A true cornerstone of my childhood experience was sharing urban legends. Some of my fondest memories involve hot summer evenings spent with my friends, sitting around in a circle at the edge of my driveway, and exchanging various horrific stories that may or may not have been true. These stories were often handed down from older brothers, sisters, or cousins, and no matter who was telling the story, they always made sure to include that they knew a person involved, as to add credence to their tale.  Over time I grew older, and many of these stories became long forgotten or written off as silly myths. As the internet evolved, and search engines made the world’s collective knowledge available at our fingertips, I was absolutely shocked to find that the origins of stories I fondly remembered from my childhood had some level of truth to them.

Organ Thieves

One of the most popular legends I remember was the story of a man that went to a party. According to legend, the man arrives at the party, has a few drinks, and everything is fine until the man suddenly loses consciousness. It turns out that someone at the party had put something into his drink. The man eventually awakes to find he is naked in a bathtub, covered in blood, and missing his kidneys. Of course the details of this story varied by who happened to be telling it, but all of the versions I’ve heard ended with a man unwittingly becoming a kidney donor.

While this story seems like it was fabricated in order to discourage teenage drinking, the truth is that there is a large-scale global industry involved in the trafficking of black market organs. Some choose to sell their organs illegally through a network of clandestine clinics, but a person being kidnapped for the purpose of stealing their organs is not unheard of.

One case in 2008 describes a doctor from Gurgaon, India who lured hundreds of impoverish people in the area to his home by offering them jobs. Once at the doctor’s home, his unsuspecting victims were forced at gunpoint to have their kidneys removed. It is believed that Dr. Amit Kumar was responsible for 500-600 illegal kidney transplants.

Bodies in the Mattress

I first heard this bone chilling tale after a friend had returned from vacation. She claimed that while her and her parents were in their hotel room they could not pinpoint where a particularly foul smell was emanating from. Her and her family searched the room, thinking that a previous guest had left old food, undiscovered by the hotel staff or worst – a dead rat had met its end there. After around an hour of searching and finding nothing, the family notifies the front desk and requests to have their room changed. The hotel management apologizes and promptly relocates them to a room further down the hall. Several hours later, as the family heads downstairs to take advantage of the hotel pool, they witness several police officers entering their previous room. After talking with the police, the family discovers that there had been a decomposed body hidden in one of the bed’s mattresses.

Bodies in the Mattress

Whether my friend’s story was true or she had heard the story and decided to relate it as her own, this bizarre legend is based on truth. Many cases have been documented over the years of murderers hiding victims in hotel mattresses or box springs, but the most recent case occurred in 2010.

A woman had been renting a hotel room regularly, when suddenly her payments stopped. The hotel thought nothing of it and went to box up the woman’s items. Family started to become worried immediately because the woman had failed to pick her children up from school. Two months passed and it seemed that the woman, Soni Millbrook, completely vanished without a trace. It’s been reported that the room was rented out five times before Soni’s body was discovered under the bed’s mattress.

The Dog Boy of Quitman, Arkansas

Dog BoyI originally heard the tale of “Dog Boy” in a book of ghost stories I read in my youth. Many believe that Dog Boy still roams the halls of his boyhood home, seen peering through windows by those that dare to drive past the house. Others that have inhabited the home claim that objects seemingly move on their own, along with a slew of other poltergeist phenomena. Even more horrifying than Dog Boy’s disembodied spirit, is the true story of Dog Boy while he was alive.

In the small town of Quitman, Arkansas lived a troubled young boy named Gerald Floyd Bettis. Bettis earned the nickname “Dog Boy” by other local children, due to his fondness for stealing dogs and cats from the neighborhood in order to beat and torture them. Bettis was often teased and ridiculed by the other children at school, but some say that he enjoyed the attention the teasing brought him, and Gerald began acting out purposely for attention.

Over time Bettis became bored with simply torturing animals, and turned on his own parents. Bettis kept his parents imprisoned in the upstairs of their own home and starved them for extended periods of time. It was from then until Bettis was in his 30s, that he would beat and abused his elderly parents. His father died in the early 1980s. Officially his death was due to illness, but locals believe that it was Gerald that killed him.

It wasn’t until a nurse reported the abuse she witness Gerald inflicting on his, then 70-year-old, mother to adult protective services, that she was able to escape the deplorable conditions she was living in. After Gerald’s mother was removed from the home, he decided to start his own marijuana growing operation. It wasn’t long before Gerald was busted. Based on police evidence and the testimony of his own mother recounting the suffering he had inflicted upon her, Gerald was sent to prison. He was later found dead of a drug overdose in the mid-90s.

Welcome to the World of AIDS

This story has several different versions, but the one I’ve heard goes like this: A man is at a bar having a good time, when he suddenly his eyes meet with a woman across the bar. They stare at one another for a moment, until she gets up from her seat, and makes her way across the room to him. He can’t believe that this beautiful woman even noticed him, more-less talk to him. Thinking it’s he’s the luckiest man alive, he spends the night drinking, laughing, and chatting with the beautiful girl. One thing leads to another and he takes the woman home. He wakes up the next morning and finds that the woman is gone. He collects his clothes and enters the bathroom so he could shower and freshen up, still thinking of the gorgeous woman from the bar. His glee suddenly turns to disbelief as he sees sprawled across his bathroom mirror, in red lipstick, “Welcome to the world of AIDS!”.

Hundreds of real stories have been documented on people purposely infecting others with AIDS. One story includes a Florida dentist who infected at least 6 of his patients, in order to raise AIDS awareness. Another particularly gut wrenching story, is one of a man that purposely infected his infant son in order to avoid paying child support.  Even though neither of these particular stories involved picking up a date at the bar, it stands as a good cautionary tale.

Creepy Dentist

Razor Blades in Halloween Candy

I can still hear my mother nagging me “Did you check that candy? You know people put razor blades in that stuff!”.  For as long as I can remember, stories have circulated about twisted individuals placing sharp objects and poison in Halloween candy. I was never quite sure if the legend was true, but I always checked anyway “just in case”.

As it turns out, there is a marginal amount of truth to this myth. Although these were widespread rumors in the 80s and early 90s, there had been no documented cases of purposeful candy tampering until 2000. Perhaps drawing on the myth for inspiration, one man was found guilty of placing needles in candy bars. Before 2000 there were two documented cases. One involved a father poisoning his own child in order to collect on a life insurance policy. The second case reported was family attempting to cover up a child accidentally ingesting another family member’s drugs by sprinkling the illegal substance on some candy.

Razor Blades in Halloween Candy

Urban legends are some of the oldest forms of storytelling. Part of the fun involved with relating these stories, is never knowing whether or not there is any truth to them. It almost seems like urban legends are a dying art. Occasionally I see viral stories being shared on Facebook, but their validity can quickly be determined in a matter of minutes. Often when we heard these stories as children, we didn’t have the ability to type the story into a search engine, and instantly discover the origins of the myth. While most urban legends can be discredited, the truths surrounding the ones that are based on real events are far more horrific than any work of fiction.