List of urban legends

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This is a list of urban legends. An urban legend, myth, or tale is a modern genre of folklore. It often consists of fictional stories associated with the macabre, superstitions, cryptids, creepypasta, and other fear generating narrative elements. Urban legends are often rooted in local history and popular culture.


  • 999 phone charging myth: an urban legend which claims that calling the police and fire services, then hanging up, charges mobile phone batteries.[1]


  • Aerial water bomber picking up scuba diver: about a water bomber, or a helicopter with a dangling water bucket, scooping up a scuba diver and dumping them on a wildfire site. This legend was used as a plot device in the film Barney's Version. Urban legend debunking site reports there are no proven cases of this happening in reality. The Discovery Channel show MythBusters also disproved the myth.[2]
  • The Ankle slicing car thief or The man under the car is an urban legend that tells of a driver that keeps hearing noises under their car when they are driving. When they step out of the car to investigate, their ankles get sliced open with a knife. And when they are rolling around on the ground in pain, a car thief emerges from underneath the car and steals it.[3]
  • Baby Train is an urban legend which claims that a small town had an unusually high birth rate because a train would pass through the town at 5:00 am and blow its whistle, waking up all the residents. Since it was too late to go back to sleep and too early to get up, couples would have sex. This resulted in the mini-baby boom.[4][5]
  • Black-eyed children (or black-eyed kids) are an urban legend of supposed paranormal creatures that resemble children between the ages of 6 and 16, with pale skin and black eyes, who are reportedly seen hitchhiking or panhandling, or are encountered on doorsteps of residential homes. Tales of black-eyed children have appeared in pop culture since the late 1990s.
  • Black Volga refers to a black Volga limousine that was allegedly used to abduct people, especially children.
  • The Blue star tattoo legend refers to a modern legend that LSD tabs are being distributed as lick-and-stick temporary tattoos to children.
  • Bloody Mary is a folklore legend consisting of a ghost or spirit conjured to reveal the future. She is said to appear in a mirror when her name is called multiple times. The Bloody Mary apparition may be benign or malevolent, depending on historic variations of the legend. The Bloody Mary appearances are mostly "witnessed" in group participation games.
  • Bunny Man is an urban legend that probably originated from two incidents in Fairfax County, Virginia, in 1970, but has been spread throughout the Washington D.C. area. There are many variations to the legend, but most involve a man wearing a rabbit costume ("bunny suit") who attacks people with an axe.
  • Castilian lisp – An urban legend claiming that the prevalence of the sound /θ/ in European Spanish can be traced back to a Spanish king who spoke with a lisp, and whose pronunciation spread by prestige borrowing to the rest of the population. This myth has been discredited by scholars for lack of evidence.[6][7]
  • The chupacabra (Spanish pronunciation: [tʃupaˈkaβɾa], from chupar "to suck" and cabra "goat", literally "goat sucker") is a legendary cryptid rumored to inhabit parts of the Americas, with the first sightings reported in Puerto Rico. The name comes from the animal's reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock, especially goats.
  • Cow tipping purported activity of sneaking up on any unsuspecting or sleeping upright cow and pushing it over for entertainment.
  • Creepypastas are horror-related legends or images that have been copy-pasted around the Internet. These Internet entries are often brief, user-generated, paranormal stories intended to scare readers. They include gruesome tales of murder, suicide, and otherworldly occurrences. People often (falsely) believe them to be true.
  • The Curse of the Bambino was a superstition evolving from the failure of the Boston Red Sox baseball team to win the World Series in the 86-year period from 1918 to 2004. While some fans took the curse seriously, most used the expression in a tongue-in-cheek manner.


  • Hanako-san is a Japanese urban legend of the spirit of a young girl who haunts school bathrooms, and can be described as a yōkai or a yūrei.[8] To summon her, individuals must enter a girls' bathroom (usually on the third floor of a school), knock three times on the third stall, and ask if Hanako-san is present.[8]
  • Hippo Eats Dwarf. An internet-spread urban legend about a circus performer being accidentally swallowed by a hippopotamus.[9]
  • The Hook, also called Hookman. Originating in post-war America, it recounts a story of a murderer with a hook prosthesis in place of a hand.
  • JATO Rocket Car started as a Darwin Award winner where a driver strapped a pair of Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) units to the rear of his car and ended up smashing into the side of a hill in Arizona. No police agency in Arizona took a report of this type of accident. The Arizona Department of Public Safety even issued a press release on their website debunking the report. This myth was also tested on the Discovery Channel show MythBusters multiple times.
  • Killer in the backseat (also known as High Beams) is a common car-crime urban legend well known mostly in the United States and the United Kingdom. The legend involves a woman who is driving and being followed by a strange car or truck. The mysterious pursuer flashes his high beams, tailgates her, and sometimes even rams her vehicle. When she finally makes it home, she realizes that the driver was trying to warn her that there was a man (a murderer, rapist, or escaped mental patient) hiding in her back seat. Each time the man sat up to attack her, the driver behind had used his high beams to scare the killer, after which he ducked down.[10]
  • Killswitch is a fictional video game. According to the legend, this game can only be played once - If your character dies or you manage to complete the game, the game will delete itself and will leave no trace. It has also been cited as the primary inspiration behind the creepypasta Ben Drowned.[11]
  • Kuchisake-onna (口裂け女, "Slit-Mouthed Woman") is a Japanese urban legend about the malevolent spirit, or onryō, of a mutilated woman. She is said to partially cover her face with a mask or object and reportedly carries a sharp tool of some kind, such as a knife or a large pair of scissors.
  • The Licked Hand, also known as Doggy Lick or Humans Can Lick Too, is an urban legend popular among teenagers. The story describes a killer who secretly spends the night under a girl's bed, licking her hand when offered, which she takes to be her dog.
  • Lighthouse and naval vessel, describes an encounter between a large naval ship and what at first appears to be another vessel, with which the ship is on a collision course, which is later revealed to be a lighthouse.


