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Urban Legends, Is Truth Stranger Than Fiction?


Just this weekend I saw Urban Legends on the Biography Channel and was totally awed by stories that I have heard told to me by family and friends, finally being put to the test. Many urban legends have been around for decades, even centuries. Why do these stories continue to fascinate, and why are they spread from place to place? Why is it that these stories are often retold with slightly different details?

I remember years ago my sister telling me the urban legend about the tanning booth. In my sister’s version of this story, there is a teenage girl that wanted to be bronzed for her prom. She needed the tanning to take place in a short amount of time. She went to a tanning place and they told her that she could only use the tanning bed for half an hour, and this could only be done every other day. The girl was impatient to get that perfect tan, so she came up with a plan. She booked appointments at all the tanning places in her town.She spent a lot more than the safe amount of time in tanning beds.

When it came time for the prom the girl was totally bronzed,but she was not feeling well. At the prom she fell on the dance floor and died.When the doctors examined her, the insides of her body had been cooked. Her organs were fried from all the tanning beds.

There is another version of this same story, except in this version instead of a teenage girl, who wants to be tanned for her prom, the subject of the story is a bride, who wanted to have a radiant tan for her wedding.

Video-- You Tube by TwoThumbsUpdvd

These stories often revolve around the really bizarre, yet they boarder on the fringe of being believable. Some are actually true, yet many are just myth. Urban legends are often used to caution children or keep them from engaging in a certain undesirable behavior. For example there is the urban legend of a student that swallowed gum to avoid getting caught by his teachers at school, as a result he ended up not having a bowl movement for two weeks. Doctors had to do surgery on the boy’s colon and found a large mass of gum blocking the boys’ passage way.

This urban legend is not true, and can’t be true scientifically, but the story has been used to stop children from swallowing the evidence when they choose to chew gum at school. In a way urban legends are sometimes used as a way to deter undesirable behavior. This brings us to the next story about a man who chooses to urinate in a swimming pool, because he couldn’t find anywhere else to relieve himself, but cannot keep it a secret, despite his best efforts. This is another example of an urban legend used to keep children from engaging in an undesirable behavior.

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An urban legend is defined as a contemporary legend consisting of apocryphal stories, often believed by the teller to be true. It is circulated mostly by one’s friends of family and these stories often vary over time. These stories often carry some significance that motivates the community to preserve and keep propagating the story. Urban legends are even repeated in news stories, and often passed along in emails.

Jan Harold Brunvand, a professor of English at the University of Utah introduced the term to the public in a series of popular books published in 1981, although the term has been in print since 1968. Brunvand used his collection to make two points. The first point was to prove that folklore was not exclusive to primitive or traditional societies. The second point was that one can learn a lot about urban and modern culture by examining these bizarre tales.

Sometimes to make the story more believable the teller will claim it happened to a friend or someone he or she knew. Since they are told from person to person, facts are often changed and exaggerated. Many of these stories depict horrific crimes, contaminated foods, or situations that are common place. Many urban legends began as jokes and somehow ended up being believed by many to be fact. Many TV programs have resulted from the popularity of urban legends. Programs such as Urban Legends , Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction, and Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed have resulted from the their popularity.

Here a couple of urban legends involving children that you may have read or heard of:

Metropolis, TN – A new mother had just decided that it was time to wean her year old daughter and stopped breast feeding her. Although this had been her first child, she had friends that had children and they all told her that weaning was a very difficult time and that the longer she waited the harder it would be. However, she found weaning to be easy. In fact, it seemed almost TOO easy. Her daughter hardly put up a fuss and in two weeks time she stopped trying to nurse altogether. Thinking this was strange; the mother started searching for the reason and soon discovered that the baby hadn’t been weaned to stop breast feeding at all. This was strange because the only people that lived in the house were the mother, her husband, and their daughter – so who was nursing the baby?

You can imagine the woman’s surprise when she found her daughter feeding off THE FAMILY DOG!

The dog, a rather large Dane cross breed had just recently lost her puppies when her owners decided it was time to give them away. However, the dog was still lactating and she had known the baby all her life, so she had no problem taking in this new "puppy." They should make a movie about this: "The Paw that Rocks the Cradle.”

