How exactly do you trace the origin of an urban legend?
Perhaps a better question: why bother?
Urban legends still give me the chills, well into my seemingly rational adulthood years. Oftentimes what makes for a good story is a healthy dose of malarkey and embellishment, the perfect recipe for untold thousands of creepy urban legends.
My hometown has its share of urban legends, some of them more believable than others.
The first example is a doozy. Drive a few miles down a specific gravel road until you cross the railroad tracks, at which point you’ll make a U-turn, parking a few feet from the tracks. Turn off your lights and wait patiently in silence for a ghostly milk truck to appear in your mirrors. Don’t glance out the back window. Doing so will discourage the milk truck from recreating its impending doom: a t-bone collision with a train, over and over again. You’ll see the crossing gate engage, both headlights rush towards you closer and closer; you’ll hear the train whistle, the screeching of metal, the explosions, the screaming; And then…BAM! You’ve just witnessed a ghost train wreck.
Believers of another local urban legend report sightings of a nude female apparition wandering aimlessly on a stretch of country road, the exact site where years ago a woman was murdered, her body left to decay in a ditch. Or so the story goes. The woman is said to never look up as she stumbles, placing one clumsy foot in front of the other, perhaps eternally searching for help. Or revenge.
The third – and possibly the silliest – urban legend from my hometown involves another country road. This time you’ll slowly crest a hill with your headlights shining directly at a particular headstone in a long-forgotten graveyard. The headstone will glow mysteriously in the night, as if awakening haunted spirits from their slumber!
But the glowing headstone is not even the creepiest aspect of this legend! Look to your left, far up the hill, to a small, dilapidated farmhouse nobody has occupied in 50 years. So you think, until out comes a man with a mushroom shaped head, pointing a sawed-off shotgun at your car. You better step on the gas, man!
In reality, an old farmer is probably tired of dumb kids flashing their bright lights on his property every other night. He really should get that mushroom head thing checked out, though.
Anyway, I could go on about the adventures of a group of bored teenagers cruising country roads, making stories up and creeping each other out. Because I didn’t even tell you about the other farmhouse where a man who murdered his entire family 100 years ago waits patiently for his next victim to enter his residence (which we did, and nothing happened). I’ll save that for another time.
Because I’d rather hear about your local urban legends. I could use some fresh stories to pursue.
Have you seen the milk truck crash?
Well, no. But still.
After a meeting in the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia a couple of years ago, we drove home in the foggy weather. As we started the hour drive home we first stopped to pay homage to the Moth Man statue. My boss was driving and his son-in-law, who often came with us to be the roadie for all the electronic equipment, rode up front. He pulled out his iPhone and searched for other urban legends in our area. Sure enough, there was one about a young woman, jilted at her wedding oh so many years ago, who waits in her wedding gown at the top of the hill into town but only after midnight and only when it is foggy. Good thing we passed the point at 11:30. LOL
Sounds spooky! There’s an urban legend app? No surprise, I suppose.
Sadly, while NYC has tons of urban legends, all of us who live here are too cool to listen to any of them.
What’s real? What’s not? In NYC, who the hell cares?
Those are kind of awesome. I love urban legends! In my college town there was a huge cemetery and there was a legend that one of the headstones (which had a statue of a weeping woman on it) would cry tears of blood at midnight. Spooooky!
I wrote a paper in college about the universal urban legend that people go around poking people in clubs with needles that contain the HIV virus. So far fetched and weird, but I got an A haha!
I actually remember that one! It was probably a parent’s ploy to keep young kids out of the clubs, but hey, it worked. It freaked me out as a youngster. And you earned an A discussing the subject! Well done. I would read that paper just out of curiosity.
San Antonio has an urban legend involving a railroad track, and a school bus loaded with kids. As the legend goes, back in the 1930s (40s?) a bus load of children stalled on the tracks and was hit by a train killing all the kids on board. According to the legend, the children haunt the area and will come to the rescue of anyone else who also happens to get stalled by pushing them off the tracks.
A couple of years ago I had a friend take me out to the south-side to check this out. We drove onto the tracks at the crossing, he slipped the car into neutral, removed his foot from the accelerator, and we sat and waited. Within a few seconds the car slowly began rolling seemingly on its own….and seemingly uphill.
As it turns out, though the railroad crossing appears to be on an uphill, it’s an illusion. It’s actually on a slight downhill slope. Though it’s only an urban legend it IS a fun place to take visitors, especially if you plan ahead and have some kids secretly put some tiny hand prints on the back of your car before going out there. Another cool thing is that in the area several of the streets have names like Cindy Sue, Bobby Allen, Laura Lee – according to the legend these are the names of the dead children, but in reality they were named after the children of the contractors who built the subdivision.