7 Creepy Urban Legends That Happen to be True (Part 5!)

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 ...

#7. Man-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."

#6. The 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!"

#5. The 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.

#4. Creepy 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?"

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