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ONTD Original™: 5 Scary Urban Legends

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Everyone knows them.You have probably told one, or you heard it as a "true story" from a friend of a friend. These modern horror folktales stick with us regardless of logic and truth. Here are five urban legends that continue to creep us out to this day, and the movies, TV shows, and books that they have inspired.






A teenage babysitter receives a phone call while her wards sleep upstairs. The person on the other line asks her if she is alone, or if she has checked on the children lately. Thinking it is nothing but a prank, the babysitter hangs up. The calls continue throughout the night, and the babysitter finally calls the police for help. A cop says that they will have the phone company trace the call. When the cops calls back, he tells her that the calls are coming from a second phone line inside the house. The caller, a deranged killer, has murdered the children upstairs in their bedroom, and he heads downstairs to finish off the babysitter...

In some variations, the children survive, or they disappear along with the killer. Another take has the kids making the prank calls because they do not like the babysitter.


Fright (1971): A babysitter's life is in peril as her charge's dangerous father escapes from a mental hospital.

Black Christmas (1974): A sorority house's residents are threatened by an unseen caller.

Halloween (1978): A babysitter is targeted by a masked killer.

When a Stranger Calls (1979): A babysitter barely survives an ordeal involving a man calling from inside the house she was staying at. Years later, she receives a visit from the stranger. In the 1993 sequel When a Stranger Calls Back, the trope is completely reworked. In fact, the phone is hardly used in the opening. The 2006 remake of the original was devoted primarily to the babysitter's night of terror.

Scream (1996): A horror movie buff/serial killer calls his first victim and plays a trivia game with her over the phone. What the teen does not know is that the caller is lurking around her house.

Babysitter Wanted (2008): While the movie starts off like the urban legend, it has a completely different ending.


30 Rock, episode "Corporate Crush": Liz Lemon's boss Jack becomes too attached to her boyfriend Floyd. He constantly calls the couple as they hide out in Lemon's apartment. The infamous "the call is coming from inside the house" is jokingly uttered by Liz as they realize Jack is in the building.

Regular Show, episode "Terror Tales from the Park III": Thomas tries to tell the story to his friends, but he messes up the ending by saying, "...and the maniac was calling from outside the house! Wait, is that right? I mean, I mean, inside the house!"

Bud Ice commercial (1996): A couple receives an ominous yet silly phone call inquiring about their beer, and the cops trace it to the upstairs line. The culprit turns out to be a penguin.


The Babysitter quadrilogy (1989-1995) by R.L. Stine: Jenny is being tormented over the phone while babysitting. In the first book, the caller and killer is the father of the child she is watching over; Jenny's therapist's receptionist is responsible in the second entry; in the third book, Jenny herself is threatening her cousin over the phone; and finally in the last of the series, the danger at hand is caused by the ghosts of two dead kids.


In 1950, thirteen-year old Janett Christman was murdered by an unknown assailant in Columbia, Missouri while babysitting. Although the window was broken with a garden hose, evidence contradicts that the intruder ever entered that way. It is presumed that Janett recognized her killer, and she opened the front door for them. Local authorities received a brief phone call from Christman during the crime, but it was too late. The prime suspect, Robert Mueller, passed a lie detector test and later sued the police for holding him illegally. The crime remains unsolved. (For more information, watch the documentary Killer Legends.) SOURCE



A woman driving home late one night notices another car driving closely behind her. She signals to the other driver that he should pass. Instead, the other car turns on their high beams and continues to flash the woman's car. The woman finally reaches home, and her pursuer pulls up in behind her. As she runs towards her house, the stranger in the other car pulls an armed man from the woman's back seat. He was trying to warn her by flashing his brights.

A common variation (aptly called "Killer in the Back Seat") has the woman stopping for gas, and an employee brings the lady inside the store to discuss a problem with her form of payment. This is merely done to get the woman to safety as the attendant spotted a knife wielding maniac in the back seat.

There are other car related legends that include madmen. The most famous might be "The Hook" - a couple's makeout session in a secluded area is interrupted by a radio report of an escaped convict with a hook in place of one hand. The girl urges her beau to take her home, and they later find a bloody hook hanging off the passenger side door handle.

