7 Well-Known Urban Folktales and Their Origins
These stories usually feature a person in some danger or have their life threatened by an evil force, and often end with the protagonist surviving. Sometimes they’re even victorious over the antagonist. Urban legends can be about anything, but all of them seem to involve strange creatures and paranormal activity. Here are seven global urban legends that you may not know about.
The Abominable Snowman
One legend that may fit the bill for your Halloween reading list is “the Abominable Snowman,” also known as Yeti and Bigfoot. The legend of this creature is widespread in the Himalayas. Yet, it remains a mystery to all but those who have seen it with their own eyes. These people say they have sighted an extremely tall hairy beast roaming through the mountains.
No one has been able to figure out whether or not the Abominable Snowman exists (though some high-profile expeditions were attempting just that), which only makes things more intriguing! Like many other tales, sightings are so rare that you can’t help but wonder if he’s real at all or if he’s just a figment of peoples’ overactive imaginations.
In contrast, others say there have been sightings throughout history dating back centuries ago, disproving the argument altogether because if they’re genuine, why don’t they see them anymore? It would appear that every year there are more mysterious sightings and more questions.
In all of these tales, the uncertainty is what makes them so scary. The idea that there’s this thing out there somewhere in the world with whom people don’t know anything about its motives or intentions.
It’s enough to make anybody think twice before they go for a walk alone at night! But, despite how you can only speculate on its existence, this shouldn’t stop you from being captivated by creepy urban legends like The Abominable Snowman.
The legendary Chupacabra is a mythical creature described as both an evil, man-eating animal and a type of sizable hairless dog. This legend can be traced back to the 1950s in Puerto Rico when farmers began reporting livestock deaths.
The word “chupacabras” literally means “goat sucker” or “to suck milk from goats” because this was the most logical explanation for these killings. This is a predator that takes only tiny amounts of blood but also leaves puncture wounds on its prey’s bodies.
According to eyewitness accounts, it looks like some bizarre cross between an alien-human being with reptilian features, or maybe just one big lizard mutation! No matter what it is, it’s famous for its ability to rise on two legs and walk like a man.
It can also make itself invisible or turn into an animal before your eyes. Legendary Chupacabra sightings are still happening today, with more than a hundred cases reported in the last few years. While you may not know what is responsible for these livestock deaths, it’s clear that Chupacabras have been terrorizing people all over the world for decades.
The Slender Man
The Slender Man is a tall, thin figure who has no facial features and wears all black. People claim they see him in the dark stalking children with his long arms and sharp fingers. The first known mention of him was on SomethingAwful forums as part of an internet challenge to create fictional paranormal images.
His image began circulating around 2009-2010 when someone made a photoshop template that became popular among users of Photoshop contests on the site Creepypasta Wiki (formerly called “SomethingAwful”), which collects stories written by its members about various topics, including creepypastas or urban legends.
Many people had submitted their versions until one user wrote: “Create Paranormal Images” at the top of the page. The user has since deleted his account and it is unclear what country the Slender Man originates from. He has no clear origins, but he might have come from a German legend called Der Großmann or Der Riese, meaning “The Tall-Man” or “The Giant.”
In this story, children would play near an apple tree guarded by a gigantic man with long arms and fingers who would kidnap and eat them up afterward while they were still alive. In some stories, he appears as a helpful giant in disguise who can make it rain when people pray to him during drought.
In another story, on Halloween night, instead of going home early like usual, two children who are disappointed with the lack of candy they have received decide to venture into a forest near their home.
They encountered Der Großmann, and he asks them why they didn’t go out trick-or-treating on Halloween night like all other children. The boy replies that he is too tired from going door to door for hours, while the girl says she doesn’t want to because it’s scary.
In anger or sadness, Der Großmann picks up both kids in his long arms and then jumps over a cliff where there is no water at all. There are many theories on who this urban legend might be based on, but none has gotten confirmed yet.
The Vanishing Hitchhiker
The Vanishing Hitchhiker is a tale about a girl named Mary who goes out to meet her boyfriend one night. On the way back, an 18-wheeler hits her, and she dies on the spot. The following day, people find her body in the middle of the road – but when they investigate more closely with their headlights, they realize that there are no tire tracks or skid marks left behind from where the truck would have stopped to avoid hitting little Mary.
So, what happened? Well, this urban legend has two different variations. It either says that someone saw Mary get into another car after being hit (thus implying rape) or said person witnesses how some kids steal a poor old man’s car right off his driveway just for joyriding.
The tale of “the vanishing hitchhiker” is usually told to warn people about the dangers of walking alone at night and not knowing who or what might be waiting for you around the next corner, and it has been circulating since before WWII began.
Some people believe that the vanishing hitchhiker is a spirit of vengeance for all those killed on lonely roads, and others think it’s just an urban legend. Regardless, plenty of this story exists in different variations – from ghost stories to cautionary tales about drinking and driving.
