urban legends

What’s Your Favorite Scary Story?

I’ve spent enough time working commissions that my phone autocorrects everything to scarf or mitten.

I will be pulling this blog out of retirement.

Including the horror and folklore content.

Tell me about your favorite scary stories bonus points for things that came out of 2016.

The Halloween Mask Effect


This is a repost from 2014, but in light of it being Halloween season again, and actually an election year, I’m pulling this one out again. No, I have no idea currently which mask is selling better this year, and I would be surprised if that data is out yet-but I might check in a few weeks.

I know that we’re now in November and therefore past the point where this is relevant, but at the same time, I really like this quirk (assuming this is true, and I sort of want it to be true).

It’s claimed that you can tell who will win a presidential election in November by what masks are sold for Halloween in October. This claim holds true for American society, but I’m not sure if it’s limited to Americans, if it’s because Halloween is currently a heavily American holiday, or if no one’s bothered paying attention to anywhere other than the States.

But it’s apparently accurate with a fairly freakishly high success rate-you can tell who will win by who is the most popular candidate to dress up as.

However, that’s probably the key word: popular. While the ‘nasty’ costumes for less than loved politicians are common, people like to collect and surround themselves with images of things that they like. Therefore, they’re going to be more likely to buy a costume of someone they are more willing to vote for than those they have no interest in. It’s an extension of popular culture; the images that people like are the ones that they want to dress up as (I read that Ryan Murphy was startled to already see Twisty the Clown costumes on the street this year-and multiple of them, to boot). The trend supposedly dates back to the 1988 election, with Reagan being the successful candidate and the highest selling mask. Or 1980, depending on source. However, the basic idea is still the same-for the past 30 years or so, the American election can be predicted by the sale of Halloween costumes.

This is one of those trends that is weird enough that pop culture loves it. It makes for a wonderful headline (Halloween predicts presidents! Next it’ll rain frogs!). I like it because it starts getting into those interplays that make sociology fascinating.

Strange Election Indicators: Halloween Masks

6 Bizarre Factors that Predict Every Presidential Election

Halloween masks predict Obama win 60-40

Halloween makes predict elections?

For Halloween 2012 prognosis, look to…Halloween masks?

Halloween Presidential Mask Sales Have Correctly Predicted Last Five Elections

Mount Misery Road, Huntington, New York


Long Island is way too far off for this legend to be listed as a Haunted Western New York entry.

[That may seem obvious, but I, and many other New Yorkers, know that a lot of people who aren’t from the state split New York into New York City and Not-New-York-City with very little understanding of the geography of a fairly large state. Long Island and Buffalo are pretty much at opposite ends.]

However I do still favor New York ghost stories, especially during a month filled with them.

According to legend the road is not called Mount Misery because of the stories associated with it-it was just not a nice area to live in and extremely hard to farm. However the name is probably not aiding the road in shaking any ghost stories that have been started through the years [have you noticed that a cemetery is much more likely to be haunted than the OB ward of a hospital, even though if we’re honest with ourselves, they both most likely see a fair amount of death?]

However the name came into being, there are suggestions that the area has had a haunted reputation for almost as long as the area has been settled-though it is worth noting that just because the stories claim connection to the 1700s doesn’t necessarily mean that the legend itself dates to the same era. Regardless, the legend claims that there was an asylum built along the road in the 1700s and a female patient was killed [the dates for the hospital are shaky, and increase the potential for the eras to have been added at a much more modern point-some reports place the hospital at a much later 1840]. She eventually became the first ‘woman in white’ ghost seen along the road, and her story may have slowly merged with more modern stories who claim a phantom hitch-hiker in the same region.

The Lady in White is not the only type of ghost claimed to be haunting the road. There are stories of lights, suicides, ghost vehicles, and ghosts that will interfere with vehicles to ‘stop’ accidents (even if the road is already clear). There are echoes and implications of wider regional legends such as the presence of the ghost of a woman murdered and dumped along the road; this is a legend that exists throughout the Long Island region as a whole, as well as potentially linked into wider Mid Atlantic and New England lore.

