5 Creepy Urban Legends That Happen to Be True (Part 8)
It's that time of year again, kids! What time is that, you ask? Why, it's pants-shittin' time! Time to revisit our Halloween tradition of sharing the horrifying urban legends that we tend to think of as mere cautionary tales, designed to sway us from wandering down dark alleys or microwaving the baby, but that have actually happened to very unfortunate (and, likely, now very deceased) people.
We've done this so many times now that it's getting difficult to work all the links into a single sentence, but look at that, we just did. So settle around the virtual campfire, and hear the tale of ...
The Corpse-Caked Train
When your job is to keep 150 tons of steel from transforming into 150 tons of mangulated death (all while barreling along a thin piece of track at hundreds of miles per hour), that's bound to inspire some horror stories. Case in point: a high-speed train engineer feels a slight bump as he's zooming down the tracks, but a quick check out the front window doesn't reveal anything out of the ordinary. What is out of the ordinary is the piercing wail of every single person the conductor tosses a friendly wave to as the train passes them by, so he stops and, accompanied by the earsplitting screech of violins, discovers something a whole lot bigger (not to mention a whole lot more pants-filling) than a grasshopper plastered to the front of the train.
"Dammit. Get the squeegee."
It's a person, in case that wasn't clear or something.
As a high-speed HGV train pulled into a railway station in France, awaiting passengers were greeted with a scene straight out of their Thomas-the-Tank-Engine-inspired nightmares: literally embedded into the front of the train was a somewhat fresh, more-than-somewhat flattened corpse.
Initial attempts to pass him off as a hood ornament were unsuccessful.
Nobody's quite sure of the hows or whys, but a cyclist rode his way straight into a Stephen King story near the small village of Petit-Croix. This meeting of man and locomotive went pretty much exactly how anyone who grew up watching too many Road Runner cartoons and then binged on Evil Dead as a teenager might imagine it: the cyclist was splattered against the front of the train like some kind of gore-filled Wile E. Coyote, and then he clung there all the way to the train's next stop -- 25 miles away -- before anyone even noticed.
How did the engineer not see a mass of pulverized human stuck to the front of his train like a ghastly, oversized Wacky Wally? Well, for one, trains have pretty huge blind spots, and for two, engineers be busy, yo. "We are looking at the speed controls and at the electrical equipment, we cannot see a pedestrian by the side of the tracks," said the train's driver. "If someone throws himself under the train we are completely helpless. This is a train, not a wheelbarrow. It cannot stop in 100 meters."
"Our brake pedal is just a smiley face that says, 'Have a nice day!'"
If the "embedded into the front of a train" part doesn't give you nightmares, maybe that guy's thoroughly French couldn't-give-a-fuckness will.
Waking Up Trapped In the Morgue
The greatest fear of anyone checking into the hospital is that they'll never check out. But there's something far worse (and we're not even talking about the bill): imagine you're on the way to the Emergency Room, when you pass out. The next time you awaken, it's cold. It's pitch dark. Every single breath is a struggle, and you barely have room to move.
"Oh, no! They've put me back in the womb!"
You're not buried alive -- if you were, you might have stood a chance. No, you've been mistaken for dead, body-bagged, and chucked into a fridge at the morgue ... and those suckers aren't meant to be opened from the inside (because zombies and/or vampires, obviously).
On July 26, 2011, Maria de Jesus Arroyo, an 80-year-old great-grandmother, was rushed to White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles, where doctors quickly declared her dead of cardiac arrest via the foolproof method of "How old? Yep, she's dead." Mrs. Arroyo was then popped into a Ziploc and wheeled off to the morgue while the doctors and nurses went back to watching House, feeling content with a job indifferently done.
"This right here ... this is what makes the job worthwhile."
