10 Weird Urban Legends from Around the World
Rumors in urban settings give birth to a special kind of folklore: urban legends. Urban legends are a reflection of a society’s fear and anxieties which makes people disregard reason and logic and believe tales that are wild and over-the-top. Here are 10 weird urban legends that people have fallen prey to.
1 The JATO (Jet Assisted Take-Off) Rocket Car legend was one of the early Darwin Awards winners where a man mounted a pair of JATO units onto the rear of his car and eventually was smashed to death because he flew into a hill in Arizona.
This story was first circulated in 1990 through email falsely associated with the Darwin Awards. The man had strapped a pair of JATO units (used to give an extra push to heavy transport planes) to his Chevy Impala. He then sat in the car and fired off the engine.
The email gave details such as the distance between the crash site and the spot where the JATO was ignited and that the driver must have experienced G-forces after the car hit a speed of 350 mph. When he applied brakes, it must have melted away, blowing the tires and becoming airborne before crashing into the cliff face. The impact left behind a three-foot-deep crater in the rock.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety received many inquiries, and in 1996, they issued a circular calling out the story a myth. It was also debunked by the Discovery show MythBusters. (1, 2)
2 A small town had a very high birth rate because a train would pass through it every morning at 5 a.m., blowing its whistle and waking up the residents. Since it was too early to get out of bed and too late to fall back to sleep, the couples turned to copulation, resulting in the baby boom.
The first version of this tale appeared in the 1939 American novel, Kitty Foyle, where a freight train would pass through the small town, waking up the residents. Since then, it has made appearances in many publications with slight variations.
The Australian version, as put down by author Bill Scott, speaks of an officer sent by the government to investigate the reason for the unusually high birth rate. There, a mail train would wake up the residents every morning.
The urban legend is based on the rumors that birthrate spiked after the 1965 Northeast Blackout and the September 11th terrorist attacks believing that people resort to coitus when their regular home life is disrupted without any regard for family planning. (1, 2)
3 A man in a rabbit costume was reported to attack people with a hatchet or an ax in and around the Colchester Overpass in Clifton, Virginia. Some versions of the “Bunny Man” legends involve mutilated bodies, while a few speak of his ghost making an appearance on Halloween.
This urban legend first originated in 1970 in Fairfax County, Virginia. Robert Bennett and his fiancee were seated in the front seat of their car with the motor running when suddenly the passenger window was smashed by a white-clad man with long bunny ears.
As Bennett turned the car away from the assailant, he started screaming at them, calling them trespassers. As they moved further down the road, the couple noticed a hatchet lying on the car floor.
A few days later, a security guard also encountered a man in a bunny costume with an ax calling him a trespasser and threatening to chop his head off if he came any closer.
Both the incidents were investigated by Fairfax County Police, but no arrest was made due to a lack of evidence. But reports of people seeing the Bunny Man kept pouring in with at least 50 sightings in the area.
The legend resulted in the influx of paranormal enthusiasts at the Colchester overpass during Halloween forcing authorities to control access to the area during the holiday. (1, 2)
4 In 1921, soon after Julia Petta was buried with her stillborn infant, her mother started having strange dreams in which her daughter insisted that she was buried alive. Six years later, her body was exhumed to retrieve a perfectly preserved body of Petta while the infant had decomposed completely.
Julia Buccola Petta was only 29 when she died during childbirth of her stillborn infant. She was buried at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Illinois in her wedding dress along with the infant.
But soon after the burial, her mother, Filomena, Buccola, reported that Petta visited in her dreams insisting that she was buried alive. The dreams repeated every night with Petta begging to be rescued from her grave.
The worried mother finally got permission to exhume her daughter’s body in 1927, and when the body was retrieved, it showed no signs of decay even after spending six years in the soil.
A picture of the preserved body in the casket was taken by Filomena and placed on her life-size statue built over her grave.
Filomena’s strange dreams and the unaffected body has turned Petta’s story into an urban legend with tourists visiting the grave of “The Italian Bride.”
But the truth remains that it is not impossible for a body to stay preserved, especially with embalming chemicals that were available at the time. Also, the coffin was air-sealed, significantly reducing the pace of decomposition.
Many other exhumations have revealed non-decayed bodies, like that of Eva Peron and Abraham Lincoln. (1, 2)
5 The “Loveland Frog” legend is a humanoid frog in Ohio folklore that is described to be four feet tall, allegedly sighted in Loveland in Ohio.
This folklore creature was revived into an urban legend in 1972 when police officer Ray Shockey spotted a strange animal scurrying across the road on Riverside Drive.
His vehicle’s headlight had illuminated the animal helping him see a three- to four-foot-tall frog-like creature with leathery skin crouched on the ground. It then stood erect for a moment, climbed the guardrail, and disappeared down towards the river.
Two weeks later, another police officer by the name of Mark Matthews saw a similar animal in the same vicinity crouched on the road. The officer shot the animal and brought the body to officer Shockey.
Upon inspection, Mathew found that the supposed humanoid frog was a large iguana with its tail missing, giving it a peculiar appearance. Shockey confirmed that it was the same animal he had seen earlier.
The story was published in a book about urban legends, but the author omitted that part about the creature being an iguana and not a frogman, even though he was informed about it by Mathews himself. (1, 2)
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