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10 Urban Legends From Around the World

Headless horsemen, the sack man, and ghosts on the road... These are the most chilling urban legends!
The vanishing hitchhiker is one of many urban legends from around the world.

 

Have you heard of any urban legends? Women cut in half that chase you, creatures that kill your dog and hide underneath your bed, hitchhiking ghosts, monster cattle killers, and the devil himself kidnapping girls on horseback.

These are the bits and pieces of urban legends that reach every corner of the world and spread as a part of popular culture. Their secret lies in the fact that they balance on the fine line between the paranormal and reality: these are built upon supposedly real events. We present to you the 10 most terrifying urban legends in the world.

10 Urban legends from around the world

Since long, long ago, in the ancestral villages, people explained myths and legends that were meant to explain a natural phenomenon, the origin of the place, or the unexplainable. These stories were passed on from generation to generation giving rise to what we now know as pop culture. Throughout the centuries the stories become more enhanced and they start multiplying. 

In the contemporary world, there are certain stories with morbid or mysterious elements that spread through word of mouth until they become what we call urban legends. The most interesting part of these is the fact that they rest on the line between what's real and the fantastic, and although we always want to avoid believing them, their magic and terrifying nature is incredibly attractive to us.

These are the urban legends told around the world that have been told to warn us of certain dangers or, simply, to scare us to death.

Mexican urban legends

Mexico is one of the places in the world where culture is most closely tied with the oral tradition and a fantastic universe. Over the course of time, a number of myths have become stronger and legends have been told to explain phenomena, to bring us morals, or to simply terrify people. Some of them will make your hair stand on end... Don't miss them!

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1. La Llorona (the weeping woman)

Among the most popular Mexican urban legends, "La Llorona" is also known worldwide, which has caused it to end up becoming a trademark of Mexican culture.

The myth of La Llorona tells the tale of an adolescent girl that, in search of prosperity, emigrates to the city from the countryside in order to work for a wealthy family. The heartless son of the family decides that he likes the girl, but after getting her pregnant, the family fires her without a second thought. So, she has to go back home.

However, her parents were very religious and disapproved of the pregnancy. The poor girl was then left alone by the riverside and there, alone and consumed by her regret, gave birth. When the baby was born, out of fear, she abandoned him in the river's current. When she realized what she had done, she started chasing after the baby and screaming desperately.

The legend says that farmers and travelers continue to hear the forlorn cries of La Llorona every night.

Related: The Llorona Legend: How She Inspired Curse of La Llorona

2. La Leyenda del charro negro (the black horseman)

La Leyenda del charro negro is a terrifying urban legend with morals (in Mexican Spanish, charro means horseman), and is also one of the most widespread legends among the Mexican people.

This legend says that in a town closes to the U.S. border, there lived an adorable girl whose beauty was admired by all. Along with this beauty, this girl had also developed a temperamental and promiscuous personality, so she was used to meeting different men from the town at untimely hours, which obviously made her mother suffer.

At one of these meetings, while she awaited her suitor, the black horseman crossed her path. After whispering a few words, the girl fell helpless and accepted his invitation to take a ride with him on his steed.

The horse took off and started moving at faster and faster speeds. The girl was terrified as she saw that the rider left flames in his path. When she grabbed him, she noticed his skeletal hands were covered with hair and that he had long sharp fingernails; it was then that she realized that she had been captured by the devil himself.

This beautiful adolescent was never seen again by anyone in the town, and all young girls are warned that they must act impeccably, otherwise, they too may end up like her.

The legend of el chupacabras (the goat-sucker) is one of the most famous Mexican urban legends.

 

3. El chupacabras (the goat-sucker)

Although this is a myth with deep roots in many other Central American countries and in the United States, Mexico is the country where this was most successful and both literary and movie adaptations were made based on this creature.

The urban legend comes from the reported sighting of a terrifying monster that looked like an alien that murdered five farm animals, in 1995, in Puerto Rico. This myth spread to Mexico and the South of the United States, where many farmers assured that they had been witnesses to the presence of a bipedal being with big eyes, barbs on its back, and long claws.

Since then, el chupacabras has been described in many ways, but its essence comes from the tradition of rural myths about the existence of monsters that live in the lakes and remote places (like the swamp monster) and that allow themselves to be seen at night; eerily similar to the myths of bloody vampires.

Spanish urban legends

Spain is also a land of legends and mysteries. Each region and each little town has its specific legends that mix myth with truth and folklore, and that have been passed down from generation to generation, improved with new versions. Here are some of the most widespread urban legends.

4. The vanishing hitchhiker

The loneliness of the back roads in the middle of the night continues to be the chilling origin of supposed appearances. The most terrifying and popular one of these is the famous vanishing hitchhiker.

The best-known version of this urban legend says that a driver decided to take a back road to reach his destination one dark night. The road, narrow and curvy, had been the scene of several fatal accidents, which didn't dissuade this experienced driver that began to take this route.

On one of the sharpest corners, the driver sees the figure of a girl dressed in white which forces him to stop. After asking him to bring her to the nearest town, she gets into the back seat, but after a short while, she disappears much to the driver's astonishment. The next day he reads in the newspaper that this girl had died on this same curve, just hours before.

The legend has many variations, but it always tends to have two similar endings: in one the girl tries to warn the driver of the dangerous curves with the legendary "I died on this curve"; in another, the girl wants to seek revenge for the driver that ran her over.

