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Pop Culture Urban Legends

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It's not uncommon for false rumors to be spread about media.

The dawn of the internet has not done much to quell urban legends. If anything, they've become easier to spread. It's not uncommon to see "he said, she said" rumors of Missing Episodes that only aired once. God Never Said That often over time leads to this, as a rumored quote will be circulated so much that it becomes an urban legend.

Some say this is due to the "Mandela Effect", a pseudo-scientific theory that false memories are due to parallel dimensions colliding.

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Compare to Urban Legend of Zelda (which is about gameplay-related video game legends), God Never Said That (which is about things creators allegedly said about the work) and Urban Legends (which is about the entire genre of sensational but mostly untrue hearsay lore). For popular misconceptions about the contents of famous works, see "Common Knowledge". For celebrities who get urban legends attached to them because they already have bizarre reputations, see The Tyson Zone.

When the creators deliberately play with the audence's expectations and make references to the installments that never existed, this is Un-Installment or Retroactive Legacy.


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    Advertising 
  • 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 as of 2019. 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.
  • Similarly, rumors circulated that the star of this infamously annoying UK advert for the cereal Frosties had died. The first version claimed that he was severely bullied after the commercial aired, and said bullying either killed him directly or caused him to commit suicide. The second version is that he was already dead before the commercial was filmed, and his "appearance" in the commercial was actually a CGI construct, with his singing being pieces of existing voice clips from him assembled together to make the song, supposedly explaining the oddly flat and monotonous singing. Another version of the latter rumour was that he was a terminally ill kid whose lifelong dream was, rather improbably, to appear in a Frosties advertisement, so this was the fulfillment of his dying wish. In reality, he's still alive.
  • Urban legend is that Humphrey Bogart was the original Gerber baby. The actual model was Ann Turner. Humphrey appeared as the model for a separate baby food called "Mellin's".
  • When the famous "¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!" campaign ended in 2000, rumors circulated that it was because the chihuahua used in the commercials somehow died. In reality, the dog lived for nine years after the campaign ended. The truth is far more straightforward: the campaign simply wasn't profitable anymore.
  • When the fast food chain "Kentucky Fried Chicken" rebranded to KFC, there were multiple reasons for this — wanting to downplay the word "fried" during a time of increasing health-consciousness, wanting to downplay the word "chicken" as their menu expanded to include other items, and a trend toward abbreviated names in general (International House of Pancakes changed its name to IHOP at about the same time). Rumors immediately spread that some more nefarious reasons were involved as well:

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf:
    • Rumors circulated that the show would be dubbed in Japanese with an impressive cast, a claim that Creative Power Entertaining - the company that produces Pleasant Goat - cited as being false.
    • It's also been rumored that the franchise is banned in France, which was also proven false. For the record, the show has never officially aired in France as of now.

