15 Mostly-True Urban Legends

It’s only human nature to find thrill in being scared. And it is this intrigue that has driven story tellers to pass down spooky tales from generation to generation. Whether they’re told by campfires or on Internet forums, urban legends are here to stay.


What are some your favorites?

You’ve probably heard the one about the man who had the body of his supposedly-dead wife exhumed only to find scratches on the coffin and his wife’s nails bent back. How about the one about a woman waking up in a tub of ice to realize one of her kidneys had been stolen?

But, these are just stories. Right?

What if I told you there is some truth behind these and many more urban legends? Read on to learn about the bizarre facts behind some of these so-called urban legends. But, put away the snacks. We’re going to get started with a nasty number.

15. Earful of Maggots

Urban legends are filled with stories about the dangers of exotic lands. You’ve probably heard a variation of this one.

A Westerner vacations in a Third World country. Somewhere outside the confines of her posh resort, a bug makes its way into her ear. This bug then creeps into her skull where it chows down on brain matter slowly killing its unsuspecting victim

But, has it actually happened?

Rochelle Harris lived to tell her story.

This Brit was vacationing in Peru when she dislodged a fly from her ear. She then started hearing strange noises and feeling pain on one side of her face. After returning to England, she woke up to find ooze dripping from her ear onto her pillow. Finally, she decided to go to the hospital.

Doctors had to perform surgery to remove a family of eight maggots vacationing in her ear.


14. Buried Alive

What’s scarier than death? How about being mistaken for dead? Think about being buried only to awake in a coffin six feet under with no means of escape. All that stands between you and death is paranoia and slow suffocation.

Feeling claustrophobic yet?



This fear may have spawned one of the most popular urban legends around. It goes like this:

Someone’s great-(insert amount of desired “greats”), grandmother falls ill and gets buried sometime before modern embalming techniques are practiced in her town. Her husband refuses to believe she’s dead. He begins to have visions that she’s trying to escape the coffin.

After he has the body exhumed, he finds the nails on his love’s fingers are bent back and there are scratch marks on the coffin.

B-S, right?

Well, accidental burials weren’t unheard of centuries ago.

In 1886, the body of a girl named Collins was exhumed from her grave in Woodstock, Ontario, to be transported to another one. She was found with her knees drawn to her chin and her arms twisted under her head.

But don’t think you’re safe from being mistaken for dead these days.

In 2011, Fagilyu Mukhametzyanov from the Russian town of Kazan awoke during her own funeral. The resulting shock “actually” killed her.

Photo from Google
Photo from Google

13. Shocked to Death While Using a Phone in a Thunder Storm

As a kid, your parents probably warned you to stay away from the telephone during a thunderstorm. But no one ever actually got shocked to death by picking up the phone, right?

It happened. In 1985, Jason Findley of New Jersey got electrocuted while using a phone during a thunderstorm. His body was found in his room still clutching the phone.

Photo by JM
Photo by JM


A storm was raging outside when Jason picked up the phone. The lightning caused an electrical surge to shoot through the telephone wire and into Jason’s ear. It stopped his heart.

But of course, that was the ‘80s. Do you think you’re safer with smart phones? Nope. They’re still made with electricity-conductive materials such as metal and wiring.

Using a cell phone during a thunderstorm increases the potential severity of lightning if it were to strike you.

When you have a phone to your ear, lighting concentrates right into the orifice rather than taking the safer approach of dissipating throughout your skin.

A 15-year old girl suffered cardiac arrest after chatting on her cell phone during a thunderstorm while at a London park. A year later, she was confined to a wheelchair and suffered from hearing loss, as she dealt with severe physical and emotional problems.


12. The Legend of Bunnyman

A popular urban legend told in the Fiarfax, Va., area is the story of Bunny Man. This psycho in a bunny costume supposedly roams the parks at night wielding an axe, which he sure-as-hell ain’t using to chop carrots with.

But is this story true, or is it just told to scare kids into getting home before nightfall? Don’t turn out the lights just yet. Bunnyman may really be out there.



