Bone Chilling Urban Legends That Turned Out To Be True
By Sophia Maddox | October 28, 2023
Stay Away From the Clowns
The Slender Man, the Elevator Game, the Razors in Halloween Candy: We all know the hits when it comes to urban legends, and love sharing our favorites with friends on a dark autumn night. But sometimes urban legends aren't just the whispers of overactive imaginations or tales told around a flickering campfire. These stories, once dismissed as mere fiction, have roots that reach deep into the soil of true events. Read on to be confronted by the haunting truths behind the most bone-chilling urban legends...if you dare.
If there's one thing a kid knows, it's to stay away from clowns. Over time, various campfire stories have been told, from clowns luring children into vans, to clowns standing eerily by roadsides, and to those breaking into homes. These urban legends don't stem from any one particular event, but there are real-life instances and phenomena that have fed into the fear:
John Wayne Gacy, a serial killer in the 1970s, was known to perform at children's parties as "Pogo the Clown." He was responsible for the murder of over 30 young men and boys, though he was not in his clown persona during the crimes. Later in 2016 there were widespread reports in the US of people dressing as clowns and exhibiting threatening behavior. These sightings ranged from creepy clowns lurking in woods to those attempting to lure children with money or candy. Many of these incidents were hoaxes trying to capitalize on the viral nature of the phenomenon, but the pervasive media coverage and the panic it caused in the public solidified the urban legend's status in modern folklore.
They're Drugging Your Candy
As Halloween approaches, sinister whispers begin to emerge. One of the most chilling tales parents tell is that of malevolent individuals who tamper with Halloween candy, lacing them with drugs ranging from LSD to Rainbow Fentanyl. The cautionary tale has become so entrenched in popular culture that many parents diligently inspect or even discard candies that appear tampered with, for fear of their children being drugged. However, when we peel back the layers of urban legend and delve into the real story, we find that the widespread fear is largely unfounded. However, there have been isolated incidents which contributed to the fear.
In 1959, a dentist from California, William Shyne, distributed laxative-laced candies to children during Halloween. He faced charges for indecent conduct and unauthorized distribution of medication. In the 1970s, a young boy tragically died from consuming cyanide-laced Pixy Stix. However, the candy was not laced during trick-or-treating, but had been poisoned by his own father who hoped to cash in on life insurance.
The Bunny Man
The Bunny Man is a haunting urban legend that has persisted for generations, primarily in the Washington D.C. area, specifically in and around Fairfax County, Virginia. The legend begins in the early 20th century, with a tale of a mental asylum deep in the wilderness of Fairfax County. Under pressure from the locals, the institution was shut down, and the patients were loaded onto a bus bound for a new facility. The bus crashed, and a patient - the Bunny Man - escaped. Soon after the disappearance of this patient, disturbing occurrences were reported in the area—sightings of a man in a dirty bunny suit, and the finding of skinned, half-eaten rabbits hanging from the trees. After weeks of rabbit mutilations, the police discovered a gut-wrenching sight: the Bunny Man's cache of corpses - both rabbit and human - hanging from a railroad bridge.
But research shows that there weren't any asylums in Fairfax County around that time, so there's no way this could be real - right? Unfortunately for rabbits, they just got the timing wrong. In the 1970s, a man in a bunny suit was reported to have thrown a hatchet at a car in Burke, Virginia. Two weeks later, an ax-wielding Bunny Man was found chopping up someone's front porch. He has yet to be apprehended.
Rats in the Toilet
The story goes like this: An unsuspecting person steps into the bathroom for a moment of privacy. Unbeknownst to them, lurking just beneath the surface of the water in the toilet bowl, a rat is poised and ready to emerge. This poor individual is then met with the terrifying sight of a live rat, wet and wriggling, suddenly emerging from the depths of the toilet, sending them fleeing in horror.