Later, when funeral home employees came to pick up Mrs. Arroyo's body to prepare it for the funeral, they found her lying face down on the floor of the refrigeration chamber. After presumably poking her with the longest stick they could find until they were satisfied that she was not, in fact, the undead, they discovered that her body bag was also partially unzipped, she was covered in cuts and bruises, and her nose was broken. Initially, her family thought some lowly nurse-in-training had accidentally dumped her off of a gurney (or maybe the morgue staff had hung her from the ceiling for a little light bag training), but a pathologist they hired came to an even more disturbing conclusion.
When the doctors declared her dead, Mrs. Arroyo was merely unconscious. She remained unconscious as they zipped her up, snoozed right through being slid into the freezer, and continued her visit to dreamland as the freezer door clanked shut. But then she woke up. And then she panicked. All those injuries that the funeral home later discovered? They were self-inflicted as she desperately tried to twist, turn, and claw her way free from her cramped and cold prison, only to slowly, agonizingly freeze to death.
"With my dying breath, I curse that damn rock and rollllllll ..."
Welcome to the annual urban legends list, motherfuckers! We'll understand if you want to go call your grandmas before we continue.
Riding With a Corpse (for Months)
A big, carefree party or road trip has to be most frequent horror setting in pop culture, a tradition that presumably goes back to the elders' desire to keep the kids from having too much fun ("then he woke up the next morning to find that the prostitute had STOLEN HIS DICK!"). So when you hear that a bunch of dudes rented an RV for a carefree trip to partytown, you're already expecting something nightmarish to be awaiting them ...
Minnesotan Dan Trainor had a quite Minnesotan plan for his bachelor party: he and 10 friends were going to rent the aforementioned RV and drive it all the way to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. That may sound a bit tame as far as bachelor parties go, but you've got to give them points for authenticity -- stewing in 10 other guys' fart smell all day and then blowing your wad at the track is a far more accurate representation of the bachelor lifestyle than anything involving naked ladies.
And that goes for any sense of the word "wad."
Before hitting the road, the RV's mysterious owner warned the revelers that the compartments at the front of the vehicle "do not work and should not be opened." That's generally the type of warning you only get if you're in a Hellraiser movie and some creepy dude just handed you a puzzle box, but nobody thought much of it, because hey, cheap RV. Unfortunately, that compartment did in fact turn out to be stuffed with something far more sinister than a stack of sticky back issues of Babes & Winnebagos.
The first sign that something was awry surfaced when they stopped at a convenience store to pick up the last few members of the group, and nobody remembered to remind them about the "front compartment" rule. They opened it up to toss in their bags, and the RV was immediately filled with an unbearable stench. Seeing as how the party bus hadn't even made its first Taco Bell stop yet, this was deemed out of the ordinary. Party member Jake Wanek peeked into the forbidden compartment. What he found there was the barefoot body of a man who ... well, he "didn't look too fresh."
"You sure? You know those expiration dates are, like, a guideline."
Jake Wanek, it turns out, is a master of understatement. The body was that of Kevin Casserly, a 22-year-old man who had been missing for six goddamn months. As for how he got there ... your guess is as good as anyone's. The owner of the RV wasn't considered a suspect, and as far as we can tell, no one was ever charged with a crime. All we're left with is the fact that the corpse appeared to have been in the RV for a very long time, which makes the owner's cryptic warning that they shouldn't try to open the storage compartment ten times creepier. Had he been renting out the rolling makeshift coffin to strangers for six goddamn months?
The Ax-Wielding Bunny Man
There's something super-duper creepy about taking a normally innocent, wide-eyed figure and making it a psychopathic killer. Just think about some of the most effective examples from pop culture: that kid from The Omen, Pennywise from IT, Chucky from Child's Play ...
He's such a condescending dick about fixing stuff.
OK, sometimes it doesn't result in "pants-shittingly creepy" so much as it does "pants-shittingly preposterous," but you catch our drift. And if you grew up around the Washington, D.C. area, there's a good chance your mom had to wash many a bedsheet thanks to a prime real-life example: the Bunny Man. According to local legend, there's a man in a white bunny suit wandering the countryside near D.C. He's wielding a big fucking ax, and he's itching to go straight-up Little Bunny Foo Foo on your field mouse ass.
