A reunion with your high-school buddies or relatives or a simple booze night with friends always ends up the same way: long late-night conversations. What’s amazing is how ridiculous the topics you come up with and most of the time, gruesome tales or unbelievable real stories get to be part of these talks. And, some of these are considered urban legends, which are mere Chinese whispers your ancestors passed on to the next generation until it came to you.
However, if most of these urban legends are just mere myths, there are those rare ones that turn out to be true. And, the bad thing about these tales is that the real stories behind them are really enough to make you scream and call your mom.
Here are eight of these true-to-life urban legends:
Insects Infesting Your Brain
We often hear it from our moms that if we don’t take care of our ears well enough, some creepy creature will crawl and take shelter in our ears and lay its eggs inside our skull. After hearing it, you probably didn’t want to go outside again. While you think it was just to scare you off, what your mom said is actually true. It doesn’t happen that often, but it did once to British woman Rochelle Harris.
Harris is from Derby, England, and she was 27 when she had a horrifying experience. In 2013, Harris went to Peru with her boyfriend. On her flight back, she started to have sudden headaches. She didn’t mind them at first, but a few hours later, she felt shooting pains down the side of her face. What terrified her more was that a few moments later, there were scratching sounds inside her head. The morning after that, her pillow was soaked in liquid that came out from her ear.
Harris had it checked at a nearby hospital in Derby. She underwent an x-ray examination, and the doctor found out that there were living maggots inside her ear canal. The insects had already dug a 12 mm hole inside. Luckily, it was just in her ear canal and didn’t reach her brain, which could have been way more dangerous. Nevertheless, hearing the results made Harris burst into tears.
Rochelle Harris decided to undergo a surgery to remove the maggots inside. A big colony of eight huge flesh-eating maggots were spotted inside her ear. It was later found out that a screw-worm fly had flown into her ear and laid its eggs, giving birth to the colony of maggots. The doctors suspected that it happened when she was in Peru.
There are many things that one can learn from Rochelle’s experience: make sure to cover your ears if you’re in Peru, never stay in hotels, check all the cupboards in your house to see all the unwanted living creatures in there and get rid of them, and lastly, if you ever decide to go to carnivals, get your hands off the props.
Dead Body in the Mattress
Another legend that you might have heard but didn’t care enough to investigate about is the one on dead bodies getting stuffed in mattresses. Usually, the tale is about a couple who spent a night in a hotel room but constantly complained about a foul smell. But when they asked the hotel staff to check where the smell came from, nothing was found, so they stayed for a few more days. But then later on, it was discovered that what caused the disgusting smell was a dead body stuffed into the mattress.
The story is just so nasty that we believed it never happened in real life. Sorry to break it to you, but it actually did. In fact, it happened a few times. This particular case had been witnessed in Las Vegas, California, Florida, and the Atlantic City. In 2010, for example, a woman from Memphis, Tennessee, was found dead inside a mattress.
Sony Millbrook was staying at Budget Lodge with her children and boyfriend, Lakeith Moody, for a few weeks. Their hotel room was later locked out due to unpaid bills. On January 27, her family reported her missing. Because Millbrook’s boyfriend had criminal history and the woman was still missing after more than a month, the police investigated the case again. They interviewed guests and employees and looked into different rooms. It was March 14 when a hotel staff reported that there was something wrong with the room Millbrook used. It was on that same day that Sony’s body was found—stuffed into a mattress.
While Millbrook was nowhere to be found, the hotel room she was previously using was rented to another occupant. The same room was used by five different lodgers and was cleaned for more than six times. No one, however, reported anything strange. For two months, no one noticed. Perhaps, some hotel staff saw it but thought he wouldn’t get paid for reporting, so he just let it go.
Have you ever gone to a haunted house and heard your parents tell you that the papier–mâché corpse you see is a real dead human body? It’s not true all the time, of course. Who would go through the hassle of killing someone and face the fear of getting caught just so he could use something for his haunted house ride? No one, but strangely enough, one case in California proved this myth to be true.
In 1976, the crew of the American TV show The Six Million Dollar Man took a trip to Long Beach, California, to film an episode in The Pike Amusement Park. They were moving the props because they needed to film inside a haunted house. When they were carrying a hanging man prop, they accidentally knocked its arm off. Expecting to see just a broken piece of papier–mâché, the crew was shocked to find a real human bone inside it.
The crew found out that what they were about to use as just a prop was actually a real human remain. Whoever hung it up there wanted to use it to scare off little kiddies. It turned out later on that the body itself was no way ordinary. It was the corpse of the infamous criminal Elmer McCurdy, who robbed a Katy Train in Oklahoma but was killed in a shootout with the police on October 11, 1911. McCurdy’s body was embalmed by an undertaker from the area, who was so pleased with the result of his work that he displayed the deceased criminal’s body in his funeral home and showed it off to his customers. (It must have been the most effective portfolio ever.)
It was left on display for several years, but McCurdy’s brothers met with the undertaker and took the body home. In an unexpected turn of events, these people were actually no way related to McCurdy and were just carnival promoters who were managing a haunted house and were too lazy to assemble their own set of props.
While McCurdy’s body was in the wrong hands, it went on an American tour, traveling across the continent to scare the hell out of children. If it weren’t for the film crew, the body would have never been discovered. McCurdy was finally buried properly after it.