While it's rare for this to occur thanks to modern plumbing, it happens! Rats, being exceptional swimmers and able to squeeze through incredibly tight spaces due to their flexible skeletons, have been known to navigate the labyrinthine pipes of the city’s sewer system. Seeking food, warmth, or perhaps an escape from a predator, they climb up residential sewage pipes and—voila—they find themselves unintentionally in someone’s toilet bowl. Yikes!
High Beams/There's Someone in the Backseat
Familiar with this urban legend? It typically unfolds like so: A lone driver, usually a woman, is making her way through a desolate road or is stopped at a gas station. Unbeknownst to her, an intruder has silently slipped into the backseat of her car, lying in wait with sinister intentions. In some versions of this story, a kind stranger or a gas station attendant notices the intruder and tries to alert the driver without arousing the intruder's suspicions. This often involves a clever ruse to get the driver out of the car, such as pretending there is a problem with her credit card or with her car that requires immediate attention. In other versions, the driver behind her sees the intruder in the backseat, and starts flashing his headlights to scare him - instead scaring our lone protagonist. In all versions, our driver is suspicious of the good Samaritan, until they reveal they were trying to get her out of harm's way, and she realizes how close to danger she had unwittingly been in.
This story echoes many real concerns about personal safety, especially for women. There are multiple real-life occurrences of women finding men hiding in the backseats of their car, even an incident in Yarmouth, Massachusetts that was as recent as 2023. Check your backseats, people!
The Alice Killings
The Alice Killings, a series of supposed murders that occurred in Japan between 1999 and 2005, might just be one of the most detailed urban legends floating around out there. This legend not only includes locations and dates, but the names of the alleged victims! Let's dive in:
According to the story, the Alice Killings are comprised of five cases: the murders of Sasaki Megumi, Yamane Akio, Kai Sakura, and the Oshira siblings. The one common thread, the eerie signature that sends a shiver down one’s spine, is the single word "Alice," which is always found at each crime scene - often on a playing card, and often in blood. The killer was never found.
While no such murders took place in Japan, this legend does have some basis in truth. Over in Spain, serial killer Alfredo Galán became known as "The Playing Card Killer" after leaving cards on the bodies of his six victims. Galán turned himself in to authorities in July 2003.
The Boogeyman/Cropsey of Staten Island
Few urban legends are as chilling as that of Cropsey. This dark myth, born in Staten Island, New York, is a terrifying boogeyman story that has terrified generations. But what makes Cropsey especially disturbing is how elements of this grim tale seem to echo in the real world.
You probably heard this one as a kid, just with the name of "the Boogeyman". Cropsey, or the Boogeyman, is a homicidal madman, an escaped mental patient wielding an axe or hook, on the hunt for errant children or teens. He hangs out in dark woods and abandoned buildings, as to be expected. Parents often used Cropsey to caution their children not to stray too far from home or play in the woods after dark.
The twist is that in the 70's and 80's, a real boogeyman materialized on Staten Island. Children actually were disappearing. One child's body was eventually found on the grounds near the shuttered Willowbrook institution, a place that had already been a source of public outrage due to its horrific abuse of patients, children with intellectual disabilities, before its closure. Eventually, Andre Rand, a former janitor at the Willowbrook State School became the prime suspect in these disappearances. Though Rand was never charged with the murders, he was charged and eventually convicted in connection with the kidnapping of children, hopefully putting Cropsey behind bars for good.
The Dog Boy
According to the folklore of Quitman, Arkansas, The Dog Boy is the ghost of a young man with an unnatural and sinister obsession with dogs. In life, he was said to have kept a large number of dogs at his home, to which he was often abusive. He also abused his elderly father, confining him to the attic of the house until his eventually died.
The Dog Boy legend is one that had clear roots in real-life events. A man named Gerald Bettis grew up in Quitman, along with a large amount of stray cats and dogs. According to town residents, he would torture them. Local Mary Nell Holabird had this to say about the family:
"His parents were good people, but Gerald was a brat, vicious and cruel. He would catch stray animals and torture them. We could hear them howl. He kept his parents virtually imprisoned in the upstairs part of that house. He would feed them, but only when he decided it was time for them to eat."
