Super-Creepy Urban Myths That Spawned Online
Though urban myths have been around for centuries, a whole new string of them has popped up online — and this format makes it easy for them to spread quickly. Some started as stories on websites dedicated to urban legends, while others made their way around the web via email chain letters. Here you’ll find some of the weirdest, strangest and most downright creepy tales that have ever sprung from the internet’s darkly shadowed corners.
Eight Feet Tall
Eight Feet Tall, also known as “Hachishakusama” or “Hasshaku-sama,” first appeared online in 2008. On some sites, you can even read about the experience of a man who claims to have seen her when he was a child.
He explains that the creature, who looks kind of like a Japanese version of the TV girl from The Ring, takes the form of an impossibly tall woman who likes to prey on children. She reportedly utters the words “Po…po…po…” before attacking her young victims. Her infamy has spread so widely that she’s even featured in video games.
Giant Iraqi Camel Spiders
Ah, email chain letters. They’ve been the source of many online urban legends. Perhaps you’ve even seen the one that details how soldiers in the Gulf War had to contend with giant, man-eating spiders that could run up to 25 miles an hour. They purportedly could also leap several feet and easily grow to nearly a foot tall.
Included in the email was this photo, which was supposed to supply undeniable proof of the email’s claims. In reality, it turned out to be a harmless insect called the giant camel spider. It was held close to the camera lens, making it appear way bigger than it really was due to forced perspective.
The Elevator Game
The Elevator Game is thought to have originated in Asia, and it spread to thrill-seeking kids the world over through the magic of the internet. It involves finding yourself a building that’s at least 10 stories tall and then visiting each floor in a really specific order.
If a woman tries to get into the elevator with you on the fifth floor, however, you have to avoid looking at her. While the game is supposed to transport you to another world, it isn’t without its dangers. Some even blame the 2013 death of Elisa Lam on an instance of The Elevator Game going terribly wrong.
The Origin of “Taps”
It’s traditional to play an old song called “Taps” at the funerals of soldiers, and an online urban myth started circulating, claiming to explain why. The story noted that, one night during the American Civil War, a Union soldier found a dying Confederate soldier — who turned out to be his son.
Apparently, the boy had sneaked off to study music and ultimately joined the Confederate army. The grieving dad found the music for “Taps” in the boy’s pocket and had it played at his funeral. While there’s no evidence the story is true, it’s haunting nonetheless.
The Slender Man
Though a creation of a user from the forum Something Awful, the Slender Man’s legend went wrong in a very real-life way. He’s supposed to be a tall, faceless man with long limbs who appears in photos with kids right before they go missing.
In 2014, two 12-year-old girls in Wisconsin were so convinced that he haunted their nearby woods that they decided to “impress him” and run away to live in his evil mansion. During a slumber party, they lured another girl into the woods and stabbed her 19 times. Fortunately, their victim survived, and the girls were charged with attempted murder.
This one originally appeared on 4chan’s paranormal board and eventually made its way over to creepypasta, a horror-story site. It chronicles the tale of a teenager who was camping with friends and family in the woods of Alabama, only to encounter a terrifying man with the head of a goat.
The rest of the night is basically a Blair Witch-type experience as the Goatman continues to attempt to infiltrate the group of terrified campers. The story is believed to be based on an old Native American legend, revamped in a modern setting — which has always been a popular theme with urban legends.
If you ever watched Syfy’s horror anthology Channel Zero, you may remember that the first season centered on a lost TV show called Candle Cove. Though the show never actually existed, it originated in a 2009 creepypasta story about a group of people who seemed to be the only ones who could recall the old kids’ show.
The tale was originally published as a series of web forums meant to reflect the comments of the few people who were able to see the disturbing show as children. It was so effective that many people mistakenly believed it was a real forum conversation.
The Blind Maiden
The modern equivalent of “Bloody Mary,” there’s now a website that you can visit for the ultimate scare…if you dare. Somewhere in the shadows of the internet lurks a website called The Blind Maiden, and most of the time it’ll take you to a page that makes it look as though the URL is for sale.
But legend has it that if you visit under the right spooky circumstances — perhaps during a new moon at, say, midnight — you may be able to catch the site live. If so, then you’ll be treated to a terrifying sight.
In 1998, a video game database called Coin Op featured a page about a mysterious game called “Polybius” that only appeared in a few arcades in Portland, Oregon, in 1981. As the story goes, everyone who dared to play the mysterious game either got sick, had nightmares or succumbed to other mysterious illnesses.
Even more intriguing were reports of a group of men in black suits who downloaded the data from “Polybius” games — until one day when the games mysteriously vanished. While they never actually existed at all, some people have created data boards which they claim house the legendary game.
The Cicada Challenge
One of the biggest mysteries on the internet revolves around a series of mysterious puzzles sometimes put out by the Cicada 3301 organization. Since 2012, the group has been posting insanely complicated puzzles that require skills in everything from programming to literature and numerology to solve.
