Many ghost stories get rolled out only for the month of October, along with jack o’ lanterns, tangled gobs of fake spider webs and oozing-eyeball bubblegum for trick-or-treaters. But urban legends transcend the Halloween season to entertain us year-round. Some of them sound like they could contain a kernel of truth, like maybe there is some historical fact buried beneath the fantastic details. Oh, who are we kidding? We love urban legends because they are so outlandish. Here are some of our favorites to get you in the Halloween spirit.
When even Supernatural references it, you know it must be a good urban legend. Hook Man showed up way back in season one of the show (episode seven), although their version was a lot more bloody than the original legend. Back in the 1950s, the Hook Man legend said that two teenagers making out in a car heard a radio announcement about a one-handed escaped convict in the vicinity. When they drove back to the girl’s house, the boy found a hook dangling from one of the door handles. According to About.com’s Urban Legends Expert (what a great title), the Hook Man legend is all a metaphor about teenage sex.
If you’re a female and attended at least one sleepover while growing up, you probably know this one. A gaggle of girls, who have all mastered the art of screaming and giggling simultaneously, dare each other to go into the bathroom alone, leave the lights off, and say “Bloody Mary” three times. Bloody Mary herself will show up in the mirror and emerge to brutally murder the girl who was dumb enough to go in there in the first place. In this case, the science is every bit as strange as the urban legend. Check out the article on Cracked about why a girl might run screaming out of the bathroom, claiming she had actually caught a glimpse of Mary. It turns out that our brains hate stagnation, so if you’re staring at the same thing (like a mirror) for a long time, your brain will create illusions to offer up a little variety…usually of the terrifying kind.
Bat Boy didn’t terrorize dark forests or spooky old cemeteries. He terrorized the checkout line at your local grocery store. Weekly World News seemed to have a new Bat Boy story every week, and the child with elongated ears and a mouth full of sharp teeth soon became a sort of tabloid hero. He even got his own musical. Bat Boy: The Musical debuted in 1997 and included productions off-Broadway and in London’s West End.
When I was a teenager, Mothman was a character we frequently brought up to scare ourselves. We were convinced that he was living in the rural outskirts of my hometown in Florida. As it turns out, the moth/man hybrid was a story from West Virginia that originated in the mid-1960s. What makes this urban legend stand out is the shocking number of supposed eyewitness accounts. While there is speculation that people got caught up in Mothman hysteria and mistook run-of-the-mill wildlife for the mythical man, the story remains a fascinating one that even involves UFO-type activity and a tragic bridge collapse. The full story from PrairieGhosts.com makes for some fascinating reading.
It seems like every state has a story about its own Crybaby Bridge. The bridge in question is always out in the country, away from civilization. Brave souls will stop their car on the bridge in the middle of the night, listening for the phantom cries of a baby who died there in a tragic car accident years ago. This urban legend has a lot of variations, like the idea that if you put your car in neutral on the bridge, it will roll forward by itself…but when you get home, you’ll find the fingerprints of ghost children on the back of your car, because they were the ones making your car move. What are the lessons from this urban legend? Don’t stop on bridges in the middle of the night. And wash your car more often!
While the Hook Man legend originated decades ago, Slender Man is a product of the modern age. His story wasn’t whispered among friends at a sleepover, but written about online. He is unnaturally tall and thin, and he likes to stalk children. This, in turn, can cause nightmares and even dementia for the poor children under Slender Man’s gaze. This relatively new urban legend seems to resonate with a lot of kids. I’m a ghost tour guide, and kids between eight and 12 years old often ask me, “Are we going to talk about Slender Man on the tour?” (Nope, sorry kid, he doesn’t live on the tour route.)
So what is your favorite urban legend? Let us know which stories make you shiver!