Top 10 Urban Legends That Turned Out to Be True

Script written by Laura Keating.

There are many creepy urban legends out there; unfortunately, some of the most unbelievable urban legends are actually true. Whether it’s the story of someone getting amputated by an elevator, the tale of some unsuspecting people finding a corpse rolled up in a carpet or rumors about people being accidentally buried alive, these are some of the scariest urban legends that are true. WatchMojo counts down ten of the scariest urban legends that REALLY HAPPENED.

Special thanks to our users Justin Kennon, TheRimGreaper, hyprmania52, MikeMJPMUNCH, Erica Jones and Zach Morales for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%20Ten%20Urban%20Legends%20That%20Turned%20Out%20to%20Be%20True

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Script written by Laura Keating.

Top 10 Terrifying Urban Legends That Turned Out to Be TRUE


It happened to a friend of a friend of ours… No, really! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Urban Legends That Turned Out to Be True.

For this list, we’re focusing on those freaky urban legends that have been confirmed at least once. Also, some of this content may not be for the faint of heart (or stomach), so consider yourself warned.

#10: Elevator Amputation

The story goes that while riding along in an elevator, a person gets stuck between floors. After prying open the doors, they see that they’re just a little above (or below) an exit point. Just as they decide to climb out, the elevator’s power switches back on and – chop. Hand, leg, or head: gone. Sounds too ghastly to be true, right? Well, no: in 2003, Dr. Hitoshi Nikaidoh in Houston, Texas tried to enter a hospital elevator. Horribly, the doors malfunctioned, closing early and pinning his body. The elevator rose, and chopped off his head. Please forgive us if we don’t hold the door next time.

#9: The Toxic Lady

This tale has been reimagined in everything from “The X-Files” to “Grey’s Anatomy” to “Law & Order.” A woman enters a hospital terribly ill, but not with any known pathogen. However, everyone who comes into contact with her immediately becomes sick. And unfortunately, this really happened: in 1994, cancer patient Gloria Ramirez was rushed into an emergency room. Doctors and nursing staff began to note strange symptoms, like oil covering her body and a horrible odor. Blood samples contained unknown particles and smelled like ammonia. The smell was so strong that 23 nurses and other emergency staff fainted or felt ill, with 5 needing hospital treatment. And sadly, Ramirez died.

#8: The Quietly Dead

You know this one: some guy dies at his desk but no one notices and he’s left there all weekend. Or maybe someone gets killed in the library, but no one bothers her cause they think she’s reading. The former is just a campfire tale, but the latter has some truth. On November 28th, 1969, a woman named Betsy Aardsma was killed silently while doing research in the Penn State University Library. Stabbed once in the heart, her pulmonary artery was severed. There was little external bleeding, and to top things off she was wearing a red dress, so those nearby didn’t notice immediately that she’d been stabbed. Worse yet? This murder is still unsolved.

#7: Halloween Hanging

With increasingly elaborate and realistic decorations adorning neighborhoods throughout October, the general public has become somewhat desensitized to the scares. This urban legend says that this desensitization has led some people to mistake real bodies for dummies. Well, the legend is 100% true. In October 2005, motorists in Frederica, Delaware assumed that a body hanging from a tree was just a Halloween prop. But when state police finally went to investigate, they found that it wasn’t just a decoration. An unnamed woman, aged 42, had committed suicide. A similar incident involving a body on a barbed wire fence occurred in Ohio in 2015, but that time it was murder.

#6: Buried Alive

Someone decides that dear old Dad isn’t really dead, and when they race to exhume the body, they find scratch marks across the inside of the coffin lid. Legend? Not so much! Premature burial was a big problem in the old world. Like how big? In the 19th century, William Tebb began to record instances of premature burial. He discovered 219 close calls, 149 instances of actual premature burial and a few occasions where embalming had begun on the very not-dead person in question! This led to the creation of “safety coffins,” which featured a bell on a string leading above ground. Saved by the bell, indeed!

#5: Corpse in the Carpet

You’ve heard the one about the couple who finds a body under their hotel bed? Or the construction worker who finds the bones of an unlucky burglar trapped in a chimney? Both are true, by the way. But there’s more: three students at Columbia University found what they thought was a perfectly good carpet on the curb. They needed to decorate their new place, so they took it with them back to their dorm. But once it was unfurled, they discovered something worse than bed bugs: a body. Gruesomely, this exact thing happened back in 1984. We’re guessing they buy things factory-sealed, now.

#4: Never Alone

Ever get that feeling that someone’s watching you? In this urban legend, either a girl in a dorm is unknowingly living with a killer, or a family in a new house has an unwanted guest. In fact, in 2008 a Japanese man began to notice that items and food in his house were missing or moved. Suspicious, he set up cameras. When he looked at the tapes, he saw a woman emerge from his cabinet. Apparently, she was homeless, and had been living in a space behind the cupboard for a year, even showering when he was away! At least she was harmless…

#3: Don’t Drink the Water

After moving to a new home, a family is disgusted to see their water runs completely black and when they investigate, they discover the sludge is the result of a decomposing body in their well. Well, this legend became the premise of the 2005 film “Dark Water.” Unfortunately, the story took on new life (ahem, sorry) in 2013, when the guests and residents of the Cecil Hotel in L.A. noted that the water in their bathrooms looked, smelled, and tasted strange. Several days later, management looked into the water tanks on the roof. Inside one, they found the body of missing college student Elisa Lam. How she got there is unknown. Her tragic and mysterious death remains unsolved, though the autopsy listed accidental drowning with her bipolar disorder as a contributing factor.

#2: Stop Bugging Me

A person wakes up with a terrible headache but they think nothing of it. However, then they start to hear things, so they go to the doctor… who informs them they’ve got bugs in their head! This actually happened to one Rochelle Harris who, upon returning from a trip to Peru in 2013, began experiencing headaches and hearing scratching noises inside her head. Doctors discovered maggots in her ear canal, born from a New World Army Screw Worm fly that had laid eggs there. The next year, another woman pulled a leech from her nose after she’d swum in still water a month earlier, while in 2017 a woman had a cockroach extracted from her nasal cavity. Excuse us while we have nightmares forever.

Before we unveil our number one nightmare, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Reptiles from the Sewers
- Cell Phone Calls from the Dead
- The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House

#1: Organ Thieves

While the famous version involves a businessman, a bathtub of ice, and a note from the thoughtful organ thieves for the victim to seek medical attention, none of those specific claims has been verified. That story has circulated for decades, all over the world. However, illegal organ trafficking is a real thing – and the perpetrators are unlikely to offer apologies. Sadly, the targets are not arrogant businessmen, but kidnapped little children. In 2014, Mexican police were able to arrest an alleged member of the Knights Templar cartel, who would allegedly kidnap children with certain characteristics so that their organs could be harvested. You know what? This one’s actually way worse than the legend.
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