Paranormal

13 Creepy Urban Legends That Turned Out To Be True

Altered Dimensions

Sometimes truth is stranger - and scarier - than fiction. These 13 creepy campfire stories turned out to be true, but we wish they weren't!

1. Santa Got Stuck

The legend:

A man dressed as Santa tries to surprise his family for Christmas by sliding down the chimney, only to get trapped inside. Usually, the story ends with him being found days later.

The truth:

Lots of would-be Santas have gotten stuck sliding down chimneys, but thankfully there have been no fatalities. One man, dubbed "the Santa burglar," did get trapped and died trying to break into a house through the chimney.  

2. Cropsey

The legend:

Cropsey was a local boogeyman for the children of Staten Island. He was said to live in the tunnels beneath the Willowbrook State School for children with developmental disabilities, and looked for children wandering the nearby woods.

The truth:

There really was a monster lurking under the abandoned school. Willowbrook's former janitor Andre Rand lived in the school's tunnels, and was charged with kidnapping a pair of missing girls (police couldn't prove he murdered them).

3. The Halloween Hanging

The legend:

On Halloween, a performer or teen prankster tries to fake hanging himself. Unfortunately the rope slips and he pulls off the "trick" for real. Everyone else assumes he's a decoration, or just acting.

The truth:

Not only is this story true, it's happened multiple times. In 1990 a teen from New Jersey died while pretending to hang himself as a haunted hayride performer. The same thing happened to another teen in 2001, and visitors believed he was just pretending to choke.

4. Alligators In The Sewers

The legend:

In New York (or another big city) these scaly predators live in sewers. Sometimes they even roam the surface, looking for a bite to eat. Often, their existence is blamed on pet gator owners flushing them down the toilet drain when they grow too big.

The truth:

There's no shortage of news stories about alligators in the sewers, especially in the South. While a full grown gator couldn't survive a New York winter, the NYPD did catch a juvenile gator that escaped into the sewers in 2010.

5. Elevator Amputation

The legend:

A man is trapped in an elevator when it stops working between floors. He manages to get the door open and starts to crawl out, just as the elevator turns on again. You can guess what happens next.

ArtNexus

The truth:

Just when you thought it was safe to step into an elevator. There are lots of grisly news stories about people caught in just this situation. We'll take the stairs, thanks.

6. The Secret Roommate

The legend:

A single man notices that things are going missing, or being moved around in his home. He sets up a hidden camera one night and catches a shadowy figure climbing down from his attic...

The truth:

Check your attic, because this has happened before. A man in Tokyo, Japan caught a stowaway who had been living in his cupboard for the better part of a year. Another woman was living in the attic of an American man until he heard her moving around.

The stories only get creepier from here...

7. Dark Water

The legend:

A woman goes missing, and the family that moves into her home find the water from their tap tastes funny, or has an unusual color. They check the water tank and find the missing woman's body inside. This legend has inspired the movie Dark Water and TV shows like How to Get Away With Murder.

The truth:

When Eliza Lam went missing from the Cecil Hotel in L.A., the bizarre elevator video footage of her was the only clue. Guests at Lam's hotel later complained the water from their room tasted strange, and (yep, you guessed it) Lam was found inside the water tank.

8. Unwanted Guests

The legend:

A woman returns from an exotic vacation haunted by a mysterious and annoying scratching sound. When her doctor examines it, he finds a bug - usually an earwig - has made its home in her brain.

The truth:

A warning for the squeamish, this is not for the faint of heart. A woman returned from a trip to Peru and discovered that a local species of flesh-eating worms had moved into her skull. Blech!

9. Buried Alive

The legend:

A few days after someone dies, their body is exhumed (the reason why is different in every story). When the casket it opened, it's discovered that he was buried alive, and tried to claw his way to the surface with his hands.

A tombstone and hook for a coffin bell.Historic Houston

The truth:

In the 1700s, a wave of cholera outbreaks terrified the public. Patients feared they would be buried alive (it's not clear how many people actually were) and requested to be buried in "safety coffins." Most featured a string inside the box, connected to a bell on the surface - so those buried alive were "saved by the bell."

10. The Body In The Bed

The legend:

After a woman goes missing, her apartment (or sometimes her hotel room) is rented out to a new family. After a few days they notice an awful smell, which is revealed to be her body stuffed into the frame of her bed.

The truth:

This story was "debunked" by a folklorist in his 1994 book The Baby Train and Other Lusty Legends, but it may have inspired a real killer. A missing woman's body was stashed inside a motel bed, and like the legend she was only discovered because of the awful smell.

11. Polybius

The legend:

This very modern legend is about an arcade game named Polybius. Rumors said it would cause seizures, and that shadowy men who looked like government agents would collect data from the arcade cabinets.

A (fake) Polybius cabinet.Mehio

The truth:

A pair of bizarre events in 1980s Seattle fused together to inspire this story. An arcade game named Tempest, which featured flashing lights, did cause epileptic children to have seizures.

Days after the Tempest story broke, a Seattle arcade was raided by the FBI because of gambling charges. The two news stories were combined into the legend of the evil Polybius cabinets.

12. Bloody Mary

The legend:

Legends about who Bloody Mary is and what she's done vary from place to place, but it's said that if you look in the mirror and say her name three times she will appear. People swear they've seen her face after doing the ritual.

The truth:

There's no definitive origin of the Bloody Mary myth, but there is a scientific explanation. Italian vision scientist Giovanni Caputo says that staring into your own eyes in the mirror triggers what he calls The Strange Face Illusion, convincing your mind that a stranger is staring back at you.

13. Charlie No Face

The legend:

The Green Man or Charlie No Face was a ghost story told to the children of Pittsburgh. Charlie was said to wander the town's abandoned buildings and especially a nearby railway tunnel. Legends say that he would glow in the dark, and could disable passing cars using ghostly electricity.

The truth:

The real "Charlie" was named Raymond Robinson. When Robinson was a child in 1919, he climbed an electric trolley bridge to look at a bird's nest. The bridge shocked him, burning off his nose, eyes and a hand.

Raymond would stay in his family's home during the day, making birdhouses, belts and other crafts to sell for pocket money. But at night he would walk down the streets of Pittsburgh, sometimes letting teenagers take a photo with him in exchange for cigarettes or liquor.

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