Urban Myths Verified: Legends That Found Reality

By Sophia Maddox | May 5, 2024

Stay Away From the Clowns

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(daily mail)

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.

Poison in the Pills

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(getty images)

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.