Urban legends often come with a dose of healthy skepticism–and we have had a love for telling tall tales for centuries. Sometimes, urban legends turn out to be true. Here are five stories based on facts that will move you, either under the covers or stir your heart.
Kids in Staten Island have told stories about “Cropsey” for decades—he was known as a boogeyman haunting the woods until he found a child to disembowel.
In 1987, a man named Andre Rand was convicted of child abduction. It was found that he was linked with a series of child disappearances in the 1970s. Rand also worked at Willowbrook, a mental institution no longer operating. His story is deeply intertwined with Cropsey, making him an unforgettable urban legend.
The Maine Hermit
Vacationers in central Maine’s North Pond area often noticed odd items that would go missing during their stays: flashlights, batteries, and food. People in the area concluded that a stranger was foraging for supplies and sustenance.
They were correct. A man named Christopher Knight was confronted by a game warden and confessed he committed an average of 40 robberies per year. Knight said he had lived alone in the woods for 27 years, and his identification and details only proved his story true.
“Candyman” was a popular revenge horror movie released in 1992 and recently reimagined in 2021. It’s based on a short story by author Clive Barker, depicting the revenge that a Black artist (Tony Todd) took for his murder in the 1890s due to his relationship with a white woman. Children only remember the man from the movies whose name you recite at least three times in front of the bathroom mirror before he jumps from a medicine cabinet to kill.
Interestingly, the medicine cabinet detail is based on truth. A woman named Ruth McCoy residing in a Chicago housing product called 911 and reported that she was being attacked—she was later found dead with gunshot wounds. Police determined that her attackers broke through a connecting wall in the apartment next door and climbed through her medicine cabinet. Originally, this design was meant for plumbers to have easy access to check the plumbing, but criminals took advantage of the unfortunate design. The details of McCoy’s attack were published in the Chicago Reader in 1987, fueling the urban legend of the Candyman.
The Bunny Man
During the 1970s, locals in Clifton, Virginia, warned each other to never be in or around the underpass of “Bunny Man Bridge” on Halloween night. The tale specifies that an escaped mental ward patient began gutting bunnies and hanging them from the underpass, eventually doing the same to teenagers. Was the story told to keep unruly teenagers out of mischief on Halloween night?
Perhaps, but the story was likely inspired by the presence of a wandering and mentally-disturbed man. In October 1970, a young couple reported spotting a man donning bunny ears and wearing a white suit–he yelled at them, saying they were trespassing on private property, and threw a hatchet at them. The hatchet shattered their windshield.
The second sighting of the Bunny Man was by a security guard who witnessed him hacking away at the porch railing. Police called to the area couldn’t locate anyone matching his description.
Charlie No-Face was a well-known spook in the depths of the dark—if you wandered a residential street at night, alone, in Pennsylvania and heard footsteps, you’d think of Charlie. The “no-face” aspect of his appearance was said to be shocking to an onlooker.
Charlie No-Face is an urban legend based on a man named Ray Robinson, born in 1910. His face was sadly disfigured at age 8 when he touched active electrical wiring. Robinson took strolls late at night along Route 351 in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, avoiding onlookers, but stories of a boogeyman spread. He didn’t want to upset anyone and kept to himself. He passed away in 1985.
Urban legends are often told to warn children and share a moral lesson, and they are also a lesson for adults to mind their own stories with thoughtfulness and grace.