Urban myths, also known as urban legends, have always fascinated people. In past times, rumors about malevolent creatures like werewolves or witches that flew through the sky on brooms, and bizarre beings like the basilisk were urban legends. Today’s modern folktales are less fantastic, and more realistic. Here is some facts about every urban legend, and they warn you about.. Join us as we explore six of the top urban legends, and the horrifying truth about them.
What is an Urban Myth?
Urban myths are stories about things that can and sometimes have happened, but these stories come with some of the facts greatly exaggerated. They are almost always based on real stories, but urban myths are told from one person to the next, and each person who tells these stories tells them differently. Over time, the stories change by growing, and the initial facts are combined with things people have contributed to them, some of which will have started off as white lies. When enough time goes on, people sometimes forget the original incident that started the urban legend in the first place. Urban legends are often about tragic or dangerous scenarios and are used to warn people to be careful. The stories say that the worst things possible could happen to people if they don’t take the warning the urban legend gives.
The History of Urban Myths
Urban myths and legends have always been around, but the first time the term “urban legend” is known to have been used in print was in 1968 by folklorist and professor Richard Dorson. He believed folklore was rooted in history and should be examined. The term “urban legend” later became popular because of the writings of another educator, named Jan Harold Brunvand, who published books on various urban legends, including The Vanishing Hitchhiker.
Urban legends begin by word of mouth, with friends and neighbors sharing details with one another. Today, these stories are circulated in books, articles, and news stories. The earliest urban legends were usuallystories about heroes. One such hero written about was Gilgamesh, who is now believed to have been a great king and hero whose life was so revered, he was deified. It is believed he lived in the second millennium BCE and was a king in Uruk in Sumeria. He is named in The Sumerian King List and was credited with rebuilding the walls of Uruk. It was written that he was so well-loved, he was buried in the sacred riverbed of the Euphrates, and the flow of the river was diverted, so he could be laid to rest there.
Epic myths speak of heroes like Gilgamesh with superhuman strengths, who were probably at one time ordinary humans who just found ways to persevere through great difficulties and help to uplift their communities. Literature professor Joseph Campbell believed myths were humanity’s way of understanding reality, that myths heal us, and myths are “mankind’s one great story.”
Urban myths are newer myths, but they function the same way myths from history do. They help us to explain what is happening, and when details are missing, we fill in the spaces with what we think might have happened. We have always created myths and we always will. Today’s modern urban legends will become the legends of the past, told in folklore books and in classical literature.
The Most Well-Known Urban Myths
People have always had frightful stories they share, and today’s urban legends are just as popular as those of history. It is impossible to name all the urban legends of today, but some hold our imaginations captive more than others. Perhaps urban myths are told to entertain more than they are told to frighten people, but they seem to serve both purposes. The most popular urban legends express concern about things that could harm us today in our modern world, as opposed to telling stories about things like a king from centuries ago.
The Bigfoot is a creature many swear they have encountered, but none have been able to entirely prove exists. Many refuse to allow their children to Trick-or-Treat on Halloween, in fear malevolent people will contaminate the candy with deadly things. Bloody Mary is an old tale about a creature who appears in the mirror and can tell your fortune or kill you. Multiple urban legends about hitchhikers have drivers thinking twice about pulling over to offer a humble vagabond a ride. Still other people are terrified of getting in their car before they inspect it well, out of concern that somebody may be hiding to murder them.
Also known as the Sasquatch, Bigfoot is believed to be a hairy human-like creature who lives in the wilderness of North America.. Stories of these creatures predate the settling of the Americas by Europeans. Certain stories speak of a different species of creature that was benevolent, while others spoke of a terrifying beast who was feared.Indigenous tribal people of British Columbia have tales about the “sasq’ets” which means “hairy-men” and these were said to be shapeshifting creatures who were guardians of the forests. A Jesuit priest reported a story in the 1700s he was told by the Natchez people that a hairy creature lived in the woods, stole their animals, and screamed in the night. No proof of a creature like this has even been found, and photographs and casts of alleged footprints of the Bigfoot are regularly debunked as hoaxes. Various investigations have been done, with no solid evidence of Bigfoot being real, and it is believed by some that people misunderstood what they saw, assuming what was likely a bear was Bigfoot.
Similar to Bigfoot is the Yeti,also called the Abominable Snow Beast of the Himalayan region. The Yeti was spoken about many years ago in the tales of the indigenous Sherpa people and from Buddhist lore where they are seen as spiritual creatures or spirit animals.The Himalayan region itself stretches over five countries and has various climates, ranging from snowy with glaciers and warm, tropical weather at its base. Some of the highest peaks on earth are there, including Mount Everest, and it is difficult for human beings to explore there.. Various creatures like bears and orangutans match the description of a large, hairy creature, which flees when sighted. Another explanation for these sightings could be humans dressed in fur in cold, snowy weather.