In "The Boyfriend's Death," the young man leaves his girlfriend alone in the car to go buy some gas. As the evening continues, the woman hears a scraping noise on the roof. She ignores it until morning when a cop comes to help. He tells her to walk to his squad car without turning around. She does not abide and she sees her dead boyfriend hanging from a tree above the car. The scraping noise the girlfriend heard all night was the ring on his finger scratching the roof as he swayed.


Nightmares(1983): The first story ("Terror in Topanga") in this horror omnibus features a woman in need of cigarettes. Despite there being a warning out about a killer on the loose, the woman goes out that night to find some smokes.

Urban Legend (1998): A college student believes she has escaped imminent danger, but she is wrong. The Tamil remake Whistle in 2003 has the same scene.


Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction, segment "Bright Lights": A woman refutes a trucker's flirtations at a diner, and she drives out of the parking lot without realizing someone is in her back seat. The story was deemed false.

Millennium, episode "The Pest House": The characters investigate a series of murders based on popular urban myths. A gas station attendant notices the perpetrator in a woman's back seat.

Veronica Mars, episode "Leave It to Beaver": The person responsible for murdering Veronica's best friend sneaks into the titular character's back seat.


Bad Monkeys (2007) by Matt Ruff: The myth makes its way into the story, but it does not play out in the traditional way. A character says, "There's a guy with an ax hiding behind the driver's seat, isn't there. Don't worry, he's not going to hurt me."

John Dies at the End (2007) by David Wong: The protagonist discovers someone in his back seat, but this person seems to only want to talk. For now.


The modern adage of "check your back seats before you get in" is not unheard of, and there seems to be a few real life crimes with similarities to the myth.




A young girl is left home alone while her parents are out. When she goes to sleep, her loyal dog takes his spot beneath the bed. The girl puts her hand down to receive a comforting lick from her beloved pet. Later in the evening, the girl wakes up. She goes to check if her parents are home yet, but their bed is empty. Upon returning to her room, she feels a bit uneasy. So she lowers her hand to feel that reassuring lick from her dog. The next morning, the girl wakes up and goes to her bathroom. She screams when she sees her dead dog hanging from the shower curtain rod. On the mirror written in the dog's blood is the message: "People can lick, too."

There is a similar story often dubbed "The Roommate's Death." In it, a student comes home to her dorm room that she shares with another young woman. Not wanting to awaken her sleeping roommate, she leaves the lights off as she readies for bed. The next morning, she wakes up to find her roommate dead and the bloody message "Aren't you glad you didn't turn the lights on?" on the wall.

A variation of the above tale has the two women staying in the dorm during the holidays while everyone else has gone home. One girl goes out for the night, leaving the other by herself. The remaining girl hears a scratching noise at the door throughout the night, and she is too terrified to check. She hides in the closet till morning. The noise has stopped, and the student opens the door. The other roommate is found dead, her throat cut and her fingers bloodied from scratching at the door all night, trying to get help.


Campfire Tales (1997): A teen is stalked by an online predator pretending to be a girl named "Jessica." As her family leaves her home alone with the dog, "Jessica" comes over to play...

Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005): When his friends start to die off, a jock hides out in a motel room with his dog. He has a rude awakening, though. The legend is mentioned in the previous movie, Urban Legends: Final Cut, too.

Supernatural, episode "Family Remains": A girl feels her "dog" lick her hand from under the bed, but then sees her dog come in from the hallway. In the episode "Hook Man," a few well known urban legends - including the "Aren't you glad you didn't turn the lights on?" one - are played out.

Fortunately for everyone, no. The legend as well as the related ones were probably created as a cautionary tale for women being on their own or living alone.



A woman and her sick mother check into a motel. The daughter goes to fill a prescription at an all night pharmacy. When she returns to the hotel, her key no longer works. She asks the man at the front desk for help, but he does not recognize her. He finally opens the door to her room, revealing that it is empty. The woman's mother is never seen again.

In a less open ended telling, the daughter learns that her mother died of a deadly, contagious disease (like the plague), and the hotel staff got rid of her body. To ensure that the hotel's reputation is not affected by this, they pretend that the woman and her mother never checked in to the hotel.


The Lady Vanishes (1938): Aboard a train, a socialite says an elderly passenger has disappeared, but no one has even heard of or seen this missing woman. Remade twice: once in 1979 and again in 2013.

So Long at the Fair (1950): A woman in Paris believes her brother has gone missing from their hotel. However, the staff has no recollection of him ever checking in.