No More Nursing, Baby | UrbanLegendsOnline

This girl was babysitting for some family friends one night, a little boy and a little girl. The parents had a fetish for clowns and had collected clowns from around the world for years, setting aside a room in the house just to put them on display. That night, the children were playing in this very room. Many of the clowns were just statues, and some were life-size,one in particular, was seated in a small child-like rocking chair.

The babysitter started to feel more and more uneasy about this statue throughout the night. She felt as though the eyes were following her, whenever she moved around the room with the children. She decided to call the parents. "I’m so sorry to bother you", she said, "but I was wondering if I could move this clown that you have in the rocking chair, it’s starting to scare the kids and I.”

"What clown are you referring to? I don’t recall us having a clown fitting that description. Are you sure its sitting in the rocking chair?" the mother asked hurriedly.

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"Yes, I’m sure.” said the girl. "It’s sitting right here, I’m looking at it right now…Why? I know it’s probably very old and I shouldn’t attempt to move it out of the way, but."

"Take the kids and get out of the house, now. The neighbor across the street will let you in. Call me immediately when you get there." and with that, the mother hung up.

Frightened and confused, the babysitter grabbed the kids and ran out. When she and the kids arrived safely at the neighbors, she called and the mother answered. "What’s wrong? Did something happen? Are you all okay?" the girl asked.

"Yes, we are fine, but it’s not us we are worried about, it’s you and the kids. I’m so glad you called–we were afraid this would happen again. And the mother hung up.

The parents later explained to the girl that for some time,the next-door neighbor had been giving them problems. He was mentally ill, heard voices, the whole bit. On numerous occasions he had snuck into their house and tried to kidnap the children. This time, he dressed up in a clownsuit, painted his face, and waited quietly until he had the opportunity to do what he came to do.

The parents had informed the police many times but never had any proof until now about what was happening. They thanked the girl, paid her, and drove her home.

Clown Statue | UrbanLegendsOnline

I would also like to include some information about a child actor which Ioften saw on the Life cereal commercial, when I was a child. It is about the popular urban legend involving Mikey and his mixing pop rocks with soda and his stomach exploding, as a result. Here is a very good explanation of why this story was so broadly circulated.

There are rumors that mixing Pop Rocks with carbonated drinks would cause your stomach to explode. Further, according to playground lore, an overly-cute kid who achieved fame in LIFE cereal commercials had died of this.Why Little Mikey, of all people? Urban legends require victims who are known yet anonymous — the ubiquitous friends of a friend — to lend them a touch of credible realism without allowing for the easy verification of their details. Little Mikey was a kid known to all other children by virtue of his famous television commercial, yet he was still relatively anonymous — few people (adults included) knew his real name, and his non-appearance in any public role subsequent to his well known LIFE commercial could therefore plausibly be attributed to his untimely demise. (Contrary to the rumor, John Gilchrist, the lad who played Mikey, not only survived his childhood unexploded, but is now an advertising-account manager for a New York radio station. And no, that’s not him in the new LIFE commercial; that’s Jimmy Starace.)

The company stopped marketing Pop Rocks around 1983, and this is often pointed to as "proof" that the candy was so harmful it had to be pulled from the shelves.

Mikey LikesIt | UrbanLegendsOnline

Even though most urban legends tend to be fictional, some are true, which proves that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. As someone once pointed out “Fiction has to make sense.” As long as there are campfires,those trying to make a point using exaggerations or well meaning parents trying to keep their children from harming themselves. Urban legends well continue to circulate.

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Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on January 03, 2012:

Thank you kittythedreamer for stopping and I'm so glad you enjoyed my view into the weird and morbid world of urban legends. You're right, they are creepy and many of them are just fables to ward children of bad habits. Thanks for the vote up, I appreciate your support.

Kitty Fields from Summerland on January 03, 2012:

Ohhhh creepy. I've always found urban legends to be super scary! Voted up and awesome.

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on July 29, 2011:

Thank you so much Tom, you really made my day. I'm really glad you liked the videos, I thought they were so cool when I first saw them on You Tube, I just had to share them.

tom hellert from home on July 28, 2011:


This was great totally great,well written cool vids a treat for all agrs

recommended by 4 out of 5 dentists- there is always that one curmudgeony dentist...totally worth the price of admission.

