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Most urban legends are just that -- legends. Cautionary tales made up to keep kids on the straight and narrow. But wait, why do we need so many of these cautionary tales in the first place? Well, because the world is a terrifying place out to destroy you in any number of horrifying, ironic ways. In fact, this world is so scary that a lot of the creepy tales you told around the campfire have actually happened to real, very unfortunate people.

In what has become our Halloween tradition going back six years, we're here to once again point out that sometimes truth is stranger (and scarier) than fiction ...

WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT AHEAD.

5
The Things That Squirm in Your Skull

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The Legend:

Us folks from well-off northern countries sure do like to jet down to various tropical countries for a little sun and fun, but we also tend to get a bit weirded out by the Third World conditions that often exist right outside the walls of our hermetically sealed resort destinations. These fears have given rise to all sorts of tales of people returning from trips near the equator with a free souvenir wriggling around inside a particularly sensitive or important area, like, say, their skulls.

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"You asked for the 'deluxe travel package.' Next time read the fine print."

But come on, these stories are just a bit of low-level xenophobia, right? Right?

The Truth:

Shortly after returning to her native Britain from a vacation in Peru, Rochelle Harris began to hear scratching noises inside her head. Apparently Harris isn't much of a worrywart (or possibly is mildly schizophrenic), because she decided, "Eh, whatever," and went on with her life, as the scratching noises got louder. Then things got worse.

Harris started to get headaches and radiating pain down one side of her face, and she'd wake up with fluids on her pillow (and not the good kinds). Then a fly flew out of her ear. Yeah, this story is going exactly where you were hoping it wasn't going -- after the fly incident, Harris finally went to a doctor, and he found that a writhing family of maggots had set up a home deep within her ear canal. If you need a few minutes to go madly dig at your ears with a Q-Tip, we understand.

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"I should set this on fire first. Just to be safe."

Not surprisingly, Harris didn't take her "head full of flesh-eating worms" diagnosis well. "I was very scared. Were they in my brain?"

GOOD QUESTION, ROCHELLE. Thankfully, Harris has since managed to put a positive spin on her ordeal:

"I'm not so squeamish around those kinds of bugs now. How can I be? They've been in my ear!"

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"My next fear to ear-cure: snakes!"

Ha ha! Well, apparently the worms did get to Harris' brain, because she's now clearly insane.

4
Don't Drink the Water

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The Legend:

We tend to be really trusting of what comes out of the shower head or kitchen faucet. The people in charge wouldn't let water make it as far as our homes if it hadn't been treated and filtered to the point of near sterility. Even if you have an open cut on your hand, you don't hesitate to stick that shit right under the tap.

After all, what's the worst thing that could be in the water? What's the absolute worst possible thing?

Hint: It's not poop.

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Nope, that'll be in your pants when you read what happened.

The Truth:

Guests at the Hotel Cecil in downtown Los Angeles were having trouble with their water. There was weak pressure, it smelled and tasted funny, and it wasn't just coming out brown, it was coming out black. Black as death, you could say (whoops, was that a spoiler?). Unfortunately, the residents of the Cecil didn't heed Homer Simpson's immortal wisdom ("If it's brown, drink it down, but if it's black, send it back") and just kept bathing in and drinking the hotel's rank water for nearly a week.

"We thought it was just the way [the water] was here," guest Sabrina Baugh told a reporter. No, Sabrina, black stench water isn't just the way it is anywhere.

Finally, one of the Cecil's bizarrely reluctant-to-complain residents (most hotel guests will make a scene if their mint isn't placed at the right angle on their pillow) mentioned something about the water and a maintenance worker was sent to check things out. He made a stomach-churning discovery -- in one the hotel's four large cisterns he found the decomposed and liquefying body of a young woman.

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We warned you.

She had somehow fallen into the tank, turning the hotel's water into a corpse consomme the guests of the Cecil had been drinking down for weeks. The body was that of Canadian student Elisa Lam, and it remains a mystery how she ended up in the Cecil's water supply. Was it suicide? An accident? Or something more sinister? CCTV footage from Lam's last night alive show her acting in a furtive, agitated fashion, almost as if she was afraid she was being followed, and a guest staying below Lam reported hearing a "tremendous racket" from above the night she died.

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"Hey, they put the sign up; what do you expect us to do?"

Or maybe it was dark forces within the hotel itself that did Lam in? The Cecil's history is so dark, it makes the Overlook Hotel look like a TripAdvisor top pick. The Cecil has been the scene of numerous murders and suicides, and not one, but two serial killers have stayed there. But hey, on the other hand, it only costs $65 a night! Just, you know, bring your own water.

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3
Compacted

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The Legend:

Most urban legends are cautionary tales of one kind or another, and since there's no group in need of a little caution more than teenagers, a lot of legends are of the "A teenager did a stupid thing and died horribly for it! Don't do that stupid thing, teenagers!" variety. We've featured a number of dumb teenager stories in these very articles, like, for instance, the one about the teen who tried to fake hang himself and hanged himself for real. Whoops.

