Urban legends, at least as far as that term has been used to describe them, are relatively new. The name dates back to the 60s and, though they come in many different styles and genres, the basic idea is the same. It’s a story told as though it were true. Often the details are changed to make it sound more personal – it happened in town or nearby, it involved people you know or may have heard of. But in general, the idea is that it truly is a legend or a myth, a story meant to shock or horrify in some way. But not true. Never true. Except in those rare occasions when they actually did happen.
10. People Scatter Ashes At Disneyland All The Time
When someone dies and is cremated, deciding on what to do with the ashes is often a big deal for many people. This is the final remains of someone who you cared for in life. What do you do? Sometimes the deceased will have made their wishes and other times it’s up to the bereaved to make a judgement call. And, according to urban legend, many of the dearly departed want their last hurrah to be at Disneyland.
Since before 2010, the story has made the rounds about people regularly scattering ashes both at Disneyland and Disney World. And while this might not be a big deal at many tourist sites like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, Disney is a theme park. It’s an enclosed area full of families who probably don’t want to breathe in your grandfather. So surely this is just a legend, right? Just a horrible tale of misguided souls bidding farewell to a loved one in a bit of a thoughtless fashion? Not so much.
Turns out people really do scatter ashes at the Magic Kingdom with baffling regularity. Pre-pandemic it was happening at a rate of about once per month. It happens so often there’s a code that Disney employees use to alert others to the problem. So if you ever hear anyone at Disneyland refer to a HEPA cleanup, you know to watch out for dust clouds.
Weirdly enough, although ashes are tossed everywhere, the most frequent spot is the Haunted Mansion.
9. Charlie No Face
The name Charlie No Face certainly evokes the proper imagery for an urban legend, right up there with the Slenderman and Jersey Devil. But unlike those last two, Charlie No Face, sometimes called the Green Man, was not a story concocted to make people afraid. He was a real guy, and his name was Ray Robinson. But it was true, he didn’t really have a face.
According to the legend, Charlie No Face was a monstrous figure that walked the streets near Pittsburgh late at night. He had no eyes, nose, or lips and his skin glowed an eerie green.
In reality, Ray Robinson was 8 years old when he made the tragic mistake of climbing a tree and touching an active power line. The resulting electrocution burned him so badly he lost most of his face to the burns, but he did survive.
Ray grew up blind but well aware that his appearance would be considered horrifying to many. He chose to only leave the house under the cover of night as a result. Maybe not so much to spare others, but to spare himself from having to deal with people questioning him. But it ended up giving rise to the legend of Charlie No Face, born from the imaginations of people who made snap judgements after simply seeing someone who didn’t fit the mold of what we expect when we see other people.
As the story spread, many people would drive the highways at night in the hopes of finding Ray. Some did so with kind intentions and shared a drink or took a photo. But others abused him, attacking or humiliating him. Many people grew to actually enjoy Ray’s company and valued their meetings with him, as he was always kind and willing to talk and share time with anyone, even if most people sought him out as something of a joke or a dare at first.
8. The Puebla Tunnels
The Mexican city of Puebla dates back to 1531, so there’s a lot of history there. In modern times, an often-told story detailed how Puebla had a secret underground world. Dating back almost to the origin of the city itself and the proceeding couple of centuries, a network of tunnels was supposedly dug out. That was the story, anyway. But they existed on no maps and no one had ever found actual evidence of them. It was just one of those stories everyone seemed to know.
In 2014, the story took a sharp right turn when construction crews actually discovered one of the tunnels. Then, upon further exploring, a lot more were found. They were able to map out an extensive network that it’s believed was designed to connect major structures from the city’s origin.
One of the first cities built during the Spanish colonial era, Puebla was very important for the Catholic Church. The tunnels, it’s believed, connected buildings owned by the church so that treasure, or people, could be moved secretly between locations. They were also used during war time to move troops and munitions as well as staging attacks.
Upwards of 10km of tunnels exist and they are well constructed. They’ve handled around 500 years of construction and earthquakes and are large enough for a man to ride through on horseback.
7. The ET Dump
One of the greatest and most infamous tech urban legends of all time dealt with what was arguably one of the worst video games ever made: ET, for the Atari 2600. If you never played it, it’s hard to appreciate how terrible the game was. Even with the very primitive gameplay and graphics Atari was packing, the game was pure nonsense. Pixelated ET was trying to assemble a phone and escape the FBI. You’d enter a screen and then enter another nearly identical screen and maybe fall down a hole to another identical screen. Over and over and over.
The game was a critical and commercial failure. It was developed in just six weeks and after an initial sales boom from excited fans; the bottom fell out when everyone realized the game was trash. And what do you do with trash? You dump it. That was the legend, anyway. According to the story, thousands, if not millions, of unsold copies were secretly taken to the desert to be buried and forgotten. It was so perfectly preposterous there was no way it could be true.
After years of speculation, in 2014, permission was finally given for a team to excavate the alleged dump site. Turned out the rumors were true and there was a bonanza of crushed old Atari systems and games, chief among them the unsold copies of ET that fans had hated so badly 30 years earlier.
6. The Bunny Man
If you live in or around Fairfax, Virginia, then you know the tale of the Bunny Man. He’s the local boogeyman people need to be on the lookout for, especially near a bridge on Colchester Road.
According to legend, there was once an insane asylum in the area that closed down. The patients were moved but one busload of them crashed. Most of the patients were rounded up again, but one got away. The only sign of him that was found was a group of gutted and partially eaten rabbits hanging from a bridge. The patient was never found.
Months later, on Halloween, some local teens head to the bridge to hang out. The next day they’re found gutted and hanging from the bridge, thus beginning the Bunny Man’s reign of terror. Every Halloween, if you head to the bridge, you risk running into him.
