Urban legends are stories that are meant to scare us and typically serve as a warning or have some type of moral lesson attached. Every state has their own urban legends, some states even share legends, changing the details to fit their locale or whichever narrative is needed, but the core plot stay the same. The ones I have chosen for this list are the creepiest found in the USA, and some of them are based on real-life true stories! Can you figure out which ones?
- Turn on the Light
After partying most of the night, a co-ed decides to spend the night with a boy she met at the party. She returns to dorm room to retrieve her keys, careful not to wake her roommate. In the dark room she can hear the sleeping roommate’s heavy breathing and assumes she’s got a cold. When she returns the next day, she finds her roommate’s dead body and the note written in blood on the wall, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?”
This story is sometimes told with the co-ed being more studious and returning to retrieve a book for an all-night study session, but the end-result is always the same. This legend has been around 50 years or more and most likely was started by a parent worried about their college-bound kid.
Moral of the Story: Screw your roommate’s feelings, always turn on the damn light.
- Licked Hand
One night, a woman who lives alone with her nice little dog, hears on the radio that an escaped lunatic is on the loose in her town. She locks up the house tight and goes to bed with her faithful canine companion, who stays close by her bedside all night. When the woman wakes the next morning, she finds her pooch slaughtered and note written in blood on the bathroom mirror, “Humans can lick too.”
Some variations of this legend feature an old woman and sometimes, a young girl. Sometimes she wakes in the middle of the night, hearing a dripping sound, and sometimes, the pet is alive and well at the end. Like the ‘Turn on the Light’ legend, the killer rubs the survivor’s nose in the fact that they barely escaped death.
Moral of the Story: You’re never going to be in control of your own death and maybe you should get a cat.
- Clown Statue
A couple decides to go out for the night and hire a babysitter to watch the kids, who are already in bed for the night when she arrives. Later that evening, the babysitter, bored out of her mind, calls the parents and asks if she can watch TV upstairs in the parent’s room because there’s no cable downstairs. They allow it. A few minutes later, the babysitter calls the husband back and asks if she can cover up the clown statue because it’s freaking her out. The father tells his wife to call the 911, and then tells the babysitter to grab the kids and get out of the house immediately because they don’t have a clown statue! When the couple arrive home 30 minutes later, the police inform them that it’s too late, the babysitter and the kids are dead. The clown is said to be that of an escaped killer from jail.
There are several variations but generally, this legend pits a lonely young babysitter vs. a deranged male killer, a common trope in urban legends, i.e., The Babysitter, which didn’t make this list this time, but an honorable mention. There are other disturbing elements, such as coulrophobia, the extreme fear of clowns, and the insinuation of pedophilia, obviously this killer clown was casing the home, or perhaps the babysitter, knowing they’d all be home alone. Origins for this legend are rumored to be based on serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who admitted to dressing up as a clown at children’s birthday parties.
Moral of the Story: People with kids have no lives because if you go out and leave your kids with a sitter, they all might die.
- Spider Bite
A young woman returns home early from an overseas vacation, after being bitten by a dangerous spider. One morning, she wakes to find the wound on her cheek three times the normal size and her face itches like crazy. She goes to the doctor, who cuts open the wound, and together they watch in horror as dozens upon dozens of eggs hatch and baby spiders come crawling out of her face. The woman’s heart eventually gives out from shock, she goes into cardiac arrest and dies.
Again, there are many variations on this story, sometimes with specific details as to spider type and exact location of the vacation spot is given to provide depth and integrity to the story. Despite the rampant public fear, doctors and scientists have debunked the theory that this legend is true, stating there is no medical or scientific case reported anywhere in the world of such an event occurring, and they swear up and down that it’s not even physically possible for the human body to become a good host for insect eggs.
Moral of the Story: Vacations to exotic locales are overrated, next time just go to Disneyland.
- La Llorona
A woman named Maria throws her children into the river and drowns them upon realizing that her husband was unfaithful. Immediately regretting the impulsive act, she wails in agony over the pain of losing her children. Maria returns to the river every day in mourning until she eventually wastes away. Some stories have Maria throwing herself in the river to die with her children. If you lurk around rivers, creeks or other bodies of water at night, you might run across a wailing woman dressed in all white looking for her children. If she sees you seeing her, death and doom will follow.
For many years, this unique legend, which may have originated in central Mexico, has been passed down generations across borders, spreading through Mexico, Central America and the American Southwest. Many variations exist but the core story of a woman sacrificing her children in despair and the instant guilt and shame of her crime consumes her until her own existence wilts away, that stays the same.
Moral of the Story: No sacrifice is too big to make for your children, and next time, kill the cheating husband instead.
- Hook Man
A young couple are taking in the sights on top of deserted lover’s lane, when they hear on the radio, a one-handed killer, who uses a hook for a hand, has escaped from the local mental asylum. Scared, the girl begs her beau to take her home. Angry, the action has stopped, the young man starts the car and they speed off into the night. The boy drops the girl off at home but when he gets out of the car and walks around to the other side, he starts to freak out, pointing at the door. The girl rolls down the window and looks down, where she finds a blood-stained silver hook hanging from the door handle.
