The urban legends that are spread at sleepovers and around campfires are some of the scariest stories that stick in our minds for the rest of our lives. A horror movie takes it a step further by bringing the story to life in front of your eyes. It’s no wonder that the producers of horror movies often dig into the world of urban legend for inspiration. Let’s take a look at 10 urban legends that inspired the writers of the big screen.
10. The Call is Coming From Inside the House
Two young parents go out for the evening. They hire a local teenager, usually a girl, to babysit while they’re gone. It’s late and the baby is asleep, so the teen sits down on the couch to watch TV. Then, the phone rings. The babysitter answers, and there is a creepy voice on the other end of the phone line. The caller says disturbing and threatening things. Sometimes, the babysitter speaks to the caller a few times before finally getting scared enough to call the police. However, the story always ends the same way: when the babysitter calls the police, the police trace the call and inform the horrified girl that the call is coming from inside the house. The babysitter either runs from the house immediately or tries to protect the baby. She never makes it out of the house alive.
This story has become so commonplace that it has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows. The story perfectly captures that fear we all feel late at home at night, so iconic movies such as When a Stranger Calls and Scream use the story for inspiration.
We’re all familiar with the legend of Bigfoot. Some may call him Sasquatch or Yeti, but the legends are always the same. Hikers, usually alone in the woods, spot a large, hairy creature that is too large to be a human or other forest-dwelling creature. The creature usually seems to be more intelligent than the average animal and makes every effort to stay hidden from humans. Some believe that the Bigfoots spotted in the forests of the world may be the ‘missing link’ in humanity’s chain of evolution.
Bigfoot is a huge player in modern urban legends, so it isn’t surprising that filmmakers have used him for inspiration. One notable Bigfoot-inspired film is Willow Creek. This 2013 film uses the ‘found footage’ style to tell the terrifying story of a Bigfoot believer who enters the woods in search of the cryptid and gets more than he bargains for.
8. Alligators in the Sewers
ther popular urban legend about the monsters among us centers on baby alligators. The tiny reptiles are cute and require minimal maintenance, so they were a popular pet for several years. Ho
wever, many people failed to realize that the alligators would eventually grow too big to be kept in a small aquarium in a city apartment. This led many of the ill-informed pet owners to flush their alligators down the toilet. This is where the urban legend takes off. According to the tale, hundreds of these alligators survived their watery funerals and now live in the sewers, waiting for any humans foolish enough to enter their domains.
In 1980, the movie Alligator took this creepy urban legend one step further. In this film, the alligator that ends up living in the sewers feeds on the carcasses of small animals that had been used for scientific experiments, causing the alligator to grow to a humungous size. Before long, the unnaturally large reptile begins terrorizing the city, just as the urban legend warns.
7. Camp Counselor Bonfire
Summer camps are a popular location for both urban legends and horror movies. It’s a place where teenagers gather together in the dark, away from their parents’ supervision, and often make bad decisions. One urban legend set in a summer camp tells the story of a tragic accident around the campfire. The counselors are telling the campers scary stories when suddenly, one of the counselors falls into the fire. He is horribly burned. In some versions of the story, the counselor dies from his injuries. In others, he is driven mad by the sight of his disfigurements. Either way, the spirit of the counselor always returns to the camp to terrorize any who dare to stay at the camp.
There are a few different horror movie franchises that use this terrifying urban legend as inspiration. One obvious example is Friday the Thirteenth. In these iconic films, it is a camper who is killed by bullying fellow campers and returns as the masked, machete-wielding Jason to murder teenagers at the camp.
In the 1960s, people in West Virginia began reporting bizarre sights. Most described it as a moth- or bird-like creature roughly the size of a human. Dozens of reports flooded in, but no one could come up with a good explanation. Then, a tragedy struck: the nearby Silver Bridge collapsed, killing 46 people. Locals began to believe that the ‘Mothman’ was a harbinger of tragedies meant to warn witnesses that something terrible was about to happen.