Regionally, there are some potentially troubling ghosts that are supposed to be haunting the region. Like several other areas settled by Western Europeans (especially the British and Dutch) both Mount Misery and Sweet Hollow Roads have their own black dogs/black shuck style ghosts. Reflecting the dullahan and its American cousin the Headless Horseman, there is a man supposedly wandering the area with a basket of severed heads. Finally, a cop will sometimes pull you over or appear a the scene of minor accidents and break downs. There have been reports that he is missing the back of his head.

Mount Misery and Sweet Hollow Road

Mount Misery

The Blue Lady [Moss Beach California]


Creepies of the 80s and 90s were children when Unsolved Mysteries was on air in the States-and that show helped launched many of us into full on love of the weird, odd, and scary. That theme song still makes the hair on my arms stand up.

One of my favorite aspects of that show was the ghost and haunting segments-I really didn’t care about the disappearances or unsolved crimes. Aliens really didn’t do much for me either, and I remember a segment about people who could turn street lights on and off as being a little bit baffling (as in, it’s something I probably will never be able to do but at the same time, it’s not anything I found (or find) terribly impressive either).

However a lot of those ghost stories have lingered for me. The show was my first introduction to the Blue Lady. I have never found this story creepy or scary at all; if anything I have always found the story a little bit sad. Who is she waiting for? Does she know he’s not coming?

The story is a little vague and for that I apologize. At a restaurant known as the Distillery in Moss Beach, California, a woman in a dated blue dress can be seen at the bar. She looks like she’s waiting for someone. Legend says, including the Distillery’s own website, that she was in a relationship with the piano player. The Lady may or may not have been married already; regardless of the state of her romantic life she and the player were assaulted on the beach below the bar some time during Prohibition. She was killed while he was not, and she may still be at the bar, waiting for him to return. The haunting has a lot of the ‘traditional’ aspects of American hauntings-moving items, cold spots, locked doors, as well as full sightings of the infamous woman in blue at the bar.

[It is worth noting that like the Grand Island haunting in Buffalo, a lot of the haunting is played up for the sake of publicity. In the case of the Distillery, the show Ghost Hunters found that many of these events are created. Whether or not the push of the legend pre-dates these effects is unknown.]

Humans Can Lick Too

Via Pixabay

Via Pixabay

I don’t always plan on reposts. But I pulled out the Book of Legends (yeah I just named it) and this was the one that looked promising for tonight.

Originally posted in 2014.

Let’s go really old school-a story that’s ingrained in American culture deep enough that I can honestly say I heard this before I read it. It wasn’t a friend of a friend story, but it was definitely classic American folklore.

A family had an only child, a girl. The parents bought a dog for the girl to have a friend.

The girl and the dog were inseperable. The dog would sleep next to her bed and when she was frightened, she would drape her hand over the side of the bed and make sure the dog was still there.

One night, her parents went out to dinner and decided that the girl was finally old enough to stay home by herself. Besides, she had the dog.

Late at night, the girl awoke to sounds in the house. She decided she was hearing her parents come home. She went to touch her dog and found hair. The dog licked her hand and she went back to sleep.

When she awoke the next morning, she was both terrified and distraught. The dog was dead in the hallway, and her parents dead in their beds. Written in blood on the wall:

Human can lick, too.

There’s a lot of holes to this story. How did she sleep through all that noise? Why did the murderer not kill the child? But when you’re nine, this is the height of creep. The story is also referred to as the licked hand, and some versions of the story has the child being warned via the radio or other media of a murderer being hunted in the area. Sometimes the sound that awakens the girl is the sound of the blood dripping elsewhere in the house.

While not existing in exactly this form, a similar theme is played out in M. R, James’  ‘The Diary of Mr. Poynter’, which dates the theme to at least 1919. According to Snopes, a primary source dating to the 1870s talks about a story (of an acquaitance of an acquaitance, la la) where the crime in question is a theft, not a murder but the trope plays out in a similar fashion, minus a note.

The Killer in the Back Seat

Via Pixabay

Via Pixabay

I have a notebook full of urban legends, myths, creepy pastas…topics that I haven’t covered on the blog before. The whole point is that if I can’t come up with something there’s this list I could just pick something.

