Accidental Survival in Urban Legends

Survival by Luck

Accidental survival in urban legends or urban myth stories is actually quite common...

This is where survival of a potential victim happens, not through their own critical thinking or by their own steadfast taking of safety measures. Basically, they survive through luck but may not even really be (based on principles of merit) deserving of survival in their situation. They've often been doing unsafe activities, been doing things to cross taboo or boundary lines, been paying too little attention to dangers, etc.

Survival by luck happens in a number of ways:

  • Potential victim suddenly taking a safety measure or action, for seemingly no reason, that usually is not part of regular routine.
  • Potential victim receives 'gut feeling' and changes a pattern of behavior which ends up being the focal point of why the potential victim survives a disaster or attack
  • Potential victim is careless or absent minded but a stranger intervenes to change a negative course of events
  • An attacker intending harm toward a victim makes a silly mistake, which ends up being the cause of the victim's spared life or intended harm/disaster
  • An attacker's plans are thwarted by a stranger, thus, the potential/intended victim is spared harm or death
  • A killer/attacker is poised to strike but for reasons unknown, does not follow through

In any case, with survival by luck or accidental survival, the potential victim in an urban legend is spared harm or death in a way that is not attributed to the good character, careful habits of the victim. Often the victim whose life is spared basically represents "the chronically absent-minded person" and urban legends with such a character are intended to remind listeners of the value of being mindful, cautious and level-headed.

Knife in the Briefcase

One beautiful summer day, a lady is driving in Southampton, New York, when she realizes she's been enjoying the day and the driving around too much and she's about to run out of gas! She finds the nearest gas station and pulls into it to refill her tank. She's got to get her mind back on important matters and go to pick up her daughter from an East Hampton art class, so she tells the gas attendant that she's in a terrible hurry.

As the lady is waiting for the tank to fill with gas, a very well-dressed man walks up to her car and starts talking to her through her driver's side window. He explains that he was on his way to East Hampton for an appointment, but his rental car had broken down. He'd not managed to get the car as far as the gas station and had walked a little ways in order to reach a telephone. Unfortunately, when he phoned the car rental shop, the staff were unable to send out an immediate replacement, so he would have to wait several hours in order to straighten things up with the broken down rental car. In the meantime, he felt he should try to make it to his appointment and not otherwise waste what time was left of his day. After hearing his involved story, the lady said she'd gladly take him to East Hamptom, since she was going directly there herself.

The man thanked her, then asked to leave his briefcase in the back seat of the car while he quickly ran over to use the restroom - and then they could be on their way.

He placed his briefcase in the back seat and dashed off.

The lady paid for her gas and engaged in some polite chit-chat with the attendant - then glanced at her watch - only to realize with shock that she was going to be terribly late for picking up her daughter. Distracted by the attendant's conversation, she said a quick goodbye to the attendant, threw her car into gear and drove off to pick up her daughter.

She completely forgot about conversation and agreement made with the well-dressed man a few moments before - and totally forgot about him placing his briefcase in the back seat of her car, too.

Fortunately, she was only a few minutes late in picking up her daughter, and the two had a good chat on the way home. Only once daughter and mother were home and getting out of the car did the lady notice the briefcase in the back seat of the car.

Feeling badly about what she'd done in leaving the man behind at the gas station - and without his briefcase, too - the lady fetched his briefcase from the back seat and brought it into the house near to the phone. She intended to look in the case and locate some ID immediately so she could phone an appropriate resource that would put the man back in touch with his precious briefcase - hopefully still in time for him to make it to the meeting he'd mentioned earlier.

The lady opened the briefcase to search for some form of identification for the man...

...but all she found in the briefcase was a large knife and a roll of duct tape!

Knife in Briefcase/Close Call at the Mall

When You Need The Right Tools 4 Survival...

A Live Legend In The Making?

The following comment, by mistyhorizon2003 may be an Urban Legend in the making:

mistyhorizon2003 says:
20 hours ago

Something similar to this actually happened to one my staff's best friend in the Pevensy Bay area of Kent in the UK. A man asked her for a lift, also he was smartly dressed and had a briefcase. She was parked in a supermarket car park at the time. She agreed to give him a lift and he placed his briefcase in her car and offered to guide her out of the tight parking space. Apparently she suddenly felt very uneasy about the wisdom of giving this man a lift, so instead of stopping to let him get in the car after she had reversed out of the space, she quickly drove away.


A short distance later she checked the contents of the briefcase with a view to handing it in at a Police Station, but when she opened the briefcase all that was in it was a pair of handcuffs and a carving knife.


The staff member came into work the day after it happened and told us all about it and how freaked out her friend was now.

Hairy Armed Hitch Hiker Urban Legend

Real Event or Urban Legend?

