This creative essay explores the mysteries of three urban legends that happen to be true. Explore the tales of a horrendous DIY Halloween decoration, a murderous game of hide-an-seek, and a surprise visit from an uninvited guest. This undergraduate essay on urban legends was written as a sample for the Ultius blog.
Urban Legends That Happen to be True
Urban legends are stories that can be funny or scary and circulate as though they are true. Unlike literary works, they are told orally instead of written down. Often times, the particular event involved someone distantly connected to the storyteller, like their neighbor’s cousin or their friend of a friend. Some are told for entertainment purposes, others seek to explain random events like disappearances, and the rest are told as lessons and parables. While many urban legends have absolutely no veracity to them such as tales of Bigfoot, that is certainly not the case for all of them. Several urban legends are based on very real events, the circumstances of which are just outrageous enough to make it difficult to decide if they are real events or colorful stories.
The Really Convincing Halloween Decoration
It’s Halloween, and one house has gone above and beyond with their decorations, featuring a fake body swinging from a tree. Eventually, it is discovered that the decoration is a real body of someone who committed suicide. This is what happened in Frederica, Delaware. A forty-two year old woman committed suicide and hung herself outside her home the week before Halloween. Believing it to be a Halloween decoration, neighbors and passersby did not report the body until the afternoon the next day (“Corpse mistaken for Halloween decoration”). The body was suspended about fifteen feet in the air, making it clearly visible to cars driving by and from the houses across the street. Still, the body remained in full-view of passersby without any reports for six to nine hours.
A Killer Secretly Lives in a Family’s Home for Days Before Murdering Them
This story usually begins with a family who starts to notice that something strange is happening. Things are mysteriously going missing or being moved, unfamiliar objects turn up unexpectedly, and strange sounds can be heard throughout the house. Soon, the family quickly discovers that the strange goings-on are the work of a murderer who has been hiding in their home for days but it is too late and they are all killed. Disturbingly, this urban legend is also based on true events.
In March of 1922, a man named Andreas Gruber, who lived with his family on a small, isolated farm in Germany called Hinterkaifeck, began noticing strange things happening on his property. Andreas noticed footprints in the snow that came up to his home from the thick woods surrounding the farm, but no returning footprints. His family reported hearing footsteps in the attic, they found a newspaper that no one remembered bringing into the home, and keys went missing (Birch). Gruber noticed, too, that someone had tried to break into his tool shed, as the lock and door both showed damage (“Case of the month: Hinterkaifeck”).
Autopsy reports indicate that the people on the farm were killed one at a time. Gruber’s grandson was killed in his mother’s bedroom and their maid was killed in her own bedroom. Gruber, his wife, their daughter, and their grand-daughter were all killed in the barn by a combination of blunt force trauma and strangulation. It is believed that their grand-daughter died last, as she appeared to have pulled out her hair in horror (“Case of the month: Hinterkaifeck”). Evidence reveals that the killer remained on the arm after the murders occurred. The livestock had been fed, food has been eaten from the kitchen, and their neighbors reported that smoke continued to flow from the home’s chimney after the family was supposed to have died. Police also found that the murderer had left the large sums of cash kept in the home, making it clear that robbery was not a motive.
Vacationer Returns with an Uninvited Guest
A woman goes on vacation somewhere she can lie on the beach and sip Mai Tais and relax. When she returns, she begins experiencing strange symptoms and makes a doctor’s appointment. To her horror, the doctor reveals that some kind of foreign bug has burrowed its way into her body and hitched a ride back home with her. A British woman was vacationing in Peru when, upon her return, she began to hear scratching noises in her head. The noises got louder and louder and soon she began having terrible headaches and pain running down the side of her face (Birch). She started waking up to strange fluids on her pillow. One day, a fly flew out of her ear. She went to the doctor who discovered a family of maggots living in her ear canal. The maggots were removed and the woman fully recovered.
A similar incident occurred when a woman from Texas began suffering terrible headaches with gave way to vision problems. She went to see her doctor who found several translucent gel-like sacs inside her brain, each of which contained a baby tapeworm (Zakalik). As if that was not horrifying enough, her doctors asked if she had been to Mexico recently and she responded that she had gone to Mexico two years ago. It was concluded that the tapeworms had made their way into her brain and had been living there ever since. Sometime after, they laid their eggs. Her doctors believe that she probably picked up the parasites from fecal matter in something she ate while visiting Mexico.
The parasites usually pass right through people without doing any harm, but the woman was not so lucky. Unfortunately, by some bad stroke of luck, the parasites were able to enter her bloodstream. From there, they managed to find their way into her brain where they lived for the next two years. When the parasites planted their egg sacs, their steady growth began to cause a backup of fluid in her brain, causing the painful headaches and vision problems (Zakalik). The parasites were removed and the woman is recovered and no longer suffering from headaches.
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Every kid grows up hearing urban legends and, at one point or another, swears one of them really happened to someone they vaguely know. This modern folklore often contains some dark elements of mystery and is rooted in popular culture. Some urban legends survive through the decades with little alteration, while others are updated to suit the times. They are spread by media outlets, social media, chain emails, and word of mouth. They often serve as cautionary tales and serve to teach a lesson to those who hear it. While some urban legends are nothing more than elaborate stories, others are actually rooted in actual events and are very real to the people who experienced them.
Want to read a real-life mystery? Check out this expository essay on missing women in Canada.
Birch, Nathan. “The 5 Creepiest Urban Legends (That Happen to be True).” Cracked. Scripps Company, 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 15 Jun. 2016.
“Body of missing police suspect found inside bank’s chimney 27 years after he disappeared”. Daily Mail. Associated Press Ltd., 12 Aug. 2011. Web. 15 Jun. 2016.
“Case of the Month: Hinterkaifeck”. Defrosting Cold Cases. Defrosting Cold Cases, 2009. Web. 15 Jun. 2016.
“Corpse mistaken for Halloween decoration.” NBC News. NBCNews.com, 27 Oct. 2005. Web. 15 Jun. 2016.
Gorman, Steve. “California court revives suit claiming woman frozen alive in morgue.” Reuters. Reuters, 3 Apr. 2014. Web. 15 Jun. 2016.
Mikkelson, David. “The Bawdy Under the Bed”. Snopes.com. Snopes.com, 2016. Web. 15 Jun. 2016.
“Woman dies of heart attack caused by shock of waking up at her own funeral”. Daily Mail. Associated Press Ltd., 24 Jun. 2011. Web. 15 Jun. 2016.
Zakalik, Lauren. “Texas mom’s headaches caused by tapeworm sacs”. USA Today. USA Today, 1 Sept. 2015. Web. 15 Jun. 2016.