Urban Legends


"I have a friend of a friend who brought home a dog from Mexico, then he shaved it. It turns out someone had stolen its kidney and replaced it with a Polaroid picture of my toothbrush up Richard Gere's ass. Go figure!"

This is a true story. Happened to a friend of a friend of mine...

An Urban Legend is a story which imparts information or An Aesop (explicit or implicit) and which purports to be the account of a true event which happened locally, fairly recently, and to someone the teller knows (often a "friend of a friend"). Even though the story is supposedly merely secondhand, it has usually been passed along through several sources and altered in the telling (to make it more 'local,' plausible, or what have you). Some folklorists, like Jan Brunvand or the couple who run Snopes.com, collect these critters and try to evaluate their claims.

Urban legends are sensational by definition, which makes them attractive to audiences and enticing to the media. They show up most often as the Case of the Week on television Police Procedurals, though dramas or even sitcoms have been known to borrow a legend and make it come true for one of the main characters. There are a small but increasing number of shows dedicated to proving/disproving their basis in reality; the most popular of these is MythBusters, followed closely by the cable series Penn & Teller: Bullshit!. Newspapers also pick up urban legends as filler articles; you can recognize them as stories that sound too weird to be true and surprisingly vague in the details (no names given for the people involved, for example). Yet even factual details are no guarantee of a true account: any Snopes article will show that the names, dates and locations frequently get changed to protect the non-existent.

The moral of an urban legend often employs a bit of Scare 'em Straight, to drive the lesson home or merely for the sake of humor (The Cabbage Patch Kids one, for example, was a joke). After all, these legends won't get passed along if no one wants to retell them. This is not to say that urban legends are all pure fiction. The most convincing of them contain a grain of truth (i.e. a less interesting but factual story) which becomes sensationalized or completely distorted to bring the message a bit closer to home. Instead of some unknown Alice suffering bizarre consequences after a cocaine overdose, it was Drew Barrymore. Instead of the gruesome murder occurring in a far away country, it coincidentally happened right here, not far from where you live, and the Bad Guys who did it are people who aren't like us (foreigners, people of different races or cultures, junkies, celebrities, criminals...)

Needless to say, urban legends make just as free with the message at the heart of the tale as they do with the facts of the story, so expect Broken Aesops, Fantastic Aesops, and all sorts of Values Dissonance; not to mention Gossip Evolution.

See Urban Legend of Zelda for examples concerning video games. See also Oral Tradition.

Not to be confused with Conspiracy Theory, where politics is clearly involved. If you were looking for the film by this name, look right here.

Examples below.

Tropes associated with urban legends:


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  • There was a widespread myth that the little kid from the Life Cereal commercials had died from trying out a deadly combination of Pop Rocks and Soda. As it turns out, no, the dude's still alive, and in his mid-40s today. Plus, the MythBusters proved that six 12-ounce cans of cola and six packages of Pop Rocks would only cause considerable pain to the subject (and even then, only if both gas release mechanisms were blocked), as the reaction did not produce the amount of carbon dioxide necessary for stomach rupture.

     Anime & Manga 
  • Ibitsu is about an urban legend.
  • In the anime Baccano!, the Mafia assassin Vino takes on the persona of the Rail Tracer, an urban legend about a monster that stalks trains.
    • Even better, Fridge Logic makes one realize that he is the one who started his own urban legend. Awesome.
  • In the manga Chobits, there is an urban legend that there are special Persocoms (humanoid computers) called "Chobits" that have real emotions and free will instead of just having emotions programmed into them.
  • Urban legends are a major theme of Dennou Coil, particularly how everyone tends to interpret them differently. Questions such as "Just what are kirabugs/Illegals/Michiko, really?" are asked and answered many, many times over the course of the series, and everyone seems to have a different version.
  • Durarara!! is in large part about these.
  • The 90's OVA Gakkou No Yuurei (School Ghosts): Each episode consists of several spooky vignettes, which are allegedly based on real experiences.
  • The manga Hanako and the Terror of Allegory deals with these.
  • K's Clans and Kings are regarded as this by people not involved with them. Some of this is scene in the first season, when a news channel interviews random people on the street about the Silver King's blimp crash and apparent death. A side story (K: All Characters - Sakura Asama) shows how this has exploded after the events of season 2, when the Green Clan attempts to give the whole world superpowers.
  • Kagewani has Professor Banba investigating cryptid attacks throughout Japan in order to determine if they are actual events or not.
  • Paranoia Agent concerns urban legends that are created and become increasingly real.
  • In Serial Experiments Lain it seems that Internet memes start leaking into reality, resulting in alien sightings, and suchlike. Also things like ghosts and The Men in Black seem to actually exist, though in manner slightly different than the legends would indicate.
  • Episode 4 of A Certain Scientific Railgun features two Urban Legends. One of them is the undressing woman and the other one is a guy who can nullify anything. You get to see the first one, and the second one is obviously the hero of the whole series itself: Touma.
    • Urban Legends tie into the plot of Railgun (not so much Index) a lot, as the girls seem to enjoy following Urban Legends as a hobby. Often, the legends have some grain of truth in them, and investigating the legend is what leads to the arc's conflict with some dark aspect of Academy City.
  • Gakkou no Kaidan (perhaps better known from the Ghost Stories Gag Dub) is a kid's Novel / Anime series about, you guessed it, traditional Japanese ghost stories set in an elementary school. Some of the legends are specifically about school ghosts (something the Japanese seem to have in abundance, given the important role school plays in their culture) and some are more generic, but all of them are explained in the DVD extras.
  • The manga Toshi Densetsu is an anthology in which various characters encounter various urban legends, some of which only exist in-universe.

    Comic Books 
  • The Big Book Of Urban Legends was a graphic novel anthology published in 1994, collecting 200 tales of "folklore for our times".
  • One famous comic book urban legend is that artist Wally Wood deliberately drew Power Girl's breasts larger until someone told him to stop. There is, however, no verifiable evidence of this.
  • It's claimed that Donald Duck comics were banned in Finland because he doesn't wear pants. Actually, Donald Duck is quite popular in Finland.
  • Sometimes Batman is treated as an urban legend among Gotham criminals, at least early in his career. Gets kind of silly considering all the other superheroes running around publicly, or when criminals don't believe a guy who runs around with the very public Justice League International is real.