The Green Man
If you’re a Pennsylvania resident for any length of time, then you’ve surely heard about The Green Man, a creepy-looking disfigured man who has no face and whose skin glows green. This man is said to have been gracing random streets in Pennsylvania every night, scaring off drivers. Several reports about this horrifying figure showing up in the dead of night were sent to the police.
While picturing the face of this man is scary enough, the real story behind this legend will leave you in tears. The Green Man is not just a made-up myth, he’s actually a real guy named Raymond Robinson, who was eight years old when he met an accident. Robinson was electrocuted by the electrical lines of a tram line when he was trying to view a bird’s nest.
Robinson didn’t die from the accident, but he went out of the hospital with no nose, eyes, one of his ears, and an arm. The glowing green skin is true as well. Because of the severe damage the electrocution caused to his skin, Robinson’s face glowed with a green hue, thus the Green Man was born.
Raymond walks on the streets at night because going outside in broad daylight often sends his neighbors into a frenzy.
Another urban legend tells the story of a family who just moved into their new house but was met by an undesirable experience. They said to have had taps that gave out rancid-smelling, black-colored water. When they tried to find out where it all came from, they were shocked when they discovered a decomposing corpse in their water tank.
We see people experiencing the same thing, but they were all in movies. Little did we all know that this did happen in real life. In the outskirts of the infamous Skid Row area in Los Angeles, there stands Cecil Hotel. In 2013, a gruesome event occurred in the establishment. For nineteen days, hundreds of guests at the hotel were drinking, bathing in, and brushing their teeth with the water that came from the water tank where the then 21-year-old college student Elisa Lam‘s body was thrown.
It seems like we’ll now have to reconsider spending a night in hotels.
The Shadowy Figure
Our next stop is a quite common urban legend. We hear it too often—people seeing shadowy figures roaming around their room. Expecting to see someone behind, they turn around, but there’s no one there. Books, movies, and telltales all feature that scene.
But for this Japanese man from the city of Fukuoka, the urban legend is not just a myth but a real horrifying experience. This guy lived in an apartment by himself and started seeing a shadowy figure moving around his room and found some of his stuff missing, which he shared to some of his friends. He sensed another person’s presence in that small space and insisted that he was not alone.
Shaken by what was happening, the man decided to install hidden cameras in his apartment. And his suspicion turned out to be true—he did have company! A woman was caught on cam using the man’s apartment as if she lived there. The woman was said to have consumed some of the owner’s food, used his belongings, and took showers in his bathroom.
What shocked the man even more was that when he was reviewing the video, the woman was still in the cupboard she used to hide in, which was only a few meters away from the man.
The unwelcomed roommate was actually Tatsuko Horikawa, a 58-year-old homeless woman. When interviewed by the police, Horikawa admitted to living in the apartment for a year already, without letting the owner know.
Have you ever seen the movie Buried where a truck driver (Ryan Reynolds) was buried alive with only a mobile phone and a lighter with him? We often hear about people caught in the same situation through urban legends—innocent people buried six feet under presuming they were dead but actually weren’t. But does that really happen in real life?
The answer, unfortunately, is yes. It happened hundreds of times in the past, and it could even be thousands. Around the nineteenth century, the medical profession wasn’t as developed as it is now. Because of this, there were many times when patients were mistakenly announced dead and buried alive. Cases like this were too common that there were around 219 reported incidents.
But that doesn’t tell everything about this gruesome trend. The number of cases covered only those that were actually dug out, where people saw scratch marks on the inside of the coffin, which confirmed that the person inside was trying to get out. Who knows how many more coffins caged a soul that wasn’t ready to cross the road to heaven but just wasn’t dug. But of course, we couldn’t blame them. You don’t do a regular visit to your grandpa’s grave to call out his name and see if he responds.
The incident became known, driving wealthy people to purchase safety coffins before they died. These coffins had a bell inside that the buried person could ring to tell people up above that they weren’t dead yet. It is assumed that the phrases “saved by the bell” and ” dead ringer” were based on this, although not everyone agrees to it.
The safety coffins were made around the eighteenth and nineteenth century. If you think someone’s planning to bury you alive and you’re too paranoid, you can still purchase one of these coffins today.
Spending a night with friends somewhere far from home often leads to games . . . scary games. And Bloody Mary is always present. It’s known to everyone how this game goes. You turn off the lights, light a candle, face the mirror, and say Bloody Mary three times. The result? It’s just as horrifying as the name of the game itself. After the third chant, you’re supposed to see the face of Queen Mary I of England, looking at you with a sinister expression while carrying a dead baby in her arms. The dead baby was said to reflect the miscarriages the queen had.
Many believe that this is not true, especially because Mary I had been dead for more than four centuries and she would probably find it too much of a hassle to come back just to scare you. Well, it really is strange, but this legend is actually true, and there’s some scientific explanation to back it up. Just that, it isn’t Queen Mary’s face that you actually see.
Heard of Caputo effect? When you open your eyes after you utter the chant, you will certainly see someone’s face. Thing is, it’s not Queen Mary’s, it’s yours. This is caused by what is called sensory deprivation. In this case, our eyes don’t get enough light to see a decent image, but our brain is trying to make up one in the mirror. Consequentially, the brain’s capability to recognize a face malfunctions, which leads to us seeing a distorted version of our own face. And because it is distorted, we often mistake the image as that of Queen Mary.
It’s like the placebo effect in medical psychology. Because it is already instilled in our brain that we will see the face of Queen Mary, that is what it makes us see. Because our visual information is already lacking, it’s our imagination that fills in the gap.