Poisoned Halloween Candy
There have been dentist offices who have offered to x-ray Halloween candy for free for children, to soothe parent’s worries the candy could be contaminated with things like razors or straight pins. Other people opt to only allow their children to accept candy at Halloween time from their local organizations like schools and churches, where they trust the people handing out the candy. Terrified parents worry there could be poison laced into the candy even if there are no razors or other sharp objects, and some families won’t allow their children to collect candy for Halloween from anybody at all, preferring to buy candy for their kids themselves.
While police around the world have not reported organized candy contamination, some high-profile cases about things being contaminated have made the news. In 1982, some bottles of Tylenol were contaminated by potassium cyanide, and multiple people died because of this. In response, millions of bottles of Tylenol were recalled, and people discarded whatever Tylenol they had at home. The result was the creation of tamper-proof bottles to help ensure safety and some people said if people would contaminate Tylenol, they would contaminate anything including candy. These Tylenol poisonings and deaths happened close to Halloween.
In 1975, a man poisoned his son’s Halloween candy and some candy he handed out to other children, and he was convicted and executed for the child’s death. Reports of sharp objects and poison in candied apples and Halloween candy got a lot of attention. However, studies concluded despite the Tylenol poisonings and the father killing his son, no evidence of the poisoning of Halloween Candy has ever been reported, let alone a lot of accounts of it happening.
Mirrors have been used for divination for as long as we can remember. An old British practice was for a woman to use a mirror to try and see the face of the man she would marry. Some unlucky women would see the reflection of the Grim Reaper instead, telling them they would never marry. People gaze into crystal balls, black mirrors, or use Ouija boards for messages from beyond. Any shiny surface, including a bowl of water, will work for people, but mirrors in particular seem to be especially cherished for getting psychic messages. One story about using mirrors for this is the tale of Bloody Mary. The story says she appears in the mirror covered in blood if she is called, and she may be screaming in a terrifying manner.
An urban legend says you just have to say the name “Bloody Mary” a certain number of times for her to appear. Some stories say she will tell your fortune, but other stories say Mary might drink your blood, strangle you, scratch off your face, or drive you insane. There has never been any proof this works, but many swear that summoning spirits is possible, whether you use a mirror or other means of communication.
Multiple urban legends tell tales about somebody picking up a hitchhiker who vanishes without a trace. One of these stories started circulating after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. A man said he picked up a woman who was hitchhiking and when he got her to her destination, she offered to pay him for the ride. When he declined any money, she said she would foretell his future. She told him that a dead person would ride in his car and soon, Adolf Hitler would die. After this, he stopped to help people after a car wreck, and he was driving one of the victim’s to the hospital, but they died before he got them there. This story spread very quickly, with people taking it as evidence Hitler would die.
There are countless variations of this story. In some, a hitchhiker gives the driver an address to take them to, but then disappears in the car without a trace. When the driver arrives at the destination, the people who live there tell them the passenger was somebody who died years prior, and the ride happened on the anniversary of their death. Other stories say the hitchhiker was given a coat to keep warm, and the coat was later found draped across a tombstone. There is no proof these things happen, but a lot of people believe the dead can communicate with the living and the dead speak in their own ways.
The Back Seat Killer
One urban legend tells about a woman who felt harassed by somebody who would not let her drive without them interrupting. One of the versions of the story tells of a woman who is nearly blinded by the high beams of a truck that is following her closely. When she finally can’t take it anymore and pulls over at a gas station to ask for help, it turns out somebody was in her back seat with a knife. Every time they reached out to try and stab her, the truck driver shone their lights, and the killer shrank back out of sight. Another account tells of a woman who was chased by a crazed individual who banged on her car until she drove to the police department in fear. The police found a killer in her backseat and the crazed person warning her and was the spirit of somebody else the killer had murdered.
In both these accounts, the killer was foiled, and the would-be victim escaped unharmed. A real life account of something similar happened in 1964 in New York City. An escaped murderer hid in the backseat of a car that turned out to belong to a police officer. The officer found the killer and shot him. The moral of the story is to always lock your car, and look through the windows of your car before getting in it to make sure nobody is waiting to hurt you. Another lesson taught by these stories is to pay attention to people who are trying to get your attention while you are driving. Your gas cap might be open, your wallet might be on top of your car, and maybe, just maybe, somebody is in your car, intending to kidnap, hurt, or even kill you.
Urban myths might not have all the facts correct, but they do hold some truth. Maybe Bigfoot or the Yeti don’t exist, but scientists discover new species all the time, one day they might be real. There have not been incidents reported of Halloween candy being poisoned, but not all strangers can be trusted to have good intentions. An apparition in the mirror can’t drink your blood, but it is unwise to conjure spirits whose energy and objectives you don’t know. It is never a good idea to be alone with a stranger, and there is always a chance somebody hitchhiking is a dangerous individual, and might even be a spirit. Always check the backseat of your car before you get in, because thefts and kidnappings do happen.
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