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Halloween's nearly here, and that means it's once again time to prove that the urban legends that scared you as a kid should still totally scare you as a rational adult, because they're totally true. As we've shown four times before, sometimes the stories told late at night at sleepovers really did happen to that kid's brother's cousin's sister. For instance ...

7Man-Eating Escalators

The Legend:

Parents can't seem to resist the urge to play amateur horror movie director when teaching you the importance of tying you shoes. "You don't want to end up like that boy two towns over whose shoelace got stuck in the escalator at the mall. They're still cleaning his toes out of the grate with dental floss." After years of riding escalators without incident, you begin to suspect that you're more likely to make a face that gets "stuck that way" than get your foot eaten by the escalator at the mall.

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"I thirst for child-blood."

The Truth:

Escalators are hungry like the wolf -- in this case, an unseeing, unfeeling robotic wolf that appears to grow hungrier once it tastes blood. "Shoelaces will get sucked up ... like sucking soda through a straw. It'll suck it right in." That's not a quote from a guide to parenting with existential terror, but from nationally certified escalator safety inspector Kevin Doherty. And once the escalator has your shoelace, well, not even food metaphors can convey the shit Doherty's seen on the job: "It's unbelievable what an escalator can do to human flesh."

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Are you listening, Hollywood? That's the sound of an unexploited horror property.

Toes and entire pieces of feet have been chewed off by escalators. And if the victim reaches down to try to free himself from the human paper shredder, that's when things can go from bad to worse. Like grizzly bears and sharks, you apparently don't want to mess with an escalator when it's in the middle of a feeding.

For instance, in 2003 a girl lost part of her hand when she reached down to free her shoe, which the escalator was in the process of eating. In 2005, a 34-year-old cook made the mistake of wearing a hood on an escalator. Nobody's sure if he was reaching down to free a shoelace or seated when the escalator got hold of his hood, because by the time they found him, the escalator had sucked his hood into its comb plate, dragged him to the ground and strangled him to death.

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Once it developed a taste for hipster flesh, no one with a scarf or fedora was safe.

And the teeth at the beginning and end aren't the only part that can get you. Drag your feet along the place where the wall meets the stairs and you get to grow up with three fewer toes than your friends. Escalators have also been known to reverse directions, which would be painful even if they weren't made of what appear to be interlocking pointy metal knives.

Apparently we'll ride a ski lift made of chainsaws if it means we get to skip the stairs.

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"Our fingers are just a sacrifice to Haste -- or, God of Convenience."

6The Girl in the Closet

The Legend:

Everyone knows the feeling. You're alone in your house when you get the unmistakable sense that you're being watched. It's like you can feel another human presence in the house with you, even though you know you locked the doors and windows. This spooky trick of the mind is probably why so many of our ghost stories are about someone being inside our house. There's the call that was coming from inside the house, the killer who hides under your bed, the guy who wakes up to find a note taped to his forehead. Even the monsters living in our closet. But those fears are irrational, right?

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364 days of the year, this would be a terrifying thing to wake up to.

The Truth:

A 57-year-old man living by himself in Japan began to notice small things amiss in his house -- objects wouldn't be where he'd left them. Food would disappear that he swore he didn't remember eating. He'd wake up to strange sounds in the middle of the night, but every time he'd go and check them out, the door would be locked, the windows tightly shut. Nobody was there.

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"This is either the work of gnomes or some dastardly sleep-pooper."

Was he losing his mind? Being messed with by a shy poltergeist? To find out, he set up a series of spy cameras around his house. The next morning, he ran back the footage on the camera and that's when he saw it. A strange woman crawling out of a cupboard like it was the TV in The Ring. And if you think that's terrifying, imagine what happened inside his stomach when, at the end of the video, she crawled back into the cupboard. The one that was just a couple of feet away from where he was standing, watching the video.

Presumably in an effort to maintain bowel control, the man assumed the woman was a burglar who was only temporarily hiding in the cupboard, and had since left. He called the police, who pointed out that all the locks on his doors and windows were undisturbed. There was simply no evidence whatsoever that anybody had broken in -- in other words (cue dramatic strings) the woman had been in the house all along.

Matthew Field
It's a really good thing he waited to fumigate.

After a thorough search, the woman was found nervously huddled in a small cupboard. Apparently she had sneaked into the house and slept, ate and even took showers there for an entire year without being detected. Think of all the things you've done in your most private moments -- the things you thought nobody would ever see. Now imagine a homeless Japanese woman had been watching it all. Yeah. We'll let that one sink in for a moment.

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"I swear, all those pixels consented!"

5The Killer Phone Call

The Legend:

They found the dead body in the middle of the room. The only clue to what got him: the telephone clutched in his hand. Of course the whole "stay away from the phone in a thunderstorm!" is just a bit of technophobia, probably invented by old people who think we need to relearn the value of a good old fashioned face-talkin', right?