  • In film, the movies Urban Legend and Urban Legends: Final Cut deal with killers who take inspiration from these.
  • The Candyman series of movies, whose villain is based on the "Bloody Mary" legend.
  • The movie Dead Man on Campus has a plot dealing with the urban legend that you get straight A's in your college classes if your roommate commits suicide...
    • ...as did a lesser known film titled The Curve starring Matthew Lillard, Michael Vartan, and Keri Russell.
  • While many of the stories (especially the Cousin Walter stories) told by characters in Kevin Smith's movies may seem like urban legends, the only one that actually is based on one; Cousin Walter keeps getting cats stuck up his ass, in an attempt to get a gerbil out of there.
  • In Suicide Kings, one of the yuppie kidnappers tells one about the Retired Monster they're holding hostage, to stave off Lima Syndrome. It turns out to be true, except not as gruesome as the reality.
  • Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia starts off by presenting three urban legends as fact.
  • The film Grown Ups includes a scene based on the urine-detecting dye myth.
  • Urbania references many of these and is partially told as one.
  • There are urban legends in the 1939 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. For a long time, people thought that a crowned crane in the scene where Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man resume their journey was a guy hanging himself. You can blame the bad image quality.
    • And of course, most notably, the Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon soundtrack synching legend. Vigorously denied by the band, who have pointed out that the audio technology necessary to make the film soundtrack and rock album synch this precisely with each other didn't exist in 1973.
    • On a goofier note, urban-legend accounts of zany hijinks engaged in by the little people who'd been recruited from all over the country to play the Munchkins provided inspiration for the 1981 Chevy Chase comedy Under The Rainbow.
  • An urban legend is that one scene in the movie Three Men and a Baby has a ghost of a little boy standing by the window in Ted Danson's apartment. Legend says that the film was shot in an apartment where this boy got killed. It's actually just a cardboard cut-out of Danson (intended for a Deleted Scene), and the apartment was actually a movie studio set.
  • At the very beginning of the first Saw film, one of the first things Adam does after waking up in a bathtub is to ask Dr. Gordon if he's got any surgical scars, convinced that someone has stolen his kidney. Dr. Gordon informs him that it's an Urban Legend; if someone had really taken Adam's kidney, he'd either be in excruciating pain right now, or dead.
  • The hoverboards in Back to the Future Part II were claimed to be real by some people. Unfortunately, the models didn't work well and they were never sold. This urban legend resurfaced in 2014 when a video was shown featuring Christopher Lloyd demonstrating what seemed to be a real one. This video is also a hoax and was made by CollegeHumor.
  • King Kong vs. Godzilla does not have Multiple Endings in the American and Japanese versions (one where King Kong wins and one where Godzilla wins), as claimed by some people. Word of God says that the winner in both versions is King Kong.
  • Ronald Reagan was never seriously considered to star in the movie Casablanca.
  • The Cannonball Run has a scene very similar to a certain urban legend. It's the scene in which the Subaru team applies a little stealth at night by using a quieted engine and infrared goggles to drive and confusing a pair of police officers. The legend has this as a drug runner doing the same. It's unknown if the legend inspired the scene, the scene inspired the legend, or they developed independently.
  • The Terminal is based on the urban legend of a foreign national who's forced to live in an airport due to a bureaucratic screw-up. Notably, this is one of a few urban legends that's true.
  • Gore Orphanage is based off of the urban legend of the titular orphanage (which never actually existed).
  • As related by Stephen King in his nonfiction book Danse Macabre, the 1963 Roger Corman-directed sci-fi/horror film X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes supposedly originally ended with Ray Milland's character Dr. James Xavier screaming "I can still see!" after he tears out his own eyes, and Executive Meddling forced Roger to cut the final line as too horrifying, so that the film ends with a freeze-frame on Xavier's bloody eyesockets. Corman has both confirmed and denied this legend, saying alternately that Milland went off script and that King just made the whole story up.
  • The central plot device of The Ring, Sadako/Samara's killer videotape, is an urban legend In-Universe.