  • Madam Koi Koi is an urban legend in Nigeria about a dead teacher who haunts boarding schools.
  • Melody is dead is an urban legend claiming that Spanish singer Melody died in a plane accident.[12]
  • Men in black is an urban legend and conspiracy theory claiming that men dressed in black suits who claim to be government agents who harass or threaten UFO witnesses or victims of alleged Alien Abductions to keep them quiet about what they have seen.[13]
  • The Nai Khanomtom story is a contemporary legend suggesting that a Thai Muaythai fighter had beaten 9 Burmese Lethwei fighters in a row, with no rest period, in 1767. Ultimately, he wins his freedom from King Mangra in Burma.
  • The Monkey-man of Delhi was a mysterious creature or criminal that was reported attacking locals near New Delhi in mid-2001. Most sources consider the monster an urban legend, and creation brought on from exaggerated media hysteria, often compared to the Spring-heeled Jack epidemic during Victorian times.
  • Paul is dead is an urban legend suggesting that Paul McCartney of the English rock band The Beatles died in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-alike.
  • Phantom P-40 Airplane/pilot In its original form the pilot is a survivor of the 1941 Battle in the Philippines who wages a one-man war against the Japanese until his heavily-damaged aircraft crashes in China;[14] a modern variation is that he crashes after flying from the Philippines to Pearl Harbor.[15]
  • Polybius is a fictitious arcade game, the subject of an urban legend that emerged in early 2000. It has served as inspiration for several free and commercial games by the same name. Similar urban legends about arcade games with harmful side effects (nightmares, suicidal thoughts, etc.), albeit without using the name "Polybius," had circulated since the 1980s. These similar urban legends, from before the name was standardized, were referred to by gaming commentator Ahoy as "protomyths."[16]
  • Sewer alligator is an urban legend based upon reports of alligator sightings in rather unorthodox locations, in particular New York City.
  • Shotgun Man is an urban legend of organized Crime: as an assassin and spree killer in Chicago, Illinois in the 1910s, to whom murders by Black Hand extortionists were attributed.[17] Most notably, Shotgun Man killed 15 Italian immigrants from January 1, 1910 to March 26, 1911 at "Death Corner," the intersection of Oak Street and Milton Avenue (now Cleveland Avenue) in what was then Chicago's Little Sicily.[18] In March 1911, he reportedly murdered four people within 72 hours.[19] However a check of the Northwestern University website on "Homicide in Chicago" shows shotgun killings in Chicago-but none in Jan-March 1911-and only one killing at Oak and one at Milton Streets between 1900 and 1920 (Reference only).
  • Skeleton in a tree is an urban legend alleging that years after the defeat of St. Clair in 1791 at Fort Recovery, Mercer County, Ohio, the skeleton of a Captain Roger Vanderberg was found in Miami County, Ohio inside a tree, along with a diary. However, no one of this name was a casualty of the 1791 battle; the story originated in 1864 from a Scottish novel.[20]
  • Slender Man (also known as Slender man) is a fictional character that originated as an Internet meme created by Something Awful forums user Victor Surge in 2009. It is depicted as resembling a thin, unnaturally tall man with a blank and usually featureless face and wearing a black suit. The Slender Man is commonly said to stalk, abduct, or traumatize people, particularly children. The Slender Man is not tied to any particular story, but appears in many disparate works of fiction, mostly composed online.[21]