I couldn’t figure out why I have no enthusiasm. Absolutely no interest in doing anything. Mid’s been eating pounds of drunken noodles because they’re fast, cheap, easy, he likes them, and did I mention they’re fast and easy?

Then I woke up with a full on head cold.

Here’s a post from 2011, that’s in line with October’s creepy theme.

Killer in the Back Seat

A woman in driving through back roads alone. It is an unfamiliar area and for most of the trip her car is the only one on the road. As it gets dark another car pulls up behind her.

The woman becomes uneasy as the following car begins to act erractically. As she speeds up and slows down the car does as well. The driver behind her begins to flash their high beams on and off.

Frightened she pulls into the first gas station she sees. The other car also pulls in. Scared, she begins to yell at the other driver demanding to know what they were trying to pull.

“Lady,” the other driver tells her, “didn’t you see the man with a knife in your backseat? Every time he sat up I flashed the lights.”

The killer in the backseat is one of the most iconic American urban legends. Dating back at least 50 years, it is theorized that it may be influenced in part by mistellings of actual events in New York City in the 1960s. Snopes puts the date of origin to be 1967. However, the story is marked by several features:

1. The first driver is always female.

2.  She is always alone.

3. She is always saved by a stranger who attempts to scare off the killer or lure her out of the car to safety.

It may be that this is such an enduring legend because it carries the hint of possibility. Unlike some legends, this one seems at least partially plausible which may make it slightly more frightening.

This legend in particular has been criticized for sexist and racist overtones because of the structure that is used to tell the tale. In almost every variation the same characters are used- a violent minority, and an ineffective female driver. That has not diminished the frequency of retelling however as the story has become email chain letters dozens of times. The story taps into fears of predation which makes it appealing as a legend.

The legend in Popular Culture:

Common enough to be a trope namer, the killer in the backseat legend carries enough appeal to inpsire numerous tv shows and movies. The movie Urban Legend plays up this legend as do other horror films. The trope was especially popular in the 1980s and 1990s though it still reappears on film in a full range of genres up to and including the Godfather (Tvtropes has a list of suggested scenes relying on this legend). The legend has enough plausibility and drama to be effective as a scare.


About those noodles. The recipe is here.

The Fate of Elmer McCurdy

Via Pixabay

Via Pixabay

So October is here.

I let my hair down in October-this is the month where I really don’t care how dark the story is.

Originally posted in 2013.

I was reminded of this story while we were standing in at Frightworld last weekend. It’s not so much a Halloween legend-in fact, sadly, it’s not a legend at all-but still, it’s creepy enough that I’m going to call it a seasonal legend anyway.

I will say that the story has made the jump to urban legend status anyway as the story that I was told on Saturday involved New Jersey, when the details of the case place it in the Midwest and West Coast.

This is the strange, sad case of a mummy, an amusement park…and the Six Million Dollar Man.

The story goes that Elmer McCurdy was killed in Oklahoma after engaging in several thefts in 1911. Mccurdy was embalmed, and apparently the work of the local undertaker was so good that they dressed him up in his best clothes and set him up as a sort of local attraction. This went on for years with entertainment companies wanting to buy the corpse but the funeral home he was housed in refused the offers.

After several years, two men came forward who claimed the corpse as family-but in reality were intending on cashing in on the body the same way the funeral parlor had. This was the beginning of McCurdy’s second-life entertainment career, wherein he began to appear at amusement parks and as a prop in several films.

Eventually, the Six Million Dollar Man crew became interested in using the ‘prop’-which is when it was discovered that it was an actual corpse that had been shuttled around. In 1977, McCurdy made his way back home where he was finally buried-under cement.

The Black Volga

To say that I am posting this to prove a point is a little more aggressive than what I mean (or is relevant, since it’s not as though anyone actually challenged me on it).

There is a habit throughout folklore and urban legend for ideas, themes, and motifs to keep repeating, with the only major shift being the images used in the story slowly updating and changing to match era and location. That way you end up with stories being similar, with similar structures, but an occasional change of image and potential message (the spiders in the up-do is an evolution of a story told in earlier centuries about spiders in the wigs of women too vain to show up at church on time if it meant giving up primping [I’m not the first person to say that, but I’m forgetting the original source. If you have it, let me know and I’ll cite them.])

