What are Some Popular Urban Legends?

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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2016
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Urban legends are a special kind of tale that are spread around on the belief that the events actually happened. While many such stories originated from true events, they often become distorted or exaggerated as they are passed along.

Some of these legends have been around for a long time, such as the one about alligators in the New York City sewer system. According to the story, discarded pet alligators made their way to the sewers, where they mutated into full-grown albino creatures. This legend has been around since 1959 with very few variations.

Many famous urban legends have to do with supernatural events, such as the case of the vanishing hitchhiker. As the story goes, a driver on a deserted highway picks up a beautiful woman, only to have her vanish from the passenger's seat minutes later. Later, he discovers she has been dead for over ten years. Another of the most famous horror stories is the tale of Bloody Mary, in which a vengeful spirit can be summoned by chanting "Bloody Mary" in front of a mirror 13 times.


After supernatural events, the most common topic for such legends has to do with murdering madmen. This is the case in the tale about the killer hiding in the backseat of a car, as well as in the story about the babysitter receiving threatening phone calls that turn out to be from an upstairs room. A few years ago, a rumor spread about a gang that would drive around without headlights and kill anybody who flashed them. Many of these stories originated as cautionary tales or warnings from worried parents.

There are so many urban legends about Coca Cola® that there's actually a term for them, Cokelore. The most famous has to do with mixing the carbonated drink and Pop Rocks® candy. According to the legend, doing so causes the stomach to explode. Another famous urban legend states that a tooth can dissolve overnight if left in a glass of Coca Cola® or that it's possible to die of carbon dioxide poisoning by drinking too much of the beverage.

Over the last few years, a lot of urban legends related to email and the Internet have sprung up. Many of these have to do with malicious viruses going around the Internet and prayer or donation requests for ill people. Most of these stories can be easily dismissed because they simply sound too outrageous to be true.


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Post 3

@ Cougars- That's a cool theory! I had heard of the menehunes, but I never really knew what they were. The explanation that you two gave was interesting. It seems like many urban legend stories about mysterious people may have resulted from the lack of record keeping of ancient civilizations. This would be interesting for an anthropologist to study.

Post 2

@ Glasshouse- The stories you may have heard about Menehunes could very well be more than urban myths and legends. There are historical censuses that record the existence of a tribe of people on Hawaii who were referred to as Menehunes.

There are theories that seafarers from the Marquesas Islands followed shortly by settlers from Tahiti first settled the islands. The Tahitians referred to the Marquesans as Manahunes, which in their language means commoners. The Tahitians chased the Marquesans (Manahunes) from island to island leaving the defeated people to eventually settle in Kauai. It is believed that the Marquesans were not warriors by trade; rather, they were crafts people and fisherman. This would explain the inland fishponds, roads, temples, and

breakwaters that were built to showcase their industriousness before they were chased away by the Tahitian warriors.

Whether or not this is the case will likely never be known since the only verifiable record of the Menehunes is a census from the middle of the 19th century that claims there were 65 surviving members living deep in Kauai's mountainous valleys.

Post 1

When I think about urban legends and folklore, I think about the Hawaiian stories about Menehunes that I heard as a kid. The stories tell of a mischievous dwarf people that were the first inhabitants of the islands. I was always told that they came out during the full moon, and that explained the craziness that happened during the full moon. In all actuality, the gravitational field of a full moon on an island so close to the equator is more likely the reason behind the strange behavior during the full moon.

Anyway, the menehunes were said to have built entire inland fish lakes, temples, and other ancient infrastructure in very short periods. Stories of Menehunes building huge fish lakes in a single night are told all over the islands, and supposedly some exist on Oahu and Kauai.

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