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If only there'd been some type of warning sign that hangings could be so deadly.

There are also plenty of stories about garbage trucks, because come on, those things are freaky. They're giant metal crush machines driven by guys who look like hobos -- of course kids tell scary stories about them.

Well, the tale you're about to read is a twofer, combining teenager dumbassery with the danger of garbage trucks in one gruesome package.

The Truth:

So, a teenager from Luxembourg decided he was going to spend his morning hiding in a garbage can. Why? Let us reiterate -- he was a teenager. No further explanation necessary. Anyways, presumably this kid's brilliant teenage plan was going great riiiight up until the garbage men turned down his street.

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Too bad there isn't a regularly scheduled "garbage day" thing so he could have known to avoid them.

The garbage truck's metal claws picked up the kid-filled garbage container like any other bin, emptied its contents, and then somebody pushed the big red CRUSH button. That's when the screaming and sound of snapping bones began, but there was nothing to be done. There was no way to stop the truck's crushing mechanism once it had started, because guess what? People aren't supposed to be in garbage containers, and they're certainly not supposed to be in garbage trucks. The garbage men were forced to stand by in horror as their truck compacted a kid to death.

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And now a garbage truck is out there, roaming the streets, with a taste for human blood.

This wasn't the only time a teenager met his end in a garbage truck, either. A mere month before the incident in Luxembourg, a kid from Long Island was crushed to death in a recycling truck. So, teens: The next time your parents ask you to take out the garbage, you've got our permission to give them your snottiest look, dramatically scream, "Do you WANT me to die?!" and storm off to your room. The facts are on your side.

2
The Gruesome Discovery

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The Legend:

Urban legends about burglars getting theirs are common, because seriously, screw burglars. They're willing to throw other people's lives into disarray because earning things the honest way seems, like, hard and stuff. But what if a burglar broke into the wrong house? A house containing something so startling that he ends up calling the police himself? That shit only happens in cheesy horror movies and Scooby-Doo cartoons, right?

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"Please, send help. I've stumbled into an unrealistic premise and I expect my landline will go dead any sec-"

The Truth:

In the wee hours of the morning, a New Zealand man broke into what he thought was a vacant house. An easy job! Turned out the house wasn't so vacant after all. As our criminal made his way around the dimly lit hallways looking for treasure, he noticed something hanging in the dark. The neighbors were soon awakened by the burglar's screams.

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"Goddammit, if I wanted to deal with horrific shrieks, I'd stay at a hotel."

The would-be thief had stumbled across a man who had hanged himself only hours before. The thief was so freaked out that he completely broke from the burglar's handbook, tore out of the house like a madman, and called the police himself. The police had a surprisingly upbeat take on the whole sordid situation:

"Hopefully there will be a positive out of it and that [the burglar] will decide it's not the thing to do. I would be taking that as pretty bad karma."

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"I've learned my lesson ... strictly credit card fraud from here on out!"

Aw, you kiwis are adorable when you're not stealing things and killing yourselves.

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1
The Chef Who Slow-Cooked His Wife

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The Legend:

What really goes on in restaurant kitchens? We've all cringed at tales of people finding various gag-inducing items and fluids in their food, or kitchens with ... shall we say relaxed cleanliness standards. Just watch an episode of Kitchen Nightmares to see how justified a lot of those fears are. But what about the ultimate restaurant urban legend? What about the killer chef who uses his kitchen to make his dirty deeds go away?

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The oven's self-cleaning and self-implicating.

The Truth:

David Viens' murder of his wife, Dawn, wasn't particularly remarkable. There were arguments over drugs and money, and somehow Dawn ended up dead. What was remarkable was the very Top Chef way David, a cook at the disarmingly prissy-sounding Thyme Contemporary Cafe, did away with Dawn's body.

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Never trust another chef's meatloaf.

David took Dawn's body to his restaurant, stuffed her inside the industrial-size slow cooker, and, well, there's really no nice way to put this -- he basically turned her into a pot of pulled human. Here's David's description of the process:

"I took some -- some things -- like weights that we use, and I put them on top of her body, and I just slowly cooked it and ended up cooking her for four days .... I cooked her four days, I let her cool, I strained it out."

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Always let your wife cool before straining.

So, yup, if David Viens hadn't been caught, the old ladies who eat at the Thyme Contemporary Cafe might have been slurping down soup made in a slow cooker somebody was boiled in. Think about that the next time you order the gumbo.


You can read a bunch more of Nathan's (usually less gross) writing at his website. He's also always in the market for new Twitter followers.


Be sure to check out 5 Classic Horror Movies (If They Had a $1 Budget) and vote for your favorite.


Related Reading: Cracked has more true urban legends where THESE came from. Click here to read about dead bodies hidden in fake mummies. Or here to read about the man who decapitated himself. We've also got man-eating escalators and phone calls from beyond the grave. Dig in!

Teddy Roosevelt is just a straight-up legend, and you can honor him via T-shirt.

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