True Urban Legends


Urban legends are one of my favorite things; passed on from person to person with just a bit of “well maybe that could happen” to make it interesting. On doing research for some writing, I discovered that some urban legends are based in truth. Doesn’t that make them even more disturbing? I thought so. Here are few of my favorites to make you laugh, paranoid, freaked out, and just plain unsettled.

Tainted food urban legends abound, from bodily fluids in your fast food to spider eggs in your bubble gum. While some of those are plausible (maybe even likely and true!) I ran into one regarding my favorite food.

I love coffee. I make no apologies for my unabashed love of the stuff. When on a writing binge I’ve been known to drink a pot with maybe a Starbucks thrown in for good luck. At work the most annoying thing ever was to find the coffee pot empty and have to wait for a pot. Well, after I found this story I’m happy to make my own coffee and I’m very glad I work from home now.

badcoffeeIn 1994 workers at Wire Rope in Missouri knew their morning joe just didn’t taste right. These sleuthing workers set up a camera and discovered a fellow employ, Milton Ross, relieving himself right into the coffee pot. The information I found said the video made it to the news but I haven’t been able to locate it. Ross said his actions were due to an ongoing feud with a coworker. He was charged with assault and sentenced to 100 hours of community service cleaning public restrooms. Yes, very glad I work from home.

Ah, revenge. I used to have a scorched earth policy when it came to revenge but I have mellowed a bit with age. The longer I live the more I see that “what goes around comes around” is a true statement. It may take a long time for it to get back around but it always does. And when it does, it’s extra special when the fates allow you to watch, particularly if the baddies sin against innocents. There are many urban legends about getting yours but this one is true.

In 1982 two guys, David Grundman and James Joseph Suchochi, decided to do a little target shooting at saguaro. In case you don’t know, saguaros are tall cactus which grow in Arizona, California, and Mexico. They can live for an upwards of 300 years, get as tall as 60 feet, and weigh up to 8 TONS. For this excursion, Grundman picked a 100 year old specimen that stood about 26 feet tall. His crack shooting severed a 4 foot arm from the cactus which promptly fell and crushed him to death. My dad always told me to respect nature because it doesn’t respect you, it can kill you if you are reckless or disrespectful. Good advice, Pop.

Saguaro Cacti Specimen

Saguaro Cacti Specimen

Dumb criminal stories are a favorite around here. But a story about a criminal that ends with the criminal learning a lesson is truly treasured. I’ve heard urban legends about criminals getting stuck in the chimney (true, it turns out) or calling 911 on themselves (also true) but this one has a poetic justice that appealed to me.

Darker_nights_are_here_–_burglary_advice_(8124500096)In New Zealand, a young man illegally entered what he thought was a vacant home to burglarize it. He ran screaming after bumping into a hanging corpse in the darkened home. To his credit he phoned the police to report the body and turn himself in. It was determined that the person had hanged themselves a day or so before. Inspector Greg Nicholls is quoted by the New Zealand Herald as saying “I’m hopeful that this might be a career-changing moment for that burglar.” You think?

Halloween has become one of the highest grossing holidays in America. Americans spent nearly $7 billion last year on costumes, decorations, and candy. Halloween attractions, such as haunted mazes or haunted houses can earn an upwards of $3 million in just a little over a month. I’ve seen some really well done holiday displays in front yards. Some I had to take a second look at they seem so real. I thought that’s what I would find behind the urban legend of people mistaking a real corpse for décor but I was wrong.

In 1990 as part of a haunted hayride attraction, a young man was supposed to pretend to be hung on a gallows set. He had successfully pulled it off for several nights but on this night something went terribly wrong and he accidently hung himself. The hayride driver became concerned when the boy didn’t finish his spoken lines as the wagon came by. There have actually been several tragic reports of accidental hanging during Halloween pranks.

This one is little more macabre and a twist on the first story. A few days before Halloween of 2005, a Delaware woman committed suicide by hanging herself from a tree near a busy road and in sight of many homes. She was first spotted around 7:30 that morning but people thought it was part of a Halloween prank. She stayed there until the police were notified at 11 am being observed by numerous passers-by. It’s quite sad and astonishing that it took that long for anyone to report it. Around here the HOA police would have been all over it in about 10 seconds, not that I’ve been in trouble for over the top Halloween displays or anything.


Hanging Tree by Joy Yehle

That’s just a small sampling of true urban legends that I found. So the next time someone starts a story with “my cousin’s-best friend’s-uncle’s-sister” keep these in mind. Lastly, never turn off the lights because that roommate in the dark…well she may not be what you think she is…alive, that is! Tell me if you know what urban legend that is and I will be very impressed!