The chances that mistyhorizon2003 was told an Urban Legend instead of a real event:

  • Very High Chance That mistyhorizon2003 was given an Urban Legend - note the 'friend of a friend told me' feature!
  • Low - Occasionally, things like this DO HAPPEN!
  • Zero chance that what mistyhorizon2003 was told is Urban Legend - the story came from someone she knows
See results without voting

Another Similar "Good Samaritan" Version

A young woman returns to her car after shopping. She locates her car in the mall parking lot, tosses her shopping bags into the back seat, but before she gets into her car she notices she's got a flat tire.

Luckily, she's a capable and practical young woman, so she doesn't spend any time being upset over the flat tire. Instead, she goes to her trunk, pulls out the necessary tools and begins to change the tire.

A very nicely dressed man in a business suit stops by her car soon after she starts changing her flat tire. He offers to help change the tire, and the woman accepts his assistance. The man sets his briefcase just inside her trunk in order to have both hands free for working. Together, working quickly, the two manage to change the flat tire in almost record time.

Once the car is in condition for driving, the man asked the woman for a ride to his car, which, he said was parked far away on the other side of the mall. At this, the woman became suspicious and uncomfortable. She thanked him for helping her change her tire but politely refused his request for a ride. He asked again - more insistently - and she declined again. At this, the man's face reddened and he spoke with still more insistence, asking for a ride to his car. Unnerved by the man's sudden change in demeanor, the young woman declined to answer at all now, and she walked quickly back into the mall.

She located security and reported the incident but when security followed her back out to her car in the lot, the man in the business suit - the Good Samaritan, prior to his request for a ride - was nowhere to be found. As the security authority glanced around the lot, the woman noticed that the newly-changed tire was flattened. A further look showed that the tire had been slashed. Now she would need to use the garage at the mall location and pay to have her tire fixed! She prepared to go for a walk back into the mall and locate a garage worker who could come and look at the damage and assess how soon and at what cost it would take to have her car in operational condition. When the woman went to swing her trunk closed - it had been left open the whole while - she spotted the stranger's briefcase and handed it over to the security guard.

Inside the expensive looking briefcase was nothing more than a rope and a butcher knife.

Wet Footprints

Toni was babysitting her little sister while their parents went out to a dinner party. The snow outside was a couple of feet thick as it had snowed all afternoon but luckily the snowing stopped right before Toni's parents planned to go to a party.

Toni had supper with her little sister after their parents departed and after supper they both cleared the dishes away in order to sit at the kitchen table together to do some homework. Toni helped her little sister with some mathematics and a bit of reading and spelling, then watched a couple of TV shows with sister before sending the little one to get ready for bed.

After sending her little sister to bed, Toni spent some time at the table doing her own homework for a while, then popped some popcorn to have in front of the tv while watching a movie. Once the popcorn was ready, Toni grabbed a warm, snuggly blanket to curl up under while watching the movie. The TV was situated near the sliding glass patio door and Toni liked that when she shut all the lights off to watch movies, the light coming in the patio doorway was just enough to let her see where she was setting her popcorn bowl, drink, and the outline of the clock above the television set, without interfering with the images on the TV screen.

It was around midnight when Toni's movie ended and her parents still weren't home by this time. They'd phoned once (luckily during a commercial break!) to say they were almost ready to make the return trip home, however, so Toni felt sure they'd be home any minute.

Toni decided she'd turn a light on in the tv room so her parents would know she was still up. Hopefully, they'd visit with her, tell her a little about the party and not send her to bed right away when they returned. As she reached for the lamp on the coffee table, she caught a glimpse in her side vision nearest the patio door, and saw a hulking figure there!

Frightened, she ducked under her blanket and peeked as well as could be managed through a gap in the fabric... standing just outside the glass doors, there was definitely a man standing there, looking in. She thought she saw something in his hand that glinted or reflected the outside streetlight - something metallic. Luckily, she hadn't gotten the lamp turned on, so she stayed tucked under the blanket and sunk lower on the couch, letting the back of the couch shield her from view.

After waiting what seemed like ten minutes, and with her parents still not home, her fear pressed her to reach for the phone on the coffee table beside the couch - especially since she peeked out of the blanket gaps a couple of times and thought she could still see the man standing there - what did he want???

She was so scared! She dialed 911 and said she saw a man outside her patio door, that she was 15 and babysitting and that her parents were taking too long to get home. The 911 operator said she was right to call - better safe than sorry! Authorities were dispatched immediately to check on her situation.

In almost no time, police knocked on the door and shouted "Police!" so only then did Toni come out from under the blanket. She made her way carefully and quickly to the door in the dark, checked in the peephole and saw two uniformed officers standing there. She threw the door wide, letting the police enter, her fear lowering considerably now that help had arrived.

