Urban legends

Every once in a while you hear a story that goes something like that: “This happened to an  aunt of a friend of a friend of mine, after not washing her hair for three days she found dozens of spiders nesting on her scalp ….”

A classic urban legend: the alligator in the toilet, pc: halloweenforum.com

You have just been told an urban legend.  The definition I found on answers.com is rather good and comprehensive so I am just quoting it here instead of reinventing the wheel.  An urban legend is “an apocryphal (erroneous, fictitious), secondhand story told as true and just plausible enough to be believed, about some horrific, embarrassing, ironic, or exasperating series of events that supposedly happened to a real person.”

Urban legends are universal and seem to be playing into some deep psychological need to deal with deeply routed fear, like the fear of creepy animals infesting your body.

Despite its name urban legends don’t necessarily originate in cities or urban areas, the expression – or its alternative – contemporary legend (not used in conversation, more of a technical term)  are used to differentiate those stories from older legends from pre-industrial times.

A good selection of urban legends (albeit with annoying pop-up ads) can be found here.

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