  • There is also a book called The Beheaded Freshman and Other Gruesome Tales. The lead tale (from the title) is about a freshman wanting to get into an elite club but the people blindfold him and kneel him down, saying they are going to behead him. They describe one raising the axe high over his head (the freshman thinks it is a prank) and then drop a cool washcloth on his neck. The freshman screams the moment the cool touches his neck (thinking it is cold steel) and collapses. Scared, the others call an ambulance; Seems the freshman had a heart problem that the others did not know and the fright caused a heart attack. Whoops!
  • Parodied in the Discworld novel Witches Abroad, which claims that, thanks to the Theory of Narrative Causality, not only do urban myths really happen, but they happen repeatedly. It also applies to fairy tale plots, which Nanny Ogg calls "rural myths" at one point.
  • Jan Harold Brunvand has written a series of books detailing urban legends, including The Vanishing Hitchhiker, The Choking Doberman and others.
  • The city of Chicago.
  • British writer Jeffery Archer often uses urban legends as the basis of a story (although he seems to believe they are true). His short story collection A Twist Of a Tale contains several, most notably a story based on "the killer in the back seat". (Otto of The Simpsons actually told Bart and Lisa a more convincing version.)
  • Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series moshes together urban legends with other bits of folklore for a pretty gruesome mix.
  • Legend has it that if you ask at SF conventions, you'll hear tale of some SF writer who created a book specifically to be as bad as possible. It turned out to be the exact opposite, since an entire cult of people sprung up around it demanding more, so he said "why the fuck not!" and made a career on it. Depending on who you ask this person was either John Norman (author of the Gor series) or Piers Anthony. If this is true or not is unknown but it's a well-known enough story that at least one book featured it as a foreword, and if you search the internet you'll find discussions of who the alleged writer is. And before someone asks: no, it is not nor has it ever been L. Ron Hubbard, nor Robert E. Howard (Conan's creator), nor is it Robert A. Heinlein. What sparse clues exist in the legend easily rule them out. General consensus does seem to point to Piers Anthony however, and his name comes up associated with it a lot.
    • For the record, Piers has denied it ever happened, and the series most usually associated with it (Xanth) origin was merely him playing with a long standing idea of turning Florida (his home) into a magical land. Additionally, the original Xanth was contracted for a trilogy (and is written as such, not a stand alone book), and only became a running series due to its surprise immense popularity.
  • Many rumors surround the original abridged publication of Stephen King's The Stand. The fact that it was nearly cut in half from the original manuscript (later restored in future printings) gave rise to the idea that the original draft had give King/his editor/president of Scribner horrific apocalyptic nightmares and they wanted the offending stuff excised, the government itself taking out stuff that too closely resembled their real life plans of action for such an event, ect. In reality, King was still a fairly new author at the time, and his editors didn't feel the public would accept a Door Stopper book from him. Once he was established as a mega-selling author, it was republished and restored (even then, King admits to editing some things out that he didn't like).
  • Much of Barney's Version, a novel narrated by a man who slowly develops Alzheimer's as the book progresses, builds up the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Barney's best friend Boogie Moscovitch, with whose murder Barney is eventually charged. Throughout the book, Barney's status as a semi-Unreliable Narrator (both intentionally and unintentionally as the disease consumes his memories) keeps the events surrounding the incident shrouded in confusion. The final chapter, narrated by Barney's son Michael, reveals that Barney was, in fact, innocent - turns out poor Boogie fell victim to the classic dead-diver-in-the-forest legend whe he went for that swim!
  • Swedish writer Bengt af Klintberg wrote a book about common Swedish urban legends called Råttan i pizzan (the rat in the pizza). The book became so popular that Klintbergare is now an accepted synonym for an urban legend in Sweden.
  • The book The Grapes of Wrath is said to have been translated in some countries as The Angry Raisins. There is no evidence for this.
  • A quite humorous example is a book by Art Linkletter, Oops!, or, Life's Awful Moments. Art regales us with tales of people's supposedly true-life embarrassing moments. A read-through of the book, however, reveals that a great many of these stories are in fact urban legends.
  • Author Daniel Cohen has penned a few books detailing urban legends: Southern Fried Rat and Other Stories, Monsters You Never Heard Of and The Encyclopedia of Monsters, to name just a few.
  • There Are Alligators In Our Sewers... is a collection of urban legends. But they get some of them wrong; for example, claiming that green M&Ms are poisonous when everybody knows that the reds are poison; greens are aphrodisiacs.

