Urban Legend

An urban legend is a story too good to be true. Urban legends are motifs in folklore, often found universally. Some haunting stories are urban legends or contain elements of urban legends. An urban legend describes a strange but supposedly real event that happened to a friend of a friend, and so the story builds.

Usually there is at least some element of truth to the story, but it becomes fictionalized with retelling. Core themes remain the same, but details differ from locale to locale. Examples of well-known urban legends are alligators in the sewer, spiders in the hairdo, the choking Doberman and various medical horror stories. Many urban legends have to do with embarrassing situations, such as the unzipped fly, and many contain slapstick or sick humour, such as the exploding toilet.

Of the hundreds of urban legend motifs catalogued by folklorists, a small number pertain to the supernatural. These are evident in such popular ghost stories as the vanishing hitchhiker (see Pele and Resurrection Mary); weeping women (see La Llorona); devil babies (see Hull House); “the hook” and the boyfriend’s death (see Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery); people who turn out to be faceless (see Faceless Woman); death cars and other cursed vehicles (see Curse of Little Bastard); ghosts looking for help; wells to hell (see Wells and Woodlawn Plantation); appearances of the Devil in disguise; cheap real estate that turns out to be haunted or cursed; missing time; and lost wrecks (see Phantom Ships and Flying Dutchman).

In years past, urban legends were primarily spread through oral retelling. They have made their ways into books, newspaper and magazine articles, columns, and radio and television reports. The Internet has opened a new medium for the spread of urban legends.



The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley  – September 1, 2007


The Slenderman Mysteries An Internet Urban Legend Comes to Life - Nick Redfern
I Know What I Saw: Modern-Day Encounters with Monsters of New Urban Legend and Ancient Lore - Linda S. Godfrey
Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, Updated and Expanded Edition - Jan Harold Brunvand
The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings - Jan Harold Brunvand
Urban Legends: Bizarre Tales You Won't Believe - James Proud
Urban Legends - Nick Harding
Film, Folklore and Urban Legends - Mikel J. Koven
The Big Book of Urban Legends: 200 True Stories, Too Good to be True! - Jan Harold Brunvand
Too Good to Be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends - Jan Harold Brunvand
The 500 Best Urban Legends Ever! - Yorick Brown, Mike Flynn
Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends - David Wilton

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