Gerald's father died in 1981 from illness, but rumors continued to swirl that he had been thrown down the stairs by his son. Gerald was later arrested - for selling marijuana - and died in jail from drug overdose.
The Puebla Tunnels
The Puebla Tunnels Urban Legend has captured the imagination of locals and visitors alike in the Mexican city of Puebla for years. As legend would have it, the Tunnels are an ancient, sprawling network of secret underground passages stretching beneath the city, connecting key locations such as churches, government buildings, and former battle sites. Some say they were used for everything from the covert movement of soldiers and the smuggling of goods, to secret romantic liaisons between nuns and priests, and the hiding of treasures and important artifacts during times of conflict. And who exactly created this subterranean tunnel network? According to who you ask, it could be the Spanish invaders, Indigenous peoples, or even aliens.
While most dismissed the Puebla Tunnels as the stuff of legend, in 2015, a network of tunnels was indeed discovered beneath the city. Found during public construction, these tunnels are believed to date back to the early colonial period. The city has since worked on preserving some of these passageways, allowing the public a rare glimpse into this underground world through guided tours.
While the actual uses of the discovered tunnels are believed to be more mundane – largely for drainage and water supply – but who really knows? All we know is that their existence has breathed new life into the urban legend. It adds a layer of reality to the myth, encouraging people to wonder, “What if?”
According to the legends of Western Pennsylvania, Charlie No-Face was a monstrous figure who lurked in the shadows of rural roads at night. It was said that he was horribly disfigured, or - as some versions have it - was completely missing his face. Some people claimed that he was the survivor of a lightning strike, while others suggested that he suffered a terrible electrical accident at work. All seemed to suggest that Charlie had some sort of green glow, and an effect on nearby electricity. Locals said that the specter resided in what they dubbed "Green Man Tunnel", and you could often see him floating around the area at night.
This urban legend was sadly, based on truth - although there were no monsters involved. Charlie's real name was Raymond Robinson, and he did indeed float around that area that night. As a child, Raymond got snagged on a power line and lost his eyes, nose, an ear and an arm. As he grew into adulthood, enduring bullying and cruel names, Raymond became a recluse. He decided to take his walks at night in order to avoid any cruelty as well as to keep from scaring any locals. Anyone he did encounter, he was always friendly with - even posing for photos - until his death in the mid 1980's.
The Polybius Video Game
According to legend, Polybius was developed by a company called Sinneslöschen, and mysteriously appeared in Portland, Oregon arcades in the early 80s. However, it wasn't the fun of the game that made Polybius legendary; but effects it had on its players. Polybius was not only addictive, but caused a series of disturbing symptoms including night terrors, seizures, and insomnia. One month after the arcade game appeared, Polybius disappeared without a trace.
Although there is no proof of an actual Polybius game existing in the 1980s, this urban legend seems to be based on several related events in Portland at the time. In 1981, a 12-year-old boy named Brian Mauro got sick after playing Asteroids for 28 hours in an attempt to break a world record, while another player collapsed from a Migraine after playing Tempest at the same arcade. Additionally, around that time apparently several Portland arcades had been raided by the FBI due to suspected gambling and tampering.
There's Someone Living in my House
Imagine coming home to a house that seems just slightly off – a chair is out of place, food has been left out in the kitchen, or a strange noise is coming from above. If we're following the traditional format, you'll begin to notice odd occurrences. Faint sounds—soft footsteps, muted coughs, faint breathing—are heard late at night. Initially, these occurrences are brushed off, chalked up to forgetfulness or the house "settling." But over time, the evidence mounts, and an unsettling truth becomes apparent: someone is living, secretly, in the attic, crawl space, or another hidden part of the house.
