The reason urban legends work so well isn’t because they’re scary, but because they’ve happened to someone you know. It’s not a fictional story in a book anymore, but a shared tale of a community or locality, giving them more credence than any ghost story we can ever come up with.
Even if most of the popular urban legends we know of are likely to be entirely fictional, they’re worth mentioning because they don’t seem to go away. If someone accidentally mistook a bunch of rocks for a race of giant people living in the mountains, the myth would quickly vanish, as it wouldn’t be corroborated by anyone else. The only reason people would continue to believe it is if they kept finding clues that prove the theory correct. That plausibility – combined with our inherent fear of an unknown place – is what makes these urban legends from around the world so scary.
8. The Well To Hell
Back in 1989, a new urban legend had started circulating among Christian newsletters around the world. Apparently, a team of Soviet scientists had dug up a super deep hole into the ground with the sole intention of proving the existence of Hell, because why else would you do it? They dug to a depth of around 9 miles, and even if there are various versions to what happened next, almost all of them claim that some sort of a microphone was lowered into the hole to record what was really going on there.
According to the legend, it recorded the screams of millions of souls stuck in the limbo of hell, proving once and for all that the Bible was right. The story is still widely shared across the religious parts of the Internet, along with the supposed recording taken that day (which is pretty scary, actually).
Of course, none of it is true, even if it’s still believed by many people. For one, the motive of the drilling expedition wasn’t to check if Hell really exists, but to gather scientific data on what lies in the depths of our planet. Also known as the Kola Superdeep Borehole, it’s the deepest artificial point on Earth at a depth of around 7.5 miles, and has since provided us with invaluable data on the Earth’s crust.
7. The Monkey Man of Delhi
New Delhi is hardly new to monkeys, though the Monkey Man was no ordinary monkey. As the legend goes, a monkey-like figure started appearing on the rooftops of the city somewhere in 2001, and many eyewitnesses even claimed to have seen him. Hilariously enough, the police even took their testimonies and came up with an artist’s impression of their own.
While the Monkey Man was never caught and disappeared as fast as he had come, the whole situation created quite a bit of panic among the city’s residents. Most people chalk it up to someone who was so bored back in 2001 that he started dressing up as a monkey and jumping off rooftops before things got out of control, though as he hasn’t been caught, we’d never really know for sure.
UAE is home to quite a few urban legends of its own (much like the rest of the Arabian peninsula), as the Emiratis love their monsters and ghouls. Perhaps the scariest of them, though, are the Umm-al-Duwais: female djinns that apparently lure young men to secluded places before brutally killing them for being so stupid.
Even if the story largely originates from the northern Emirates region, it’s now so popular that you’d find versions of it as far as Iran. The djinnis are said to only appear when the men are alone, as they first take the appearance of a beautiful woman dressed in white. We’d say that something of that sort happening on a secluded Arabian beach is already cause for concern – ghost or not – though apparently, men in UAE just don’t make that leap of logic. As soon as they’re completely seduced, the spirit changes back to its real form of an ugly hag and promptly kills them.
While quite a few Americans reading this would have heard of the Chupacabra as the blood-sucking, mammal-like monster apparently found across Mexico, Puerto Rico and Southern United States, it’s been a while since we heard anything new about it. Did it disappear?
The answer is no, and on the contrary, there has been an acute rise in the number of its sightings in recent years, especially in Mexico. Something mysterious is definitely attacking and killing the livestock across the region, and we’re not really sure enough to say it’s definitely not Chupacabra. Someone even claimed to have shot a video of the thing, though it can just be a diseased stray dog or a coyote, too.
Regardless of whether it’s real or not, the Chupacabra remains one of the Americas’ most enduring myths.
4. The Tokoloshe
Owing to its absolutely massive size, Africa is home to a mind-boggling number of urban legends. For this one, we’d take a look at one from South Africa that has been a nuisance for the Zulu people for hundreds of years.
Known as the Tokoloshe, it’s said to be a small creature that can resemble a big rodent, small mammal, or a gremlin, depending on who you ask. They’ve been a part of Zulu mythology for a long time, and are apparently the reason why their beds are placed so much higher than usual.
The Tokoloshe are said to only come out at night when you’re sleeping. While there are variations on what they’d do once they reach you, the most common ones range from something really annoying – like messing up your hair – to outright death by strangulation. No worries, however, as according to traditional beliefs, the sinister-yet-tiny creature can be completely thwarted if you just raise your bed a bit higher, as that seems to completely nullify its capabilities.
If you’ve been to Germany, you’d know that the country’s folklore is absolutely stacked with urban legends right out of your nightmares. That’s why it’s next to impossible to pick out the scariest one, so we went ahead and chose something with a more poetically-tragic feel to it.
Lorelei is the local name for a large rock on the bank of the river Rhine, as well a legendary siren that has been seemingly haunting the area for a long time now. As it goes, she only shows herself to fishermen lost at sea, beckoning them towards her as safe refuge. Of course, like most urban legends, it heavily relies on men simply forgetting everything they’re doing to go after a pretty woman, which may as well be true.
As expected, the sailors – enchanted by the beauty of a suspiciously beautiful woman in the middle of nowhere – start heading towards her, only to be crushed and drowned by the treacherous rocks of the shore. While other versions of this legend exist around the world, this one may have some truth to it, in the way that those rocks can actually kill you if you happen to crash into them.
2. The Beijing Ghost Bus
While there are many variations of this legend out there, the common theme remains the same. On November 14, 1995, two men flagged down the last bus going to Beijing’s Fragrant Hills. The driver didn’t want to let them on at first, as they weren’t at a bus stop, though when he does, he sees that it’s actually three men. The two men from earlier were providing support to a third man with long hair who wasn’t in his senses, and all of them were curiously dressed up in Qing Dynasty robes.
According to some versions, all three were really pale, almost like… ghosts. As the other passengers got off at their stops, it was just down to two people at the end: a young man and an old woman (some versions say it was an old man). Suddenly, the woman started accusing him of theft, and insisted that they get off at the next stop to go to the nearest police station. As soon as they did, she told him that it was all a ruse to get him the hell off that bus, as she had noticed that the three men from earlier didn’t have any feet.
We don’t know if this is true, but apparently, the bus was found a few miles from its intended destination the next morning. In it were three decomposing bodies: the driver, the conductor and a mysterious unidentified man with long hair.
1. The Rake
The Rake – also known as the Fallen Angel in some regions – shows up in urban legends around the world, though its most recent sightings have largely been in Europe.
According to the sightings, it’s a humanoid creature almost as tall as an average human, with ghoulish, hairless skin and wide, hollow eyes. It’s said to linger in suburban, bushy areas, and shows up in almost the same position; sitting on the edge of your bed in the middle of the night. Apparently, it can also enter your dreams and eat your sanity, which is just overpowered at this point.
The difference between the Rake and most other entries on this list is that there are many corroborating accounts of the supposed creature, going all the way back to the 12th century. It has been caught on camera multiple times, too, including this scarily-convincing clip from Catalonia, Spain. While we don’t know if there is actually a ghostly species of Voldemort-like creatures living among us, this one is definitely backed by quite a bit of evidence.