Top 10 Scariest Urban Legends

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Urban legends are typically circulated to teach and warn — although most of the best ones do double duty as a tool to scare the bejeebers out of us. While legends run the gamut from the ridiculous tale of the woman who tried to dry her poodle in the microwave to the disgusting story of fast-food fare that was actually a deep-fried rat that fell in the fryer, it’s the scary tales that stick with us for life. Especially if you follow one legend’s directions on how to summon the malevolent spirit named Bloody Mary.


10. Flashing Headlights

Gang members do not kill motorists who flash their headlights at them.

Photo credit: Olaru Radian-Alexandru/

Flashing your headlights at fellow motorists is a common way to remind them to turn on their own headlights, or to dim their high beams. One persistent legend in recent years says that courtesy could get you killed. The heavily circulated story says gang members drive around with their headlights purposely switched off. If you flash your headlights at the gang car, the members do a U-turn, chase the “flasher” until they catch up with him or her, then get out their guns and shoot the driver dead. This is supposedly an initiation ceremony for new gang members.


9. Crying Baby

The crying baby legend serves as a cautionary tale.

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Only a cold-hearted soul would ignore the sad pleas of a crying baby. But those who’ve heard this urban legend might think twice about opening their front door if they hear a baby crying. According to the tale, a would-be criminal puts a recording of a wailing infant on your porch and hides nearby. When you open the door to check on the distressed tot, he suddenly attacks. In another version of the story, a recording of a mewling kitten or whimpering puppy is used to lure you out of your house. Or they might place a baby carrier beside a deserted road while they lurk nearby, hoping you will stop.


8. Vanishing Hitchhiker

The vanishing hitcher story has appeared in some modern horror writings.

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The next time you’re driving down a lonely stretch of road, be wary if you pick up a young female hitchhiker who looks distressed. She may look innocent enough and only wants a short ride to her house. Once the driver stops to let the woman out in her driveway, however, the hitchhiker who was in the backseat has mysteriously disappeared. Befuddled, the driver goes to the house and tells the woman who answers the door what just happened. The woman confirms the description matches that of her daughter — but her daughter has been dead five years. In fact, tonight is the anniversary of her death. She was hit and killed by a car nearby.


7. Vanishing Kidney

The businessman who awakes in a bathtub minus his kidney is a chilling tale.

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Hitchhikers are not the only things that disappear in legend — your internal organs are also fair game. This story stars a weary business traveler who just arrived at his destination and goes to the hotel bar. The next thing he knows, he wakes up in a bathtub full of ice with a strange incision in his lower abdomen. After heading to a local hospital, the guy discovers his kidney had been removed, most surely by the band of merry organ harvesters who roam from town to town preying on unsuspecting business travelers. They slip knockout drugs into a traveler’s drink, find the hotel room key and carry him to his room where the member of the harvesting team who just happens to be a skilled surgeon removes the kidney to sell on the black market.


6. The Hook

The escaped convict with a hook hand is the most popular of several

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The proverbial lovers lane is a spooky place in legends, with several stories of the horrific happenings that await two young lovers. In the most common tale, a guy and his girlfriend are parked in a remote area listening to the radio. They hear an announcement that an escaped convict is on the loose, a wily criminal best noted for having a hook instead of a right hand. The two lovebirds take flight instantly, high-tailing it for home after being freaked out by the awful story. When they get home, the guy gets out and walks around to his sweetie’s door to open it for her — when he sees a hook stuck fast in the door handle.


5. The Dead Boyfriend

The dead boyfriend is one of several popular tales about

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In this tale, another pair of lovers ends up less lucky than the hook couple — or at least one of them does. This time the couple is parked in a wooded grove one night when the girl notices it’s time to go home. The guy agrees to take her home but the car won’t start. He decides to walk to a nearby gas station and tells his love to stay in the car. When he’s gone for quite a long time the girl gets nervous. Her nervousness turns to fear when she hears scraping noises on top of the car. She huddles in the car all night until finally two good Samaritans happen to pass by on a hike through the woods. As they open the car door to let her out, the girl notices the look of horror on their faces. She follows their gaze to the trees above the car — to see her boyfriend hung from a branch with his boots scraping the car’s rooftop.


