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Urban Legends
aka: Urban Legend

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"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!"
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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.

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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...)

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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 also Oral Tradition. If you were looking for the film by this name, look right here.


Tropes associated with urban legends:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: The number 13 is associated with misfortune according to an old superstition.
  • Alien Abduction: Some people claim to have been kidnapped or visited by extraterrestrial beings.
    • Aliens Steal Cattle: This trope is derived from tales of aliens allegedly abducting, killing, and mutilating cows or other domestic animals.
  • Ancient Astronauts: A pseudohistorical conspiracy theory which claims that alien visitors came down to Earth during prehistoric/ancient times and influenced the development of early human civilizations.
  • Area 51: A real-life US Air Force base located in Nevada. Due to its highly classified status, it's been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories which claim that it's being used by the US government to store captured alien spacecraft and reverse-engineer them into experimental military aircraft.
    • Roswell That Ends Well: A notorious UFO sighting that was reported near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Although the US military officially stated that the object was merely a weather balloon that fell out of the sky, popular conspiracy theories emerged which claimed that it was actually an alien spaceship that crash-landed and was then secretly transported to a military base (like Area 51).
      • Alien Autopsy: This trope is based on an infamous short film that was aired on the Fox network in 1995, which allegedly contained footage of an alien corpse from the Roswell incident being dissected by the military, but is widely considered to be just a hoax.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: When someone intentionally spins a fictitious story and passes it off as "the truth" to other people.
  • The Bermuda Triangle: A loosely-defined region of the Atlantic Ocean (somewhere between Bermuda, Florida, and Puerto Rico), where numerous ships and planes were alleged to have mysteriously disappeared. The explanations range from bad weather to supernatural phenomena.
  • Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts: A fairly common ghost story in which a motorist picks up a hitchhiker off the road and takes them along for the ride, only for the driver to later find that their mysterious passenger has suddenly vanished...
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: There are tales of criminals hiding in the back of someone else's car, waiting to ambush the driver.
  • Did Anastasia Survive?: After the massacre of the Romanov imperial dynasty during the Russian Revolution, rumors had soon emerged about Grand Duchess Anastasia (Tsar Nicholas II's youngest daughter) somehow escaping alive from the carnage. Though such claims about the princess' alleged survival have been proven false.
  • Elvis Lives: Some people believe that Elvis Presley didn't actually die in 1977, claiming that the King of Rock and Roll actually faked his death and is just hiding out somewhere!
  • Flying Saucer: Perhaps the most common (or at least the most cliched/stereotypical) variant of a UFO (unidentified flying object); a strange, mysterious object that is seen floating around in the sky, and believed by some people to be extraterrestrial spacecraft.
  • Haunted House: Ghost stories are perhaps the oldest and most popular legends that are still being shared today. Many old houses, abandoned buildings, and other such places around the world are alleged to be inhabited by ghosts, demons, spirits, and other supernatural entities, invariably scaring the crap out of people.
  • Living Shadow: Many people claim to have seen "shadow beings", which are apparently spiritual entities made of darkness. However there is an easy scientific explanation for this phenomenon; they're merely hallucinations, often resulting from sleep paralysis.
  • The Men in Black: A common feature of various political conspiracy theories (especially ones about UFOs and aliens); in which the government sends out well-dressed secret agents to intimidate people who witnessed strange/suspicious events into keeping silent about everything they've seen.
  • Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: Various legendary animals and mythical creatures, some of which are alleged to actually exist among pseudoscientific circles.
    • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: Various big, tall, hairy ape-like cryptids; such as the Bigfoot/Sasquatch of North America, or the Yeti (Abominable Snowman) of the Himalayas.
    • Chupacabra: A strange beast of wildly varying descriptions that is said to prey on livestock (especially goats) and suck their blood.
    • The Mothman: A strange Winged Humanoid creature that was allegedly sighted near the city of Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1967, and was even supposedly connected to the collapse of the local Silver Bridge which killed 46 people.
    • Stock Ness Monster: An aquatic creature that is said to live in Loch Ness, a lake in Scotland.
  • Pop Culture Urban Legends: Myths and rumors that are attached to works of fiction and other media.
  • Razor Apples: Apocryphal tales about razor blades and poison being maliciously placed in Halloween candy and given to unsuspecting trick-or-treaters, which inspired paranoid adults to warn children about watching out for tampered candy.