    Architecture 
  • There's a legend among London architecture enthusiasts that George Gilbert Scott's St Pancras station was simply a carbon copy of his original design for the Foreign Office building in Whitehall, rejected for being too Gothic. Examination of the actual Foreign Office proposal shows that this is a complete urban legend (possibly originating as a joke).
  • A common story in Mormonism is that, as proof of Brigham Young's prophetic skills, he included mysterious empty shafts in the design of the Salt Lake Temple, that, decades later, proved to be the exact proportions needed for an elevator system. In fact, elevators existed in the 1850s, when construction of the temple began, and the earliest inclusion of shafts in the temple's blueprints specifically designated them for elevators.
  • In 1967, the second "London Bridge", constructed in 1831, was sold and rebuilt in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. It's widely believed that the man who bought the bridge, Robert P. McCulloch, had purchased it thinking he was getting the far more iconic Tower Bridge, and therefore got ripped off. This was merely a comical rumor and was repeatedly stated to be untrue by McColluch and the bridge seller Ivan Luckin after it started to spread.
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    Comic Books 
  • One famous comic book urban legend is that artist Wally Wood deliberately drew Power Girl's breasts larger and larger in each successive issue until someone told him to stop. There is, however, no verifiable evidence of this, and actually examining the issues in question plainly shows that Power Girl's bust is more or less drawn the same size throughout.
  • 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. There were at least rumours, if not actual attempts, that Moral Guardians tried to get the comic banned because of the above-mentioned reason. This seems to have spun out from a story from The '70s where a municipal government or a board for/of youths decided to stop their order of the comic due to their poor financial situation. They had joked that the reason was because of Donald not wearing pants, but that's all it was: a joke. One that got picked up by some foreign (as in not-Finnish) newspapers as fact and it continues to spread from there.
  • Due to entries on this wiki, there's the rumor that Tekno and Amy from Sonic the Comic have been confirmed as a couple at a convention. No such confirmation exists. In 2018, however, Nigel Kitching wrote a Sonic the Comic – Online! issue that casually mentions Tekno and Amy as a couple in the distant future.
  • Due to the highly divisive nature of the events leading to Secret Empire, there were two 4chan posts that claim as to what the true ending to the story and how it would shape Generations and Marvel Legacy:
    • One post posits that while the comic ended mostly the same, but that Secret Empire was meant to mirror Secret Invasion with the World Security Council (a group introduced over in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and brought over in Captain America: Steve Rogers) would have taken over, proceeding to clamp down on super-heroics, mimicking the Dark Reign era. Many of the fallen elder heroes would have returned via Generations and would go on a trip to reconnect with the people while the younger heroes would lead the fight against the WSC. These titles would also be converted into a brand new Ultimate line — Miles Morales' Spider-Man title would go back to Ultimate Spider-Man, All-New X-Men/X-Men: Blue would become Ultimate X-Men, Champions into The Ultimates, etc.
    • Another post posits a quite different ending and follow up. This post would claim that Secret Empire was originally planned to end with Sam Wilson becoming Captain America once and for all, defeating an unrepentant Steve Rogers. With many of the previous heroes either dead or disgraced in some way, the legacy characters would have fallen into the spotlight. It's claimed that the immense backlash against HYDRA!Steve lead to a hastily re-written ending to how it is now, which holds credence in that the story has a plotline involving another Steve Rogers trapped in Kobik's mind that doesn't connect with the main story until the very end and the hastily thrown in hook to Generations.
  • There's a long-standing rumor that Gwen Stacy never died in the Mexican version of Spider-Man, and Peter married her instead of Mary Jane Watson. For context: in the early days of the comic, the publishing company La Prensa got permission to publish Spanish translations of Spider-Man comics in Mexico; the comics proved to be such a hit with Mexican audiences that they eventually started publishing two comics per month instead of one, and eventually overtook Marvel Comics' publishing schedule. Because of this, Marvel gave Mexican artist Jose Luis Duran permission to draw his own original Spider-Man stories, and even gave him full creative control. And in one of these original stories, Peter and Gwen got married, even though "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" had already been published by that point. Contrary to rumor, though, that story was revealed to be All Just a Dream, and its events were never intended to be canon.
  • It's long been claimed in certain places that, during the Golden and Silver Ages of American comics, major companies banned the use of the word "flick" or the name "Clint", due to fears of what would happen if, due to the poor quality of the paper and printing methods, the "L" and the "I" in either word got blurred together and looked like a "U". There's no evidence of this happening (for a start, Hawkeye, who debuted for Marvel in the Silver Age, has always had the legal name Clint Barton), but it inspired the name of Mark Millar's comics magazine CLiNT.
  • Supposedly, an issue of either The Mighty Thor or The Avengers ends with a random paramedic handing Thor his hammer; this is significant, since only a true hero can even pick up Thor's hammer. The issue in question does not, in fact, exist.

    Comic Strips 
  • There is a persistent rumor that the final strip of Calvin and Hobbes is this one, which has Calvin being on medication and no longer wanting to play with Hobbes, who turns back into a plush toy. The strip widely circulated online is a parody created by someone to make an anti-medication point, though the actual artist is unknown. The actual final strip adopts an And the Adventure Continues perspective.
  • Jim Davis' Gnorm Gnat supposedly ended with a human foot squashing Gnorm. This, however, isn't true and is just an urban legend that's widely circulated. The final strip was a simple 1975 Christmas strip of Gnorm saying "Thanks, Pendleton" to the fourth wall.