4. The Tire Change

Woman with car problems are a recurring theme in urban legends.

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Cars often mean trouble in urban legends, especially if you end up with car trouble. Such is the case for a woman who allegedly stayed late at the mall, walked across a nearly empty, dim parking lot to her car and found she had a flat tire. A well-dressed man happens to amble by, looking respectable in a business suit and carrying a briefcase, and offers to change her tire. She happily agrees. When he finishes, he asks for a ride to his car at the opposite end of the parking lot. The woman hesitates, and asks what he’s doing on this end of the lot. He was talking with some friends, he explains, and didn’t realize how late it had gotten. Now very worried, the woman pretends she forgot to buy something and goes back into the mall. When she comes out with a new purchase and opens her trunk, she notices the man had left his briefcase in the trunk when he was changing the tire. She opens it and finds a rope and a butcher knife. A security guard sees her reaction and asks what’s wrong. She tells him. He inspects the flat tire and says it’s only flat because someone let all the air out.


3. Backseat Boogeyman

The backseat boogeyman has inspired many motorists to check their backseat before getting into their car.

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Being followed in a car can also be creepy, but not for the reasons you may initially think. Legend has it that was the case for one woman heading home one night after an all-day excursion out of town. As she leaves the parking lot, a car pulls out behind her. The car keeps following her, staying right on her tail. She slows down but the driver won’t pass. He instead tries to pull up beside her. She then races all the way home, with the car in hot pursuit. When the car blocks her in her driveway, the woman starts blasting her horn. Her husband comes running out of the house just as the stranger gets out of his car. Her husband grabs the man and starts screaming, “What the heck is going on?” as the woman exits her car and explains the man followed her 40 miles. The stranger quickly explains he followed the woman because as he started his car, he looked over and saw a man’s head bob down in her backseat. Sure enough, the husband goes over to his wife’s car and finds a guy with a knife crouched on the floorboard in the back.


2. Babysitter Terror

The babysitter with a stalker in the house has been around for many years.

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Once the kids are put to bed, babysitters have plenty of quiet time to relax — or get spooked by strange noises and happenings. In this chilling urban legend, a teenage babysitter tucks the children in their upstairs bedrooms and heads downstairs to watch TV. Then, the phone calls start coming, first with a man’s voice laughing, but then with the man taunting her, telling her what she is watching and what she’s wearing. Not one to just sit around in terror, the babysitter calls the police to report the harassment. The phone rings again and, after hesitating, the babysitter answers it. The call is from the police saying they discovered the source of the harassing calls — they came from an upstairs extension in the house. The babysitter flees the scene just as a man comes stumbling down the stairs with a bloody knife in his hand.


1. Bloody Mary

Most youths know better than to try to conjur the spirit of Bloody Mary.

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Bloody Mary is supposedly an evil spirit that lurks in otherworldly places — unless, of course, you feel like summoning her your way. Lore provides several versions of how to summon this vengeful spirit and there are several different stories of what Bloody Mary will do once she arrives. The simplest version consists of standing in a dark room in front of a mirror lit only by candlelight and saying the name, “Bloody Mary” three times, at which time she will appear. Others insist you must chant her name 13 times, 20 times, or include an entire phrase such as, “I hate Bloody Mary,” or “Bloody Mary, I killed your baby.” Some say Bloody Mary, also known as Mary Worth, Mary Worthington, Hell Mary and several other monikers, was a woman who became so distressed over her lost child she committed suicide. Others say Mary was a witch executed hundreds of years ago. Once you get Mary to appear, she might instantly strike you dead, haunt you forever, pull you back into the mirror with her or scratch your face into a hideous mess. Others believe the mirror will crack and blood will pour out between the cracks, with the color of the blood an indication of your fate. None of your options are particularly attractive.


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Written by

Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated humor books, hundreds of published articles, poems, illustrations, a weekly radio show and column, a full line of wacky artwork and numerous awards.