It was October 1970, Air Force Academy Cadet Robert Bennett was with his fiancée when he parked his car on Guinea Road– for obvious reasons. But the fun stopped when a hatchet penetrated the right-door window.

Bennett told police it was thrown by someone in a bunny costume who shouted, “You’re on private property!” before hopping into the night.

About two weeks later, a security guard saw someone in a bunny costume chopping away at new roof support for an unoccupied house. The guard approached him and the bunny yelled, “All you people trespass around here! If you don’t get out of here, I’m going to bust you on the head!”

The guard went back to his car for his gun. But, the bunny was gone when he came back.

That was the last time anyone saw Bunnyman. Or perhaps the last person to live to tell about it.


11. Dead Body Mistaken for Halloween Prop

Halloween in the USA is almost as big as Christmas. People deck the halls with morbid decorations and every house on the block becomes haunted. Ghosts perch onto street lights and ghouls hang from trees. Sometimes, these props look so real. Sometimes, they are real.



Residents from Frederica, Delaware, woke up one day to find what they thought was a Halloween gag hanging from a tree. It actually was the body of a woman who had committed suicide.

Dozens of passersbys saw the body hanging about 15 feet from the ground before someone finally reported it.

In another case, a teenager died while trying to “fake” hang himself at Michigan’s Sparta Horse Farm, when it was offering Halloween attractions in 2001. Caleb Rebh saw a skeleton hanging from a tree and decided to take its place as a prank. But when he let go of the rope with the noose around his head, the tree whipped back sealing the rope tightly around his neck.

Spectators thought he was acting as he slowly lost his life with both feet on the ground. Eventually, employees realized he was in real danger and tried to resuscitate him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.


10. Corpse in the Chimney

You might have heard the one about the would-be St. Nick who tries to slide down the Chimney with a sack of presents only to end up getting stuck there and left for dead. Something similar happened to Dr. Jacquelyn Kotarac of Bakersfield, Calif.

Associated Press
Associated Press


One day in October 2010, Jacquelyn decided to visit her “sort-of” boyfriend William Moodie by sliding down his chimney – literally.

But William had already left the home “to avoid a confrontation,” according to police.

Jacquelyn’s co-workers reported her missing after she didn’t show up to her office. Her body was discovered three days later when a house sitter showed up and smelled something fowl coming from the fire place. There, she found dripping fluids and Jacquelyn’s body stuck about two feet above the opening.

Firefighters spent five hours tearing through the chimney to recover her body. Police did not suspect foul play but ruled the death as “suspicious.”

NY Daily News
NY Daily News

9. Ghost Calls

Communicating with the dead has been a staple of campfire stories for centuries. The Ouija board dates back to the 1800s. Tales of talking with ghosts stretch back to the advent of the telegraph. Today, ghost texts and supernatural cell phone calls aren’t unheard of.



But are these stories just told to reinforce our yearning for life beyond death? Perhaps. But, there are plenty of unsolved mysteries behind ghost calls.

Consider this number:

On September 12, 2008, a train was traveling at 83 mph through Chatsworth, Calif. It collided with a freight train killing 25 people. Among the dead was Charles E. Peck, who died on impact.

In the 11 hours after the crash, however, Peck’s cell phone made 35 calls to his loved ones. His fiancé, brother, and sister all got them.

But on the other side, recipients only heard static. When they called back, their calls went to voicemail. Search teams traced the cell phone’s signal back to the wreckage area where they found Peck’s body.

His cell phone was never found.


8. Accidentally Eating Your Pet

The most devoted pet owners say their critter companions are part of the family. Some people even develop stronger bonds with their pets than they do with humans. So of course, urban legends are filled with tales about Fidos and Tinkerbells meeting their horrific ends.

Heard of the one about the family who brings their dog to a Chinese restaurant, only to leave with pieces of Lassie in their stomachs?



But did this story happen? Or does it just keep getting served with sides of B-S and xenophobia?

Most likely the latter, but don’t think people haven’t unwittingly wolfed down Scooby.

