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Thoughts On 10 Scary Urban Legends

Updated on December 27, 2015

Currently Listed Top 10 Urban Legends

I was just checking to see what the current top scary urban legends are. (Spring 2009)

The list hasn't changed much at all in decades! These are the same scary stories that I first encountered as a kid, with the exception of #4 below.

About .com lists the following as the Top 10 Scariest Urban Legends

#1. "Aren't You Glad You Didn't Turn On The Light?"

#2. "The Boyfriend's Death"

#3. "Buried Alive!"

#4. "Skinned Tom"

#5. "The Fatal Hairdo"

#6. "The Hook"

#7. "Humans Can Lick, Too"

#8. "The Kidney Thieves"/Human Organ Harvesting

#9. "The Killer in the Backseat"

#10. "The Roommate's Death"

Many Stories Created From Fears and Anxieties

You'll note, if you're familiar with most of these tales, that they all involve things that almost all of us fear or are very anxious about. Some people never get over anxieties related to some of the themes in these tales.

These are all modern creations, too. Most of these tales would not be possible prior to around 1950 or so!

There weren't enough 'common' technological 'gadgets' around before the 50's for people to create stories like this from.

Notice how many of the top 10 involve automobiles? Or some kind of tech/medical knowledge or device? (surgery, telephone, automobile, electricity/lights, radio).

At least three of the modern urban legends (#1, #7, #10 or versions thereof) specifically involve electrical lights that are NOT turned on in the story. A character each of these stories purposely leaves the lights OFF (or, in some versions, the electricity fails) even though the gift of light to bring them out of the frightening darkness is right at their fingertips! Actually each of the versions of 1, 7, and 10 have alternate versions so that one version has a decision being made to leave the lights off and the alternate version has a technological/electrical malfunction as the reason why the lights stay off. The latter is evidence of a collective anxiety that technology will fail us when we most need it. This collective anxiety about technological gadgets would not have been as apparent prior to the 1900s.

Our current urban legends - our current favorites - will tell future generations about the nature of our anxieties once we are gone! A few hundred years from now, researchers will say "Oh, those people in the year 2008 were not at all trusting in the technological devices they had created up until that time."

The fact that some versions of urban legend are based around devices (light bulbs, automobiles, medical procedures/theories) invented about a hundred years ago - combined with the fact that these legends still frighten us - proves that we still don't trust some of the first devices that are considered 'remarkable' from at least a generation before us. Strangely, however, we use this technology and RELY on it every day, even though we don't trust it.

Notice how many of the top 10 involve some kind of sexual development or sexual activity theme?

Also, even in our purported age of 'gender equality,' each one of these stories shows men and woman as polar opposites, with men as mostly brave, sturdy individuals and women as 'the weaker gender.' The men in the stories are mainly perpetuating action while the women are usually waiting on the men or are attacked by males.

So much for 'gender equality' reaching far and wide.

2015 Update on Popular Urban Legends

An interesting shift has been happening in urban legends since I began this hub in the Spring of 2009...

The top 10 list has shifted... and there are some things in society that have shifted, as well - concerns and fears of society have changed a bit. MOVIES, I believe, have also shifted the public consciousness, so we have body horror urban legends rising to the surface (SAW movies, The Human Centipede series of movies, rise in torture/slasher effects in movies and the sheer number of horror movies rising).

Listed currently at About .com 's urban legends section on their top 10 urban legends article/page, are the following:

  1. The Hook
  2. The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs
  3. Aren't You Glad You Didn't Turn On The Light
  4. The Clown Statue
  5. Bloody Mary
  6. The Russian Sleep Experiment
  7. Humans Can Lick, Too
  8. The Killer in the Backseat
  9. The Dead Boyfriend
  10. The Killer in the Window

I am wondering if the number of horror/slasher and slash-torture flicks that have come out from 2009-2015 have greatly influenced this list.

There are major "classics" still in this list - fear of the madman/body altered person, fear of growing up, having your children grow up, night-time vulnerabilities (The Hook, Babysitter legends, Dead Boyfriend, etc) haven't abated, but here we have some new fears prevalent in the legends we're sharing/accessing.

  • Fear of clowns (masks/people who aren't who they say/look like they are)
  • Mad scientist/human experimentation (ethics of interacting with humans)
  • Bloody Mary (the supernatural - or organized old religion/ways)

The Clown Statue, Bloody Mary, and Russian Sleep Experiment are new in this list - and all of them are pretty high on the list - 6 or above in popularity/accessibility. Plus, an old standy-by, the notable fear of the Hook-handed Man (and mental instability) has shot from #6 to NUMBER ONE in the scary urban legends list!

One thing I'm surprised at is that "Ostension" has not become a hot topic in the past year or two. It seems almost nobody knows what this term means. This is strange because ostension of urban legends has happened in our times, in the past couple of years and nobody is talking much about it yet.

Ostension and Urban Legends <<--- an article I did a few years ago and will get updated by the New Year.

The ostension: Slender Man crimes!

Most people are familiar with the attempted murder of a schoolmate/friend by two 12 year old girls who were obsessed with SLENDER MAN; an event that happened in Wisconsin USA on May 31, 2014. This crime made international headlines.

A News byte on the crime:

Fantasy Slenderman Meme Inspires Horrific Wisconsin Stabbing

The legalities of this case have been difficult, as all 3 people (both the 2 attackers and the victim) are all minors.

Wisconsin Slenderman Attack details of May 2014


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