10 urban legends from around the world

Have you ever heard of urban legends? Women cut in half chasing you, creatures murdering your dog and hiding under your bed, ghost hitchhikers, monsters murdering herds and the Devil himself kidnapping young girls on horseback.

These are the ingredients of the so-called urban legends that come to us from all over the world and spread like wildfire in popular culture. Their secret lies in wandering the fragile border between the paranormal and reality: they are constructed from supposed real facts . We present to you the 10 most terrifying urban legends in the world.

10 urban legends from around the world

Formerly, in the old villages, one told there legends and myths supposed to explain natural phenomena , the origin of a place or something inexplicable. These stories were passed down from generation to generation giving rise to what we know today as popular culture. Over the centuries, the stories have grown and multiplied .

In the contemporary world, there are certain morbid and mysterious stories that spread by word of mouth until they become what are called urban legends. Their particularity is that they are on the border between fantasy and reality and, although we generally prefer not to believe them, their magical and terrifying halo nevertheless attracts us enormously.

Here are the urban legends which, collected around the world, have come down to us to warn us of certain dangers or simply to leave us scared to death.

Mexican Urban Legends

Mexico is one of those places in the world where culture is closely linked to oral tradition and the world of magic . Over time, many myths and legends have been consolidated to explain phenomena, to moralize or simply to terrorize the crowds. Some of them give you goosebumps… Don’t miss these stories!

1. The Weeper

Among the most popular Mexican urban legends,   the “Llorona” (the mourner) is also the best known abroad , in such a way that this legend has become a key element of Mexican culture.

The myth of the mourner tells the story of a teenager who, seeking prosperity , emigrated from the countryside to the city to work in the service of a wealthy family. The couple’s ruthless son fell in love with the young girl but she became pregnant and the parents fired her, without looking any further. So she returned home.

The girl’s parents had strong religious beliefs and disapproved of her pregnancy . The young girl, deeply saddened, went down to the banks of the river and there, alone and consumed by remorse, she gave birth to her child. Frightened by this birth, she threw the child into the turbulent waters of the river . When she realized what she was doing, she started running and chasing the baby, crying out in anguish.

The legend says that peasants and travelers continue to hear, every night, the terrifying cries of the mourner.

2. The Legend of the Dark Knight

A terrifying and moralizing urban legend: that of the black knight (In Mexico, he is called the horseman). A legend that is also one of the most widespread among Mexican villages.

This legend says that in a village near the border with the United States lived an adorable young woman whose beauty was admired by all. In addition to her beauty, the young woman had developed a capricious character and led a dissolute life , so it was usual to see her leave with several men from the village until untimely hours, which made her mother suffer a lot, of course.

During one of these outings, while she was waiting for the man she had a date with, she crossed paths with a black knight on his horse . After listening to a few words whispered by the knight, the young woman was conquered and agreed to go with him for a ride on horseback.

The horse set off and picked up the pace, faster and faster, in front of the terrified gaze of the young woman, who saw that as he passed, the rider left behind him long flames. As she clung to the knight, she felt his skeletal hands covered with hair and saw the long, sharp fingernails: she understood that she had been seduced by the Devil himself .

The beautiful teenager never returned to the village and since then, all young girls are recommended to behave in an exemplary manner at the risk of living the same fate as this one.

3. The ”  chupacabras  “

Although this myth is rooted in many other countries of Central America and the southern United States, it was in Mexico that it had the most success and film and literary adaptations have even been made. .

The legend comes from the supposed observation of a terrifying monster, which looked like an extraterrestrial and which murdered five animals on a farm in Puerto Rico in 1995. The myth spread to Mexico and the United States where several peasants claimed to have witnessed the presence of this bipedal being, with large eyes, with spikes on its back and long claws.

Since then, the ”  chupacabras  ” (“the goat-sucker” in Spanish) has been described in several ways, but it essentially relays the tradition of certain rural myths about the existence of monsters inhabiting lakes and secluded places (such as the lake monster) and only come out at night; it has a fairly clear kinship with the bloody vampire myth.

Spanish urban legends

Spain is also a land of legends and mystery. In the Iberian Peninsula, each region, each small village has its own legends that mix myth, reality and folklore and which are transmitted from generation to generation, each time enriched by new versions. Here are some of the most common urban legends.

4. The Ghost Hitchhiker

The loneliness of secondary roads in the dead of night continues to be the source of terrifying legends about supposed apparitions . The scariest and most popular is that of the famous ghost hitchhiker.

The most widespread variant of this urban legend tells that a driver, during a dark night, decided to take a secondary road to reach his destination. The road, narrow and winding, had been the scenario of several fatal accidents but that did not deter this experienced driver who took to the road, determined.

In one of the turns, rather tight, the driver observed the silhouette of a young girl dressed in white who forced him to stop . After she asks him to accompany her to the nearest village, she climbs into the back seat. However, shortly after, she disappears before the stunned gaze of the driver. The following day, he reads in the newspaper that a young girl was found dead , a few hours before in the same curve where he met her.

