A dark bathroom, a single, flickering candle. Six words whispered to the mirror – and an urban legend is passed on.
They are deliciously spine tingling, gasp inducing, and outright spooky. We scare ourselves silly with them, and love doing the same to our friends. Many a nightmare can be blamed on urban legends.
Random House Dictionary offers the following definition:
a modern story of obscure origin and with little or no supporting evidence that spreads spontaneously in varying forms and often has elements of humor, moralizing, or horror: Are there alligators living in the New York City sewer system, or is that just an urban legend?
An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true. As with all folklore and mythology, the designation suggests nothing about the story’s veracity, but merely that it is in circulation, exhibits variation over time, and carries some significance that motivates the community in preserving and propagating it.
Quite a mouthful.
I heard all of them as a kid – the Hook, the woman in white (also known as the white lady), the alligator in the sewers, pop rocks and Coke leading to an exploding stomach – and yes, I tried this. Stop laughing.
Why are we so fascinated by these mythical stories? Why does part of us want them to be true – especially the scare-me-out-of-my-mind legends?
They are part of our culture – almost a rite of passage. Girls have whispered “Bloody Mary” to a candlelit mirror, boys have scared each other silly in the dark with “Step by, step, inch by inch” dramatizations since, well, ever.
The stories may change, but the thrill of sharing them carries through, generation to generation.
So spill – what is your favorite urban legend? Feel free to chill us.
Until next time – keep looking over your shoulder.