Urban Legends

I’ve been thinking a lot about one of my favorite kinds of stories this month…it’s a somewhat underrated story form since it’s short, ingrained in the fears of society, and usually dismissed as rubbish. It’s also disturbing in that “is it or is it not real” kind of way, plus, it’s a short narrative, which sucks you in then drop kicks you down the stairs right when things get going.

I’m talking, of course, about urban legends.

Why are these things so addictive? It’s fear-mongering at its best, and yet every time these things re-circulate (and re-circulate, and re-circulate…), they trigger people’s anxieties and set them off at a basic level. Even logical, well-grounded people are upset if the right type of urban legend happens to reach their ears.

For me, I think I like these because it hits the What If factor perfectly. Now, a lot of these probably are made up, but who’s to say they haven’t happened SOMEWHERE? The really scary thing (especially with the horror-oriented urban legends), is that in the day and age of the internet making these so wide spread, you have people trying some of these to see if they’re doable (I’m talking about things that might run others off the road and cause serious repercussions).

There are all types, and you can spend many hours gorging on them at snopes.com, but some just lend themselves to the season and even started off in folklore.

Some of my personal favorites…

The babysitter who’s just trying to do her job and is the victim of bizarre phone calls, only to find they’re coming from inside the house…

The babysitter who has an easy job, but is creeped out by a clown statue in the child’s bedroom. She mentions this when the parents call to check in, only to hear that they don’t have a clown statue…

(needless to say, I didn’t babysit a lot when I was a young-in…)

The couple who run out of gas, and the gent goes to obtain gas, leaving the lady inside the car. All through the night she hears an odd scratching. As day breaks, police pull up and she’s warned to stay in the car…turns out the car stalled near a prison and an inmate had escaped, killed her gentleman friend, and was patiently scratching his way through the car roof…

any variation of aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the lights?

Bloody Mary, in all her various incarnations…

and the black eyed children are fast becoming a new addition to this odd form of storytelling. This one is interesting because it shows up fairly recently (around 2009-2010 on) and has all the makings of jumping on the Japanese horror craze, yet also holds many elements that are similar in folklore.

These things scared the shudders out of me as a kid, and yet I kept coming back for more. Maybe it was the lure of trying to figure out if they were true or not, or if they could even be true. Maybe it was the inconclusive nature, or the firm reminder to pay the hell attention to the world around you (and hang on to your butt, because sometimes weird stuff happened anyway).

Needless to say, this is probably one of the contributing factors to my horror writing, heh.

Of course, I like a lot of local folk lore and oddities, too, but those are thoughts for another post…

So what are some of your favorite urban legends? What are the ones that set your skin crawling and teeth on edge?



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