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Who could stand to miss out on this?

The Truth:

Lightning doesn't care how far you are from the window. If it gets a Final Destination-style boner for punching your number, it's coming for you, and it can travel through basically any type of phone to do the job. In fact, the phone makes it deadlier.

There's the 1985 story of a 17-year-old honor student named Jason. He had just passed a rigorous physical examination as part of his acceptance to the United States Military Academy at West Point. So unless you're Rambo, it's safe to assume his body could brush off injuries your doctor would refer to as "cause of death."


If you are Rambo, hi Rambo!

Yet only four days after passing the physical exam, he was found dead in his room with a phone in his hand. Lightning had struck a cord outside and shot out of the speaker, into the earpiece and into Jason's ear. We like to think that he took some solace in knowing that he went out exactly how '80s hair metal videos would have depicted someone getting rocked to death.

"But my phone doesn't have any antiquated wires attached to it," you say, "I only use my cellphone! I only have to worry about cancer, right?"

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"And autoerotic asphyxiation will take me long before cancer does."

It turns out talking on a cellphone during a storm can increase the severity and deadliness of lightning strikes for the same reason it was such bad news for Jason. Our skin is actually a pretty good barrier to entry, so typical lightning strikes get dissipated across the surface of your skin.

However, when you have a phone to your ear or are listening to music on an iPod, you're focusing the lightning into your ear hole, essentially funneling the electricity past your body's natural barrier and giving it direct access to your internal organs.

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"Hipster, 35 points!"

One kid was listening to his iPod and doing lawn work when lightning from a nearby storm leaped miles across town to create a vicious circuit between his ears. He survived, but still bears the scars from where the earbud cords melted onto his chest and neck. Presumably, he will never play whatever song he was listening to at that moment ever again.

4Creepy Guy With a Big Lumpy Bag

The Legend:

The creepy stranger with a mysteriously large, lumpy bag is a staple of pop culture. It's been played for laughs in Something About Mary, beer commercials and Joe Pesci movies, but your friend's cousin's girlfriend knows that it's no laughing matter. She was on a mostly empty Greyhound when a creepy stranger got on with a giant duffel bag. Something about the shapes of the objects inside and the way he kept muttering that the shapes "made him do it" didn't seem quite right, but she figured her mind just got carried away. Two nights later, she saw him on the local news, an escaped mental patient called the body dismemberer.

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"We're not great with names."

The Truth:

When the security crew at the Athens airport began a routine check of a Greek Orthodox monk, they had no idea they were about find themselves deep in the middle of some serious Dan Brown shit. See, in addition to regular monk essentials (Bible, spare robes, head polish), this monk had decided to fill his luggage with human bones.


"No liquid containers above 3 oz., though, this guy's probably clean."

The monk had an excuse, though -- the bones belonged to a saint. And everyone knows saint bones belong in carry-on luggage. Of course it turned out the bones didn't belong to a saint at all, but instead to a nun who had disappeared from her convent four years earlier. How she died and what the monk was planning to do with the bones remains unclear, but we can say with 100 percent certainty that it was something creepy.

While most criminals know better than to put makeshift body bags through customs, the number of suitcases containing dismembered bodies discovered around the world seems to indicate that luggage is the preferred method of body part transport among purveyors of grisly murder. We're not saying that every creepy guy you've ever seen struggling with a large unwieldy suitcase was in fact transporting a chopped-up body, but we'd hold off on helping him get it into the back of his windowless van.

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"Why didn't I just rent a wood chipper?"

3The Revenge of the Killer Bird

The Legend:

Ever since the curse in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" was brought on by shooting an albatross with a crossbow, the darker realms of the human imagination have been obsessed with birds haunting people. There's something creepy about birds. Poe didn't need a revenge motive to turn a raven into a nightmare specter. And Hitchcock only proves this truth is timeless: Mad geniuses know that birds have direct access to the irrational fear in our subconscious.

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Fun fact: The average crow can fit four eyeballs in its stomach.

The Truth:

There's nothing irrational about our fear of birds. Make no mistake, they are just dinosaurs wearing ridiculous disguises until we drop our guard. A series of real-life feathered revenge killings seem to be channeling the birds of our collective nightmares.

We've already told you how crows have been found to remember human faces and hold a grudge better than humans can.

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And Intel warns us that they've recently made peace overtures to the seagulls.

But you probably never thought to be afraid of roosters. They're not the spookiest of creatures, which is probably why cock fighting enthusiasts didn't see the problem with giving them back their razor-sharp dinosaur claws. One gamecock trainer was killed when his prize rooster slashed his throat.