    Live Action TV 
  • In CSI: New York, the dress from a corpse manages to kill a bride on her wedding day.
    • In another episode, a college student killed his roommate so he could get an automatic 4.0 for the semester.
    • In still another, a corpse was found buried in the end zone of Giants stadium, in imitation of an Urban Legend about the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.
    • This show have actually dozens of episodes based around these; people killed by blue ice, by falling coin, etc.
  • In the original CSI, the crew finds a scuba diver in a tree after a forest fire.
  • To complete the CSI trifecta, CSI: Miami has a man killed by his cell phone sparking an explosion of gas fumes. It was fumes in his lungs from gas siphoning, rather than a gas station, but the mechanics are the same.
  • MythBusters, as noted above.
  • Weird US and the travel-log books its based on.
  • Supernatural bases many of its episodes on urban legends.
    • In fact one episode had a monster that was literally created by the urban legend regarding him. As the urban legend changed (as manipulated by two ghost hunters' website) the creature's powers and weaknesses changed too.
    • Another episode of note is "Tall Tales", where one college campus starts experiencing a number of urban legends coming true at the same time. Turns out the janitor is a Trickster god.
    • The fifth season episode "I Believe the Children Are Our Future" also features urban legend-based deaths. The culprit in this episode is a little kid named Jesse, who believes these urban legends are true, and somehow makes them true. The Winchesters discover that the reason he can alter reality on a whim is because that he is actually The Antichrist, though he doesn't really want to be.
    • There was also an episode where a man died when he "ingested" dozens of razorblades "hidden" in the Halloween candy he'd been sneaking at night, but in actuality it was witchcraft and good timing for the themed effect.
  • An SCTV fake commercial features Eugene Levy as a fast-talking used car dealer showing off the specials on his lot, all subjects of urban legends - "a Cadillac! Great shape...the damn thing's full of cement!...maybe you're handy with a cold chisel? $500 as is - you pay the towing!"...or a Mustang found parked in Lovers Lane with the driver hanging over the roof - "there's scuff marks on the roof - a little rubbing compound, it's all behind ya! $700!" At the commercial's end he does a comical Double Take at a prosthetic hook hanging off a door handle.
  • The show Truth Or Scare on Discovery Kids existed entirely of promoting this trope. Because we all know the Tower of London is haunted, right? RIGHT?
  • Animal Planet's Lost Tapes does this with cryptozoology.
  • An episode of Law & Order ("Sonata for Solo Organ") started out with a man waking up on a park bench, and discovering he's missing a kidney. Which some urban legend experts claim actually helped popularize the legend itself, which had been fairly obscure until then.
  • In an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent ("Art"), the killer of the week took advantage of an urban legend by killing her roommate and making it look like a suicide, thus entitling her to passing grades (not straight A's) in her final semester of art school.
  • The myth of waking up with an internal organ missing apparently survives well into the future, since Janeway and Chakotay discuss it on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
    • In fact, it actually happens in one episode, when Neelix's lungs are stolen by black market organ sellers. This was lampshaded during Janeway and Chakotay's conversation.
  • The "toothbrushes up their bums" UL was the basis of the joke at the end of one episode of The Vicar of Dibley.
  • The Spike TV "docu-fiction" series 1000 Ways to Die features bizarre causes of death, most of them stemming from urban legends. These range from a vaginal embolism caused by a carrot dildo puncturing the vaginal wall and exploding breast implants to death by drinking acid instead of vodka.
  • Urban Legends tells three of these in each episode, loosely tied together with the episode's theme, as well as two random 'mini-myths' before the commercial breaks. The viewer is asked to guess which legends are real and which aren't. At the end of the episode (and after the commercial breaks for the mini-myths) it is revealed who was telling the truth.
    • Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction followed a similar format. The only catch was that some of the supposedly true stories were so unbelievable that one couldn't help but wonder just how thoroughly they had researched them.
  • In an episode of the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids TV series, one of Wayne's inventions brings an urban legends book to life via Hard Light holograms.
  • Food Network Challenge has done an Urban Legends Cake-making episode for Halloween.
  • Britta tells the ever-popular "hookman" story in the Community episode "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps", featuring Jeff as the boyfriend and herself as the girlfriend. The story is played onscreen exactly the way she tells it, so it contains a substantial amount of Buffy Speak:
    Radio: In the news tonight, top story, an escaped convict from the asylum has escaped and he's mental and he's on the loose and stuff.
    Britta as the girlfriend: Oh my god, that sounds dangerous!
    Jeff as the boyfriend: I'm sure it's no biggie. But I am a horny man, so I'm only half present.
    Radio: He was last seen in the woods and has a thingy for a hand, a hook-thing where his hand should be, you know what I mean.
  • The Drew Carey Show had an episode where Drew and Kate got "fake married" as part of an old dare. The night's celebrations get called off early when Kate develops a rash and gets short of breath. Turns out the wedding dress she bought from a secondhand store had formaldehyde in it.
  • On Justified Raylan comes across an Organ Theft ring and gets mocked for believing in an urban legend when he asks a nurse about. The criminals avoided most of the usual elements of the legend and stole kidneys from the corpses of recently deceased prison inmates. They had the prisoners' medical records so they knew which kidneys were healthy and one of them had professional training in transplant procedures.
    • The one time they do the 'cut out kidney in a motel room and leave the victim in the bathtub' routine it is a ruse perpetuated so they can blackmail the victim by pretending to hold his kidneys hostage. They just made a couple incisions and sutured them back up
  • The Psych episode "Scary Sherry: Bianca's Toast" featured a fictional urban legend about a woman who committed suicide at an asylum on Halloween night and continues to haunt the place. It turns out that Shawn and Gus were actually the ones who started the legend when they were kids. They were with Shawn's dad Henry when he was called to the asylum and saw the woman on the ledge, but didn't see the part where Henry pulled the woman back inside to safety. They were overheard talking about the "suicide" at school, and things snowballed from there.
  • Long-rumored legend in the industry that Adam Carolla was fired/got rejected by producers to be the host of the US version of Top Gear (usually in conjunction with something racist/sexist/homophobic he supposedly said). In reality he was offered the job (or at least an audition), and turned it down because he was working on a separate TV project and didn't have the time.
  • Subverted in the case of The Newlywed Game. On a 1977 episode, Bob Eubanks asked "What's the weirdest place you've ever had the urge to make whoopie?" to Hank and Olga Perez. Hank said "on the freeway", prompting laughter and remarks from Bob. Olga, meanwhile, misunderstood the question and said "In the ass". Bob fiercely denied this ever happened, offered $10,000 to anyone who could prove it, and even had a T-shirt made (She Never Said "In the Butt, Bob!"), yet in the early 2000s somebody brought forth a videotape of a Game Show Network rebroadcast of the episode and proved its existence once and for all, and Bob admitted defeat.
    • Most likely Bob had had a hard time recalling the incident due to misremembered details told to him over the years — contrary to previously-held belief, the woman who said it was not black, did not speak with any kind of urban dialect, and did in fact say "in the ass", not "in the butt", with the offending word censored. The episode itself had been rerun on Game Show Network several times before, and the uncensored master tape appeared in the 2002 film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, based on the "autobiography" written by the show's producer, Chuck Barris.
  • Rumor that Zsa Zsa Gabor (sometimes another famous actress) came on The Tonight Show with her cat in her lap and asked Johnny if he wanted to pet her pussy. "Yeah, just move the damn cat!"
    • Another is the wife of a famous golfer talking about kissing her husband's (golf) balls before games for good luck. "I'll bet that gets his putter up!"
  • One long-held game show rumor involves a word-guessing game being played by a celebrity and a contestant, with the word in question being "Deer". The celebrity (usually Alan Alda, though others have been credited) gives the clue of Doe, and the contestant (usually an African-American) answering "Knob." No record of this ever happening on any show has come up, and complicating things further is the inconsistency regarding exactly what show it's said to have happened on — some say Password, while others say it occurred on a Dick Clark-hosted edition of Pyramid.
    • Speaking of the latter, rumor has it that during a break in taping one episode of The $100,000 Pyramid, Clark engaged on a conversation with celebrity player Dick Cavett. At one point, the other celebrity player, Jamie Farr, remarks how it feels to be standing between "two of the biggest Dicks in show business." Has never been confirmed, though what helps this rumor lean into the "not true" territory is the fact that almost never have the celebrity players been both male or female — one is almost always male, and the other is almost always female (the only exceptions being all-celebrity editions, with feature both a male and female on their team, and those only ever happened during the $10,000 era of the early-mid '70s).
  • A famous clothing designer (most often Liz Claiborne or Calvin Klein, more recently whoever is the hot clothing designer) went on Oprah (in the older incarnations, Phil Donahue) and said their clothes weren't designed to be worn by (inset ethnic group here, usually large African-American women).
  • In A Scare at Bedtime, most of the stories Podge tells his brother are adaptations (usually set in Ireland, of course) of famous and well-known legends, usually frightening.
  • Orange Is the New Black : The chicken is an in-universe example. Out of universe: the dog and the peanut butter.
  • There are MANY urban legends and rumors about Sesame Street. The Muppet Wiki even has an entire category about them. Many are also on Snopes and some of the popular ones include an episode where Ernie dies, an episode where Bert and Ernie get married, and Cookie Monster being changed to the Veggie Monster, all of which are false. The rumor about a Muppet character appearing that is HIV-positive is actually true. She does, however, only appear on the South African version of the show, where AIDS is a large problem.
  • It has been claimed that the BBC interrupted its September 1, 1939, broadcast of the Mickey Mouse cartoon Mickey's Gala Premier when the network ceased broadcasting due to the sudden outbreak of World War II. Supposedly, when broadcasting resumed after the war, the BBC resumed the programme at the exact point it was interrupted. While the cartoon was indeed the last programme shown by the BBC before the suspension, it was aired in its entirety both in 1939 and again on the day the BBC resumed broadcasting in 1946. The urban legend arose from a 1984 documentary about the wartime BBC in which the cartoon was interrupted for dramatic reasons, causing quite some viewers to believe that this was the actual 1939 footage of the Mickey Mouse broadcast.
  • The Dollhouse has become this In-Universe. One episode even has vox populi interviews about the subject.
  • Likewise The Man In The Suit vigilante in Person of Interest.
    Maxine: No one's seen his face, nobody knows his name. I'm not even sure he exists. But he's like something out of a comic book. When people are in trouble he comes out of nowhere. He always seems to be there just in time. Whoever he is, he saves a lot of lives. And he shoots a lot of kneecaps.
    Reese: Sounds like a great guy. And an urban legend.
  • The Kamen Rider franchise, particularly in the Heisei era (2000 onwards), claims that the Kamen Riders themselves are regarded as an urban legend by the world at large. This comes up primarily in Kamen Rider Blade and Kamen Rider Fourze, each of which has a member of the supporting cast who believes in the urban legend and ends up befriending the main character; in the former case, he even writes a book about it.
  • In Living Color! ad libbed a joke about Richard Gere and the gerbil during a live Men on Football segment done for the halftime show of Super Bowl XXVI. Gere was not amused, and demanded that the joke be cut from all re-airings of the skit. Sadly, the showrunners complied.