Creepily enough, this urban legend is echoed in more than one real-life case. We'll list some of the most famous ones here:
From the late 80s to 2013, residents of North Pond, Maine reported strange occurrences—missing food from their homes, batteries and propane tanks disappearing, clothes vanishing. The mysterious disappearances sparked rumors among the local residents. In 2013, Christopher Knight, "the North Pond Hermit", was captured stealing from a camp, after 30 years of living in the wilderness after striking out on his own at age 20 in 1986. His diet was almost entirely stolen from nearby cabins and camps, with Knight committing an estimated 1,000 burglaries over his years in hiding.
In 2008, a man in Japan noticed food in his fridge going missing regularly. After installing a camera, he eventually caught a strange woman on video in his house and called the police. The police found Tatsuko Horikawa hidden in the man's closet - and determined that she had been living in his home for over a year.
Alligators in the Sewer
This legend begins with vacationers returning from tropical trips, bringing baby alligators back as exotic pets. Once the allure wears off and the alligators begin to grow, the overwhelmed owners, unable to care for the rapidly growing reptiles, flush them down the toilet. The gators then grow to monstrous sizes in the labyrinth of the city’s underbelly, surviving on a diet of rats, ninja turtles, and other subterranean creatures.
Alligators in the sewer are a possibility, though an unlikely one due to the lack of sunlight and amount of bacteria. Gators have been found in Florida sewers and drains as recently as 2017. An estimated hundred alligators, ostensibly above-ground, are rescued in New York City each year, and in 2010, the NYPD caught a baby alligator in a Queens sewer - so anything is possible.
In the early 2000's, deep within the neutral woods of Switzerland, the legend of Le Loyon had taken root. Described as a tall, humanoid figure, Le Loyon is said to haunt the Maules forest, wearing a boilersuit and a gas mask that hides any semblance of a face. While those who have allegedly encountered him speak of an overwhelming sense of dread, Le Loyon seems to be more melancholic than angry, continuing his sad walk through the forest.
In 2003, this urban legend became a little more real. A photographer captured a picture of Le Loyon. Soon after the image was published and spread, a boilersuit and gas mask were found near the forest, along with a note from the legend himself, titled: "Death Certificate and Testament of the Ghost of Maules".In this note, Le Loyon lamented the attention he had garnered in the region. He explained he was simply an ordinary person who used the eccentric outfit as a means of escapism but now, due to all the curiosity from the public, he was giving it up. Le Loyon was never seen in outfit again, and no one ever discovered his true identity.
They Came In Through the Bathroom Mirror
This urban legend is one that will send chills down your spine - especially if you live in an apartment complex. An unsuspecting resident finds fingerprints, unfamiliar items, or even disturbing signs of habitation in their apartment, suggesting that someone else has been there— but there is nowhere for an intruder to hide, so they must just be imagining it, right? Eventually, they find out, to their horror, a malicious trespasser has been coming and going using a tunnel behind their bathroom mirror.
This tale is not so much legend as it is, well, real life. There have been many instances of such intrusions, the most famous happening in 1987 at the Abbott Homes apartment. Resident Ruthie Mae McCoy called 911 in distress, reporting a break-in in progress:
...Throwed down the cabinet. I’m in the projects, I’m on the other side. You can reach—can reach my bathroom, they want to come through the bathroom.
By the time police had arrived, gunshots had been reported, and McCoy wasn't answering her door, but law enforcement didn't even end up entering her apartment till 3 days later. Once in, they found McCoy lying dead, having been shot four times. The killers had entered the neighboring apartment, removed the bathroom mirror, and crawled through, coming out behind Ruthie Mae's mirror. In fact, every bathroom mirror in the complex was connected in that manner.
Bodies in the Hotel Water Supply
In this creepy tale, an unsuspecting hotel guest (or multiple) complains about the water's taste, coppery smell or low pressure in their hotel room, leading the staff to a gruesome discovery: a body, decomposing in the hotel's water supply. As with many legends, the roots of this chilling story are a little too anchored in reality.