The most intriguing part of it all is that no one has any idea exactly who is behind the shadowy organization or what its purpose is. Countless urban legends have sprung up to explain its existence, claiming it’s everyone from the Illuminati to a secret U.S. government branch that’s attempting to recruit the world’s smartest minds.
Another creepypasta tale that spawned a full-blown urban legend revolved around a character that’s become known as The Expressionless. The story claimed that, in 1972, a woman walked into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center wearing nothing but a white, blood-covered gown.
More chilling still was that her face supposedly looked more like a mannequin than a human. Though she started off chillingly calm, things went downhill when the staff attempted to sedate her. Though some thought the picture above was proof that the story was true, it was actually taken in 1968 and shows medical students with a wax dummy.
“Annie96 is typing…”
“Annie96 is typing…” first made its rounds on the internet in 2014 and was supposed to be the transcript of a chat between a girl named Annie and her friend David. The chat starts out innocently enough, but then suddenly Annie spies something outside her house that looks just like David.
When David assures her that it’s not him, Annie investigates further only to discover it’s something far more nefarious. Annie96 became a social media sensation, and in 2017, YouTubers began using the story to make reaction videos of people viewing it for the first time.
The SCP Foundation
Another internet classic that originated on the paranormal board at 4chan details the antics of a shadowy government agency — a favorite subject of urban-legend lore. The organization is called the SCP Foundation and is kind of a mixture of B613 from Scandal and the entire plot of Warehouse 13.
The sole purpose of the SCP Foundation is to locate and contain “artifacts” or people that somehow violate natural law as we know it. Though the whole thing began over 10 years ago, it eventually caught on and has spawned a huge amount of fanfiction from every corner of the internet.
Another super-creepy gem is the legend of Ben Drowned, one of the many tales that originated in the annals of creepypasta. The story appears as a series of posts by a college kid named Ben who bought the video game “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.”
The posts get weirder and weirder as a series of things occur both within the game itself and in Ben’s real life. By the time you’re done reading, things do not look bright for Ben or his future. To make things even creepier, you can watch footage of the video game that ties into Ben’s story.
The Gang Initiation Scare
With the rise of email and social media, even old hoaxes have managed to get reshaped into new “threats” and become way more widespread as well-meaning users share them. Among the most classic is a series of warnings meant to keep people from accidentally getting murdered by someone who’s joining a gang.
Some of them include tales of gangs that leave baby strollers on the side of the road to lure out victims. Another says flashing your lights at a car with its lights off could get you killed. Fortunately, cops around the world have confirmed that there’s little evidence any of these threats are real.
The Unfortunate Dwarf
Back in 1994, a story began making the internet rounds in the form of a fake news article. The story claimed to tell the tale of a circus accident in which a dwarf performer fell off of a trampoline right at the moment that a nearby hippo happened to yawn. (You can see where this is going, right?)
The dwarf then accidentally landed in the hippo’s mouth and was abruptly swallowed whole, to the delight of the audience who thought it was all just part of the show. Apparently it was actually from a spoof magazine that falsely attributed the tale to a newspaper.
Jeff the Killer
This insanely scary image was first posted in a slideshow of creepy images by a YouTube user all the way back in 2008. Over time, the internet dubbed it “Jeff the Killer” as a creepy backstory arose to explain its appearance.
The story revolves around a kid named Jeffrey Woods who was badly bullied by other children when he was growing up. One day, he finally cracked and mutilated his face into the terrifying image you see here. As the legend goes, he now roams the night seeking revenge on all those who wronged him, often while whispering “Just go to sleep.”
Though Hell.com no longer exists in its original macabre form, its history is still the stuff that urban legends are made of. Back when the internet was a relatively new phenomenon, someone got ahold of this URL and used it to freak out an entire generation of web surfers.
Once you arrived on the homepage, you were greeted by a downward-pointing arrow and a disclaimer that it was a private parallel web with no public access. You’d then discover mazes of creepy music, strange messages and code tricks that could keep you from actually leaving. Creepy!
In 2006, YouTube was far from the bustling online community it is today. So when a small-town, 16-year-old girl named Bree began posting her video blogs, it wasn’t initially that big of a deal. As she gained followers, however, her stories began to get stranger and stranger.
Eventually, Bree’s parents went missing and she appeared to have joined a cult of some sort. As it turned out, the whole thing was just an early web series and the show had been scripted all along. Not only was Bree not actually lonely, but she was also played by an actress who was 19.
The Russian Sleep Experiment
When it comes to sparking fear in the hearts of readers around the internet, a convincing-looking photo is always handy. That’s why the image you see here was attached to an urban legend involving a Russian experiment that supposedly took place in the 1940s.
The story claimed that a group of Russian researchers decided to see what happened when they kept people awake for 15 days straight. When they went to see how the subjects had fared, they found the patients had become unrecognizable monsters. Fear not, however; the picture was really of nothing more than a Halloween decoration.