The Hook Man legend has been around since early 60s, when its first known printed appearance was Dear Abby column from a “concerned” teen. Unlike some urban legends, Hook Man’s message is clear as a bell, stay away from boys who want to have sex with you, otherwise, you might get killed.
Moral of the Story: Having sex in parked cars can get you killed, or even worse, pregnant.
- Bloody Mary
At midnight, turn off all the lights, go into the bathroom, look directly into the mirror, and say ‘Bloody Mary’ three times. What happens next depends on where you live and what type of person you are. For most teenagers, this is a rite of passage and nothing happens. The others aren’t so lucky.
Mirrors are mystical items, having been used in divination for centuries, some even believe uncovered mirror invite ghosts to enter our realm. Mirrors are also about vanity and can be quite destructive to a young girl’s mind, body, and soul, when misused. They show us who we are, physically and sometimes mentally. It’s anyone’s guess who Mary is and why she’s so bloody. Is she an evil spirit or a lost haunted soul? Over the years, people have attempted to craft back stories for her, so that accounts for the different variations on the story, but this urban legend really isn’t about Mary, it’s about you, and whether you have the courage to summon a haunted spirit, particularly in front of your demanding peers.
Moral of the Story: Be careful of mirrors, your vanity could kill you, or make you one cool kid.
- High Beams
One night, a young woman stops to get gas at a rest stop. She proceeds to drive home and notices moments later that she’s being followed by a big 18-wheeler. Suddenly, the truck begins flashing his high beams at her. She speeds up to get away from him, but the truck catches up and continues to flash his lights at her. This dangerous scenario goes on for miles and finally, the woman calls the police. She’s minutes away from her home, so police tell her they’ll meet her there. When she pulls up, the trucker also stops and is immediately swarmed by waiting officers. The trucker begs to explain that he was trying to save the woman because there’s a man with a knife in her backseat. Every time the man sat up to hurt the woman, the trucker would flash his high beams and the killer would duck back down. Police search the car and arrest a would-be killer hiding in her backseat.
Back in the day, when cars were as big as boats, full-grown men hiding under a blanket in the backseat was totally plausible. If you haven’t guessed by now, most urban legends are aimed at young women, i.e., High Beams, Hook Man, the Babysitter, etc., all warning of the ills of partying, having sex, driving alone at night, being alone, anywhere really, thus, making a lot of urban legends pure sexist bullshit.
Although, it’s never a bad idea to be careful and look out for yourself in this crazy dangerous world full of unknowns.
Moral of the Story: Always check the backseat of your car at night before getting in, or buy a tiny car, ain’t no killers fitting in a Fiat.
- Slender Man
A ridiculously tall, faceless man, within tentacle-like arms, and wearing a suit prowls around in open forests, wooded areas, abandoned locales, and even playgrounds, preying on young children. Sometimes he doesn’t kill his victims, he instead possesses them and makes them kill other children for him instead. Sometimes children disappear outright and sometimes he leaves behind grisly murder scene. He’s typically unseen by adults but has shown up in black and white photos in open windows, or in a crowd of children.
Quite possibly, the first urban legend that was created for an online audience and the only one whose origins can be definitively traced to its creator, although the mythos has grown more and more convoluted due to the thousands of stories posted online about the character. The scariest thing about Slender Man is how fast and big the legend grew thanks to the internet and the deadly influence it had on young people for real. In 2014, two young girls stabbed their friend 19 times, an atrocious act committed to gain favor with the Slender Man. Luckily, the victim lived but the two young suspects were caught, tried and convicted to many years in mental institutions. This incident and other similar reports of violence, done in Slender Man’s name, caused a moral panic, leading many websites associated with Slender Man to shut down.
Moral of the Story: Don’t believe everything you read on the net, unless they’re talking smack about Donald Trump. All those stories are true.
- Resurrection Mary/The Hitchhiker
Back in 1930s, a young girl named Mary was hitchhiking, after a night of ballroom dancing with her boyfriend. Mary left the dance early after an argument and tried to walk home alone, on a cold rainy winter’s night. At some point, Mary was struck by an automobile and died. Her parents buried her in Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, IL, and now, on cold, rainy nights, or not, people report seeing Mary walking on the side of the road, near the cemetery, asking for rides home. Some people have even picked up the hitchhiking girl, who will give her address, but, by the time they arrive at the destination, the girl always vanishes from the car.
The legend of Resurrection Mary is the most widely told and varied urban legend in the world. Every state has their own tale of a Mary or a hitchhiking ghost. The legend changes according to location, along with the details of how the person died or whatever, but the core story stays the same, a haunted spirit is caught in a loop of eternally asking for a ride home.
Moral of the Story: Don’t stop for hitchhiking ghosts. They can call an Uber or a Lyft, just like the rest of us.
To read more about urban legends and find one near you, check out: https://urbanlegendsonline.com/