Urban legends have been around since forever. They have been passed down through the years, with several having some variations on the tales. Some urban legends are created simply for entertainment purposes while others are supposed explanations for random events and mysterious disappearances. Many are cautionary tales.
Creepypastas constitute an ample amount of the urban legends floating around—one of the most popular being The Slender Man. While these are totally fictional horror stories used to scare viewers, some people believe them to be true. Due to the Internet, urban legends can be spread around more. You’ve probably received more than one chain email or Facebook message that told you to forward the email or message to a certain amount of people or you would suffer some sort of terrible fate.
But, thanks to the Internet, many of these urban legends can be debunked. There are websites dedicated to debunking myths and legends such as snopes.com, as well as TV shows such like MythBusters. The urban legends in this list have fooled plenty of people since their inception, and some of them may have fooled you without you even knowing it.
There’s probably at least one on the list that you never believed and can’t believe someone else would, but there’s probably at least one that you grew up believing and can’t believe isn’t true. Check out the list for yourself.
15. You Can See The Great Wall Of China Of Space
A common myth that has floated around since forever is that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made creation that can be seen from space. In fact, this erroneous statement was added into textbooks. This could not be farther from the truth. You can’t see the 5,550-foot-long wall from space with the unaided eye, even from low Earth orbit (LEO), which has an altitude of 2,000 kilometers or less. And the Apollo astronauts who landed on the moon definitely couldn’t see it from there.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield said that the Great Wall is “too narrow, and it follows the natural contours and colours [of the landscape].” American astronaut Leroy Chiao took a picture of the Wall from out his window on the International Space Station in 2004 but had to use a zoom lens on the camera.
14. Benjamin Franklin Used A Kite To Show That Lightning Was Electricity
We’ve all been told that Benjamin Franklin proved the electric nature of lightning using a kite, but some experts believe that his experiment never happened. The biggest reason for the skepticism is the lack of hard evidence. There were no witnesses. Franklin gave ambiguous accounts of what happened; one was published in the Philadelphia Gazette, and Franklin didn’t mention that he was the one who conducted the experiment.
NASA scientist Tom Tucker attempted to recreate Franklin’s experiment using materials that would have been readily available during the latter’s time, but he couldn’t get the kite to fly. He argued that even if he was able to get the kite in the air, it wouldn’t have ascended into the atmosphere high enough to get struck by a lightning bolt.
13. Bloody Mary Can Be Summoned
According to legend, the evil spirit, Bloody Mary, can be summoned by chanting her name anywhere between three to 1,000 times into a mirror in a dimly-lit room lit only by a candle. Eventually, Bloody Mary will appear in the mirror, sometimes covered in blood. She’ll either claw your eyes out or pull you into the mirror, trapping you with her in the mirror forever. The whole thing is nothing but fiction but what is real is the Caputo Effect.
It’s a spontaneous reaction that happens to our brains when we can’t see clearly. The Caputo Effect was named after psychologist Giovanni Caputo due to one of his experiments. He placed test subjects in a dimly-lit room and told them to stare into the mirror. After about a minute, they started to see a facial apparition in the mirror, which was just a distorted version of their faces.
12. If You Swallow Gum, It Will Take Seven Years To Digest
It’s true that your body can’t digest gum, but it doesn’t take seven years for it to be digested. Even though it was designed to be chewed and not swallowed, it’s not harmful and you won’t need to be concerned if you swallow a piece. The gum doesn’t stick around in your stomach but moves throughout your digestive system until it is excreted in your stool.
However, that being said, swallowing large amounts of chewing gum should be avoided at all costs. There have been cases of large wads of gum combined with constipation blocking the intestines of children and causing major problems. Two years ago, a 19-year-old Welsh girl died from swallowing too much gum, having chewed 14 sticks of gum a day and swallowing much of it.
11. Walt Disney Was Cryogenically Frozen
A lifelong smoker who smoked three packs a day, Walt Disney contracted lung cancer and developed a tumor in his left lung. It’s said that he had his body cryogenically frozen while waiting for a cure for his disease. Once the cure was found, Disney could be unfrozen and would be given a second chance at life. Legend said that his cryo-preserved body was stored in Disneyland beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. But, contrary to what the rumors say, Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, and his body was cremated two days later.
Bob Nelson, the former president of the Cryonics Society of California, attested to seeing Disney’s ashes for himself. Part of the reason why Diane Disney Miller, Disney’s oldest daughter, opened up the Walt Disney Family Museum was so the rumors surrounding her father could finally be squashed.
10. Coca-Cola Dissolves Your Teeth
There are enough rumors and myths surrounding Coca-Cola for there to be a category dedicated to them known as “Cokelore.” One myth is that Coca-Cola spelled backwards is a secret anti-Muslim message written in Arabic. Another is that eating Pop-Rocks and drinking Coke will make your stomach explode. The most popular myth is that if you leave a tooth in a cup of Coke overnight, the tooth will be fully dissolved when you wake up.
However, the acids contained in the soft drink are relatively mild compared to orange juice, regular vinegar in salad, and more. Coca-Cola will stain your teeth if you don’t brush them, as the caramel coloring which gives the soda its brown hue can discolor your teeth, but it’s not strong enough to melt down your teeth.
9. Turning On Electronics Below 10,000 Feet Will Cause The Plane To Crash
The FAA bans electronics when the airplane is below 10,000 feet in the air due to interference, but it’s not enough to crash the plane. They’ve conducted extensive studies on the effects of electronics on plane avionics, and there was never enough interference to issue an all-out prohibition. That being said, cell phones do cause interference in the headsets pilots use. And it will get you into trouble for violating airline rules if you’re caught using one.