It seems that there’s an entire subculture of internet legends that are geared towards destroying your childhood. One such legend is called “Squidward’s Suicide,” and its creator wrote it from the perspective of a former Nickelodeon intern.
The legend claims that there’s a lost episode of SpongeBob SquarePants that was never aired. Apparently, throughout the course of the episode, Squidward becomes so depressed that he ultimately decides to take his own life. Though it may not involve ghosts or crazy murderers, who can say this one isn’t bizarre and unsettling?
The Elevator Incident
Ever since there have been multi-story buildings, there seem to have also been urban legends involving mysterious missing floors. One such modern take is the “Elevator Incident” in which someone on a business trip to Taiwan accidentally ends up on the fourth floor of a building.
The only problem? The building claims to have only five floors: 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6. Sure enough, the businessman sees a strange figure moving around on the fourth floor before hightailing it back down to one of the normal floors….only to find out that someone committed suicide on the fourth floor years ago.
The Montauk Monster
Among the creepiest of urban legends are the ones that no one was ever really able to explain. Such was the case of the Montauk Monster, a strange-looking carcass that’s said to have washed up on the beach of Montauk, New York, in 2008.
Was it a sea turtle without a shell? A bloated beaver of some sort? Or something far more sinister? While rumors have swirled around the web ever since, no one has ever been able to say for sure. Speculations about the creature have even been featured on TV shows like Ancient Aliens and Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura.
The Derbyshire Fairy
While some urban legends start out as mere stories, others have sprung from elaborate April Fools’ jokes that prove our collective gullibility. One year, a propmaker named Dan Baines decided to have a little fun by posting what he claimed was the body of a dead fairy.
He got over 20,000 hits in one day, along with comments from several people claiming they’d seen the exact same thing. Eventually, he admitted it was all a joke and sold the “fairy” on eBay — but still got emails from believers accusing him of covering up a legitimate discovery.
Unlike some urban legends that are completely fictitious, this one has the extra creepiness factor of having originally come from a real journalist who swears it’s true. It all began when Brian Bethal was traveling in Abilene, Texas, where he claims he was approached by two kids with “coal-black,” dead-looking eyes.
The kids asked him for a ride home, and then one of them started screaming that they couldn’t get in the car unless he said it was okay. Bethal was creeped out enough to book it out of there, but horror stories of the black-eyed children have continued to spawn.
Who Is Ed Kann?
One internet incarnation of the classic “missing story” or “disappearing author” motif comes in the form of the disappearance of Ed Kann. Kann’s legend can be traced back to a blog, which insists that not only did the author once exist but he also wrote the most terrifying story of all time.
The claim is that the story was so horrific that no one ever dared republish it. As the blog goes on to relay, both the author and his tale ultimately vanished without a trace. What happened to Kann and his horrific story? The world may never know.
In 2007, a series of YouTube videos began to appear from a user named “retiredafb.” They claimed to reveal the truth about Apollo 20, a secret space mission that discovered life on the moon. In May of 2007, a UFO expert interviewed a man who identified himself as William Rutledge over Yahoo! Messenger.
Rutledge claimed to be the mission’s commander and the owner of the YouTube accounts. The mission, he claimed, was a joint American-Soviet effort and the astronauts brought back artifacts from an ancient alien civilization, along with a hibernating alien. The videos have since been debunked as a hoax.
Hurricane Lili Waterspouts
In 2002, you may have gotten an email featuring this photo of three terrifying waterspouts that were supposedly brought on by Hurricane Lili. While the rest of the world freaked out, meteorologists weren’t so sure. Even the U.S. National Weather Service ended up getting in on the party and ultimately announced that the photo was a fake.
As it turned out, the whole thing was the work of some Photoshop wizard in the days when such feats were still considered sorcery. The original photo had actually come from an old shipping magazine and featured just one waterspout rather than three.
The Strawberry Meth Scare
In 2007, a bizarre urban legend arose, claiming meth dealers had started using Strawberry Quik drink mix to disguise their drugs as popping candy. The story claimed that the dealers were attempting to unwittingly get random kids into the drugs in the hopes of bringing them back for more.
From the get-go, this one didn’t make a whole lot of sense given that most kids don’t really have a steady income to support even a drugless candy addiction. Though email warnings of the craze freaked out a lot of people, no accidental child meth users have ever actually been reported.
The Clown Statue
Before spam filters everywhere were able to help cut down on them, chain emails once ran rampant. Once such chain letter helped cash in on the fears of clown-hating people everywhere. It detailed the story of a teenage girl who was babysitting two kids, all the while being increasingly freaked out by a clown statue in the house.
Finally, she became unnerved enough to call the parents to ask if she could cover up the statue, only to discover they had no idea what she was referring to. Freaked-out tweens everywhere continued to spread the tale until ultimately it became part of internet lore.