An urban legend follows the tried and tested formula of ancient stories and fairy tales. Just as our ancestors would have sat around a fire swapping stories, we continue to share the tales that we find passing across our computer screens and though our inboxes. There is usually a vulnerable person who is unwittingly in a dangerous situation. This person usually escapes the worst possible outcome but only through the intervention of a stranger or through the ‘bad guy’s decision not to harm them. The possibility that we too could easily be in the same situation is what makes them so believable.
As society evolves, so does the urban legend. For example- as we all have cell phones with cameras in our hand's many legends have updated to include a few lines about why the person at the center of the story could not take a picture or call for help.
However, no matter how they are changed, we still love to be scared by a good story, and these are some of the ones most likely to keep you awake tonight.
15 Artisan Soap
In some regions of Appalachia, there is a legend of an old woman called Soap Sally. In some versions, she is caked in heavy make-up and others she is an old man dressed as an old lady.
Sally stalks the countryside after dusk looking for children who are out late or have run away. When she finds a child, she grabs them and drags them away, and none of these kids are ever seen again.
The children are chopped up and used to make “Lye Soap” a kind of soap made using the bones and fat of animals. A few days after the children have disappeared Sally visits the town where they lived and sells the soap made from the dead children to their unsuspecting parents. To add an extra layer of horror the soaps would be shaped like children's hands.
The grieving parents would then be washing themselves in their own children's remains.
14 Giddy Up Horsey
An older couple owns a small handful of racehorses. The elderly man was trying to lead a horse into their mini horse trailer attached to their truck, but the horse refused to cooperate. The man went into the trailer himself and dragged the horse forward, eventually getting it inside. He jumped out quickly and locked the tailgate behind him and got in the vehicle.
It was not a long drive to the racecourse, but the horse began making massive amounts of noise almost straight away. The old man sped up so he could get the horse to the track and out of the trailer as soon as possible, as he was obviously distressed.
When they got to the racetrack, the couple were horrified by what they saw. The horse was dead. The floor of the old trailer had rotted, the horse's feet had gone through, and its legs were ground to bloody stumps.
13 Don't Look Back
A Young woman is driving home from work, late one night when she notices the car behind her flashing their headlights. The woman is about to pull over to see what is the matter when she remembers being told never to pull over like that in case the person in the car behind was a bad guy.
Putting her foot down a little, the woman tried to pull further away, but the car continued to follow her. Finally, she called her parents, asking them to be waiting outside for her when she pulled into the drive in case the car followed her all the way home.
When she pulls into the drive, there are her parents waiting for her and the following car pulls in directly behind her. The door of the following car bursts open and a man leaps out screaming “Get out of the car.”
The woman jumped out and looked back to see a man with a knife on her backseat. The following driver had seen the outline of the man and had been trying to warn her.
12 The Rake
One night a wife awoke in the middle of the night to see a strange entity crouching at the end of the bed. Strangely the woman did not feel afraid. Instead, she had the feeling that the creature, which looked like a combination of a bald dog and a disfigured man needed some kind of help.
When the creature started to make its way from the room, it was moving in an oddly disjointed manner, and suddenly the woman was filled with terror and woke her husband.
The pair walked into the hallway in time to see the creature emerge from their daughter's room, covered in blood. When they ran to their daughter, she was sitting injured in bed and only said: “He is The Rake.” The husband drove their daughter to hospital but mysteriously crashed, killing them both.
Other accounts of The Rake include:
A Suicide Note: 1964
"As I prepare to take my life, I feel it necessary to assuage any guilt or pain I have introduced through this act. It is not the fault of anyone other than him. For once I awoke and felt his presence. And once I awoke and saw his form. Once again I awoke and heard his voice, and looked into his eyes. I cannot sleep without fear of what I might next awake to experience. I cannot ever wake. Goodbye."
In the same wooden box as the suicide note was a letter without an envelope that said:
I have prayed for you. He spoke your name."
A Journal Entry (translated from Spanish): 1880
"I have experience the greatest terror. I have experienced the greatest terror. I have experienced the greatest terror. I see his eyes when I close mine. They are hollow. Black. They saw me and pierced me. His wet hand. I will not sleep. His voice (unintelligible text)."
A Mariner's Log: 1691
"He came to me in my sleep. From the foot of my bed, I felt a sensation. He took everything. We must return to England. We shall not return here again at the request of the Rake."
11 Knock Knock, Who's There?
There was once a little girl in Scotland who hated life so much she wanted to erase every One day she destroyed all of her belongings and committed suicide, and a short time afterward her family discovered her body.