Dangerous Crossing (1953): On a cruise, a wife says her husband has gone missing. Yet the manifest lists her as traveling alone. Remade as a TV movie, Treacherous Crossing, in 1992.

Bunny Lake is Missing (1965): Ann's daughter is nowhere to be found when she goes to pick her up at school, and no one believes that she ever existed.

Flightplan (2005): A recent widow with her young daughter in tow escorts her husband's body back to America from Berlin. After dozing off in mid-flight, the woman wakes up to find her daughter missing. The whole plane has no memory of the child ever getting on the plane.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents, episode "Into Thin Air": In a Parisian hotel, a woman claims her mother has gone missing from their room. Of course the staff has no record of her.

Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction, segment "Room 245": Follows the original legend, and it is labeled as "Fact."

The End of Her Honeymoon (1913) by Marie Belloc Lowndes: On her honeymoon, a newlywed's husband disappears from their hotel.

There is conflicting information about the origins of this legend. While some say it is based on factual instances where hotels had to secretly discard of guests stricken with the plague, there is a lack of recorded evidence.



If you stand before a candlelit mirror and repeat "Bloody Mary" three or five times, an evil spirit will appear and possibly kill you.

She goes by many other names: Hell Mary, Mary Worth, Mary Worthington, Mary Whales, Mary Johnson, Mary Lou, Mary Jane, Sally, Kathy, Agnes, Black Agnes, Aggie, Svarte Madame.

There are different rituals for summoning Mary. Sometimes a candle must be lit before blowing it out after the third "Bloody Mary" is said. An alternate mantra is "I believe in Mary Worth."


Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987): In this supernatural sequel to the slasher Prom Night, a high school student accidentally unleashes the vengeful ghost of a 1957 mean girl named Mary Lou (one of Bloody Mary's nicknames). Mary Lou returned in Prom Night III.

Candyman (1992): The spirit of a tortured slave can be brought forth by saying his moniker "Candyman" three times in front of a mirror.

Urban Legend (1998): The protagonist and her best friend try to conjure Bloody Mary while standing outside Stanley Hall, the site of a supposed campus massacre.

Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005): Teens set loose the ghost of victimized Mary Banner, and urban legends inspire her killing methods.

Bloody Mary (2006): The nurses at a psychiatric hospital foolishly release the spirit of Bloody Mary upon the patients and staff.

Dead Mary (2007): A group of friends play a game of Dead Mary in this Evil Dead inspired slasher: say her name three times before a mirror and she will appear.

The Legend of Bloody Mary (2008): A young man feels guilty because his sister disappeared following a game of Bloody Mary.

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011): The kids in the movie try to do the ritual in a bathroom. The scene is notably different in the trailer.


The X-Files, episode "Syzygy": Characters play Bloody Mary in the episode.

Ghost Whisperer, episode "Don't Try This at Home": Melinda helps a group of college students that think they are being haunted by Bloody Mary.

Supernatural, episode "Bloody Mary": The history of this specific Bloody Mary is explored in detail.

The Haunting Hour, episode "Scary Mary" (parts 1 & 2): A local legend, Scary Mary, is more real than fiction. She want to steal the face of a particular teenager, too.


Mary: The Summoning (2014) by Hillary Monahan:  Shauna and her friends mess up the ritual for calling Mary Worth. Now their lives are in danger.

Say Her Name (2014) by James Dawson: When some boarding school kids play Bloody Mary, one girl wakes up with the message "Five days" written on her bathroom mirror.


It highly possible that the game is derived from old divination rituals used by the unmarried. In the dark, you said a rhyme that led to a glimpse of your future wife or husband in the mirror. There is also the universal belief that mirrors are the portals between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Bloody Mary is often confused with Mary I of England, who was known historically as "Bloody Mary," too. She was bestowed the epithet because she sentenced some Protestants to death whilst in pursuit of reestablishing Catholicism in her land. The Mary in the legend was typically a witch that was executed for practicing the dark arts, or a woman whose face was horribly disfigured in an accident. Some might mistake Mary Queen of Scots as the inspiration for Bloody Mary. Nothing in her history validates this.

The Japanese have a similar folktale, Hanako-san, that includes a WWII era girl that haunts school bathrooms when one shouts her name.

SOURCE



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What's your favorite urban legend, ONTD? Know any true crimes that sound like they were inspired by these myths?


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