  • Paul is Dead! Probably the most famous urban legend in pop music, and warranting a full page at Wikipedia, this claims that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by a look-and-soundalike. Supposedly, clues to this are sprinkled throughout the group's later work, especially their album covers. The very-much-alive Paul parodied this with the cover and title of his 1993 live album.
  • Along similar lines, there is a less well-known urban legend that when [[The Mamas & the Papas Mama Cass Elliot died she was pregnant with John Lennon's kid. This is not true. There was no evidence at the autopsy that she was pregnant, and she and John were never a couple anyway, they only met once very briefly.
  • Elvis Lives: The second most persistent urban legend is that Elvis Presley intentionally faked his own death and is still alive somewhere. Similar rumors have come abound after Michael Jackson 's death too.
  • As above, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon was supposedly intentionally written to synch up with The Wizard of Oz.
  • Ludo's "Lake Pontchartrain" features a young man telling the story of his two friends getting swallowed up in a very predatory context.
  • "The Little Girl" by Country Music legend John Michael Montgomery is a song based on an urban legend of a girl whose atheist alcoholic parents kill each other in a murder-suicide before she herself is sent to a home raised by Christian foster parents who teach her to attend church, and one day she sees that the man on the cross (Jesus) is the one who came down to help her during the night of the murder-suicide.
  • The Phil Collins song "In The Air Tonight" has an urban legend which takes the first verse more literally. The most famous version of the legend claims that Phil and a friend are at a lake when the friend falls in and starts to drown. Phil is too far away to help, but sees someone closer and asks him to save his friend. The other person refuses and Phil's friend drowns. In response, Phil writes the song and invites the man to his next concert. He sings the song directly to the man who then runs out of the concert and kills himself. (Other versions involve a man doing something horrible to Phil, his friends, and/or his family, and when the man ends up in danger of drowning, Phil remembers what the man did and refuses to help.) Phil himself says the legend is not true and he doesn't know where it came from.
    • On a lighter note, there are several theories as to where the title of "Sussudio" came from. Some claim that it was the name of a pony that Phil's daughter had, while others claim he got the title from someone (such as his daughter or an employee) mispronouncing the word "studio". The truth is much more mundane: it was a lyric that he improvised, and he liked the way it sounded. It was actually meant to be a placeholder lyric, but he never found another word that worked just as well.
  • Eminem has a song called "Stan", about the title character discussing the above urban legend about Phil Collins' song mistakingly called "In the Air of the Night" and the misinterpretation of the song's lyrics about drowning and not lending a hand.
    • Eminem also reiterated the UL about Lauryn Hill that she once said she'd rather have her children starve than for white people to buy her album (and/or she can't stand white people). This comes up twice on The Slim Shady LP.
  • Lemon Demon has a song called "Eighth Wonder," which is based on the urban legend of Gef the Talking Mongoose. The lyrics of the song are all the things Gef supposedly said, along with claims that he is the eighth wonder of the world.
  • There is an urban legend surrounding the song "Love Rollercoaster" by The Ohio Players. In the song, a high-pitched scream is heard (between 1:24 and 1:28 on the single version, or between 2:32 and 2:36 on the album version). It really was Billy Beck, but the legend goes that the scream was an individual being murdered live during the recording. The scream's supposed source varies from version to version. A lot of them involve Ester Cordet. This urban legend gets a subtle reference in Final Destination 3, which uses this song (including the part with the scream) in the roller-coaster scene.
  • "Gloomy Sunday" is also known as the Hungarian Suicide Song. The precise nature of the urban legend is a little different depending on who you ask, but the basic version is that the song can cause people to commit suicide. While creepy and sad, the song certainly won't make you kill yourself - not to mention that Hungary, where the supposed song-caused deaths occurred, historically has a high suicide rate to begin with.
  • Backmasking has resulted in a few of these, most famously the claim that "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin has hidden satanic messages.
  • In fundamental Christian circles, it's popular to tell the story of (X) band admitted to being approached by the devil and signed a contract to become famous musicians, but they had to give up their souls/put subliminal satanic messages in their music to corrupt the youth. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath (or just Ozzy Osbourne himself), Judas Priest and Mötley Crüe are the most popular targets of this rumor. Probably taken from the famous tale of Robert Johnson.
  • On that note, the same people like to say that AC/DC stands for Against Christ/Devil's Child (actually, simply taken from the back of the Young's sister's sewing machine) and KISS stands for Knights In Satan's Service (the band states it's Exactly What It Says on the Tin).
  • Same thread as above, various bands have been accused of bringing various animals (usually puppies) to a show and having them thrown into the audience and stating they weren't going to start the show until all the animals were dead. KISS and Ozzy got this one the most.
    • The rumors about it being Ozzy were so widely-believed he was cautioned by many local police about not doing animal sacrifices. His own real antics (biting the head off a pigeon, accidentally biting the head off a bat thinking it was rubber) didn't help this rumor at all.
  • George Clinton may or may not have told Eddie Hazel to play the first half of the solo that runs throughout the whole of Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain" as if he'd just heard his mother had died, then play the second half as if he'd then heard the news of her death had turned out to be false. The truth will likely never be known; a lot of drugs were involved, and Hazel can no longer confirm or deny anything on account of guitarist existence failure.
  • After Michael Jackson's death in 2009, reports that a guilt-stricken Jordan Chandler — the first person to publicly accuse him of child molestation back in 1993 — issued a statement claiming that he was forced to lie about the abuse by his greedy father began to circulate online. Snopes quickly debunked this one, and Randall Sullivan's biography Untouchable traces it back to an email a fan sent to Jackson's mother shortly after his death. Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped his brother Jermaine and rabid fans from continuing to spread the legend (in truth, none of his accusers have taken back their claims).
  • The band KMFDM's initials standing for Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode. Stems mostly from fan speculation that resulted in a reporter asking if it was true, and them in turn saying: "Sure, Let's Go with That." In reality it's just something German.
    • The urban legend is referenced in their song "Sucks" when they state that they "hate Depeche Mode" among other pop artists, and the song Kunst, where the chorus is "KMFDM: Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode". Of course, the band's full name, Kein Merheit fur die Mitleid (roughly "no pity for the masses" in really poor German) can be found in the liner notes of their first album.
  • Kurt Cobain wrote a part of or all of Hole's debut: Live Through This. Kurt denied this while alive, Courtney Love and the rest of the band have denied it, there's no real evidence of it anywhere (other than he sang / played along with a few songs in their rehearsals during recording). Essentially, it boils down to people who just don't like Love, and want to deny she has any real talent (since most agree the first Hole album is really good).
  • A famous singer/musician, Always Male, having to have his stomach pumped from blowing too many guys at a party. Usually Rod Stewart or Elton John, though in modern times it's been attributed to Clay Aiken and Justin Bieber.
  • A famous young musician being raped in their limo, usually by a bodyguard. Most famously attributed to happening to Lil Bow Wow.
  • When 1000 Homo DJs (a Ministry side project) did a cover of Black Sabbath's "Supernaut," they were asked to remove vocals Trent Reznor had recorded by his record label at the time. The urban legend is that, instead of re-recording the song with a different singer, Ministry's Al Jourgensen added additional distortion effects to Reznor's take and only claimed to have re-recorded the vocals himself.
  • Frank Zappa: The very first chapter of Zappa's autobiography The Real Frank Zappa Book debunks two rumors often told about him. No, he is not the son of Mr. Green Genes from Captain Kangaroo, just because the album Hot Rats (1969) happened to have a track titled that way. Similarly he never ate shit on stage during a concert.
  • Marilyn Manson is said to have played the part of the bespectacled boy in The Wonder Years. This is once again an urban myth.
  • Actor and radio/TV presenter Bob Holness is reputed to have played the saxophone solo on Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street. This is a legend that spun off from a joke made by DJ/author Stuart Maconie when he wrote for the NME. Adding even further layers of mythology, responsibility has also been claimed by another British DJ, Tommy Boyd, who claims he invented it for a 'True or False' quiz, and by Raphael Ravenscroft, the actual saxophonist, who was tired of being asked if he had played on the record and said it was Holness because he had recently worked with him on a TV commercial.

