Urban Legends

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Joel Beckwith February 13, 2001

Urban Legends

In this paper I will explain exactly what an urban legend is,and

give some examples of very popular ones that have been passed by

word of mouth for decades across the United States.

1 " An urban legend is a story that is so bizarre,horrifying,or

unexplainable, that it makes something inside of us want to believe

it." Urban Legends can have traced origins from other countries,

universities, states, or people,that just decided to made up as

incredible story and pass it on to their friends and family members.

Many of these legends were started in the sixties and seventies,

and still continue to be passed on to this day. A good example, is

the horrifying Pop Rocks death. 2"In the seventies ,school kids

passed on the rumor that if Pop Rocks candy was eaten with any

kind of soda,the person's insides would explode". A legend that

eventually forced the candy company company to prove as untrue.

Most urban legends are began with "friend of a friend", which is

a key in realizing that what you are going to hear is probably untrue.

When I was in second grade, a famous legend was passed to

me, the story of the ''well to Hell''. Reportedly, down in Mexico, a

group of men were drilling holes in the ground looking for oil. These

holes were thousands of feet deep, and the men heard horrifying

screams coming from the depths below. Supposedly these

these terrible sounds were coming from Hell. This story caused

much debate among the Christian community, and was repeating

in news letters, and radio talk shows around the country. Eventually,

an urban legend investigator traced the story to a school teacher

who admitted that she made the whole thing up.

As legends are passed from person to person the stories are

modified and changed until several versions of the story actually


A good example of a mixed story is the classic urban legend

of the vanishing hitch hiker. Most versions of the story are told of a

tall thin hitch hiker walking down the road until he gets picked up.As

the stranger is in the car he stays quiet and doesn't speak until he

says ''The end is near'' and disappears right before the drivers eyes.

Other versions are told of a young girl who does the same thing

sometimes the hitch hiker claims ''Jesus is coming again ''right

before he goes,but anyway it's told this story is simply a legend

that has been passed on and on for many years.

Many legends include psychotic elderly people who decide to

kill people or things.One story is of an elderly woman who decides

to dry her wet dog in the microwave(the dog explodes.) Other

legends with the elderly include a crazy woman that kills taxi drivers

as they pick her up, and old men that eat little children!

Many urban legends involve gruesome deaths and murders.This

particular legend was supposed to have happened at the University

of Illinois campus. A girl got off one evening and made the way to

the door where she lived. She and her room mate had an agreement

that if either one or them brought a guy back to their dorm,they would

put a rubberband on the doorknob.When the girl got to the door, she

found a rubberband and walked in without turning on the lights.She

heard moving and heaving breathing,so she decided to go right to

bed.The next morning the girl woke up only to find her roommate

gruesomely murdered. The girl screamed and ran for the door,but

before she walked out she looked at the wall.Written in blood was

a this message,''are'nt you glad you didn't turn on the lights?''

Not all urban legends are completely untrue. There are many...
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