In 2002, The Mothman Prophecies hit the big screen. In this film, a reporter becomes obsessed with the Mothman legend when his wife is killed shortly after spotting the elusive creature. He begins researching the legend and ends up in a small West Virginia town that has been experiencing some very scary events, including numerous Mothman sightings. The film ends with a tragedy similar to the one from the real-life urban legend.
5. Where’s My Kidney?
Most urban legends come with a warning. In the case of one particular urban legend, the lesson we are meant to learn is that strangers can be very, very dangerous. The legend often begins with a man in a bar. He meets an attractive young woman, and the two share a few drinks. The man soon blacks out. When he wakes up, he finds himself in a strange bathroom in a tub full of ice. When he attempts to stand, he feels a sharp pain in his side. Looking down, he finds a large, jagged wound. He quickly realizes that the young woman has made off with one of his organs.
This urban legend has been referenced countless times in popular culture. One example is the film , or Tourists. This movie tells the story of a group of young American tourists backpacking in Brazil. The tourists eventually find themselves the prisoners of an underground organ-harvesting ring and have to fight for their survival.
Some of the scariest urban legends are particular to certain locales. While the legend of Cropsey is local to Staten Island in New York, many other towns have their own version of the tale. According to the story, Cropsey was committed to an asylum at a young age. He eventually escapes and takes up residence in an abandoned building. Every night, he sneaks out into the dark and snatches children who he finds walking alone at night.
Cropsey has appeared in a few films, such as a 2009 documentary about the urban legend. He also makes an appearance in the 1981 film The Burning. In this film, a summer camp counselor is horribly burned when campers play a prank on him. He is hospitalized and ends up severely disfigured. He eventually escapes the hospital and hunts down those responsible.
3. Bloody Mary
A group of young children are looking for a scare. They enter a dark bathroom, bringing only a dim candle or flashlight to light their way. One brave soul stands in front of the mirror. She chants, “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary.” In the mirror in front of her appears the screaming, bloody face of a young woman who reaches through the mirror and claws the child’s face.
Bloody Mary is in urban legend often spread by children looking to scare one another. It is one of the most popular urban legends and has been adapted into films such as the 2008 horror movie, The Legend of Bloody Mary. The process of summoning a terrifying entity by repeating their name has been used in many other horror movies, such as Beetlejuice and Candyman.
2. The Slit-Mouthed Woman
Kuchisake-onna, or the ‘Slit-Mouthed Woman,’ is a terrifying figure in Japanese folklore. She stalks the streets with a mask covering her face, clutching a pair of scissors. She approaches a victim and ask if they think she is attractive. If they say no, she kills them with the scissors. If they say yes, she removes her mask, revealing a terrifying face with a mouth slit from ear to ear, and asks again. If they say no, they die. If they still say yes, she uses her scissors to carve into their face, giving them a disfigurement that mirrors her own.
This terrifying urban legend was brought to life in a 2007 Japanese horror film called Carved. The movie follows a mother who attempts to solve a series of missing children cases. Little does she know, the perpetrator of these crimes may be none other than the Slit-Mouthed Woman.
There once was a beautiful servant girl named Okiku. She was the servant of a samurai who wanted Okiku for his lover. When she repeatedly refused, he made her believe she had lost one of his ten priceless plates. A panicked Okiku counted the plates over and over, never finding the tenth. She begged the samurai for forgiveness, but he would only forgive her if she agreed to be his lover. Still she refused. In a rage, he threw her into a well. There, she became a vengeful spirit who could he heard counting to nine before letting out a horrifying shriek. Her voice drove the samurai to madness.
This horrifying legend was the basis for the cult classic horror film, The Ring. The movie centers on a cursed video tape that kills anyone who sees it. The creator of the tape is a young girl named Samara who used her psychic powers to torment her family before they eventually cast her into a well to die. Her vengeful spirit is the power behind the cursed tape.
This is a contributed post by Slapped Ham. Slapped Ham is a website that’s been covering all things strange, mysterious and creepy for over 5 years. They have a Youtube channel with over one million subscribers and have been noted for their eerie, binge-worthy content.