    New Media 
  • The Darwin Awards has a major collection of urban legends, debunked Darwin Awards that are just too good (or popular) to delete.
  • Snopes is one of the best-known websites devoted to these, with true/false assessments.
  • The Slender Man Mythos is a memetically-spread loosely-defined canon of horror fiction that uses the general trappings of urban folklore (missing children in the woods, mysterious stalkers, and the fact that no two tellings of the same tale are exactly the same) to pretty creepy effect. It worked, too, considering how many people think it's true.
  • The Shiny Pidgy Story is both a meme and an urban legend of epic proportions.

    Other Sites 

  • A very well documented urban legend is that the radio show "Uncle Don" had an episode where the announcer forgot to turn off the microphone and accidentally said to the kids watching, "That oughta hold the little bastards!". Snopes has a very lengthy description of this.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In addition to an Urban Legends sourcebook that provides stats for Bloody Mary, dopplegangers, and sewer alligators, the New World of Darkness has Legends, a subset of slashers. They typically start off as Avengers, but then their hunt either spirals outward from a specific group to everyone resembling said group, or the rules of their hunt become so complex it turns into a myth. In the process, the Slasher becomes something akin to Freddy Krueger or Candyman. They have the power to gain strength by keeping close to the particulars of their myth, but find it hard to break their own rules.
  • Transhuman Space: The game assumes that urban legends not only endure in its 2100 AD setting, but in a world of high-speed, all-pervasive computer networks with occasional prankster "memetic engineers" on the loose, the phenomenon can be even stronger than in the present day. The Toxic Memes supplement describes some widespread or interesting examples.