A few days after this, every member of her family was found dead. Each of them had died a horrible and painful death by having their limbs torn from their body.
Legend has it that once you hear the story of the girl, her ghost will find out. For some reason, she cannot enter a building unless she is invited to, so she will stand outside knocking repeatedly until you ask her in. Then she will kill you in the same horrific way she killed her family in order to erase any proof of her existence.
10 Clowning Around
A babysitter, working for a new family, had tucked the children into bed and settled down to watch TV but the picture kept pixellating and she was unable to watch for long. When the parents called home to check everything was OK the babysitter told them the little ones were safely tucked up in bed but the TV wasn’t working very well. The parents said they knew the TV was on the way out and that the sitter could watch the TV in their room if she liked.
The sitter thanks them but says she has one request. She had seen the clown statue in their room .as she had walked past and it really creeped her out so would it be OK to throw a blanket over it?
The parents immediately became hysterical and told her to grab the children and get out of the house. They did not have a clown statue.
9 Pretty Pictures In The Wild
A young couple was out hiking the wilderness when they realized they had walked much further than they had originally intended and would not be able to make it back to their vehicle before it got dark.
Fortunately for them, it was not too a remote area, and they had passed a few cabins that were shut up until the summer and a few that had fallen into disrepair. The couple did not want to break into an apparently used cabin, and they decided to bed down for the night in one that was intact, with a roof, but which had an open door and looked abandoned.
There was still some basic furniture inside, a couple of wooden chairs, a bed frame, and a table, so the couple was able to make themselves fairly comfortable for the night. The only unpleasant thing about the cabin was that the walls had a number of paintings of strange looking people, all made to look like the eyes were following you as you moved.
The pair managed to ignore them after a while and settled down to sleep. In the morning they looked and discovered there were no paintings on the walls, only windows.
8 Not The Easter Hunt You Were Thinking Of
A mental hospital in Virginia was unpopular with the local community because they felt it put them in danger and damaged the local tourist trade. The asylum was closed in 1904, but a bus transferring residents to a new facility crashed, and some of the patients managed to escape into the surrounding woodlands.
All but two, Marcus Lawster and Douglas Griffen were quickly found and as the hunt for the pair intensified people in the community began to find the skinned corpses of rabbits dumped on the ground and hanging from trees. These actions were thought to be Griffen who was committed to the hospital after killing his wife and children on Easter Sunday while he was dressed as the Easter Bunny.
Lawster was finally found, or rather his body was - in the same condition as the rabbits. His skinned corpse was discovered hanging from a tree by the entrance to a tunnel under a bridge. Griffen was tracked down but ran in front of a train as police pursued him and locals still see him running through the tunnel and across the railway tracks, skinning knife in hand and bunny costume soaked in blood.
7 Viva Las Vegas
A couple booked into a suite in a plush Las Vegas hotel, planning to spend a week gambling, eating at the buffet and lazing by the pool. When they were unpacking the husband noticed an unpleasant smell and called the front desk. The hotel offered them a free meal while the room was re-cleaned and the couple happily accepted. After their meal the pair went into the casino, gambling until the early hours and returned to their room, falling asleep, exhausted on their bed.
The next morning the smell was stronger still, and the hotel said they would deep clean the room while the couple was out for the day and only charge them for three of their seven nights. They agreed to this but when they returned that night, the smell was even worse, and they decided to try and see for themselves from where was the smell coming.
When the husband stripped off the mattress to check if something had been spilled on it, he accidentally knocked it from the base, and the smell was so thick he was almost sick. He looked down into the cavity under the bed and found a decomposing body, realizing that they had slept above the night before.
6 Don't Stay Home Alone
Sarah was home alone one evening and did not expect her parents home until late. The young woman had her end of term exams coming up at college, so she spent a few hours studying but soon felt burnt out and decided to watch TV for a while.
The typically fearless student had been a little worried she would have to spend the night alone as it had been snowing all day heavily and her parents might be stranded, but the snow had stopped, and she was comfortable they would make it.
Curled up on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket, with a movie on and popcorn in her lap she was drifting off to sleep when she thought she saw a man outside the patio doors. Terrified, she grabbed her phone, hid under her blanket and called the police.
Luckily, there was a car nearby, and she heard the sirens almost immediately. The police officers spoke with her, checked the doors and reassured her that nobody could have been there as there were no footsteps in the snow. They were just ready to leave when one of them spotted something that stopped him in his tracks.
