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I have a vivid memory of being at a sleepover and hearing the Bloody Mary legend for the first time. Back then, it scared me senseless. Ironically, 23 years later, it appeared in my first published book – just goes to show how much of an influence it continued to have on me.
Urban legends fascinate us all, not least because there’s something about them that rings true. With every story, there’s the sense that this could have happened, even if it’s entirely fabricated. And that’s probably what keeps people reading them.
There are plenty of terrifying urban legends out there. Here are just a few of the scariest…
1. The Murdered Boyfriend
This one is a bit of a classic, but incredibly creepy nonetheless, as it preys on that basic human fear of being alone.
The story goes that a young woman and her boyfriend were driving home one night in the dark. Naturally, it was a quiet country road and typically, their car ran out of petrol. If they’d have been 21st century millennials, they could have pulled out their mobile phones, but sadly, we’re talking back in the days when the only phone was at home in your parent’s house.
The boyfriend realised there was only one thing to do – walk to find some assistance. Worried about his girlfriend’s safety, he told her to stay in the car and wait for him. He locked her in carefully, getting her to check the doors were secure before leaving.
The woman did as he asked, waiting nervously in the car, trying not to notice the silent trees either side of her or the pitch black of the road ahead. She waited. And she waited. The boyfriend didn’t return.
Just as she was about to get out and go after him, she noticed a figure at the driver’s window. Breathing a sigh of relief, she turned, welcoming smile already in place. However, what she saw soon wiped the grin clean off her face.
Instead of her boyfriend, a stranger stood at the window, staring in at her. The woman screamed, though was relieved to see the car doors were still locked. Slowly, the man moved closer, then started to raise his hand. She worried that it would be a hammer or something that could be used to smash through the glass. Unfortunately for her, it was far, far worse. The man held aloft her boyfriend’s decapitated head.
She screamed, covered her eyes and again checked the doors, which were thankfully still locked shut.
But her ordeal wasn’t over. The stranger raised his other hand… and jangled the car keys in her direction.
2. The Corpse at the Carnival
This one's not so well-known, but is creepy as hell nonetheless.
The carnival arrived in town, which was always a cause for celebration among the local kids. On the opening night, they herded to the field, ready to stuff themselves with candy floss and try out all the rides.
The Funhouse was particularly alluring, with its usual colourful models and noises. The children were especially amazed by the fake mummy, which lay in a coffin. They took turns prodding it, daring to touch its face and hands.
Suddenly, one of the kids began to cry, and ran out of the Funhouse, terrified. His friends asked what was the matter, and he replied, “that wasn’t a fake mummy, that was a real dead body.” The others laughed, thinking he was being over-imaginative and babyish.
The kid went home and told his mother, who was sufficiently concerned by his description of the mummy to call the police. The police duly investigated, and do you know what? Turns out the kid was right. The carnival had been exhibiting a dead body all along.
Believe it or not – this urban legend is actually based on truth. In 1976, a film crew were using a carnival as a backdrop, and moved one of the props – a supposedly fake ‘hanging man’. An arm fell off, which revealed that this man certainly wasn’t fake! The carnival owners had stolen his corpse and taken it on the road with them. Eek!
3. The Licker
I used to hate this urban legend, so apologies if it freaks you out too.
The story goes that a teenage girl was given a dog by her parents to keep her amused, not to mention provide company while they were out of town. She loved the dog so much that she let it sleep under her bed, where it would occasionally lick her fingers when she reached down.
One night, her parents were away, and the girl went to bed as usual, saying goodnight to her dog as he curled up on his cushion under the bed. She nodded off, then woke at some point in the night, startled by a dripping noise coming from somewhere in the house.
Like any rational person, the girl presumed she’d left a tap running and got up to turn it off. She returned, settled back against the mattress, and dropped her hand to pet her dog. Soon, she felt the familiar wet warmth of his tongue against her fingers. In fact, the dog seemed more eager than usual, licking at her every time her hand slipped off the bed.
Suddenly, she realised she could hear dripping again. Once more, she clambered out of bed, went to the bathroom, and pulled the sink tap tightly, even though no water seemed to be coming from it. The girl returned, climbed back into bed and let her dog lick her hand again.
Only a few minutes later, she was aware of the dripping again. The girl was now freaking out. She knew that the taps in the bathroom were fine, so what the hell was causing the noise? Standing up, she strained her ears to identify where the sound was coming from. Then she realised – the dripping was coming from inside her cupboard.
The girl pulled open the door, not expecting to see anything. Instead, she was horrified to see her dog, hanging by the neck, throat slashed, blood dripping to the floor. There was a note around its collar, with big printed words upon it, which read, “Humans can lick too.”
4. The Roommates
According to legend, there were once two roommates at college, who were studious, hard-working and generally got great marks in all their tests. They were also popular girls with lots of friends, and enjoyed their time studying.
One evening, they were both invited to come to a party. One of the roommates agreed to go. The other said she was going to stay in and do some last-minute revision for the exam she had the following day.
So, the girl went to the party and had a blast, finally staggering back to her room at around two in the morning. She didn’t want to wake her roommate, so tiptoed in without turning on the lights. She could just about make out her friend’s shape, lying on the mattress. There was a strange smell in the room, not to mention a disquieting stillness, but the girl was so drunk, she didn't think too much about it.
More than a little tired from all the partying, she passed out on her bed, and awoke the next day. She turned to look at her roommate, who was turned away from her, still motionless on her bed. There was something about her that was unsettling. The other girl sat up and rubbed her eyes, then started to scream. Her roommate’s sheets were drenched with blood, her throat violently slashed.
In a wild panic, the girl leaped out of bed, turning her eyes from the horror of the sight in front of her. It was only when she turned that she finally noticed the words above her bed, written in blood, which said, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?”
5. The Black-Eyed Kids
Children. They’re not so scary, are they? Except in the case of this urban legend, they really are. This particular story has been doing the rounds since the late 1990s, and seems to have been started by a journalist, Brian Bethel, who claimed his experience was true.
According to Bethel, he was doing some shopping late one night, then afterwards, returned to drive home, as you do. As he started the ignition, he suddenly noticed two children wearing hoodies, knocking on his window.
The kids informed him that they were desperate to watch a movie, but had forgotten their money, and would he drive them back home, so they could get it? Bethel nearly agreed, after all, it was a safe neighbourhood and these were kids out late on their own.
Then he caught a look at their eyes. Rather than having a pupil or an iris, these children’s eyes were completely black and featureless. And staring at him hungrily. Unsurprisingly, Bethel didn’t give them a lift home, but instead, wisely chose to get the f**k out of there instead. Wise decision, Mr Bethel.
Interestingly, this urban legend obviously caught a lot of people’s attention, as since then, literally hundreds of people have reported their own brushes with sinister black-eyed children, including the unfortunate few who let them into their house, and paid the price afterwards…