In 2014, Ryan Eddy of Redding, Calif., made his ex-girlfriend dinner. It was a way of saying sorry for months of abuse. She could have used some companionship since her dog went missing. So, she gobbled down dinner.

She later got these text messages: “How’s your dog taste?”, “I thought it was better with BBQ and those Hawaiian buns.”

If it settles your stomach, the scumbag was served with charges of animal cruelty, domestic violence, false imprisonment, stalking, and illegal weapons possession.


7. The Legend of the Pishtacos

For hundreds of years, people throughout South America have scared the crap out of kids with stories about the Pishtacos (Pronounced kind-of like “fish tacos”). These vampires are believed to stalk victims on dark, lonely roads before attacking them and draining their fat.

They were even featured on an episode of “Supernatural.”



But in November 2009, they seemed all too real for the people of Peru.

Police had just arrested six members of a gang that claimed to lure people into a makeshift lab in the Huánuco jungle, before dismembering them and using votive candles to render fat from the bodies’ abdomens.

Police found ribs, thigh bones, and the severed head of a missing man buried around the compound.

They also found a soda bottle filled with human fat.

According to lead prosecutor Jorge Sanz Quiroz, the gang members told police they sold the grease to local shamans, who used the fat to make candles for satanic rituals.

Gen. Félix Murga, former director of Peru’s criminal investigation unit, initially said the thugs sold the fat for thousands of dollars to representatives in the cosmetic industry.


6. Dead Body Under the Mattress

You’ve most likely heard the one about the foul smell coming from underneath a hotel bed, where a dead body was neatly tucked in. The bed’s living occupant spends days on the mattress before reporting the smell to management who discover the corpse.



But can someone really hide a dead body underneath a mattress for days on end? Unfortunately, it’s happened at several hotels throughout the US.

In 2003, a man checked into the Capri Motel east of Kansas City. He reported a terrible odor coming from the bed, but management said they could do nothing about it. He left on the third day because he couldn’t bare the smell. When the hotel’s cleaning staff came in to make the bed, they lifted the mattress and found a corpse in an advanced state of decomposition.

In 1999, a German couple spent the night above the body of Saul Hernandez at the Burgundy Motor Inn in New Jersey. At least three guests slept above the body of Mary Jean DeOliviera, which was discovered in a box spring at the Oceanside Motel in 1988. Like several true cases, their bodies were never discovered until after guests reported terrible smells.


5. The Kidney Heist

Touch your sides if you’ve heard this one before. After a night of partying in an exotic land, a woman wakes up naked in a bathtub full of ice. It’s not a practical joke pulled by drunken friends. This poor sucker has a scar on her side marking where one of her kidneys used to be.



While no evidence suggests the story really happened this way, the black market for organs is very real. In 2008, it couldn’t get any more real for Mohammad Saleem.

Acting on the promise of a job in construction, Mohammad traveled to a bungalow in the Indian state of a Gurgaon. There, two men forcefully anesthetized him. Mohammad later woke up on a metal gurney in a local hospital ward.

Men looking down on him said, ‘We have removed your kidney, and you better not breathe a word about it.’

Luckily, someone did.

Acting on a tip, police later raided the bungalow where Mohammad had stayed and uncovered an organ-trafficking ring that operated for a decade.

According to the World Health Organization, an illegal kidney transplant is made every hour.

Washington Post
Washington Post

4. Killer in the Library

We’ve all heard stories about what goes on in the secluded areas of college libraries. And not all involve the study of reproductive organs. Some tell of sinister forces lurking between the shelves.

At least one is true: The 1969 murder of Betsy Aardsma.

College Magazine
College Magazine


Betsy was a pretty, smart, and well-liked student at Penn State University. During Thanksgiving break, when most college campuses are nearly deserted, she decided to visit the dimly-lit stacks section in the basement of Pattee Library.

The last chapter of her life (pun intended) came to a close there.

Betsy was stabbed in the chest with a hunting-style knife that broke through her breastbone, severed the pulmonary artery, and struck the heart.