There are a lot of holes in this story, not the least of which is that there was never an asylum in the area. But there was a story once of a couple in a car who were attacked by a man with something on his head, who threw a hatchet at them.
The papers turned the “something” on his head into bunny ears and the story grew from there. A deranged man dressed like a rabbit who had escaped from an asylum and was stringing people up didn’t take long to grow out of the initial story, and the rest is history.
5. The Pool Guy
Not every urban legend deals with murder and mayhem. Some are just uncomfortable and kind of gross. Like the infamous story of the guy in the pool that everyone has probably heard some version of at one time or another.
According to this tale, the details of which can easily be changed to any public pool in any city in all the world. Rescue workers had to come to save a man who got stuck. How’d a guy get stuck in a swimming pool? Well, it wasn’t the whole guy; it was just a sensitive part of his anatomy that got stuck in a suction filter.
As foolish as it sounds, it really happened to a man back in 1994. He was found by police in Scotland with his pants down and his business firmly lodged in place. He was taken to hospital to deal with injuries sustained and will forever have to live with the knowledge that he was the guy in the story everyone knows and laughs about.
4. Coca-Cola Spermicide
The history of birth control is quite interesting and dates back much further than you’d think. The Ancient Egyptians would form a pessary, you could consider it equivalent to a modern diaphragm, that was inserted to block the passage of sperm into the cervix. Only their version was made from things like crocodile dung.
One of the most interesting aspects of the history of birth control is the history of attempted birth control. People have tried some wild and crazy things over the years and one of the most infamous took root in urban legend form. Women, starting in the 1950s, were using Coca-Cola as a spermicide.
The story is as simple as it is bizarre. A woman, not wanting to get pregnant after intercourse, would simply take a bottle of Coca-Cola and clean herself out. The idea was that the acid in the Coke would kill any sperm. The story has existed for decades and often follows the familiar “friend of a friend” pattern of travel. And it would be a hard one to prove true if not for medical science.
Research into the idea began back in the 1980s when a Harvard researcher heard of the supposed method for the first time. One of her med students said that students in her school in Puerto Rico had done it and, as it happens, there’s even a song from the 1960s about it.
A series of tests proved that Diet Coke was a better spermicide than New Coke, but that no Coke would likely be a good spermicide at all considering how impregnation works and the fact you would never get the beverage where it needs to be deep enough or fast enough. But the urban legend isn’t necessarily that it works, just that people tried it, and that much seems to be true.
3.Body Under the Bed
One of the most well known urban legends is also one of the most terrifying. A family (or a couple, or even a single) checks into a hotel room. Exhausted, they hit the sack and sleep the whole night through. By the next morning, they’re noticing a weird smell in the hotel room. They search around and find nothing until someone gets the bright idea to look under the bed. The source of the smell is quickly discovered. It’s the decomposing corpse of a previous guest.
We’ve all had bad experiences in a hotel, but a corpse under the bed is next level. Hotels are notorious for not cleaning as well as they should, but how do you miss a whole body? Well, it happens. As in, more than once. It doesn’t happen often enough that you need to check under your bed every time you check into a hotel, but if you notice a smell it wouldn’t hurt you to look there first.
2. Snuff Films
Few urban legends have been so horrifying to the public conscious as the idea of snuff films. The idea of these films, which allege to show a real murder that has been filmed, date back to the ’70s. The FBI has investigated several actual movies over the year that depicted deaths so realistic people thought they’d seen a real human die and they discovered nothing but fiction. Several infamous films like Cannibal Holocaust or Guinea Pig have garnered attention, with actor Charlie Sheen even alerting authorities to the latter in 1991. The producers had to demonstrate how they made the special effects deaths in the films to prove their innocence.
To this day, you’ll find most websites claiming that no snuff film has ever been proven real and that they are just urban legends. This is not true. There has been a snuff film, and it was also fairly recent.
In 2012, Luka Magnotta murdered Jun Lin in Montreal, Canada. It was an incredibly gruesome crime involving dismemberment, cannibalism, and necrophilia. And Magnotta filmed it all. And he put it on the internet.
A nearly 11 minute video of the murder entitled “1 Lunatic, 1 Ice Pick” was uploaded to a gore website. It showed the victim being stabbed repeatedly and dismembered. It was set to music. And he posted teasers online several days before the murder even took place.
The victims’ hands and feet were mailed to different locations around Ottawa, Ontario and as far away as the west coast where they had been sent to elementary schools. The killer was later convicted of first degree murder.
1. Organ Theft
The organ theft urban legend is so popular it’s made its way into movies. The idea of black market organs is something most people have heard of, and yet for some reason, the concept of organ theft is still considered to be an urban legend. This stems in part from the way it’s described in urban legends which involve someone, often a tourist, getting drugged and waking up in a tub of ice with a hastily stitched wound in their side and a missing kidney.
For many years, authorities insisted these were nothing but urban legends and no one has ever awoken in a tub of ice in this condition. That said, authorities later were forced to acknowledge a disturbing trend in China, which led to far more donated organs than organ donors.
In 2019, a panel of experts determined that China was very likely murdering members of the Falun Gong religious movement and other political prisoners and then harvesting their organs. So no one gets to wake up in a tub of ice here. They’re being murdered outright and losing all of their organs.
Falun Gong members started being persecuted in China around the year 1999. This coincides with a dramatic spike in organ transplant surgeries. In 1998, China performed 3,596 kidney transplants. A year later, they were over 10,000 and they seem to have remained at that rate. China says they harvest organs from officially executed prisoners except their own records indicate they don’t execute that many prisoners and even if they did, how would they match so many organs to those in need? It’s clear that they have a second, unofficial source of organs and nearly everyone agrees it’s organ harvesting.