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Top Five Urban Legends – and Their Origins



I have been fascinated by Urban Legends since I was a teenager, from days when I would attend sleep-overs with friends and use them to scare the others. It’s fascinating to learn that at least some of these scary tales have a basis in truth. Here I explore five of my favourite urban legends.

Bloody Mary

This unsettling tale is probably one of the most famous legends, and is based on the concept of mirrors being used as a spiritual portal. If somebody stands in front of a mirror and calls out the name ‘Bloody Mary’ three times, a female is said to appear and result in your death, or serious injury. It has been suggested that Bloody Mary originates from Queen Mary the 1st, of England. It is said that she became known as ‘Bloody’ due to the killing of protestants with efforts to bring Catholicism to the forefront in her country.

Coca Cola

There are various Urban legends surrounding this popular drink. The most popular theme is that if you leave a tooth in a glass of Coca Cola over night, the tooth will completely disappear, having disintegrated in the fluid.

One particularly unusual account stemming from this drink is an email that was circulated in 2002, whereby it was claimed that a man working in a Cola factory infected the drink with a toxic material. Coca Cola themselves addressed this allegation on their own official website.

This rumour claims that a major news network and/or newspaper have put out an alert that Coca-Cola factories have been infiltrated by terrorists and that traces of poison have been found in cans of Coca-Cola. One version of the rumour surrounds a “tip” not to buy or consume Coca-Cola, implying an impending planned contamination. These rumours are absolutely false and are causing needless worry. The Coca-Cola company has an uncompromising commitment to product safety, and our products are produced and distributed through secure facilities.

The Vanishing Hitchhiker, or the Phantom Hitchhiker

This spooky story has many variations, but the central theme remains the same. A young woman walks along a quiet road, late at night. She hitches a ride, and climbs into the back seat of a stranger’s car. Upon arrival of her destination, the driver turns around and finds that the hitchhiker has vanished. A twist of the tale normally adds that the driver researches the area, and finds that the young lady has passed away some years ago. Origins of this spooky tale are hard to trace. There have been accounts of supposed true-life vanishing hitchhikers from the USA and Britain. One account, from 2009, stems from a taxi driver in Buckinghamshire, UK, who claimed to have picked up a passenger – only to find that she had disappeared upon arrival of her address. His story reached the pages of local press.

The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs

This Urban Legend has inspired several horror movies, and has caused many unsettling nights for young teenagers making pocket money from babysitting. Generally, the legend stems around a young girl, babysitting alone. She starts to receive phone calls from a man who begins to ask troubling and personal questions. Eventually, the anonymous caller tells the babysitter she had better check on the children. Alarmed, the young girl calls 911, and police trace the calls. The caller is phoning from inside the house, and the police warn the babysitter to get the children and leave the property as soon as possible.

Alligators in the Sewer

This Urban Legend originates from the late 1920s, and based on reported sightings of alligators in New York. The general theme of this story, is that many families ignored warnings and laws against keeping alligators as pets. Knowing that soon the alligators would inevitably grow too large for the family to care for them, they would flush them down the toilet. Legend has it that these reptiles survived, by feasting on rats and rubbish found in the sewage system.

According to David Emery, Urban Legends expert, there is a grain of truth to this legendary story.

There is a documented capture of an eight-foot-long alligator at the bottom of an East Harlem manhole in 1935 — though no one at the time assumed the creature actually lived down there. Instead, it was theorized that the ‘gator probably tumbled off a steamer visiting the northeast “from the mysterious Everglades, or thereabouts,” then swam up the Harlem River. It met an unfortunate end at the hands of the teenage boys who found it. 

So, those are my top five Urban Legends. Do you have any legends specific to your area? Are there tales I have missed from my list that you want to discuss? Have you been influenced at all by these scary tales? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading!


One response

  1. Always love creepy urban legends the the clown statue


    February 20, 2016 at 8:29 pm

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