    Video Games 
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona
    • Persona 2, both parts, are about urban legends that start to mysteriously come true. Innocent Sin has this more as a central theme, although it is not absent from Eternal Punishment.
    • The plot of Persona 4 is kicked off because of a urban legend of the Midnight Channel, where you see your soulmate if you look into an empty TV at midnight on a rainy day. Turns out, there's a bit more than that.
  • Polybius: According to the legend, supposedly a mysterious and rare Arcade Game, its gameplay being vaguely as some sort of Shoot 'em Up game, which had strange and rather adverse effects on the mental and physical health of the people who played it. The progenitor of all those "creepy/haunted vidya games" creepypasta stories found on the internet these days. Newer versions of the tale play it from a more supernatural angle than the Government Conspiracy implied in older tellings.
  • Pokemon has the urban legend known as Lavender Town Syndrome which is an urban legend about suicides in the nineties in Japan after kids played the original Red and Green versions and were driven insane by the song that plays in Lavender Town. A lesser version claims that there are higher-pitched tones that cause subtle discomfort and only children can fully hear, that were changed in the localized Red and Blue. While the song is certainly creepy, if there is any Brown Note, it's in all four versions — all the music is bit-for-bit identical in all four of Red and Green, Japanese Blue, Red and Blue, and Yellow.
  • Similar in ways to both Polybius and Lavender Town's music is a rumored Gameboy game called Misfortune (also known as Misfortune.gb). The story goes that it was never released on its own cartridge, and instead was hidden in other more popular games, only accessible by a convoluted sequence of actions or through glitches, and even then whether or not these attempts would succeed was random. Failing at the game would lead to a screen with music that supposedly caused depression and might even lead to the player's suicide. If you won the game, or failed but turned it off before the music in question started, you were safe.
  • It is claimed by some people that the name of the main character in the Donkey Kong video games was the result of a mistranslation and that his name was supposed to be "Monkey Kong". Word of God says this is not true and that the reason the character has this name is because "donkey" was simply a term meaning stubbornness to describe him.
  • Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were said to have created custom made Doom levels that resembled Columbine and peopling them with representations of their classmates. While it is true they made some custom levels, there is no reason to think they were designed like this.
  • The Campfire Legends games are loosely based on several fairly popular legends. The series consists of Campfire Legends: The Hookman, Campfire Legends: The Babysitter and Campfire Legends: The Last Act.
  • Shin Megami Tensei has traditionally included demons from various ancient mythologies, but Shin Megami Tensei IV introduces the Chemtrail demon, based on a conspiracy theory about the trails left by jet airplanes containing chemical or biological weapons.
  • Touhou plays around with both the God Needs Prayer Badly and Clap Your Hands If You Believe tropes quite a bit and, as a result, urban legends have lately begun popping up all over Gensoukyou. This culminated with the Urban Legend in Limbo incident, during which various characters intentionally spread rumors and urban legends in order to make use of their powers. Notable urban legends that appeared in Gensoukyou during these turbulent times were Nessie, The Seven Mysteries of the School, The Men in Black, Okiku, Kuchisake-Onna, Hasshaku-sama and Mary-san as well as the wish-granting Monkey Paw, Spontaneous Human Combustion and seven magical balls capable of granting whoever gathers all of them a single wish. This all eventually leads to a major Oh, Crap! moment in Forbidden Scrollery when the oldest and most common urban legend of all time starts circulating: The End Is Nigh.
  • Wick features an in-universe urban legend about dead children who haunt a forest.

  • Kevin & Kell's equivalent to the 'missing kidney' urban legend is a rhino waking up in a bathtub to find that his horn (believed to be an aphrodisiac) is missing.
  • xkcd, on the other hand, inverts the urban legend here.

    Web Original 
  • Charlie the Unicorn makes use of the "missing kidney" legend in the first video.
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In issue 13 of Teen Girl Squad, So and So scolds What's Her Face for drinking a "diet brown" soda while babysitting, hysterically shouting "Don't you remember health class?! You'll microwave the baby!" while holding up a book titled "(strike)urban legends(/strike) i mean health class". An unamused What's Her Face retorts, "This is Diet Brown, not PCP." Health classes using stories of questionable veracity like this in an attempt to Scare 'em Straight regarding drug abuse is, sadly, fairly common in Real Life.
    • In the Strong Bad Email "winter pool", Coach Z relates how he had two students named "Redan-Jello" and "Grape Flavored Jell-O With Fruit Floatin' In It"note  and also that if you flash your high-beams at a car with its headlights off, it's a ploy by gangsters to shoot you.
  • CollegeHumor made a video with an "Urban Legend ER", including patients who got hit by pennies dropped from skyscrapers, had their kidneys stolen, ate pop rocks and diet coke, and urinated in the pool.
  • Most Creepypastas are this.
  • Many Darwin Award are the stuff of urban legend, both true (e.g. Lawn Chair Larry) and false (e.g. the Rocket Car).
  • Dark 5 claim that they report on true information, but they are known to deal in fanciful urban legends from time to time, reporting well-known stories as fact.
  • On Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast, Gilbert Gottfried likes to bring up celebrity urban legends, usually lurid details about weird celebrity sex fetishes.
  • In Crossing Kevin's Crossing, Officer Eric tells the narrator a local legend about 'about tunnels beneath the ground and weird people that live there'. These legends supposedly go all the way back to the natives that lived in the area.

