From a hook being left on a door handle by a crazed serial killer to a gang that will shoot you if you flash your bright lights at them, Halloween is a ripe time for horrific urban legends to be spread around. While most of these are fiction, the reality is that some of these stories originate from real news stories and sometimes things that start out as urban legends eventually become real horror stories. Here are five terrifying tales with some scary truths behind them.
Dead Bodies Under The Mattress
This one involves someone checking into a hotel room and noticing that something smells rotten. Eventually, they realize it’s coming from under the bed. So they move the mattress and discover a dead body. This story has been going around forever and has even been featured in movies like Four Rooms. It seems like this story is pretty unlikely, particularly given that you’d at least think a hotel maid would notice the smell of a rotting body before a hotel guest enters the room, but if you believe that, you’re giving hotel staff too much credit. In fact, the most disturbing thing about this story is how often it actually happens. In 1982, a few auto thieves killed an accomplice and left him under the bed of their hotel in New Jersey. Four days later, someone discovered the corpse, but the room had been rented three different times in the meanwhile and no one noticed they were sleeping above a dead body. In 1987, a drug user overdosed and his high friend stuffed him under the bed and then ran away. Three days later, a family reported a nasty odor in their room, prompting the hotel staff to discover the body. In New York 1988, a murderer was clever enough to actually put the body inside the box spring. Even so, the smell still gave away the body’s hiding place only a few days later. This time, at least two guests slept on top of the mattress, not knowing what was below. There are tons more stories like this. Apparently hotel workers often shrug off these types of odors and go on with their business until a guest complains or even refuses to stay in the room thanks to the smell. If there’s anything to be learned here, it’s that you should never stay in a hotel room with a funky smell. And, if you do notice something off, check under your bed or mattress…or you might not want to, that is, if you’d rather not know what’s below. Source: Snopes Image Via neekatnite [Flickr]
Spooky Acts Resulting In Death
Whether it involves a trained escape artist failing in his act or a Halloween stunt that goes awry, this tale revolves around someone dying while an audience watches, often thinking it is all part of the act. Eventually, everyone is shocked when they learn the performer has really passed away. While it’s a chilling story that has been told over and over, even used in an episode of Tales From The Crypt, it is far from fiction. In fact, it happens more often then you would think. In 1984, magician/comedian Tommy Cooper had a heart attack while performing on a variety show. Unfortunately, because one of the staples of his act was his inept magic skills that resulted in things going terribly wrong, everyone assumed it was part of the act until it was too late. October 1990 was a particularly bad month for these kinds of stunts. It started when teen Brian Jewell died while performing a hanging stunt meant to entertain guests on a haunted hayride. Only six days later, another teen, William Anthony Odom, died while performing a gallows scene at a Halloween party and the noose tightened around his neck, choking him to death. Days later, Joseph Burrus performed an act that involved him having to break free from a plastic coffin buried underground and covered in concrete. As spectators watched the concrete being poured into the hole, everyone noticed when the wet concrete level suddenly dropped two feet down –the coffin had been crushed. By the time they got Burrus out of the coffin, he was dead. In 2001, haunted hayride worker Caleb Rebh died when he decided to take the place of a skeleton placed in a noose on a tree. When he struggled with the rope, guests and fellow workers thought he was acting and left him alone until he suffocated. A good take away from these stories is to make sure your kids never think to do tricks that involve nooses. Also, don’t raise your kid to be an escape artist. Sources: Snopes #1, #2 Image Via Sospitis [Flickr]
Dead Bodies Mistaken For Spooky Decorations