This story is basically the death coach set in Eastern Europe. It’s probably not originating out of the same root legend, but the roots probably run parallel (and it is possible that it’s rooted in a Slavic tradition of faerie lore, since there were similar patterns to what went on in Celtic lore. Or not. The Slavs didn’t actually write anything down, so it’s really hard to tell).

The Black Volga is a story that was at its height of popularity in the 1960s and the 1970s. The story goes that there was a black car (normally a Volga) that would drive through neighborhoods and slow down when it spotted a child. The driver (who varied, but was always a member of a group distrusted in the area of Eastern Europe the story was being told in, up to and including the Pope and the Devil) would call the child over. There were some variations in what happened next-the child would always end up dead but at various times in the interaction and with different motives. Some of the motives reflected social or political stances of the time, including a heavy Othering of Americans (the children were killed to cure them, for example).

There’s a weird dynamic in that it’s not just that the Volga was an expensive car being driven by an American or other out-group, the Volga was actually a governmental car. More modern variations just make the car ‘upper class’, but the Volga had a very specific implication: the KGB or similar was doing this. This was the ultimate boogeyman: the group hated within the culture was acting for the motives of the groups hated without the culture.

Twenty Two

A repost. I’m hoping to get into the swing for Ghost Month but that may turn into August.

What is about July 4th that says ‘you should watch the Twilight Zone’? I don’t know but I’m rolling with it.

Whether or not this is an urban legend may depend on how you define that term. I like both as a ghost story and as an urban legend.

The story goes that a woman is in need of rest. In some variations she has a physical illness, in others, she has mental concerns that need to be addressed. In either case, she is told by her physican that she needs to be as quiet as possible for as long as possible.

The woman, through either friends or family, finds a place where she can stay and heal. The place is either a rather old hospital, a private residence or the like, but it always is a fairly large residence. She is given a fairly private room.

The first night she is there, she has a vision in which someone, generally dressed in fairly harsh or stark clothing (like a night nurse or an undertaker) walks past her room intoning, ‘there’s room for one more!’. In some versions she sees this vision at an elevator, or sees the person pushing or driving a cart. If the story is old enough, it’s a horse drawn carriage.

Regardless, the woman is startled but is told that she must have been dreaming. However, the ‘dream’ keeps continuing for several nights. The woman becomes understandably frightened, to the point where she demands to be transferred to another location.

She needs her doctor’s signature to do this, and as she’s leaving the hospital with the signature, someone holds the elevator for her, saying ‘oh, it’s okay, there’s room for one more.’

She almost takes the elevator, and then says ‘actually I would rather take the stairs’, remembering the strange dreams.

The elevator made it down halfway and then malfunctioned. The car fell, and everyone inside was killed.


I first became familiar with this story through an episode of the Twilight Zone, but it’s existed in print since at least 1906. The story was first published under the name The Bus-Conductor. In that story, the main character is male, it’s a hearse he keeps seeing, and he avoids boarding a bus at the right moment to avoid death.

One More


Hot Under the Collar

I normally avoid the email hoaxes or legends. They just don’t amuse me enough most of the time to want to write on them.

This one, though, amuses me so I’ll share it.


A businessman from Buffalo is on a trip to Savannah.

Exhausted, he checks into his hotel and before falling asleep he sends an email to his wife:

‘After a long trip. I’ve arrived. It’s true what they say-it really is hot down here.’

He doesn’t double check the email address though, and doesn’t notice that he has left out a number in his wife’s email. Instead of emailing his wife, he has emailed the wife of a recently deceased pastor…

…Who promptly faints.


There are multiple versions of the story though all have certain similarities.

It is always a man who is traveling, and the man is always from an area that is known for the cold. He is always traveling to somewhere very, very warm.

He is always emailing his wife and always manages to mangle the email address without noticing. The woman who is emailed is almost always the wife of a recently deceased member of the clergy.

In some versions the widow faints, but in others the email confusion ends up killing the poor woman.

The story doesn’t seem to be a ‘warning’ UL so much as a humorous or gentle (if slightly morbid) reminder to double check your outgoing emails.

By definition the UL is fairly recent; Snopes dates it to around 1998.

Hot Down Here