    Western Animation 
  • Captain Pugwash: For years rumors have been told that the characters in this British children's cartoon show have sexually suggestive double entendre names, such as Master Bates and Seaman Staines. This is completely made up.
  • Freaky Stories is entirely built around this. "It happened to a friend of a friend of mine" was their Catch-Phrase, sometimes adding an extra "of a friend."
  • Gerald in Hey Arnold! was hailed as the "Keeper of Urban Lore" which were basically urban legends. Justified in the fact that many, if not all, of them turned out to be either true or having an explanation.
  • The Megas XLR episode "TV Dinner" has Coop and Jamie discussing the Pop Rocks/soda legend. Coop dismisses it, but it turns out to be true at the end of the episode.
  • In the first episode of The Venture Bros., Doctor Venture wakes up in Tijuana with a missing kidney. He then realizes he's already missing a kidney from a similar incident. "Not again!" He then turns HELPeR into a dialysis machine for the rest of the episode.
    • Later in the same episode, he is nearly killed by a chupacabra. Brock explains: "Chupacabras. Mexico's full of 'em." This is also a Brick Joke, as earlier in the episode he taught a class exclaiming through scientific theory that a chupacabra couldn't possibly exist.
    Rusty Venture: Now if you take the same math and apply it to the Catholic church, something interesting happens...
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, "Special Edna", Bart nominates Ms. Krabappel for the Teacher of the Year Award, and tells in the video submitted to the judges that she deserves the award for surviving teaching him. The judges believed the mere existence of Bart was an urban legend, so they accept the nomination.
    • Bart creates his own legend about a man at the school who one day snapped and made a soup from the children's heads. The story included an Art Shift and was very effectively creepy. At the end, it turns out "Dark Stanly" was real...
    • The "Pop Rocks and Soda" myth was Enforced in an episode where an angry mob was chasing Homer out of a candy convention. He takes a can of Buzz Cola, pours in a package of "Pop Rox", shakes them together and tosses them at the mob, yelling "See You in Hell, candy boys!" He then turns and does a slow-motion dive as the whole building explodes behind him.
  • The original Scooby-Doo cartoon is full of these.
    • Shaggy and Scooby were meant to be a sly shoutout to stoners. In reality, the original writers of Scooby Doo weren't of that generation, and had little knowledge of the stoner culture.
    • The gang is supposed to represent five certain universities. One of the universities wasn't even established for two years after the show went into production. In reality, they are loosely based on the characters from the show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (Shaggy isn't a stoner hippie, he's a beatnik, based on Bob Denver's character from that show).
    • Non meta, many of the monsters of the week on the show were based on various urban legends.
  • The South Park episode "The Death Camp of Tolerance" has a subplot in reference to the mythical gay sexual fetish for anal insertion of gerbils, a legend associated with Richard Gere for no good reason.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television? Ronald Clark O'Bryan killed his son with poisoned Pixy Stix on Halloween 1974— and slipped some of the poisoned candy into the bags of the boy's fellow trick-or-treaters to give the impression it was a Random Halloween Poisoner.
  • Snopes.com reports a number of urban legends as true (though they're still in a noticeable minority), including some rather unbelievable ones such as this seemingly farcical account, on which they comment: "The above-quoted tale about FBI agents trying to order pizza delivery to a psychiatric hospital is one of those pieces that serves to remind us that no matter how bizarre, far-fetched, or incredible a story may seem at first glance, it should never be entirely discounted without at least some effort being made to verify it."
  • A long-running German Internet meme holds that the city of Bielefeld is a hoax.
    • There's also the version that the hoax is a hoax. Sadly that one isn't quite as funny or well-known.
  • Cracked has an ongoing series about urban legends that are true.
  • The cause of The Hindenburg fire is still unknown today. As such, it is positively drenched in Urban Legends, in varying degrees of ridiculousness. One of the most common is that Hindenburg was painted in "Rocket Fuel" or "Thermite", which is completely false, but a surprisingly pervasive myth. It may have such wide acceptance because the fabric of the airship was in fact combustible, albeit very weakly. Furthermore, some go as far as to say that Hindenburg's hydrogen had nothing to do with the fire at all, which is absolutely untrue. They usually cite the fact that pure hydrogen burns a pale red color, but they neglect to mention that the 250 tons of airship and diesel fuel is what colored the flames bright orange. A less popular, but still widely believed myth is that Hindenburg was deliberately sabotaged, and that bits of a gun or a bomb were found in the wreck. The Nazis themselves liked to propagate this myth because they didn't want to admit their safety failure.
  • You know characters like Bloody Mary and Slenderman? You do?! Avoid thinking on them immediately! If you DO think of fictional beings, they WILL become real eventually! Of course, this means that non-believers are safe to an extent, as they don't have enough "Mind Power" to keep these beings around them. But believers? They are likely to see, hear and feel them.
  • The popular myth that Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen, which was said to have been started by Disney animator Ward Kimball as a joke. Of course, that myth became less popular as the other myth of him being racist and anti-Semitic rose in notoriety. That myth was debunked by people who worked with Walt, but that doesn't stop shows like Family Guy from enforcing it.
  • Kevin Smith was too large to fit into one seat on one infamous South West flight. It was in actuality most likely a poor assumption on the flight crew's part; he had originally booked two seats (he stated he merely like having the extra room and he has the money to do such a thing), and when his flight got changed, they only had one seat available. A member of the crew most likely saw he had two seats on his original flight, looked at his size and assumed he needed two seats and had him ejected. He tweeted a photo of himself fitting comfortably in one seat when he finally did fly out (he live tweeted the entire experience), but it didn't stop the story spreading that he was simply Too Fat To Fly.

  • Long-rumored since the 90s that military boot camps are handing "stress cards" out to recruits to use when they are feeling stressed out, and when raised above their heads, the Drill Sergeant Nasty has to stop being mean to them. This stems from cards being given to recruits with various numbers of chaplains and the like to contact FOR things like stress management and counseling (there's a "stress level" thumb print on the back as well). Despite having being subject to these rumors themselves when they were fresh out of boot camp/basic, members of the military still spread the rumor to the newer generation of "soft" soldiers/sailors/etc.
  • A rumor stretching back to the 19th century is that boot camps put saltpeternote  (or some other chemical; in the Russian army, the legendary antisex treatment is bromide salts) in the food to control recruit's sexual desires (and also why the food tastes bad/is a funny color). One, it doesn't actually work, and two, the stress of boot camp is the actual reason sexual desire is so muted during that time.
  • A military member looking for a separation on a psyche discharge (Section 8) dribbled an invisible basketball/rode an imaginary motorcycle/what have you. When they received the discharge, at the gate of base/brow of the ship, they got off the bike/dunked the basketball and stated "I don't need that anymore" or something to that effect.

Alternative Title(s): Urban Legend