Related: 7 Real Ghost Stories (which won't let you sleep at night)

5. The sack man

In Mexico, the legend of La Llorona is used to scare children so that they behave well. In Spain, historically, a figure known as the sack man has been used in this way. In this case, one of the most famous urban legends is based on a true story and has become one of the most widespread myths.

The myth starts off with the events known as "The crime of Gádor", in 1910 in Almeria, Spain. Francisco Ortega suffered from tuberculosis, and he was made to believe that he could be cured if he murdered a child, drank his blood and rubbed his body with his fat. 

Francisco Ortega went out in search of a child and found one on his path, little Bernardo González Parra, that was playing alone at just seven years old. So he put him in the sack and brought him to the healer that had put this idea in his head. They drained him of blood until he died and removed his organs.

Francisco Ortega and the healer were condemned to the death penalty by authorities using the garrote vil.

6. Kidney theft

One of the most unsettling urban legends has been kidney theft for many years because unlike the other ghost stories, this has overtones of truth. This could happen to any one of us!

The legend tells the tale of a boy that went out to party on a regular Saturday and, while dancing, he met an attractive girl that offered him to continue the party at her house. The boy decided to follow her and, at the apartment, the girl offered him a drink, which contained a drug that made him fall asleep.

The next thing that the boy remembered was waking up in pain in a bathtub covered with ice cubes. Even under the influence of alcohol and the sedative, he could read some letters written on his chest: "Call 911 or you'll die". After calling and while he waited for the ambulance, the boy checked his body and found two incisions in his lower abdomen.

Then he understood: they had stolen his kidneys. Now he lives connected to a machine at the hospital.

Japenese urban legends

If there is one place on Earth where horror leads to a whole new dimension that's truly terrifying, it's Japan. The Japanese are masters when it comes to telling horror stories that lie somewhere between the paranormal and the real world, and this has brought them much fame in the past few years, especially in cinema. These are some of the eeriest Japanese urban legends.

7. Slit-mouthed woman

The origins of this legend aren't very clear. Some tell a version of a woman whose husband abused her and ended up slitting her mouth. Others say that the girl was the victim of a traffic accident in which her mouth was severely cut.

Whatever the case may be, they say that this woman appears with a surgical mask and asks you if you find her attractive. If you tell her that you don't, she will cut your face. If you tell her that you do, she takes off the mask and, with a terrifying scream, she will still cut your face. So if you find yourself before the slit-mouthed woman (Kuchisake-onna), there's no way out: You're a dead man!

Related: Slenderman: The Modern-day Creepypasta Horror Myth

8. Teke Teke

Japanese horror always has a gory side, but this legend brings it to the next level. The story tells of a student that died when hit by a train that cut her body in half. Since then, at night, the upper trunk of this girl's body turns into a monster that takes to the streets of the cities.

She is known as "Teke Teke" due to the noise that her skeletal fingers make while pushing herself along the ground to move forward (tek... tek... tek...). The legend says that if you cross paths with her, you're dead meat: Besides being very fast, she won't stop chasing you until she finds you and... Then she cuts you in half, just like what happened to her!

Teke teke is one of the scariest Japanese urban legends.

 

U.S. Urban Legends

Americans are also big fans of horror, and they have created many myths and legends around concepts like Halloween, for example. Also, just like with many other parts of American culture, they haven't taken long to take off and spread all over the world. This is the most well-known legend:

9. The dog that barks

The protagonist of this legend is a nine-year-old girl, the only daughter of a wealthy family that lives in a nice home. The parents bought their daughter a cute little dog so that she wouldn't feel lonely, and they became good friends.

Since the parents worked a lot, one day, night fell and they still hadn't returned home. The girl started to feel scared, so she got in her bed, covered herself with the sheets, and to feel like she wasn't alone, she put her hand under the bed where she felt her dog's wet tongue licking her.

After a while, she got thirsty and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water where she found her dog hanging with the following words written in his blood: "Dogs aren't the only ones that lick".

Related: The Best 8 Horror Movies Based on True Stories

Russian urban legends

Russia is an ancestral land, a traditional place, where the profane unites with the religious and the supernatural to mix history with the mysterious and magical. Although these stories aren't so easy to come by, there are legends that will make your hair stand on end.

10. Dyatlov Pass

The events that led to the legend of "Dyatlov Pass" happened on 2 February 1959 in the Northern Ural Mountains. On this day, in this region, 9 trekkers totally disappeared from their camp: the only item found was their tent scratched up from the inside. Months later, they were found, and appeared to have died violently. 

According to the first accounts, the nine trekkers had left their tent tearing it open from the inside, and had left with little clothing and barefoot in temperatures of less than -15ºC. The footprints in the snow led to the forest, where the police found the cadavers with broken craniums, ribs, tongues torn out, and deadly internal wounds.

The case became a real X-File case, that lead to all kinds of theories, from an attack by the mythic Yeti to a secret KGB operation or an extraterrestrial invasion. When the secret files were opened in the 90s, the mystery just grew even more since the investigators attributed the events to a "powerful unknown force".

Russia has now reopened the Dyatlov Pass case after over 60 years, read here to find out more about the news on this urban legend according to The Moscow Times: Russian Investigators Are Reopening the Dyatlov Pass Case. But What Is It?

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