It's the kind of thing that weird kid from third grade told you as he purposefully painted the back of the school bus seat in front of him with his nose pickings. It's so far beyond ridiculous that it couldn't possibly be based on actual events.
It was even ridiculous in Donnie Darko, and have you seen that movie?
It's totally based on actual events.
Around midnight on October 19, 1970 (yes, this story happened right before Halloween), Air Force cadet Robert Bennett and his fiance were sitting in Bennett's car on a dark road doing something that totally didn't involve any fingerbanging whatsoever. Suddenly, a man in a white bunny suit appeared from the bushes, shouted "You're on private property and I have your tag number!" and hurled an ax through the window of Bennett's car (bunnies are very territorial, if you weren't aware). After this vicious attack, which somehow managed to not seriously injure either of the car's occupants, the evil bunny hopped back into the woods, because sometimes real life is a cheesy horror movie.
"Hey, you forgot your ax!"
Less than two weeks later, the Bunny Man was spotted standing eerily still on the front porch of an unoccupied house. When a security guard approached him, he whipped out his now-trademark ax and started hacking at one of the porch's support beams. "All you people trespass around here," the Bunny Man shouted as he went to town on the defenseless house, probably emphasizing each swing with a lewd pelvic thrust (because we just now decided that's a better visual). "If you don't get out of here, I'm going to bust you on the head!"
The security guard went back to his car to retrieve his gun and do himself some wabbit hunting, but the last thing he saw was the Bunny Man's adorable poofy tail disappearing into the forest. As far as anyone knows, he's still out there, twitching his whiskers as he sharpens his ax, hop-hop-hopping through the nightmares of D.C. area school kids.
While giving parents another way to scare kids into behaving.
The Oddly Realistic Mannequin
There are quite a few tales of people mistaking actual corpses for curiously realistic (and stinky, and maggoty) Halloween decorations or elaborate pranks -- hell, we've covered some of them in past iterations of this article. But how does that even happen? You'd know a bona fide dead person if you tripped over one, right?
"Shit yeah, we would. You ever see Weekend at Bernie's? Didn't believe that guy was alive for a minute."
Based on the sheer amount of evidence to the contrary, you shouldn't be so sure about that. Before you get all up close and personal with that "fake" mummy on your weird neighbor's front porch for a hilarious selfie this Halloween, consider ...
... the story of Israel Lopez and Adam Hines. Earlier this year, these two Tampa Bay area workers were hired to clean out a vacant home previously occupied by a reclusive hoarder. In a scene that's sure to inspire a new TLC show titled Hoarders: Piss Yourself Edition, when they cleared their way to the garage, they discovered a figure dangling from the rafters like a prop from the Haunted Mansion. Taking it for a really tasteless (or really awesome) Halloween decoration, the two men indifferently chopped it down, tossed it onto the pile near the camper shell roof rack with the rest of the garbage and continued with their work.
"Huh, must be one of them new fancy Halloween decorations that go 'splat' when you drop them."
Their mistake wasn't even discovered until the men drove the body to the dump, heaved it into a dumpster, and went back to the house for another load. County employees had watched them casually toss a dead body in with the rest of the garbage, and when Lopez and Hines returned to the dump, they were greeted by police, who questioned them regarding exactly how much sense it made that a shut-in would set up a Halloween prank for an audience of precisely no one. But don't blame them -- blame the denial center of the human brain, which has a tendency to completely lose its shit when confronted with the cold specter of Death.
This wasn't even the first time this year that a Tampa Bay resident accidentally trashed a corpse; only months before, a security guard tossed out the body of 96-year-old woman who had jumped to her death from her 16th-story apartment. If you needed concrete proof of how strong denial can be, there you go.
"Concrete" probably wasn't the best word choice there.
You can read more of Nathan's (typically less morbid) stuff at his website and Uproxx. He'll also bust you on the head if you don't follow him on Twitter.
For more real horror, check out 6 Creepy Places Where Dead Bodies Just Lay Out in the Open and 5 Modern Horror Scenes Ripped Out of History Books.
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