In 2013, in downtown Los Angeles, guests began to complain about the odd taste of the water at the Cecil hotel, now known as the Stay on Main. When maintenance staff decided to investigate the hotel's rooftop water tanks, they were met with a haunting sight: the lifeless body of a young woman, floating in the water that had been used by guests for drinking, washing, and bathing - for the last several weeks. The woman was Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old Canadian tourist, and the last known footage of her showed her alone, behaving erratically in the hotel's elevator. This footage caused many conspiracy theories involving ghosts or foul play to arise, although Ms. Lam sadly most likely was experiencing a mental health crisis. Nevertheless, her story - and the many conspiracy theories behind it - have inspired many retellings.
House at the Bottom of the Lake
Ever stared out at a lake, enjoying the gorgeous water and the beautiful day, only to have your buddy send a shiver down your spine with this creepy story? Beneath the still and somber waters, cradled in the cold embrace of the lake's floor, stands a house. Not a ruin, not a mere foundation, but an entire house, maybe even a full town, completely untouched by time, swallowed up by the lake. When the light hits the water the right way, you might even see the shadow of the outline of a mansion's roof. Submechanophobiacs, unite!
However eerie, stories like this aren't so farfetched. In the 1940's, the town of Willow Grove did get swallowed up by a lake, and is still down there till this day for divers' enjoyment. But this turn of events wasn't caused by a sinkhole or freak tidal wave, but the US Government, folks. The government undertook a massive project to construct a dam, so they bought the town of Willow Grove, evacuated the inhabitants, and flooded the valley, creating Dale Hollow Dam. Such underwater ghost towns are a-plenty - Judson in Fontana Lake, the Lost Towns of Ontario, Keowee Town in Lake Jocassee. You just have to know where to look...
A legend often circulates of a sprawling underground city, a labyrinth of tunnels, vast chambers, and hidden passageways that stretch for miles beneath our very feet. Those who speak of it tell tales of forgotten civilizations and ghostly inhabitants who've never seen the light of day. According to the legend, those who venture into its depths risk becoming hopelessly lost or worse, encountering unspeakable horrors. While the urban legend focuses on more supernatural elements, subterranean cities are very real - and could be right beneath your feet at this very moment.
One such place is Derinkuyu in Turkey. Located in the region of Cappadocia, Derinkuyu is an ancient multi-level underground city that could accommodate over 20,000 people. Delving over 200 feet deep into the earth, this subterranean marvel comprises ventilation shafts, wine and oil presses, stables, cellars, storage rooms, and even chapels. It is believed to have been constructed during the Byzantine era, around 780-1180 AD. Despite its "realness", there's something undeniably eerie about Derinkuyu. It's truly the stuff of legends!
Razorblades in the Candy
Another common Halloween warning is to watch out for razorblades hidden in your or your child's candy. Similarly, although this urban legend causes nationwide fear yearly among parents and children alike, most reported incidents turned out to be hoaxes, pranks, or are debunked upon further investigation. One real-life incident that many attribute this panic to happened way back in 1964, when a woman from Long Island, New York, handed out non-consumable items to kids she felt were too old for trick-or-treating. These items included steel wool, dog treats, and ant buttons. So why is the go-to in the story always razorblades? Probably because of advice columnists quotes like this one from Ann Landers that raised the alarm:
"In recent years, there have been reports of people with twisted minds putting razor blades and poison in [candy] apples and Halloween candy. It is no longer safe to let your child eat treats that come from strangers."
Sucked in by an Escalator
The fear of being sucked into an escalator is one that has haunted many, especially those with children or those who vividly remember warnings from their own childhood. The image of a shoe or clothing article getting caught, and the subsequent horrifying consequences, has been a recurring theme in urban legends surrounding escalators. While the dramatic tales of someone being entirely "sucked in" by an escalator are largely exaggerations, there is, unfortunately, a basis in reality for concerns about escalator safety.