Airlines do allow exceptions for pilots, like the use of iPads in the cockpit. But then, the airline has to do very costly testing on every model version the pilots plan on using and then have the FAA review their research and sign off on it, which is probably more trouble than it’s worth.
8. You Can Only Use 10% Of Your Brain
You might remember a science-fiction film from 2014 starring Scarlett Johansson titled Lucy, a film about a young woman who gains psychokinetic powers after a special drug is absorbed into her bloodstream, allowing her to use more than 10% of her brain. It’s widely believed that we humans can only use 10% of our brain power, and if we could use more, we could unlock superhuman powers and increase our intelligence. But that isn’t true at all.
Folklore says that there are large parts of our brains that are unused and could be “activated,” but brain mapping suggests that all parts of the brain serve a function. We already use 100% of our brain. If we could only use 10% of our brains, then damage to other areas shouldn’t inhibit performance, but there is almost no area of our brain that can be damaged without loss of abilities.
7. People Frequently Get Killed While Talking On The Phone During Thunderstorms
There are all kinds of myths about lightning, like lightning never strikes the same place twice, lightning is only dangerous when it’s raining, and Benjamin Franklin used a kite to prove lightning was electricity. Another one of these urban legends is that it’s a common occurrence for people to get killed during thunderstorms if they’re talking on the phone.
You probably get off the phone whenever you hear thunder rumbling in the distance. While it’s not impossible to get killed during a storm while on the phone, it’s far from a frequent occurrence. Getting stuck via telephone only happens approximately one time a year. You’re more likely to get struck by lightning walking around outside than on the telephone.
6. If You Shave Or Wax Your Hair, Your Hair Will Return Thicker
A lot of people are put off from shaving because of this belief. But as we all know, looks can be deceiving. Cutting hair makes the hair appear thicker for a short period of time because the human hair shaft tapers at the end—its widest at the base and narrowest at the tip. When you shave or wax the hair you cut it off at the tip, so when the widest part grows out, it looks like it’s thicker than it was before.
But nothing has changed. Nothing about the hair regrowth process changes due to your body hair being cut. Numerous studies have been carried out on this subject matter, and the results have all been the same—there is no evidence that shaving makes the hair coarser.
5. Airplanes Dump Their Waste Midflight
Airliner toilets either use the “closed toilet system” or the “vacuum waste system.” The “closed toilet system” works pretty much like the toilet in your house or your apartment, flushing the wastewater into an onboard sewage tank. The “vacuum waste system” sucks wastewater into the tank. It’s powered by the difference between the air pressure outside the plane and inside the cabin, so it produces a roaring vacuuming noise whenever a passenger flushes the toilet.
After the plane lands, the ground crew empties the sewage tank, so while it seems like the toilet is flushing the sewage outside into the atmosphere mid-flight, it’s really not. Even if the staff wanted to do so, the valve to the sewage tank is located on the outside of the plane and can only be unlocked by the ground crew.
4. Alligators Live In The Sewers Beneath New York
It’s been claimed that a thriving colony of alligators lurk in the sewers beneath the City That Never Sleeps. The story goes that baby alligators brought from Florida were dumped into New York City’s sewer system where they grew to enormous sizes, terrorizing anyone unlucky enough to be down there in the sewers. But according to naturalists, gators would never be able to survive in New York City.
They thrive in warm climates like Florida and wouldn’t be able to survive for very long during the cold New York winters. Nature writer Diane Ackerman said, “But they couldn’t survive for any length of time in the sewers, only a few months at the most because they can’t live long in salmonella or shigella or E. coli, organisms that one usually finds in sewage. Also, alligators live at temperatures between 78 and 90 degrees.”
3. Your Hair And Nails Grow After You Die
While one’s hair and fingernails may appear to still be growing after they die, this is not the case. It’s just another illusion. After we die, the skin recedes from the body due to dehydration that causes the skin and other soft tissues to shrivel up. As a result, the hair and the fingernails look like they’ve been growing. Sometimes, funeral directors will moisturize the fingertips when preparing a body to prevent this look.
In order for hair and fingernails to grow, new cells must be produced, which can only be produced by glucose. Death puts an end to glucose and also an end to hair and nail growth. Eventually, the hair and the fingernails will break down just like the rest of the body.
2. Bulls Hate The Color Red
Yes, you have been lied to your entire life. Bulls don’t hate the color red. In fact, they can’t even see the color red. Bulls, along with all other kinds of cattle, are colorblind to red. The bull isn’t angered by the color of the muleta but by the cape’s movement as the matador whips it around in front of the bull. Spanish matadors started using red maletas in bullfighting during the 1700’s, which engendered the myth that said bulls go crazy when they see red. Bulls don’t have any color preference when it comes to flags, as proven in an experiment conducted by Mythbusters. They’ll charge whatever flag is moving the most regardless of color.
1. Recirculated Cabin Air On Airplanes Will Make You Sick
Many people come down with a bug after taking a ride on an airplane, but it’s not the recirculated cabin air that makes them sick. The air you breathe on a flight is pretty clean, thanks to fresh air from outside being continuously drawn into the cabin through compressor stages in the jet’s engine. Filters remove 99.97% of airborne particulates, bacteria, and viruses, and the air is combined with recirculated cabin air.
Studies have proven that recirculated cabin air can’t make one sick, but it is true that frequent flyers tend to get more sick than other people. The real problem is dry air and constant contact with germs during the flight. It’s important to wash hands often, keep hydrated, stay in good physical shape, and avoid alcohol.
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