Famous urban legends become urban legends because, like other tall tales, they elicit humor, awe or inspire fear. In most cases, you can recognize urban legends by their most popular feature. If a story sounds too good to be true, it often is, and in the case of urban legends, if they are told at the watercooler, on a website or via email, this is doubly true.
About Famous Urban Legends
Famous urban legends are famous because they return to the public interest time and time again. Often, in some of the more famous legends, it's difficult to trace the origins of the original story that became the seed for the legend that subsequently grew up around it. The great thing about urban legends is that every tale is worth telling, whether it makes the listener grimace, squeal or laugh.
In the 1940s, the Boston Traveler posted a fantastic story about the pregnancy of a young woman. The woman swore that there was no way she could be pregnant, but it turned out that she had somehow swallowed microscopic octopus eggs. The eggs gestated inside her body and began spreading tentacles throughout. The tale could not be proven, but it is still a prevalent story told throughout seaside towns, and it preys on fears of parasite infestation.
Disney on Ice
According to a story that started sometime in the early 1970s, Walt Disney's body was allegedly cryogenically frozen shortly after he passed away in 1966. As the story is told, the pioneering animator planned to be revived when technology allowed for it. The story claims that the body is stored deep below the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Disney's daughter Diane disputed the tale in 1972, but the legend persists because of Walt Disney's cult status.
Cat's in the Cradle
According to many urban legends, a cat in the same home as an infant can be a very dangerous thing. As the old wives' tales go, felines will jump into the cradle and steal the breath of the baby. Some new parents still fear this urban legend that still crops up no matter how often it is disputed by animal groups. The legend dates back to medieval times when cats were associated with witches, as devil's familiars. People believed that a cat discovered in the cradle was there to steal the baby's soul (breath) and replace it with a demon. The legend may also persist as an attempt to explain the scary phenomenon known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Queen Cleopatra and the Snakes
Legend says that in the hour of her defeat, Cleopatra secreted herself away with the corpse of her fallen love, Marc Antony, and allowed the bite of a snake to rob Augustus of his chance to march the conquered Egyptian Queen through the streets of Rome as his slave. The legend received an enormous boost in the Elizabeth Taylor film of the same name, but archaeologists and Egyptologists dispute the tale. Cleopatra reportedly died alongside both of her hand maidens. One snake would not have had enough venom for all three, and no snake was ever found with the bodies. However, the romantic tale lingers, and a lack of explanation for the deaths provides added fuel for the legend.
Best Urban Legends
The best urban legends become famous because they are romantic, terrifying or provocative in some way. In many cases, people actually want the urban legend to be true. Tales that bring alive another time, like that of Cleopatra's life and death, are especially exotic. Speculation and investigation are the only tools that may reveal the truth, but even then, there is no guarantee.