5 Scary (but True) Urban Legends

Updated June 18, 2021
Ghost Walking At Cemetery Against Sky At Night

Scary urban legends often seem too incredible to be real. You may be surprised to learn that some well-known urban tales are actually true and scarier than you thought.

Couple Sleep With Dead Woman Under Bed

The gruesome tale of the newlyweds on their honeymoon at Disneyland doesn't end well. They spend the night, but can't get past the foul odor and discover a body underneath their nuptial bed.

Another story tells how the body was inside the mattress that the couple was sleeping on. Still another version of the urban legend is how a hand was poking out from underneath the bed. And yet, one version tells how the woman was stuffed in the ceiling with lots of fabric softener sheets tucked around her to combat the overwhelming stench.

Vintage interior with bed and wooden trunk

While there are even more versions of this tale, the real one took place in 2010, in Memphis, Tennessee. The couple was unable to sleep because of a foul smell in their room. They complained to the motel staff, burned incense, and then began to investigate, finding fabric softener sheets stuffed in the ceiling tile.

Ultimately, the gruesome scene was discovered with a decaying body in a box underneath the bed. That body turned out to be a former motel guests, Sony Millbrook. She had been reported missing, but there were no leads on her whereabouts.

The room had been rented out three times since Millbrook's disappearance, and the motel staff had cleaned the room. Yet amazingly, no one had discovered her body. Millbrook's boyfriend was charged and sentenced for her murder.

Man Flies in Lawnchair Balloon

The story of Larry's Lawnchair made international news. Over time, it faded into what many believed was just an urban legend. In 1982, Larry Walters was 33 years old and a Vietnam Veteran. He planned to take a flight from San Pedro to the Mojave Desert to fulfill a lifelong dream.

huge bunch of balloons

Larry bought a lawn chair from Sears and Roebuck. He then bought 42 weather balloons and filled them with helium, lashing them to his lawnchair. His balloon lawnchair rose so high that an airplane pilot radioed air traffic control and the L.A. Airport was shut down and planes diverted from the area.

However, Larry was prepared for his descent and used the BB gun he'd taken along on his flight to shoot some of the balloons. Unfortunately, the deflating balloons supporting his lawnchair became entangled in deadly power lines. Defying death, Larry escaped his crash landing unscathed. He even made the rounds on late night TV shows. A documentary was later made about Larry's harrowing flight, titled Larry's Lawnchair.

Rats in the Toilet

The urban legend of different types of animals breeding in the sewers has been proven true in several cities. Rumors of alligators in the sewers are common urban legends. Stories of tourists returning from Florida with adorable baby alligators realized the mistake they'd made and flushed the critters down the toilet. In this version of the urban legend, it was more rodents found in cities-rats.

The story tracks that a sleepy person goes to the bathroom in the middle of the night, not turning on a light and sitting down on the toilet only to have a rude awakening when the rat chomps down on the person's exposed bottom.

Mice in the toilet bowl

Another version of the tale is the person turning on the light and when they lift the toilet lid, the rat jumps out of the toilet bowl. And yet another version tells about people who don't close the toilet lids and the rats scurry out of the toilet into other areas of their home, often the bedroom.

This urban legend is true. In 1987, rats were found coming up through the sewer lines in some of the historic homes in a small NC town in the Charlotte area. In 1999, a female Virginia resident sat down on a toilet and received a bite, just like the urban legend tells. In Seattle, Washington, this type of rodent infestation was so commonplace that public officials offered residents tips on how to handle such an encounter.

The Leaping Lawyer

The urban legend of the leaping lawyer is told and retold, yet many people don't realize it's a true story. The Toronto lawyer, Garry Hoy, was very proud of how safe his office building was and how the glass windows couldn't be broken. In fact, he was so confident that the strong windows couldn't break that he delighted in scaring his clients and law students who visited his law firm. He would charge into a window in his office on the 24th floor. When he bounced back unharmed, he would laugh, and his guests always sighed with relief.

Office building, low angel view

One day, the lawyer decided to give his window demonstration to a group of visiting law students. He ran in a tackle pose toward the window, but this time, when he rammed into the glass, it gave under his weight. He fell through the shattered glass frame 24 floors to his death.

Men Lose Arms in Tug-of-War

A tug-of-war contest was held during Retrocession Day in Taipei in 1997. There were thousands of contestants. As the day wore on, the final tug-of-war contest was about to take place. This tug-of-war included all 1,600 contestants from all teams that had competed all day long. The teams were combined and divided into two teams with 800 people on each side.

tug of war

The largest man of each team stood at the very front on their side of the rope, facing each other. Yang Chiung-ming and Chen Ming-kuo lead their teams. The contest began, and both teams of 800 people started pulling as hard as they could on the thick nylon rope.

One important thing that was overlooked in the contest was the nylon rope being used wasn't rated for such powerful force. It could only support about half of the weight being exerted on it, and it snapped in two. The force of the recoil ripped off the left arm of each front man. The two men, along with their severed arms, were rushed to the Mackay Memorial Hospital. Fortunately, the surgeons were able to reattach both men's left arms.

Scary and True Urban Legends

Amazing and true urban legends tell about strange and scary things that happen to people. Although many of the details may change in the retelling, all of these stories are based on actual events.

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5 Scary (but True) Urban Legends