When it comes to urban legends, most of them have been told time after time with little variation in the story. The terrifying not-sure-if-this-is-true feelings associated with urban legends is part of what makes these stories so popular. People like being scared; even if they say they don’t, which is why you’re embarking on this nightmare-inducing list right now.
However, our list does have one little difference: the urban legends we’ve included here are—dun, dun, dun—TRUE! Yep, each one of these incidents really happened, and we’ve got all the gruesome details. Oh yeah, and about those nightmares you’ll be having tonight. . . don’t say we didn’t warn you!
1. Buried Alive
Perhaps one of the oldest urban legends is the tale of being buried alive. Pretty scary, right? Well, this urban legend is actually not an urban legend at all. See, burying people alive, or “premature burials” as they called it, was actually a thing back in the day. Most burials were intentional and sadistic, but some happened on accident (don’t ask me how). It’s safe to say that with several feet of dirt above one’s grave, I highly doubt that this little “mistake” could be fixed.
2. Creepy Crawlies Inside Your Head
There is no shortage of urban legends about critters setting up camp inside the head of an unsuspecting host. Total BS, right? Wrong. Take Rochelle Harris for example. The 27-year-old returned home from a Peruvian vacation, and she kept hearing scratching noises that seemed to be coming from inside her head. Well she went to the doctor, and he discovered that she had an army of maggots lodged in her ear canal. So that scratching noise she was hearing? Yeah, that was the maggots chomping on her ear flesh. OMG.
3. The Man-Eating Escalator
Every little kid shares a common fear: getting eaten by the escalator. I can testify to this because I myself was a victim of a hungry piece of machinery that had a taste for shoelaces. Luckily, the only casualty in that situation was my shoe, but other people have not been so fortunate. In fact, there are so many reportsabout people who’ve been seriously injured (or killed) by escalators that it’s beginning to look like a real-life game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Note to self: take the stairs.
4. The Dead Body In The Mattress
This urban legend has had people inspecting their hotel beds for years. According to the freakish tale, a couple discovered a rotting dead girl in their hotel mattress. Yeah, no thanks. Spoiler alert: this gut-wrenching scenario is weirdly common, and incidents have been reported in hotels across multiple citiesincluding Pasadena, Atlantic City, and Fort Lauderdale.
5. Decapitated By An Elevator
Getting your head chopped off by a faulty elevator . . . Really? Um, yes really! Turns out this freak accident isn’t just an urban legend, and it’s happened not one, but several times. In 2003, a Houston Doctor was decapitated by a hospital elevator. Just last month, a 20-year-old Russian woman lost her head as her son watched in horror. Yet another reason to take the stairs.
6. Waking Up In The Middle Of Surgery
Many urban legends tell of unlucky patients who regain consciousness in the middle of their own surgery. They’re paralyzed and unable to speak or move, but they’re fully conscious and THEY. CAN. FEEL. EVERYTHING. I heard about this one thanks to that horrible Hayden Christensen movie Awake, but I never thought it was actually a thing. However, to my horror, “anesthesia awareness” is real and many patients have lived to tell about it.
7. Black Market Kidney Thieves
The Kidney Heist is a tale as old as time, and aside from a few minor variations, it goes something like this: unsuspecting traveler is befriended by locals, and the next thing they know, they’re waking up in a bathtub full of ice only to find that their kidneys have been surgically removed.
Yikes! Sounds like a horror movie, right? Well, yeah, because this plotline has been featured in many a scary movie, but it’s not just in the movies anymore. In 2008, 33-year-old Mohammad Saleem was recruited to work construction in New Delhi, India. Several hours after meeting his new “bosses,” he woke up on a metal cot sans kidney. Turns out he was the latest victim in a large-scale organ trafficking ring that targeted laborers who needed work.