In 2015, a mother in China managed to save her child after the panel at the top of the escalator collapsed, but she herself was tragically pulled into the machinery. This particular incident received widespread media attention and brought to light concerns over escalator maintenance and safety standards. I think I'll stick to the stairs, though.
Poison in the Pills
This campfire story speaks of evildoers who poison aspirin or other easily accessible medications, turning a routine act of seeking relief into a potential death sentence. However, the fear of tampered over-the-counter medicine is not just an urban legend—it has real, horrifying origins. The most infamous and tragic case that fueled this fear happened in the Chicago area in 1982. Over a few days, seven people died after ingesting Tylenol capsules that had been laced with cyanide. This series of poisonings, commonly referred to as the "Tylenol Murders," remains unsolved to this day.
The panic that ensued was nationwide. Millions of bottles of Tylenol were recalled, and the case led to a sweeping change in how consumer products, especially medicines, were packaged. The "Tylenol Murders" were so infamous that they even inspired several copycat and hoax events.
There's Someone Under Your Bed
The idea that someone, or something, might be lurking under one's bed is an age-old fear that has been the fodder for countless ghost stories, horror films, and sleepless nights. This urban legend often preys on the fear of the unknown, turning the safe sanctuary of one's bedroom into a place of potential danger. Unfortunately, this does happen in real life - albeit rarely.
One such case was reported in 2015 when a man in New Jersey discovered an intruder under his bed after the latter had been hiding there for three days. The intruder was a burglar who took refuge in the space, with the homeowner unsuspectingly going about his routine above.
Though incidents like this are exceedingly rare, they feed into the urban legend and the collective psyche, magnifying our innate fears. The fact that such instances can, on very rare occasions, actually occur gives the legend a veneer of plausibility, which only serves to heighten its scare factor.
Fake Prop or Real Corpse?
We all know this one - Haunted House-goers ooh and ahh over how lifelike a prop is, until things get a bit too real: That's no prop! Unfortunately, this urban legend has a real life story to it.
Elmer McCurdy was infamous in life as a bank and train robber, but became infamous in death too. In 1911, his embalmed body became a macabre spectacle at carnivals and festivals, drawing crowds across Texas. The corpse/showman found its way to the sunny shores of Long Beach, California, where, in a twist of fate, he was mistaken for a prop and hung in a funhouse at the bustling Nu-Pike Amusement Park. There McCurdy's mummy dangled as an unsettling "fake" attraction—until 1976. While filming ‘The Six Million-Dollar Man’ on location, a crew member, attempting to reposition McCurdy's arm, realized it wasn't a prop but embalmed human remains. The ensuing year finally saw McCurdy's remains treated with the dignity long denied to them, as his corpse was finally laid to proper rest.
The Call Is Coming From Inside The House
This is among the most chilling tales in modern folklore. It's a story that plays on the vulnerability one feels at home, turning the perceived sanctuary of one's dwelling into a place of imminent danger. Here's how it goes: A babysitter is downstairs as the children she's caring for are fast asleep. As the night progresses, she starts receiving mysterious and threatening phone calls. Growing increasingly fearful, she contacts the police, who trace the call. They urgently instruct her to leave immediately, revealing that the calls are coming from a phone inside the house itself, and that the intruder has been upstairs the whole time.
The real-life story this is partially based on is even more chilling. On the night of March 18, 1950, 13-year-old Janett Christman was babysitting a 3-year-old boy in Columbia, Missouri. During the night, local police received a distress call from a girl screaming, but it was abruptly cut off. When the child's parents returned home late that night, Janett was found on the floor, having been brutally attacked and killed. The phone had been ripped out of the wall, but the child she was babysitting was unharmed. Though this case only has a few parallels to the urban legend, this is what most attribute the creation of the legend to. Janett's murder is still unsolved.
They Stole My Kidney!