She barely uttered a gasp before falling to the ground and pulling books on top of her. About nine people were 70 feet away from the crime scene, but none could see anything because of the intervening shelves of books that rose floor to ceiling.

Eventually, she was found by Mary Erdley who was led to the body by two men who shouted “Somebody better help that girl” before vanishing.

Mary stood beside the body trying to get passerbys to help for 15 to 20 minutes before the ambulance was called. Betsy was pronounced dead at the hospital.

About 40 state troopers investigated the case interviewing hundreds and following leads across the country.

They never found the killer.


3. The PCP Cannibal

Urban legends are filled with cautionary and often twisted tales about the horrors of drugs. Ever heard of the one about the stoned baby sitter who accidentally bakes the baby? How about the one about the LSD-dropping hippies who stare at the groovy rays of the sun too long and go blind?



While most are just stories people pass around to keep kids off drugs, there are reports of people going truly “loco” while under the influence. Consider the story of Antron “Big Lurch” Singleton, the rapping cannibal.

In April 2002, police found him naked, covered in blood, and staring at the sky as he roamed the streets of Los Angeles. He apparently had been on a PCP binge.

But back at his apartment, cops found something straight out of a slasher movie: the mutilated body of Antron’s 21-year-old roommate Tynisha Ysais.

Her lungs had been torn from her chest and her face was covered in bite marks. When doctors examined Antron’s stomach, they found pieces of Tynisha’s lungs.

“Big Lurch” is currently serving a life sentence.  Plenty of time to write mad rhymes — that will never see the light of day.


2. Killer Inside Your House

Spooky-story tellers love turning safe places into nightmare factories. Take the comfort of your own home for instance. There are stories of haunted houses, cursed objects, and even home invaders hiding in your house before they strike.

The Sun
The Sun


But the truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

In 1922, a family was slaughtered at their farmhouse in the German town of Hinterkaifeck. Each was stabbed with a pickaxe-like tool called a Mattock.

Farm owner Andreas Gruber lived with his wife, his maid, his widowed daughter, and her two children aged two and seven. All bodies were found in a hay stack except for those of the maid and the youngest child who were found dead in their beds.

The family was found days after being killed when neighbors realized they were missing.

Reports suggest the killer stayed in the house for some time because the cattle had been fed after the murders. Neighbors also reported seeing smoke rise from the chimney after the killings.

Before the murders, Andreas heard strange noises throughout the house. He noticed objects went missing before reappearing in odd places. He also found strange footprints leading to the house after a snowstorm.

The family’s previous maid quit, because she believed the house was haunted.

To add to the shock value, Andreas had a relationship with his daughter Viktoria and he fathered her youngest child.

Police never found the killer. Suspects included a neighbor, an escaped mental patient and even the father. More superstitious folk point to the Devil.


1. Dead Body in the Hotel

Hotels are common settings for urban legends because, let’s face it, they’re creepy. You’re sharing a roof with strangers from all walks of life. Who knows who these people really are or what their intentions are?

So of course, we’re going to keep hearing creepy campfire stories about serial killers roaming hotel lobbies searching for their next prey, or of bodies tucked in the hotel walls. While most are just stories, some really happened.



Consider this story:

Sabrina Baugh and her husband were staying at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. But something was off. The water coming out of the shower head was black. The water from the faucet tasted funny. Nonetheless, these Brits thought that’s just how things were in LA.

They kept bathing, brushing, and drinking tap water for days. Then, a maintenance worker found the body of Elisa Lam in the hotel’s rooftop water tank.

Police investigating the college student’s “suspicious” death say her naked body most likely was decomposing for at least two weeks.

Although her death was officially ruled an accidental drowning by the LA county coroner, there are several theories surrounding her death.

In a now viral video released by detectives, Lam is seen entering the hotel’s elevator before cowering in the corner. She then leaps toward the opening doors and starts flipping her head in both directions as if someone was chasing her.

The Cecil has housed two serial killers, and it has been the setting of several murders and suicides. Lam’s death partly inspired the latest season of American Horror Story.

USA Today
USA Today