The legend has several variations, but it always ends in one of these two versions  : in one of them, the girl tries to warn the driver of the danger of these bends by telling him “in this bend, I died » ; in the other, the young girl wants revenge on the driver who knocked her down.

5. Bag Man

In Mexico, the myth of the “Llorona” is used to scare children and make them behave. In Spain, the character of the man with the bag has always been used for the same purposes . This story, which is one of the best-known Spanish urban legends , has its origins in real events and has become one of the most widespread legends.

The myth begins at the time of the facts known as the “crime of Gádor” perpetrated in Almería in 1910. Francisco Ortega was suffering from tuberculosis and a healer made him believe that he could be cured if he murdered a child , if he drank its blood and rubbed his whole body with its viscera.

Francisco Ortega went in search of a child and found on his way the little Bernardo González Parra, who, from the height of his seven years, played alone outside. Francisco then put it inside his bag that he had provided for this purpose and brought it to the healer who had put this idea in his head. They bled him and left his entrails.

Francisco Ortega and the healer were condemned by the authorities to death by strangulation.

6. Kidney theft

One of the most disturbing urban legends was, for several years, the organized theft of kidneys because, unlike ghost stories, this story has an air of realism. It could happen to any of us!

Legend has it that a young man went out for a party on a Saturday and on the dance floor he met an attractive young woman who offered to continue partying at her house. The young man decided to follow her. Once in the apartment, the young woman offered him a drink that contained a drug to make him sleep .

The only thing the young man remembered was waking up, all sore, in a bathtub where he was immersed in a large quantity of ice cubes. Still under the effects of alcohol and the sedative, he could still read on his chest “call 112 or you will die” . After calling for help, and while waiting for the ambulance, the young man inspected his body and discovered, appalled, two slits in the lower part of his abdomen.

It was then that he understood: his kidneys had been stolen. He now lives connected to a device in the hospital.

Japanese urban legends

If there is a place in the world where terror takes on a truly frightening dimension, it is Japan . The Japanese are masters in this field: they are very well known for telling horror stories, halfway between the paranormal and reality, especially in the cinema, in recent years. Here are some of the most terrifying Japanese urban legends.

7. The woman with the torn mouth

The origin of this legend is not very clear . Some tell the version of a woman whose husband abused her and ended up tearing her mouth open. Others say that it was a young woman who was the victim of a traffic accident and who had her mouth torn.

Anyway, it is said that this woman appears with a surgical mask on her face and she asks you if you find her beautiful . If you tell her no, she slashes your face. If you answer her yes, she will take off her mask and when you cry out in fear when you see her face, she will slash your face. So, if this woman with the torn mouth appears (Kuchisake-onna), you have no possible escape: you are a dead man!

8. Leaks Leaks

Japanese horror always has a bit of a “gore” touch, but this legend goes beyond all limits . It tells the story of a student who was crushed to death by a train that cut her body in two. Since then, at night, the upper part of the trunk of this young girl, who has become a monster, haunts the streets of cities .

We know her as “Teke ​​teke” for the noise her skeletal fingers make when they push themselves off the ground to be able to move forward (tek… tek… tek…). The legend says that if you meet her on your way, you are lost  : in addition to being very fast, she will not stop chasing you until she finds you and… she cuts you in two , like her !

American Urban Legends

Americans are big horror fans too, and they’ve created myths and legends like Halloween , for example. Moreover, as frequently happens with many American cultural products, these myths were quick to cross borders and spread around the world . Here is the most famous legend:

9. The barking dog

The protagonist of this legend is a nine-year-old girl, the only child of a wealthy couple who lived in a beautiful house. The parents, so that the little girl would not feel alone, offered her a pretty little dog with whom she got along very quickly.

The parents were working a lot and one day, as they still hadn’t come home after dark, the little girl began to be afraid . She then decided to lie down in her bed, hid under the sheets and, to feel less alone, put her hand under the bed where she felt her dog’s wet tongue.

After a while, thirsty, the little one went down to the kitchen to get a glass of water and found her dog hanging there with a few words written in her blood  : “It’s not just dogs that lick”.

Russian urban legends

Russia is an ancestral, traditional land where the profane unites with the religious and the supernatural , giving their stories a mysterious and magical tone. While not all of them came easily to us, there are some creepy stories out there as well.

10. The “Dyatlov Pass” case.

The facts that fueled the legend of the “Dyatlov Pass” affair took place on February 2, 1959 in the Ural Mountains . That day, 9 excursionists who were camping in the region were lost to sight: only their camping tents branded on the inside were found. Months later, their bodies appeared with apparent signs of violence.

According to the earliest chronicles, the nine excursionists had inexplicably abandoned their tents , scratching them from the inside. They had come out scantily clad and barefoot, while the outside temperatures were below -15°C. Tracks in the snow led to a forest where police found the bodies of the hikers with broken skulls, ribs and tongues torn out, and fatal internal wounds .

The case became an authentic X file, which fueled all kinds of theories , from the attack on the mythical Yeti to KGB covert operations and an alien invasion. When in the 90s, the secret archives were opened, the mystery only thickened, because the investigators attributed the facts to a “powerful unknown force”.