Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Ghoulish Truth Behind Popular Horror Stories

By: Natalie Josef (View Profile)

Have you ever met anyone who found a razorblade in a Halloween treat? I heard this growing up and I remember parents being freaked out, but I don’t remember ever receiving an apple as a treat. My little-kid brain imagined a psycho killer installing some crazy metal contraption that would burst out of the apple and shred the lips off my face … actually, that’s still what I imagine. Scary!

But is there any truth to these scary stories? What really goes bump in the night?

Razorblades and Needles in Halloween Apples
True … well, kind of.
In his book, Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life, author Jack Satino writes that these legends started in the mid-60s and nearly all turned out to be hoaxes. Razorblades and needles were indeed found by children, but it turns out that the majority of the time, they were placed there by the children themselves to feed the rumors or to simply freak out a younger sibling. The most serious injury of all these needed only a few stitches. The candy industry supported a study in the 1980s showing the same results. Joel Best, chairperson of sociology at the University of Delaware, who researched forty years of newspapers said, “Tainted Halloween candy is a contemporary legend, spread by word of mouth, with little to support it.”

Halloween Decoration or Suicide?
In 2005, a woman hung by a rope in a tree for hours on a moderately busy road in Delaware. She was seen by dozens of people who just assumed it was a Halloween decoration. Well, they were wrong … dead wrong. The woman had indeed committed suicide. According to Fay Glanden, wife of the town’s mayor, William Glanden, “It looked like something somebody would have rigged up.” There have also been many cases of teenagers “pretending” to hang themselves for Halloween pranks who have also died. The lesson here? Don’t commit (or pretend to commit) suicide on Halloween—who wants to end up on the Web as a casualty in an urban legend?

Bloody Mary x13
False … or is it?
Rumor has it that if you go into a darkened room, lit only with a candle, and chant “Bloody Mary” thirteen times in front of a mirror, you’ll see Mary behind your left shoulder. Then Mary will either: pull you into the mirror with her, scratch your eyes out, drive you mad, or just kill you on the spot. In older stories, Mary is an executed witch; in more modern stories, she is a victim of a car crash that left her hideously disfigured. However, she is not Mary I of England who got the nickname “Bloody Mary” for her penchant for killing young girls to bathe in their blood, which supposedly preserved her youthful appearance. Ultimately, there is no “truth” to this legend, but you can certainly freak yourself out when trying this, which is what Halloween is all about anyway.

Don’t Bury Me … I’m Not Dead
The story goes that a man is buried and then later they find scratch marks and additional signs of a person desperately trying to escape (why they dug up the coffin in the first place is beyond me). This legend isn’t just true—it’s ridiculously true. Thank God for modern medicine and those beeping heart machines. Back in the day, people who appeared dead (mostly due to a lead poisoning-induced coma) were pronounced dead and then buried. Being buried alive was actually common; so common in fact, that wealthy people were buried in “safety coffins,” in which the undead could ring a bell or raise a flag to let the outside world know a grave mistake had been made. “Saved by the bell” is not only a terrific TV show; it’s what people used to say when a dead dude was rescued from his premature burial.

True Hollywood Stories
Hello, Clarice … I seriously freaked out the first time I saw Silence of the Lambs. The “it rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again” quote, Buffalo Bill’s weird sex skin dance, Anthony Hopkins and his fava beans thing—that’s some scary stuff. (FYI—the reason Hopkins was so terrifying in that movie is because he never blinks and he was only on camera for seventeen minutes.) The character of Buffalo Bill is based on real-life killer and grave robber, Ed Gein. When police stormed Ed’s property in 1957, they found a wide array of truly ghoulish items: human skulls on the bedposts; chairs, lampshades, socks, a vest made out of skin, and soup bowls made out of human skullcaps. Gein also inspired the characters of Norman Bates (Psycho) and Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

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