The "stolen kidneys" urban legend is a particularly persistent and horrifying tale, that typically starts with a tourist or traveler being approached by an attractive stranger. The next thing they know, they awaken in a bathtub full of ice with a nearby note instructing them to call emergency services. When they do, they're informed that one or both of their kidneys have been surgically removed and they must stay in the ice bath to survive until help arrives.
While no bathtubs were involved, in the mid-2000's an illegal kidney-trafficking ring was exposed in India. The organizers would pick up day-laborers, promising them work, and instead force or trick them under the knife and take their organs.
The Halloween Hangman
In the legend, the story usually goes that a staged haunted house or a Halloween event decides to add an authentic touch by featuring a mock hanging as one of its displays. The performer uses a harness or some protective mechanism beneath their clothing to ensure safety, but something goes terribly wrong. The person actually hangs and loses their life. By the time people realize the truth, it's too late.
One of the most famous cases that is believed to have contributed to the legend is that of 17-year-old Brian Jewell. In New Jersey, during a Halloween hayride event, Brian was participating in a mock hanging stunt. Sadly, the protective mechanism failed, leading to his accidental death. The initial spectators thought it was part of the show, which delayed rescue attempts.
Bugs Getting To Your Brain
According to this myth, an individual might feel an itch or hear a faint scratching sound within their ear. This is supposedly a bug that has crawled into their ear canal and is now making its way to their brain, either to lay eggs or to feast. In many versions of this story, this bug will drive the person mad or cause other horrific medical complications.
Over the years, unfortunately, there have been numerous documented medical cases of insects being removed from individuals' ears. For example, in the mid 1850's, explorer John Hanning Speke had a beetle crawl into his ear canal. Desperate for relief, he attempted to flush it out using melted butter, but the tactic was unsuccessful. The beetle continued its painful journey, and Speke feared it might reach his brain. Finally, after enduring this ordeal for several hours, the beetle died, most likely due to the melted butter that had been poured into Speke's ear. However, the insect remained lodged in his ear. Only several days later, after the expedition team reached more civilized regions, was a doctor able to extract the dead beetle.
With Enough Balloons, You Can Fly!
There's a popular urban legend that, with enough helium-filled balloons, a person can fly or be lifted off the ground. It's a whimsical, Pixar-esque idea that could never happen - right?
While the idea might sound fantastical, there's a real-life story that is often cited as inspiration for this urban legend. In 1982, a man named Larry Walters, commonly known as "Lawnchair Larry," attached 42 helium weather balloons to his lawnchair. Unfortunately he shot up pretty quickly rather than having the gentle takeoff he was hoping for, reaching an altitude of over 15,000 feet. Luckily, Larry landed safely, but was fined $1,500 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for violating airspace regulations.
A Fake Word in the Dictionary
As this urban legend goes, dictionary publishers would include a made-up word in their dictionaries to protect their copyright. The idea was that if another publisher copied their dictionary, the fictitious word would serve as proof of the copying.
While the idea of a phantom word in dictionaries might sound like pure urban legend material, it has a foundation in reality. Between 1934 and 1947, Merriam-Webster mistakenly listed a fictitious word, "dord," which was defined as "density."
Many of our favorite campfire stories feature this terrifying element: being buried alive. The protagonist awakens from a coma, attack, or drug-induced sleep to the smothering darkness of a coffin, the muffled sounds of the world above silenced by six feet of cold earth. The stories, as hair-raising as they may seem, are rooted in real, historical fears. Before the advent of modern medical science, the line between life and death was not always clear.
In an account from the early 20th century, a young woman named Essie Dunbar suffered a seizure, and after doctors pronounced her dead, she was buried. But when her sister, who had been late for the funeral, arrived and wished to see Essie one last time, they dug up the grave. Essie sat up, smiled, and lived for another 47 years. In 1901, the body of Madame Bobin was exhumed, as her husband wished to move her to the family tomb. To the horror of those present, her body was found turned over and her clothes torn to shreds.