    Literature 
  • Legend has it that if you ask at SF conventions, you'll hear tales 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 John Norman, creator of the Gor series; Piers Anthony creator of Xanth (Anthony denied this, claiming Xanth came from a long-standing idea that he had of turning his home state Florida into a magical land; besides, the first three books were already written and contracted as a trilogy); Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian); L. Ron Hubbard, or Robert A. Heinlein. It is such a well-known enough story that at least one book featured it as a foreword. It was also claimed of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes, by no less a personage than Rudyard Kipling in his autobiography ("He was reported to have said that he wanted to find out how bad a book he could write and 'get away with,' which is a legitimate ambition."). Setting aside Kipling's pique about his Raised by Wolves idea being turned into a genre, this appears to be a garbling of a Self-Deprecating comment Burroughs made about the pulps, and his own place in them.
  • 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 given 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, etc. 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).
  • 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.
  • It's widely believed that the reason J. R. R. Tolkien utilizes giant spiders as villains in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion is that he was intensely arachnophobic after being bitten by a tarantula while playing outside as a toddler. While the incident with the tarantula did really take place, Tolkien later said that he had no memory of the event and did not dislike spiders at all, even going out of his way to avoid drowning ones that accidentally fell in his bathtub. The real reason he incorporated the villainous spiders is that his son was terrified of them.
  • There is a bit of copypasta floating around the Internet claiming, among other things, that in E. T. A. Hoffmann's The Nutcracker Marie lived in a loveless household, that she was depicted lying in a pool of her own blood after injuring herself, and that her parents punished her for it by locking her in her room until she admitted she'd been naughty. Only the second claim is true: Marie breaks the glass in the front of her doll cabinet and slices her arm open, and her mother finds her lying there surrounded by her dolls and passed out from loss of blood. Yet not only are her parents concerned for her health, but her worried parents confined her to her room solely because she needed to recover from such an injury, not to punish her.note 
  • Take your pick: either Truman Capote was the real author of To Kill a Mockingbird or Harper Lee was the real author of In Cold Blood.
  • Arthur: It's been alleged that the reason Marc Brown drew Arthur with a nose that looked more like a tapir's trunk than an actual aardvark nose is because an editor decided real aardvark noses were too phallic-looking to be appropriate for a children's book. There is absolutely no evidence to support this claim.
  • For a time, it was widely claimed that Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling based the Leaky Cauldron off an Exeter pub named the Old Fire House. Rowling herself debunked the rumor, saying she'd never visited or even heard of the Old Fire House at the time she was creating the Potterverse's famous places.
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar: There is a widely disseminated story that Eric Carle was not happy at being forced to include the scene of the caterpillar suffering a stomachache. It originated from a fake interview published as an April Fool's Day prank.

    Magazines 
  • Analog: invoked The May 1942 issue has a nonfiction article, Willy Ley's "The Birth of a Superstition", that talks about things that "everyone knows" about historical stories has been proven false several times. The main subject is the evolution of colour vision (based on The Odyssey not having enough descriptions of the colour blue), but also mentioned are the fictions of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree, Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor beginning with "fate knocks at the door", and Cinderella having glass slippers.note  However, the Cinderella reference is itself a misconception.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • For years fans believed that Goldust was behind the Attitude Era's caught on camera segments "GTV" to facilitate an upcoming return to the ring. In 2015, wwe.com released "5 WWE Myths Busted" debunking this theory and other long-believed behind-the-scenes WWE rumors. In the case of "GTV", Vince Russo revealed that the mastermind was actually meant to be MTV's Tom Green, whom Russo had a friendly working relationship with behind camera.
  • Rumors have long circulated about one or more people admitting that one of the people involved with the Montreal Screwjob admitting it was actually a Worked Shoot. The jury's still out on whether it was, but even if it was, nobody has come forward admitting it.
  • A long standing claim says that the WWF/E Hardcore Championship belt was constructed from the remains of the "Winged Eagle" WWF Championship belt which was destroyed by Mr. Perfect. In truth, the Hardcore Championship was a new belt purposely made to look damaged, while the destroyed WWF Championship was actually kept by a referee who later sold it to private collectors.
  • One legend claims that the Ultimate Warrior—who passed away in 2014—actually died in the early nineties and his death was covered up by having another wrestler (sometimes stated to be Kerry Von Erich) impersonate him for his appearance at Wrestlemania 8. Needless to say, it isn't true.

    Radio 
  • 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.
    • This myth even got a Ukrainian counterpart for there is an urban legend about Na dobranich, diti ("Good night, kids") TV Show on the 1st Ukrainian TV Channel back in the 1980s. The anchorperson who acted as Did Panas (Granpa Panas) was drunk and finished a fairy tale with “Otaka huinya, malyata!” (Ukrainian for “What a bunch of bullshit, little ones!”). There aren’t any tapes that prove this episode and different people remember different variations of this phrase.
    • This story was referenced in The Simpsons' episode "Krusty Gets Kanceled", when The Gabbo Show makes a similiar gaffe.

