunity to profit on the surprise success of the little alien movie. It developed a game and rushed millions of them to distributors nationwide. The results were not pretty. The game was a disaster, with many purchased copies returned. In attempt to bury the bad game, Atari took the millions of the left over cartridges to a New Mexico Landfill. This urban legend was told for years until a recent television crew unearthed the ancient game in said landfill for the world to see, confirming what many thought was too unbelievable to be true.
9. Buried Alive with your Engagement Ring
The legend is that a disgruntled fiance decides his lady is not to his liking so he does the normal thing, knocks her out and buries her alive. As surreal as this sounds, it actually happened in 2011. A polish man was unhappy with his fiancee’s looks so he convinced a friend to help him kill her. They did the deed, boarded her up in a cardboard box, but did a shabby job on the actual burial, because she is able to cut through the duct tape with her engagement ring (he left it on her?) and was able to dig herself out. What did he and his buddy do after burying her? They used her ATM card to take out a wad of cash to have some fun with. It did not take the police long to find them.
8. The Funhouse Mummy
Have you ever been to a carnival fun house? In many of them, you will see what they claim is a real mummy. In this legend, the story goes that the fake mummy happens to be an actual mummified legendary criminal. The truth is one that makes you leery of ever going back to a fun house. Elmer McCurdy is reported to have been a Oklahoma cowboy bandit that was killed in an attempted train robbery. The undertaker responsible for burial neglects his duty to instead mummify the remains so visitors can come see. He charges a nickel to each visitor. The nickel has to be placed in the mouth of the dead body (Yuck!) After leaving the undertaker’s office, McCurdy’s body is exchanged between carnivals and museums until it was rediscovered in 1976 and laid to rest.
7. A Whale of a Time
Some urban legends are so dumb you have no recourse but to dismiss them. For example, the idea of blowing up a beached whale to be rid of it. Why would anyone think blowing up the whale would make clean up any easier? After all, a lot a whale carcasses explode on their own through decomposition. In 1970, a Oregon town decides it would make sense to blow up a dead sperm whale so the birds and scan vergers can have easier time eating the remains. Half a ton of dynamite later, the whale is still mostly intact and a brand new 1970 Cadillac is ruined by a huge piece of blubber landing on it.
6. Buried Alive
Believe it or not, doctors sometimes get it wrong when declaring a person dead. Newspaper reports from the 1880s detail instances of authorities exhuming bodies to find evidence of people attempting to escape their confines. The articles go into details of coffins having scratch marks on all sides but especially the coffin lids. One New York Times article reports a woman’s burial shroud having been torn to pieces, with the corpse in a fetal position with the legs tucked underneath. Because of these articles, people became aware of premature burial so they often requested a special type of coffin with a contraption to alert people if a mistake had been made and the person is still alive.
5. The Dead Body Under Your Hotel Mattress
After reading about this urban legend, one could not blame you for always checking underneath your hotel mattress. A urban legend made the rounds in the last two decades that people would have peculiar smells in their hotel rooms upon arrival. The stench would not go away all night so they reported it the hotel management. When it was looked into, a dead body was found underneath the mattress. No kidding! This has actually happened several times: Las Vegas, Kansas City, Pasdena and several others.
4. The Halloween Decoration
Halloween night in Delaware is a lot more interesting when a 42 year old woman hangs herself over a busy street, then an odd thing happens. No realizes the body is not real. People go about their normal trick-or-treating traditions, thinking the body is a very cool depiction of a real body. It isn’t until the next day when someone finally realizes it was too real to be decoration. The legend has the woman doing it on Halloween night because she knew know one would notice, but this fact has never been verified.
3. Bugs taking a free ride
Everyone has probably heard this one. A woman visiting a foreign country comes back home and starts to experience terrible headaches. When the doctor investigates, he discovers a big bug has hitched a ride back with the woman, in her head. As gross as this legend is, it has actually happened. A woman in Britain returnes home from Peru to hear scratching sounds inside her head. When the sounds got louder and pain came with it (along with a fly out of her ear), she went to the doctor who found a nest of maggots in her ear canal.
2. The Homemade Self-Decapitation Machine
The legends behind people cutting off their own heads have been with us for awhile. Unfortunately, it has some basis in truth. In 2011 in Yorktown, Virginia, authorities find an unresponsive man in a car with a trailer. The trailer is on fire. No matter what they d0, the man does not respond. Police trace a piece of wire looped around the man’s neck to a tree not far away. Before they can react, the man speeds off and boom; no more head. To make matters worse, the car goes out of control and the trailer rolls into his neighbor’s yard. Ouch. Luckily, no one else is injured.
1. Stolen Kidneys
A person is out on the town looking for a good time. He meets someone in a bar, who offers to buy him a drink. A few drinks later, the man leaves the bar to go to a local hotel room. Only when they arrive at the hotel room, the only funny business that happens is the person falls fast asleep on the bed . When he wakes up, he finds himself in the bathtub filled with ice with a incision in his abdomen. He finds out later that one of his kidneys is missing. Although many have claimed this to be an untrue story, there have been news reports all over the world (India being the main one) of people having their organs harvested for the black market.