Top Ten Urban Legends

urbanAn urban legend is a modern myth or story repeated by people, which usually involves an element of horror.  There have been many urban legends over the years and whole movies have cropped up based on these stories.  Most of them involve fears of something bad happening.

10.  People are stealing kidneys – This is the urban legend that Saw (2004) lampooned when the main characters woke up initially.  I think there was kidney theft related crimes on TV way before then, like on Law & Order.  I don’t know when this one actually started, but it pops up now and then in horror movies or on television.

Adam: Huh? This is what they do man! They kidnap and drug you, before you know it you’re lying in a bathtub and your kidneys are on eBay!

Dr. Lawrence Gordon: No one has taken your kidneys.

Adam: Can you tell from way over there?

Dr. Lawrence Gordon: Because you’d need to be in terrible agony or you’d be dead by now, trust me.

Adam: What are you? A surgeon?

Dr. Lawrence Gordon: Yeah.

9.  Flash your headlights and you’re dead – I heard about this one in the 90s, but apparently it goes back for quite a bit longer than the previous urban legend.  The myth goes that if you flash your headlights at a car with its headlights off, they will turn around and kill you.  The people running you down are generic gang members and that’s the initiation.  People used to flash headlights back before headlights became automatic and ran all the time.  

8.  The jersey devil – The jersey devil is said to be a creature that inhabits the woods or area of Southern New Jersey.  The origin comes from a deformed man or child who lives there, or something like that.  This urban legend was featured on TV back in the 90s and was made into an episode of The X-Files.

7.  The vanishing hitchhiker – This is a generic story about a hitchhiker who turns out to be a ghost.  Pretty simple really.  It has an element of realism and has been around since the 70s because of that.   “Hitchhiking Ghosts” have been a popular subject since then and many books have been written about this legend.  I think I saw something on “Unsolved Mysteries” once about this.  Robert Stack likes to make his voice all serious, so this fits his repertoire.

6.  Bloody Mary – This is an urban legend for the ladies.  Girls used to like to talk about this one with their friends and it has been the subject of several movies.  It goes back many years, and I think it originated in England, where Queen Mary became known as Bloody Mary.  The movie Countess Dracula also had similar bloody rituals and sorta played off this urban legend.  Modern stories involved chanting to a mirror and it was a popular urban legend in the 60s.

5.  Pop rocks legend – If you put pop rocks into soda and drink it, your stomach will explode, according to this urban myth.  This one originated back when kids knew what pop rocks were.  They were a fizzing candy that would pop in liquid or something like that.  They were even before my time, but other candies and foods have the same sort of connotation.  Kinda strange.

4.  The killer is inside the house – This is probably one of the most cliché urban legends on this list.  It has been the subject of many movies, where the killer makes phone calls to the victim from inside the house, but that’s not revealed until the very end.  Then the killer stabs them or something.  Weird.


Is that a dead body under your bed?

3.  Body under the mattress – The body under the mattress or under the bed probably comes from crazy 60s or 70s hotel room stories.  Must have been the bad smell.  The legend was heavily written about in the 90s.

2.  Water explodes in a microwave – This one is like the pop rocks myth and has been heavily floated around the internet.  Doctors warn that water can explode under the right circumstances if quickly brought to a boil in the microwave.  The explosion is caused by a release of energy from the water, and I guess could theoretically happen, but I don’t think anyone really takes any precautions against it.  Do you heat water in the microwave?  If so, be careful!

1.  The sewer alligators – This has to be the most popular urban legend ever.  It’s probably this or the Chupacabra, if you know what that is.  Alligators living in the sewers has an element of realism like some others on this list, and originated in New York.  The story explains that someone flushed an alligator down the toilet and it survived, growing a family of little baby alligators to populate the sewers, attacking anyone who went down there.  This story is fantastically, funny, and scary all at the same time.  It puts the “urban” into urban legend.