On a similar note, there have been many of occasions where someone thought something was a Halloween decoration, but it was really a dead body. Heck, this one even served as the basic plot for the Vincent Price classic House of Wax. In at least two cases, one in 2005 and one in 2009, a suicide victim has killed themselves in October and been left for hours, even days, because people mistook the real corpse for a Halloween decoration. One of the more interesting, slightly less gruesome stories in this vein involves the corpse of Elmer McCurdy. The outlaw was killed in a 1911 shoot-out. Afterwards, his undertaker went ahead and embalmed him, dressed him up, and started to charge locals $.05 to take a look at the bandit. Eventually, two men claimed McCurdy as their brother in 1915, but the men were actually carnival promoters who wanted the corpse for themselves. The body toured with his “brothers” for a few years and after a few stops at various other side shows it ended up in a Los Angeles wax museum, where those operating the attraction believed it was just another wax creation. It wasn’t until the Six Million Dollar Man filmed at the wax museum and a worker accidentally broke off McCurdy’s arm that people realized it wasn’t just a creepy prop. Finally, in 1977, McCurdy was given a proper burial. To ensure he would stay buried, the medical examiner ordered that two yards of cement were laid over the body. Strangely, House of Wax was based on a Charles Belden’s story The Wax Works written in 1933. Both of these were made long before any of these stories hit the news, so either earlier news stories like this are now buried or else this one was an urban legend that eventually came true rather than a true story that became an urban legend. Sources: Snopes #1, #2
Just about everyone has heard the story of the person waking up in a bathtub full of ice with a note telling them to go to a hospital if they want to live. While the bathtub of ice and note parts may be fiction, this kind of this has been known to happen in India, where a 1995 law requires organ donations to come only from closely related family members, creating a thriving black market for organs. In 1998, three surgeons and seven accomplices were arrested after being accused of tricking people into having their kidneys removed without permission. The criminals would tell the impoverished victims they could get a good job, but first they had to undergo a medical exam. The exam would then reveal the “applicant” needed a small surgery. During the procedure, the doctor would remove one of the unconscious victim’s kidneys and then the victim would hear nothing more about a job offer. In 2008, a similar racket was discovered by authorities. Like the wax museum stories, the interesting thing about these cases is the fact that the urban legend was around long before the true stories. In this case, the legend has been spread around since at least the eighties, but the problem in India did not start until after the 1995 law was passed. Sources: Snopes, Washington Post Image Via The Doctr [Flickr]
Intentionally Infected With AIDS
The most common version of this story involves a young girl dancing at a club when she feels a small prick on her arm or leg. Then she hears someone whisper “welcome to the wonderful world of AIDS,” before they escape unseen. At her feet, she discovers a blood-filled needle and when she visits the hospital, they confirm that she now has HIV. Another version involves a girl going to the movies and discovering a note informing her of her new status before she leaves. The earliest version of this story has actually been traced back to the mid-80’s, when a man sleeps with a woman he’s only just met at a bar and then wakes up seeing the words “welcome to the world of AIDS” scrawled on the mirror in lipstick. While the story of an anonymous stranger injecting someone at a club and the “welcome to the world of AIDS” line are both urban legends, the truth is that there are many stories of people who have intentionally been given HIV. In 2006, a woman in England was arrested for intentionally having unprotected sex with men in an act of revenge after she became infected with the disease. Some people have even been intentionally injected with the virus, but not by random strangers like the victims in the legends. AIDS activist Brryan Jackson was infected as an 11 month-old baby by his father, who did not want to have to pay child support. By the time he was five, his infection was discovered and his father was arrested and sentenced to life in prison. Fortunately, the nineteen year-old activist is still doing fine despite his condition. Another person intentionally infected was Janice Trahan, who was given the virus, along with Hepatitis C, by her ex-lover Doctor Richard J. Schmidt who collected a samples from some of his patients and gave it to Trahan by claiming it was a vitamin B injection. Dr. Schmidt was charged with attempted murder and sentenced to 50 years. It is unknown how Trahan is doing because the case was so long ago and there are no follow up new stories on her since 2000. This case was the first of its kind to hit the court system and it eventually inspired a similar Law & Order episode. Sources: About.com, BBC, ABC News, Wikipedia Image Via cooling [Flickr] I know people always claim that urban legends are true and often claim that they know someone that was really involved with the story, but do any of you know any true urban legends that you can actually prove? Try to leave links to the news stories or other sources that prove your tale if you really want any of us to believe you.