  • Teke Teke (テケテケ) is the ghost of a young woman or schoolgirl who fell on a railway line, which resulted in her body being cut in half by a train. She is an onryō, or a vengeful spirit, who lurks around urban areas and train stations at night. Since she no longer has lower extremities, she travels on either her hands or elbows, dragging her upper torso and making a scratching or "teke teke"-like sound. If she encounters a potential victim, she will chase them and slice them in half at the torso with a scythe or other weapon.
  • The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs (or also known as The Babysitter or The Sitter) is an urban legend that dates back to the 1960s about a teenage girl babysitting children who receives telephone calls from a stalker who continually asks her to "check the children".
  • The Spider Bite or The Red Spot is a modern urban legend that emerged in Europe during the 1970s. It features a young woman who is bitten on the cheek by a spider. The bite swells into a large boil and soon bursts open to reveal hundreds of tiny spiders escaping from her cheek.
  • Vanishing Lady a.k.a. Vanishing Hotel Room: During an international exposition in Paris, a daughter leaves her mother in a hotel room; when she comes back her mother is gone and the hotel staff claims to have no knowledge of the missing woman. It is later revealed that the mother was dying of plague and, fearing for the negative impact on the hotel's public image, the staff just disposed of the mother, redecorated the room and pretended as nothing had happened. Inspiration for the movie So Long at the Fair. Based upon a turn-of-the-century Philadelphia newspaper story.[22]
  • The Vanishing hitchhiker (or variations such as the ghostly hitchhiker, the disappearing hitchhiker, the phantom hitchhiker or simply the hitchhiker) story is an urban legend in which people traveling by vehicle meet with, or are accompanied by, a hitchhiker who subsequently vanishes without explanation, often from a moving vehicle. Vanishing hitchhikers have been reported for centuries and the story is found across the world with many variants. The popularity and endurance of the legend has helped it spread into popular culture.
  • The Well to Hell legend holds that a team of Russian engineers purportedly led by an individual named "Mr. Azakov" in an unnamed place in Siberia had drilled a hole that was 14.4 kilometres (8.9 mi) deep before breaking through to a cavity. Intrigued by this unexpected discovery, they lowered an extremely heat-tolerant microphone, along with other sensory equipment, into the well. The temperature deep within was 1,000 °C (1,832 °F)—heat from a chamber of fire from which (purportedly) the tormented screams of the damned could be heard.[23][24][25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ignore phone myth, cops urge". Derbyshire Times. 30 August 2013. Archived from the original on 22 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Dead Scuba Diver in Tree". Retrieved 2019-11-09.
  3. ^ Mikkelson, David. "Slasher Under the Car". Snopes. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  4. ^ Nicolaisen, W.F.H. (1997). "The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand". Folklore. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of Folklore Enterprises, Ltd. 108: 134–135. JSTOR 1260739.
  5. ^ "The Baby Train". Snopes. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  6. ^ "LINGUIST List 11.2186: Phonological Change Driven by Imitation". The LINGUIST List. 2000-10-10. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  7. ^ B. A., Seattle Pacific University. "Did a Royal Edict Give Spaniards a Lisp?". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  8. ^ a b "A-Yokai-A-Day: Hanako-san (or "Hanako of the Toilet") | Matthew Meyer". 2010-10-27. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  9. ^ Boese, Alex (5 February 2010). Hippo Eats Dwarf. Pan Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-330-52130-7.
  10. ^ Bronner, Simon J. (1988). American Children's Folklore. Little Rock: August House Publishers. p. 149. ISBN 978-08748-306-8-2. ... Suddenly, I realized what was happening and did the first thing I could think of. I flashed my brights to warn her. I saw the figure quickly disappear. I followed the car home and flashed my brights each time I saw the figure. After she ran in the house, I told her to call the police...
  11. ^ "The Story Of Killswitch, The Creepy Game No-One Has Ever Played". Kotaku Australia. 2016-07-29. Retrieved 2019-10-17.
  12. ^ "Instagram | Así luce Melody luego de 17 años de El Baile del Gorila" (in Spanish). Radio Studio 92. 2018-09-10. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  13. ^ Clark, Jerome (1996). The UFO Encyclopedia, Volume 3: High Strangeness, UFO's from 1960 through 1979. Omnigraphics. 317–18.
  14. ^ "Myth of the "phantom P-40" shot down in China".
  15. ^ Dunning, Brian (November 29, 2016). "Skeptoid #547: The Ghost Fighter Plane of Pearl Harbor". Skeptoid.
  16. ^ Brown, Stuart (September 8, 2017). "POLYBIUS - The Video Game That Doesn't Exist". YouTube. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  17. ^ William Griffith (1 October 2013). American Mafia: Chicago: True Stories of Families Who Made Windy City History. Globe Pequot Press. pp. 15–. ISBN 978-1-4930-0604-5.
  18. ^ "The Black Hand - Terror by Letter in Chicago". Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. 18 (4): 397. 2002.
  19. ^ Sifakis, Carl (2006). The Mafia Encyclopedia. Infobase Publishing. p. 415. ISBN 0816069891. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  20. ^ "Proposed Work at Fort Recovery May Solve Some of its Mysteries see the letter in Comments by James L Murphy dated 7 January 2010 citing the story "Lost Sir Massing berd"". Ohio Historical Society Archaeology Blog. 2010-01-06. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  21. ^ Curlew, Kyle (2017). "The legend of the Slender Man: The boogieman of surveillance culture". First Monday. 22 (6). doi:10.5210/fm.v22i6.6901.
  22. ^ O’Toole, Garson (14 September 2010). "Legend: The Vanishing Lady and the Vanishing Hotel Room – Quote Investigator". Quote Investigator. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  23. ^ Dunning, Brian (April 24, 2012). "Skeptoid #307: The Siberian Hell Sounds". Skeptoid. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  24. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara (9 January 2016). "The Well to Hell". Snopes. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  25. ^ "Background on the Drilling to Hell story". Rich Buhler. Retrieved 20 December 2020.