But Jose Luis Ochoa became the true modern day Ancient Mariner. Like the star of Colridge's poem, he had plenty of forewarning that he shouldn't be messing with the bird that would do him in. He persisted with cock fighting despite having been arrested and fined for owning and training fighting cocks in the past. But that didn't stop him from attaching razor blades to his cock and throwing it into the ring on a fateful late January day.

© Superbass / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)
If we can make this article the #1 Google result for the term "attach razor blades to his cock," we will have made the world a less scary place.

Due to an anonymous tip, the police stormed this particular cockfight. And just like a prison yard shanking, one of the roosters used the chaotic distraction to cut Ochoa. Ochoa fled the scene of the crime with what looked like a minor leg wound, but the razor blade had severed an artery in his leg. By the time he got to the hospital, it was too late for him. While the police never said who phoned in the anonymous tip that eventually led to the raid, we're pretty sure they don't have to.

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Somebody get Christopher Nolan on the phone.

2The Skeleton in the Wall

The Legend:

While renovating an old building, a construction worker pulls down a wall and finds himself face to face with a human skeleton. It's identified as the body of some person who'd vanished years before. Like a real-life The Casque of Amontillado, the poor guy had been walled in and never heard from again. While his family searched for him, he was just feet away, trapped, then rotting, then presumably making a spooky sound as the wind whistled through his bones. OK, but clearly this one is bullshit. How does someone get trapped in a not abandoned building without anyone noticing? Wouldn't they hear his cries for help? This scary story isn't really very well thought out, is it?

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Faaaake!

The Truth:

The Abeville National Bank had always used the second floor of their building for storage, but when they found themselves in need of some office space, a crew of construction workers began renovating the second level. When one of them removed a metal plate that had been fastened to the wall, they discovered a long out of use fireplace containing a pile of old rags and tiny bones at the bottom.

Any hopes that these were merely left over from the days when it was customary for rich bankers to use orphans as kindling were quickly dashed when the remainder of an adult skeleton was found just above the fireplace in the narrow flue. Through DNA testing, the remains were identified as those of Joseph Schexnider.

Daily Mail
"The 'X' stands for 'eXceptionally bad chimney sweep'."

Thanks to being on the mostly abandoned floor, his body wasn't discovered when he got stuck in the walls of the local bank, nore was it discovered when he started to stink up the joint. In fact, he had been wedged behind the brick walls of the bank for 27 freaking years as his friends and fellow townspeople did their banking below. So yeah, add "your neighbor who went missing may be decomposing somewhere in the building" to the list of reasons why you hate going to the bank.

We may never know exactly why Schexnider decided to crawl into the chimney space of the local bank. One thing we do know is that space isn't the only place they can't hear you scream.

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Just stay out of these things.

1The Worst Possible Place to Wake Up

The Legend:

The mourners pass by the casket, giving their last respects. It's your turn, and as you look down into the coffin you think, "Wow, they did a great job, she almost looks like she's still alive!"

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"You'd think the funeral director would have at least shaved off the unibrow."

That's when the corpse starts screaming.

The Truth:

It all started when Fagilyu Mukhametzyanov, a woman from the northern Russian city of Kazan, suffered a heart attack, and was rushed to the hospital by her husband. At the hospital she was declared dead by a crack team of physicians, who we suspect were only like a minute away from their lunch break, because it turns out she wasn't dead at all.

Daily Mail
If Fagilyu Mukhametzyanov appears to be alive to you in this picture, you're probably not a Russian doctor.

That didn't stop the woman's family from quickly putting together a funeral for her -- a funeral she rudely interrupted with her screams of terror when she awoke and realized where she was. But hey, while having the body at a funeral sit up and start wailing like a banshee is a bit freaky, in the end your loved one isn't dead after all! That's good news, right?

Right! Except in this case Fagilyu Mukhametzyanov promptly died again. For real this time. The shock of waking up at her own funeral was simply too much for the poor woman and she suffered a second heart attack that totally, 100 percent for-sure killer her for good. At least according to the excellent medical staff that declared her dead the first time. Apparently in Russia the safety coffin is still considered an in-demand technology.

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"Should we poke grandma with a stick to make sure?"

Nathan Birch also works for IGN, creates his own frightfully cute webcomic Zoology and can always use a few extra Twitter followers.

For more myths that could end you, check out 5 Drinking Myths That Can Kill You. Or learn why your mom is the greatest source of urban legends in 5 Common Body Myths Debunked.

And stop by LinkSTORM to learn why the monster under your bed is real.

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And be sure to check out Cracked's Page of Horror for hilariously horrifying articles like The Creepy Scientific Explanation Behind Ghost Sightings and The 7 Most Unintentionally Creepy Places on the Internet.

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