Urban legends are a sub-genre of folklore that sprang up as cities became increasingly dense around the time of the Industrial Revolution. By piggybacking on the latest communication innovations of the era, the ability of urban legends to propagate bullshit has grown immensely over time, keeping the fine folks at Snopes.com increasingly busy as the tales have evolved from emails about spiders in bananas to world-changing conspiracies like Pizzagate.
We asked people to share the urban legends from their hometowns and, while none had far-reaching political ramifications, there were definitely a few stand outs that prove just how willing we are to buy into nonsense if it makes for a good story.
In the playground at primary school, the kids said that Nazi war criminal Anton Gekas—who ran a guest house in the area—still had a wallet made out of a human scrotum. He was just like a bogeyman to us, but a real person.
- Lois, Edinburgh
There's a theory that a guy is killing young male lads on the canals of Manchester. Over 60 lads have mysteriously gone missing and been found in there over the past few years. Most of them go missing after a night out. People believe there's a dude, who they're calling "The Pusher," who lurks the canals at night, stalks lads (who he believes to be gay), and pushes them into the canal and kills them.
The police say there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that any of these deaths are related or suspicious, which is crazy. I believe it's true, as I knew of a guy who was found in the canal. It was really surreal to be told he was "just really drunk and fell in by himself." Another guy was found there a few weeks ago, too. People are super divided on it and a lot of people like to say "they were just drunk and fell."
- Drew, Manchester, UK
My hometown built some kind of park where they occasionally held small concerts, so people started saying that Smash Mouth was going to perform there. Then someone said it was because the lead singer was from the area, which I don't think is true. The whole thing snowballed and all the kids in my middle school were eventually talking about this non-surprise surprise Smash Mouth show that was definitely going to happen. It never did, of course. But someone did manage to sell my friend a $13 ticket for this show that never transpired.
- Jade, Palm Springs, California
I remembered hearing stories about a little girl in my hometown who was strapped to the toilet by her parents at an early age. She didn't see the sunlight, didn't talk. After she was rescued, she was basically feral and unable to adjust to a normal life and had to be cared for by others. This legend was actually confirmed as a real case of child abuse when I heard about it again in a high school psychology class.
- Zack, Arcadia, California
I grew up kinda near Three Mile Island and, after the accident, people used to say hunters in the area were bagging two-headed deer. I don't think that actually ever happened but now that I'm thinking about it, that would be a fucking sick trophy to mount on a wall.
- Aaron, Philadelphia
Proctor Valley Road: The legend is that a teenage couple went out there and were making out in their car. They heard noises outside and the boyfriend went to investigate. He never came back. The girlfriend was scared shitless and heard screeching noises on the car. The police finally got to them and above the car was her boyfriend hanging from a tree, his shoes were the screeching noises, as they scraped the hood from his body blowing in the wind.
Lots of weird shit happens there aside from all the dead bodies I've heard they find in the area. I personally drove through it years ago with friends late at night and there is definitely something outta this world along that strip. I shit you not, the gears of my car went whack and something flew over the windshield. We were screaming (all girls) and I pushed the gas pedal down as hard as I could until we got out of there.
My aunts and uncles have stories about it too, from when they were teenagers. They said they went out there to check it out and parked the car and walked around for a bit doing typical teenage stuff. When they came back, there were weird finger prints all along their car smeared from the mist. They said the handprints looked small and not human. They could've been fucking with us but, after my experience, I don't think they were.
- Alex, Chula Vista, California
There was a story about this guy who was dogsitting for his neighbors while they were on vacation. The story goes that their super old dog died (of natural causes) on his watch and, for whatever reason, he had to bring it to the family vet to get it checked out and confirmed as dead. The vet's office was inside a mall or heavily foot-trafficked plaza or something so the sitter put the dog in a duffel bag to carry it in without looking like a weirdo or traumatizing anyone.
While lugging this heaving bag around inside the place, someone came up to him and asked if he needed help carrying it. The sitter declined. The stranger then asked what was inside the bag. Improvising, the sitter said just his computer and some electronics.
Suddenly, the stranger grabbed the bag out of the sitter's hands and ran off with it, thinking he'd pulled off a huge robbery, only to be in for a big surprise later. And our poor hero was left to find an excuse that would explain why the corpse of this family's beloved dog had disappeared.
- Jerry, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
We lived in almost-rural suburban DC, in Maryland. One of the most persistent legends was the "pig man" or "goat man" who was claimed to be either partly one of those two animals, OR just a guy who owned pigs/goats. BUT, the more important detail about him was that he lived way back in the woods (where we'd go play) and that he was always looking to kidnap and murder children.
- Fletcher, Washington, DC