Examples in fiction:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Diamond Is Unbreakable features Reimi, whose backstory is based on the Licked Hand urban legend, with Kira Yoshikage as the killer.
  • 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".
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • At the very beginning of the first Saw I 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 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).
  • The central plot device of The Ring, Sadako/Samara's killer videotape, is an urban legend In-Universe.
  • Lemon Tree Passage starts with Oscar and Jordan telling the American tourists the (actual) urban legend about Lemon Tree passage Road: that a motorcyclist was killed there by a car driven by speeding teenagers, and now a ghost headlight chases any car that speeds along that stretch of road at night. They later decide to see if the legend is true.
  • Hell House LLC:
    • The locals have a lot of stories about what has happened in the Abaddon Hotel ranging from people checking in and never checking out to sinister occult practices. It is strongly implied the Hell House crew was completely unaware of this when they set up shop in the hotel, the first they hear of any of them is from a local actress hired for the haunted house and the head of Hell House, Alex, dismisses them as rumors.
    • The events of the first film guaranteed in the sequel that the Abaddon Hotel's reputation has grown from being an eerie abandoned building to a notorious local landmark.
  • The AB Cs Of D Eath: "E" follows an old urban legend of spiders being able to lay eggs inside people's bodies.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 when 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.
  • 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 
  • CSI: NY had several:
    • The dress from a corpse manages to kill a bride on her wedding day.
    • A college student killed his roommate so he could get an automatic 4.0 for the semester.
    • A corpse was found buried in the end zone of Giants stadium, in imitation of an Urban Legend about the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.
    • A man was killed by a chunk of "blue ice" falling from an airplane.
    • They created one of their own when a buzzard drops an eyeball into Stella's coffee cup at the beginning of "No Good Deed." The episode ends with an acquaintance of Mac's asking him if he's heard about it.
  • 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 Anti-Christ, 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.
  • Star Trek: Voyager has organ-stealing recurring villains the Vidiians, who steal the body parts of other humanoid races to help them to survive an incurable pandemic disease that afflicts them. In at least one episode, they were explicitly compared to "organ theft" urban legends.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Music 
  • Ludo's "Lake Pontchartrain" features a young man telling the story of his two friends getting swallowed up in a very predatory context.
  • 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.
  • "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 says that the man on the cross (Jesus) is the one who came to help her during the night of the murder-suicide.

    Podcasts 

    Roleplay 
  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, there's a conspiracy about the government experimenting on children in order to give them superpowers and groom them into Child Soldiers. An author implements this idea into his novel, which catches the attention of the main characters after they're put through a Mass Super-Empowering Event and given superpowers of their own.

    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.

    Toys 

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The plot of Yuuyami Doori Tantenkai involves a trio of kids investing local urban legends in Hirumi City.

    Visual Novels 
  • D-Man from Spirit Hunter: NG is an (admittedly self-proclaimed) legend amongst occult fans, his true identity a secret. Some of the spirits that he tells the protagonist about are also tied to real-life urban legends, like the Mach Princess being related to Turbo Granny.

    Web Animation 
  • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • 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 
  • In SCP Foundation, SCP-1448 ("LegendTripping") is an incorporeal entity that travels all over the world looking for remote places to inhabit. After SCP-1448 arrives in an area, it somehow starts spreading rumors among the local youth population that performing a specific magical ritual in its location will be effective, thus effectively creating a new urban legend.
  • 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.