The Vanishing Hitchhiker was initially told to warn travelers before WWII began about the dangers of walking alone at night, not knowing who or what might be waiting, and what might happen.
It has since become one of the many versions, with each tale containing its variation. In addition, as time goes by, some cultures have come up with their interpretation and retellings, such as warning against drunk driving or other dangers specific to them. Nevertheless, the tale continuously gets shared to warn people about the risks of traveling alone at night.
Beijing’s Ghost Bus
A famous Chinese urban legend is the ghost bus of Beijing. Supposedly, ghosts will take unsuspecting people who board a route 16 bus back in time to see their parents when they were young and happy together before splitting them up.
To avoid falling prey to this haunting phenomenon, you are supposed to get off at any stop after number 30 or stay on until reaching your destination. If you’re not sure what your destination is for any given day, ask someone for help!
A slight variation on the story suggests that boarding an earlier-than-usual 16 means taking into one’s future self rather than seeing past selves – which might be more frightening depending on how things turn out there.
This particular urban legend has been around for a while and may have spawned from the real-life #16 Beijing Ghost Bus, decommissioned in 2006. The story falls under the genre of time travel/lost-love stories that are popular throughout China.
One such legend is that if you meet your future spouse on an early bus ride or subway train (during rush hour), they will die soon after but not before giving birth to one last child who carries their genes. Unfortunately, it can never live up to its potential due to being cursed with misfortune because of how it came into existence, creepy!
Beijing’s “Ghost Bus” incident also coincides with traditional beliefs about ghosts taking people away at night or on dark or stormy nights, as well as urban legends about people getting kidnapped by ghosts on buses. Beijing’s “Ghost Bus” legend comes from the incomparable social and cultural climate that existed in China during the 1970s.
The story fits nicely into Chinese traditions about ghosts taking people away at night or on dark, stormy nights. It became a popular urban myth among many locals who found themselves lonely after living through this era.
It is also interesting to note how specific bus stops correlate with certain times; 16 (the number) can get divided by two, which means you are either going forward/into your future self or backward/into past selves. Depending on if you board an earlier-than-usual 16, meaning being taken into one’s future self rather than seeing past selves – which might be more frightening once you look ahead and see how things turn out there.
The Loch Ness Monster
A popular legend that has taken on many forms is the Loch Ness Monster, or LN. The first report was in 1933, and since then, dozens of people have seen it at different times. It’s become a cultural phenomenon with books, songs, and documentaries about its alleged existence.
Some say it’s an ancient sea creature from millions of years ago when Scotland had a great sea loch rather than just land-locked lakes like today. Others think it could be long dead dinosaur bones protruding through the depths of the water, which are mistaken for something alive, while some believe there may even be more than one monster lurking below.
Regardless of its identity, experts disagree on what to make of this legendary creature, but they all seem pretty intent on proving to the world that it’s not just a myth. But, there’s a scientific explanation for the sightings.
It all started with an amateur naturalist named Dr. Robert Kenneth Wilson, who claimed to have seen the Loch Ness Monster in 1934 while driving across Scotland’s West Highland Way, which runs along the southern shoreline of Loch Ness.
After he published his sighting in The Scotsman newspaper on June 22nd, 1933, and it became headline news around Britain, other witnesses came forward claiming they had also spotted something long-necked moving through the water near Urquhart Castle at night.
They were relieved that their eyes weren’t going crazy or imagining things after seeing such a common animal like an otter swimming upriver from its nighttime hunting grounds below Oban Bay – as some people theorized. Many of these witnesses recalled the animal had a long neck, which was in stark contrast to most other animals they saw.
It’s not just Scotland that has urban legends about water-dwelling creatures, either. For example, the New Jersey Devil is also known as America’s Loch Ness Monster because it’s supposedly more than an apparition or a legend.
Many sightings are said to have happened near lakes like Lake Ontario in upstate New York and Toms River in southern New Jersey. Similar folklore exists around Florida’s Alligator Alley, where locals claim something is living out there along the swampy waters of this often-flooded area, south of Miami.
Krampus is a mythical figure that originates from Germanic folklore. The ancient Germans feared the creature and they would warn their children to behave not just for fear of Santa Claus but also Krampus.
The legend goes that if you’ve been naughty in any given year and have not included some gift (usually coal) under your Christmas tree on December 24th before going to bed, then there will be an ominous knock at the door soon after midnight on December 25th with someone asking “Are You Ready?” And it’s best not to answer because once they enter your home, they’ll drag you off into eternal darkness!
The world is full of creepy urban legends. From stories about haunted houses that come to life at night to the infamous Slenderman who stalks and kidnaps children to keep them company, many things can scare people from one side of the globe or another.
There’s no need to be afraid, though. These aren’t real. They’re just a reflection of society’s fears and anxieties as well as its encouragement for creativity. If you haven’t heard any of these before, then you should take some time out this Halloween season to learn all about them!