Really really neat


Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on April 18, 2011:

Thanks for sharing this with me Gum_Kills, I do believe what you say is true. Even though I have swallowed gum and lived, I do believe that there was always the possibility it could have detrimental effects, lately I don't chew gum so I have manage to eliminate one more risk from my life.

Gum_Kills on April 17, 2011:

Gum can be dangerous. I am terrified of swallowing it. My mother knew a girl called Margaret at school. Margaret's younger sister, Leann, died after she swallowed gum and it blocked her windpipe. My mother went to her funeral.

This is very rare but DON'T TAKE UNNECESSARY RISKS

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on June 05, 2010:

Thank you habee, it was a lot of fun writing it.

Holle Abee from Georgia on June 04, 2010:

Too cool! What a fun hub!

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on May 24, 2010:

Thank you Wittywit, personally I find Urban Legends to be a fascinating topic. So I had to make a hub about it.

Pranshu Kumar Chaudhary from INDIA on May 21, 2010:

well legends and reading about them is always a gr8 experience

thanks for a verry well written hub

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on May 13, 2010:

Thank you Mason88, I saw this program on TV and that inspired me.

Mason88 from London on May 13, 2010:

Nice take on the whole myths and legends thing.

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on May 12, 2010:

Thank you very much for your kind words writer45. Even though most urban legends are false, there are a few that are really strange and that actually happened. For example, the one about the tug of war where the some men on one of teams actually had their arms pulled out from the their sockets, actually happened, and that story freaks me out.

writer45 from Fargo, North Dakota on May 12, 2010:

Very interesting. I have done research on legends and even though nearly all of them turn out to be just that..legends/myths, there were a few that really left it in doubt that such an occurrence did or did not happen. However, the power of the mind and imagination of man can make things so real sometimes that despite their falseness, they seem very real to the one doing the imagining.

Love the way you presented this post.

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on May 07, 2010:

I agree with you. I do believe that Nessie may be a dinosaur. I'm kind of glad the land dinosaurs died, I wouldn't want to run into a T Rex.

Harlan Colt from the Rocky Mountains on May 07, 2010:

If I remember correctly, if you read the Genesis account of the flood, it does not say all the sea creatures died, just the land ones. I believe it is very possible for such creatures to have survived the flood - though I do believe all the dinosaurs died in the flood, save for the baby ones Noah took on the ark. Call me crazy!

- Harlan

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on May 06, 2010:

Thank Harlan, I know what you mean about your teacher, then again, you never know. I do believe the Lochness monster might be real. Urban legends are kind of a fascinating subject since they are often used to teach children lessons. Of course, lying is wrong, even if you are trying to make a point. I think as human beings, we are often curious about the what if, and because of this, urban legends will always be a part of life.

Harlan Colt from the Rocky Mountains on May 06, 2010:

Great Hub,

I have heard lots of urban legends too but I can't seem to remember many right now. Its one of those days.

We do have a local one where a Lochness like sea monster is supposed to live in the lake. It has been seen by many people over the last 50 years or so. Some were tourists who never knew the local legend until after they saw the creature. No one has ever photographed it.

When I was young I took organ lessons... yea... I know... anyway the organ teacher told me when she turned 16 they had a birthday party on the lake. After dark they made a large camp fire and continued to hang out, hotdogs etc, you know how it is... anyway she said this creature came up on shore half out of the lake, looked at them all and then went back into the water.

I can't help but wonder what they were partying with but I suspect it was something they pass along and share. I'm guessing she was around 16 in the mid 60's.


- Harlan

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on May 05, 2010:

Thank you Sandispider, and Thank you MyWebs. I have always had a fascination with urban legends since I was a child. When I saw programs that explored these tall or true tales, I just had to learn more about it.

Anthony Goodley from Sheridan, WY on May 05, 2010:

This was a very interesting hub. In the city I grew up in we have a few of these Urban Myths too, but on a local level.I enjoyed reading this hub a lot.

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on May 04, 2010:

Great and scary info on Urban Legends.

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