By Savannah, Reference Department
Urban legends, like most things in the modern world, have evolved. In the past, they were spread by word of mouth. Though detailed, there was always something in the story that made it …unreachable. They were never firsthand. Someone might tell you a story that happened to a friend of their cousin. Later, you may hear the same story from somebody else, finding it had shifted. It wasn’t the friend’s cousin. It was her brother. Or was it her boyfriend? However, there was always just enough detail to make it believable.
I remember personally being duped by an urban legend. My friend said he heard about a college student in Florida. After a kiss from a date, she developed a rash. Almost immediately, she received calls from her doctor and local law enforcement. Her rash was caused by a bacteria found on decomposing corpses. She had been on a date with a cannibal. I told several friends. They were eager to spread the story to theirs as well. I googled the story, assuming it must be all over the news . I found it…just not in the way I expected. I found multiple versions of the story all over the web. The college, state, and other minor details changed to fit the teller’s narration. It was an URBAN LEGEND spreading like wildfire. I myself had spread it to half a dozen people.
Urban legends are more popular than ever. They are thriving online. We now call them “Creepypastas” (creepy + pasta, after the pattern of copypasta, itself an alteration of copy and paste). Creepypastas are online tales that are often blatantly presented as fiction. But are they really? Even if they start as fiction, these stories develop such a following, parts of them do become real. Often in frightening ways. The website makes it easy to find a pasta about anything you desire. There are pastas about dolls, stalkers, devilish pets…you name it! I highly recommend listening to the pastas being narrated on YouTube. I like to listen to them while I get ready in the morning.
Slenderman is one of the most prolific Creepypasta. The story tells of a tall humanoid creature with a featureless, white face. The creature wears a black suit and has disproportionately long limbs. He haunts and traumatizes his victims, which are often children. The stories of Slenderman have led to real-life tragedy.
In 2014, two Wisconsin teenage girls stabbed their friend. The girl barely survived. Her friends cited their reason for stabbing the girl was Slenderman. They believed killing their friend would prove their loyalty to the monster. The crime caused hysteria among parents everywhere. Slenderman only gained more of an audience. Russell Jack, the police chief of Waukesha, Wisconsin, made a powerful statement. ” The Internet has changed the way we live. It is full of information and wonderful sites that teach and entertain. The Internet can also be full of dark and wicked things.”
Urban Legends prove one thing: our words have meaning. Sometimes if believed enough, they can bring our worst nightmares to life.
If you are up for a scare, here are a few good places to start. These are not bedtime stories.
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