    Sports 
  • Urban myth has it that future Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was selected as a replacement by the East Africa rugby union team for their 1955 tour match against the British Lions. While Amin really did spend some time as a rugby player, he doesn't appear in the team's photograph or on the official team list; moreover, replacements were not allowed in international rugby until 1968.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • In 2009, a fabricated TMZ article circulated the Internet claiming that Louie Anderson had died of surgery complications. This turned out to be false reporting, as variations on that rumor existed for years, including one where he committed suicide after ending his stint as host on Family Feud, which fans of the series attributed to a "Family Feud curse". (A previous host, Ray Combs, did commit suicide two years after being fired, but apart from original host Richard Dawson, who died of esophegal cancer at age 79, all other former hosts of the Feud are still with us.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • In TSR's Indiana Jones Role-Playing Game from the 80s, the copyright symbol appears next to the word "Nazi" on some of the cardboard tokens used, sparking a rumor that TSR tried to copyright "Nazi". The copyright was actually referring to the artwork used.

    Toys 
  • Star Wars:
    • A long-standing rumour amongst many Star Wars collectors is that someone did indeed see a rocket-firing Boba Fett figure in the mail in 1979 or that it received a very limited carded release. These claims have both since been proven false however, as Kenner only produced internal prototype test samples of the figure before its firing function was scrapped. The actual Kenner prototypes of the figure started finding their way onto the collectors market in the 90’s although this has also led to many fakes and counterfeit carded “samples” appearing as well.
    • Going along with the Boba Fett rumour, a claim that a Battlestar Galactica toy causing a child’s death was the reason for the removal of the figure’s rocket firing feature has also been debunked. Various internal company notes from Kenner have surfaced showing that the rocket mechanism was simply too easy to set off, causing safety issues and that the feature was scrapped months prior to the Battlestar Galactica toy incident.
  • Transformers:
    • Transformers has a number of rumors, such as the one that there was that there was a "giant-sized" Optimus Prime figure released during the original G1 run (which was actually a Korean bootleg) and that a G1 figure was made for Unicron (which is sort of an odd combination of a misinterpretation of an Orson Welles quote and jealous children pretending to have a toy bigger than a rival's Metroplex—there was a prototype made, though, which was scrapped).
    • One of the most persistent rumors was that Bluestreak, whose toy is all-silver, had a variant with blue sides. It's a rumor that makes a lot of sense: his name implies him to be bluenote , his colors are inaccurate to the show, which implies the silver version to be a variant (even if the show version is mostly black), there were some strange color variants or mispackagings in G1, and most pivotally, his instructions, various toy catalog pictures, and even his box art depicts a toy with blue sides. In reality, what Bluestreak was (along with most of the early figures), was an imported version of a Japanese toy: said toy did indeed come in multiple color patterns, one of which was blue, and that version, somehow, did indeed end up being the one to inspire his box art and instructions. However, there's no evidence that the blue version ever made its way to the Transformers line—nobody's been able to track down a blue Bluestreak in original packaging, anyway—and it seems that every G1 Bluestreak sold in the 80s was the silver version. This one is widespread enough that the creators of the franchise have created a handful of Bluestreak toys that are indeed based on the blue version.
  • BIONICLE:
    • Cheap Photoshop-jobs of fake sets, often made to look like grainy pictures taken from a retailer's catalog, regularly caught on within the fandom, as have rumors of alternate builds of certain models being sold as separate sets. So when similarly fake-looking images of two supposedly Korean-exclusive Piraka combo model sets surfaced, there were many discussions on their legitimacy, especially since they were totally unknown in the Western world and their packaging also contained bad Photoshop work. These are now seen as real since Korea tends to release their own multi-packs. Legit leaks of the line's unexpected 2015 reboot were also initially dismissed for this reason.
    • The same thing surfaced with the 2015 reboot, with claims of new Toa (including a new version of fan-favorite Takanuva), the return of the Bohrok, and more showing up in the same grainy, out-of-focus manner as the originals. One that got dismissed as fake, ironically, was an ultimately cancelled Makuta set, which appears to have been planned for the series' third and final arc before being Cut Short.
    • Voriki, the "Seventh Toa", was a fan-made character created for a 2001 contest using recolored official artwork with a mask and a weapon obviously edited in Photoshop. Despite this, many fans believed him to be official, though the release of a canonical Seventh Toa in 2003 dispelled all rumors. Voriki has since become a celebrity of sorts among the fandom's original characters, and some have even made custom models of him with painted and 3D-printed parts.
  • There are rumors of a Mallow plush and a Geno plush from the 1996 Super Mario RPG Japanese plush set line. However, the Mallow plush has only been seen twice online and it's unclear if it's a bootleg or not. In contrast, no official Geno plush photos or videos have even been revealed, but it's a rumor that Geno does have an official plush.
    • The Mallow plush eventually was proven to be official when a set sheet was found, but Geno was nowhere to be seen, debunking the rumor.
  • Masters of the Universe was not the result of Mattel repackaging a Conan the Barbarian toyline to divert it from a kid-unfriendly film. In fact, the Conan rights holders did sue the company for not making Conan toys while later releasing a Suspiciously Similar Substitute, only for the lawsuit to prove that Mattel was already working on He-Man and friends when they signed the contract.
  • Starting in 2009, a claim began circulating in anti-vaxxer circles that Raggedy Ann was created by Johnny Gruelle in remembrance of his daughter Marcella, who died in 1915 from a smallpox vaccination. While there is a kernel of truth to this story, development on Raggedy Ann had already been finished by the time Marcella died (in fact, Gruelle had filed his patent for the dolls months before), she was never intended as any kind of warning about vaccines, and there's no proof that Marcella's fatal infection after her inoculation was anything but a tragic coincidence (at most, the vaccination led to the infection, something that was unfortunately a legitimate risk in those days).