Before the outer door could be closed, Toni's parents also arrived and entered the house but were prevented from leaving the inside entrance area until officers did a search in the house. During the search, Toni's little sister woke up and was brought over to the parents and Toni, who were all huddled near the front door while Toni explained the situation to Mom and Dad. The parents agreed, "better safe than sorry," and were just calming little sister and assuring Toni she had done the right thing when one of the officers, a determined look on his face, came forward and briskly went out the front door to search the yard. Assuming the officer would track down the peeping offender and that their house interior was safe, the family, all together now, started to move inside. With the kitchen in between the entrance and tv room, the family was stopped by the other officer and asked to stay together at the kitchen table.

Quite a long time passed with the family hearing snippets of radio contact between the officer inside and the one outside and finally, the one outside came back into the house. The two officers spoke in whispers near the front entrance, then finally entered the kitchen to talk to the family.

"We've searched the house thoroughly and have found no intruder lurking here. We've searched outside and found no traces of footprints in the snow - except ones leading to and from the family vehicle that was just used this evening... Sir, Ma'am, you may have walked over and muddled the intruder's footprints and we may have done the same in arriving and entering the house...there are absolutely no traces of any footprints near the patio doors--"

The parents, the whole family breathed a sigh of relief... no intruder, but wait, no footprints near the patio doors, either?

"What we did find," one of the officers continued, "very perplexing - what we did find, in the tv room - a set of wet footprints... much too large to be Toni's footprints or a spilled drink or anything. They're large footprints of an adult--

From this, we have to assume that what your daughter saw earlier this evening was a reflection in the patio doors...

Of someone inside the room!"

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Comments 11 comments

Ivan the Terrible profile image

Ivan the Terrible 7 years ago from Madrid

I like urban legend stories, and I hadn't heard these before.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

Something similar to this actually happened to one my staff's best friend in the Pevensy Bay area of Kent in the UK. A man asked her for a lift, also he was smartly dressed and had a briefcase. She was parked in a supermarket car park at the time. She agreed to give him a lift and he placed his briefcase in her car and offered to guide her out of the tight parking space. Apparently she suddenly felt very uneasy about the wisdom of giving this man a lift, so instead of stopping to let him get in the car after she had reversed out of the space, she quickly drove away.

A short distance later she checked the contents of the briefcase with a view to handing it in at a Police Station, but when she opened the briefcase all that was in it was a pair of handcuffs and a carving knife.

The staff member came into work the day after it happened and told us all about it and how freaked out her friend was now.


mythbuster profile image

mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide Author

mistyhorizon2003,

I'm so excited by your response...I've copied your comment right into the body of my hub.

You may be in possession of an urban legend in the making, through whatever details your staff's best friend shared with you!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

Thanks Mythbuster, I know it even freaked me out at the time and gave me goosebumps. Really pleased you decided to include this in your hub.

It was the girl who worked for me who told me about what had happened to her friend the day before. I wonder if the 'psycho' got the idea from the urban legend in the first place!!


mythbuster profile image

mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide Author

mistyhorizon2003,

This account is definitely a goosebumpy-causing tale! You never know where 'psycho' people get their ideas from.

What is interesting in the account you gave, however, is the 'friend of a friend told me' feature...

I will have to think on this some more


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

Fair enough I agree, but the employee who told me was pretty shaken by the events too. Apparently her friend did report it to the Police, so possibly it may be traceable on record. !!!


mythbuster profile image

mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide Author

Ah..., mistyhorizon2000...you get SO FAR AHEAD of me here lol There IS A PHENOMENON related to urban legends which is like 'copycatting' - and unfortunately, sometimes, people ENACT an urban legend and make it 'real.' This is called 'ostension'


Lucas B. 5 years ago

I love stories like this where someone practically has enough luck to fart and gas out a suprise attacker. I heard a legend like this one:

A woman at the mall walked out to her car and found she had a flat tire. A man noticed her concern, and asked if he could help. He changed out the tire, then asked if the woman could drive him to the other side of the mall. He explained that his car was there, and in the mall he had gotten turned around and ended up outside on the other side of the parking lot. The woman thought about the short distance, and how many would be able to see her. Dismissing danger, she said, "Yes", and waited as the man went into the mall with the excuse that he had to pee. The woman consented, but realizing she was late getting home, jumped into the car and sped off, thinking the man would have to get another ride. Arriving home, she noticed a bag in her backseat. Opening it, she found a knife, ducttape, and the icepick the man had used to puncture her tire.


mythbuster profile image

mythbuster 5 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide Author

Nice version of a "Survived By Luck" legend, Lucas B. Thanks for taking time to stop by, read, and share!


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 2 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

Satisfied my "need" for a scary bedtime story or two. I wonder what kind of a dream I will have tonight!


mythbuster profile image

mythbuster 2 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide Author

I hope you survived any nightmares, Perspycacious :)

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