    Web Videos 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 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."
  • Cracked has an ongoing series about urban legends that are true.
  • 9/11, being a huge event, naturally has some associated with it. One of the most enduring ones is that numerous Muslim-Americans were seen cheering as the towers fell. The numbers have varied a lot between tellings, anything between "a restaurant full of people" to "thousands of people in the streets". While it is, of course, impossible to prove there wasn't some restaurant somewhere in America with Muslims cheering about the news, the idea of thousands of them cheering in the streets is false for reasons that should be obvious (to name just one, are we supposed to believe out of all the people who supposedly witnessed something this outrageous, not a single person took any photos or filmed any of it?).
  • There's a widespread misbelief that there used to be an emoji of a hiker with trekking poles and a helmet. Not only does no such emoji exist, theres no evidence to suggest it ever did. Despite this, there are hundreds if not more people who clearly remember it.
  • Older Than Television: In New Jersey in the Gay Nineties, some people believed in the spook rabbit, a rabbit that attacked dogs and left their bellies bloodied and covered in small cuts and was Immune to Bullets. The legend is now believed to have come about from dogs being cut by thorns and other undergrowth.
  • The words "Under God" weren't in the original Pledge Of Allegiance but were added in 1954. This led to the urban legend they were added to catch secret Communist infiltrators who wouldn't be able to say the "under God" part. The problem with this should be obvious: just because someone doesn't believe in God doesn't make them unable to say his name, any more than Christians not believing in Zeus renders them unable to say his name. The real reason it was added was likely more to make a political statement (i.e we believe in God, unlike our Communist enemies.)
  • 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.
    • Its Italian equivalent is the statement that the region of Molise doesn't exist.
  • 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.
    • They won’t disappear if we don’t believe them though, because according to Touhou Project, doing so only transports them to Gensokyo.
  • 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.
  • There was one of these surrounding Beyoncé’s pregnancy with her oldest child, Blue, that lasted about five years. The legend was that she and Jay-Z had used a surrogate to have Blue and that she just wore a fake bump whenever she was out in public. It started after a picture taken at an odd angle of her sitting down made it look like her belly collapsed. She put these rumors to rest in the HBO special that accompanied her 2016 album, Lemonade, by having videos of her unmistakably very pregnant. There was no such urban legend with her twins who were born in 2017 as she had to have a C-section and has the scar to prove 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.
  • The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has been rife with rumors about balloons/floats/etc. that are set to be "featured" in forthcoming editions.
    • Case in point: in the earliest days of January 2015, the parade's Wiki made a page announcing that a new Garfield balloon would debut in the 2015 parade... just barely over a month after the last parade had happened, at a time when only the marching bands that would perform were known.note  Information about new franchises to be represented in the parade generally starts to bubble during the summer, and gradually increases over the year until Thanksgiving month, when all of the elements come together. It's unlikely that Garfield will return to the parade.note 
    • Another article, surprisingly from an established site, reported that, among other things, there would be balloons based on Angry Birds, Mario, Optimus Prime, and R2-D2, plus floats themed around Disneyland's 60th Anniversary and Minions, in the 2015 parade. Of all of these, only the Angry Birds balloon was confirmed, as the other balloons were debunked via a leaked promo picture.
  • One time, a Wikipedia user edited Halle Berry's page with a quote saying something like "this new album will show people I can do more than act". This caused many news sites to erroneously report that Berry was to record a pop album, which forced Berry herself (who has no plans to become a singer) to joss these rumors.
  • Steve Burns of Blue's Clues was kicked off the show for drug usage. Another rumor is that he died not soon after he left the show. It's gotten to the point where even he has mentioned the rumors. Neither are true. He left the show (willingly) because he was getting older and starting to bald.
  • Fred Rogers was a sniper in the military and has a large kill count. This is bunk as he wasn't even in the military.
  • Even kiddie rides get myths every once in a while. Usually this pertains to licensed rides that simply do not exist, but someone's friend's cousin's sister twice removed claims to have seen. Some of them are probably unlicensed grey-market rides made by less scrupulous companies in the Far East.
  • Many people "remember" having seen a portrait of Henry VIII eating a turkey leg or drumstick, to the point that there are numerous parodies of said portrait. The problem? No such portrait exists. Most likely people are misremembering this picture, which depicts him holding some brown leather gloves which could easily be mistaken for a turkey leg at first glace (his reputation as a Big Eater certainly doesn't help.)
  • A persistent rumor holds that Ronnie Van Zant, the lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd, was killed in the band's infamous plane crash because he hated seatbelts and was sitting in the middle of the plane's aisle. However, while Van Zant had been napping in the aisle earliernote , at least three witnesses (including one who was sitting next to Van Zant during the crash) place Van Zant in a seat at the time of impact, and at least one of these is certain he was wearing a seatbelt (though this is disputed by another survivor). What's more, a reckless act is certainly not needed to explain Van Zant's death, given that three other passengers, who were undisputedly buckled into their seats, were also killed; one survivor later stated that the seatbelts simply ended up being largely ineffective because most of the seats themselves broke loose in the impact. All four passengers killed in the crash were sitting in the same section of the plane, which took the worst of the damage.
  • 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 been 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 recruits' 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.
  • In the 2010s, the claim became popular that national food chains like McDonald's and Starbuck's maintained "secret menus" of unadvertised items. This idea resulted in some headaches, since the employees weren't trained ahead of time to make these nonexistent items. Thus, for example, if you went into a Starbuck's hoping for a "churro frappuccino," you'd have to either hope that some employee there had read the same rumors as you and learned on their own how to make one, or be prepared to explain it yourself.

Alternative Title(s): Urban Legend

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