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Web Videos 
  • 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.

    Other 
  • There is a common rumor that different cisgender female celebrities are "actually" intersex or transgender. Lady Gaga and Ciara are commonly mentioned, although this has been rumored about people as varied as Megan Fox, Jamie Lee Curtis and even former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.
    • A variant is claiming that a female celebrity has Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (a.k.a. Morris' Syndrome). Babies with this syndrome have the male configuration XY, but develop as anatomically female, remaining oblivious to their condition until they undergo genetic testing or seek treatment for infertility (the afflicted have all the lady parts except for internal testicles in place of ovaria, and don't ovulate). There is an additional belief that Morris' Syndrome women are unbelievably beautiful compared to "real" women because the latter are still exposed, and respond to "male" hormones to some degree, but this is a myth. Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron are among those who have been falsely attributed the syndrome.
  • One popular form of urban legend is to claim that a celebrity had some iconic part of their anatomy insured. Claims like these have been made about Tom Jones and his chest hair or Jennifer Lopez and her butt.
  • Cinar was once thought to have a Vanity Plate where vertical and horizontal laser-like lines are drawn to form a grid, shine as the star-glittering CINAR logo is revealed, and fade to black. While this was debunked as a rumor, recreations of the logo still exist.
  • There were also rumors of a variation of the Turner Entertainment Co logo with no planet and a variant of the second Saban logo with no coin. Even though someone recalled seeing the Turner variant at the end of an animated film, the variant was debunked after years of unnoticing, while the Saban variant was debunked very quickly.
  • A well-known legend claims that Shirley Temple never made it to adulthood, succumbing to scarlet fever around the age of 10 or 12. She actually lived to be 84 years old and had a pretty eventful adulthoodnote , even if her acting career was limited to a few TV roles.
  • One popular form of urban legend is to claim that some mild-mannered, physically unimposing celebrity not only served in the military, but held a position known for requiring toughness and extreme mental and physical fortitude. Variants of this legend have been applied to John Denvernote , Don Knottsnote  and even Fred Rogersnote . These may have been partially inspired by the fact that Bob Ross, the warm and soft-spoken host of The Joy of Painting, was a master sergeant in the Air Force.
  • Rumors have claimed that Geraldo Rivera changed his name from Jerry Rivers to appeal to Latino viewers. While Geraldo was known by slight variations of his name in his younger years, he never changed his name as a crass effort to appear more "ethnic".
  • One of the most famous celeb-related urban legends is that Walt Disney had himself cryonically frozen. In reality, he was cremated.
  • Richard Gere is widely said to have been hospitalized after stuffing a gerbil up his ass. There's no evidence that this ever happened.

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