There were huge wet footprints on the carpet behind the sofa. Sarah hadn’t seen a man outside the window; she had seen his reflection as he stood behind her.
5 The Dark Can Be Your Friend
Late one night, and slightly drunk, Natalie returned to her dorm room, trying not to make any noise and wake up her complaining roommate. She had removed her shoes outside and as she tiptoed into the room she put her hand out to switch the light on. Before she flicked the switch she remembered the last time she put the light on late. It had woken her roommate who had then complained for several days afterward so she decided to leave the light off.
As she climbed into bed and began to drift off, she could hear her roommate tossing and turning in bed, snoring and making the odd wet gulping noise. While she thought this was a little excessive, even for her noisy sleeper roommate, Natalie still managed to fall asleep.
Next morning Natalie woke up to a horrific scene. Her roommate had been propped up on the bed, stabbed multiple times, her eyes were gouged out, her mouth was sewn shut, and all her fingers and toes were in a pile on her lap. Above the bed, written in blood, was the message “Bet You’re Glad You Didn’t Turn On The Light.”
4 Mirror Mirror On The Wall
There was once a small country town, and the town Dr and his wife had a daughter called Mary. During a diphtheria outbreak, their daughter became ill, and the Dr. was forced to pronounce her dead.
The couple buried their daughter in the local cemetery and, as was the custom at the time the girl was buried with a string tied around her wrist that was threaded up to above ground and hung on a stick with a bell on end. This way, if someone was accidentally buried alive, they could ring the bell and help would come.
The girl's mother sat by her daughter's grave for so many days the Dr began to fear for her health. He injected her with morphine and tucked her into bed for a rest. When he got up the next morning he visited Mary’s grave and noticed the bell had been rung off the hook. The Dr began to dig but he was too late. He ripped open his daughter's coffin and discovered she had been clawing at the lid so desperately her nails were stuck in the lid and her fingers were red with blood.
Mary is so desperate to come back, if you stand alone in the dark in front of a mirror and say her name three times, turning around each time, you will see her behind you in the mirror, and she will try to come out and swap places with you.
3 Puppy Love
A young woman who still lived with her parents was left in the house alone over the weekend when her parents were out of town. A few times during the first night she became scared and reached out her hand to the family dog for reassurance. As usual, the dog licked her hand and made her feel better.
The second night went much the same, but the young woman reached out for her dog to lick her hand more often. The sound of the shower in her bathroom dripping kept disturbing her sleep. It was just enough to wake her a little but not enough to have her get up and turn it off.
The next morning she was finally forced to get up and turn off the shower. Instead of a dripping shower head, she found the family dog, skinned and hanging in the shower. The dripping noise was the sound of its blood dropping to the base of the shower.
Horrified, she ran to her bed and grabbed her phone to call the police. On her bedside table, next to her phone, she saw a note. It said, “Humans Can Lick Too.”
2 The Demise Of Tom
Tom liked to think of himself as the local playboy, slowly making his way around every young woman in his town and those surrounding him. One day he fell in love with a beautiful woman named Helen, who also happened to be married.
Helen's husband became suspicious and told his wife he was going out of town for the weekend but instead hid in the woods and watched his home.
It was not long before Tom arrived in pick-up Helen and they went to the local lover's lane. Helen's husband jumped out from the trees, grabbed hold of Tom and dragged him off, and the whole time Tom was begging to be let go. Helen began to hear screaming then her husband reappeared covered in blood, grabbed her arm and dragged her to the police station where he turned himself in.
The police returned to the spot and discovered that Helen's husband had in fact skinned Tom and done so in such an expert manner, Tom had still been alive when he had finished. They found Toms hide carefully hung over a tree branch, but there was no sign of Toms body.
Extensive searches failed to turn up any trace of him, and it is said he still roams lovers lanes with the knife used to skin him, looking for couples he can exact his revenge on.
1 The Wyoming Incident
The video that became known as “The Wyoming Incident” began circulating on the internet in 2006. It is a recording of a piece of film that was said to have been broadcast in a small area of Wyoming after the local TV station had their signal hacked.
People who watched the video were said to have experienced vomiting, headaches and even hallucinations, supposedly caused by the high-pitched noise playing through most of the piece of film.
The email told potential viewers that:
“The video contained numerous clips of disembodied, human heads showing various emotions and “poses.” The camera position often changed (usually every ten-to-fifteen seconds), and the video was often interrupted by a “SPECIAL PRESENTATION” announcement.”
After this first video, a series of follow-ups was released, none of which are still available on the internet, but one YouTube user has compiled them all into one which you can see here.