The Best Horror Books About Urban Legends

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Urban legends are all fun and games until you hear scratching at your window, and start to wonder if it’s the escaped mental patient with a hook for a hand. Good times. Passed down for decades, or even centuries, these tales are believed to have happened “to a friend of a friend,” and often contain terrifying elements from both the real world and otherworldly realms. Sure, the serial killer hiding in the upstairs attic as he makes mysterious calls to the babysitter downstairs is a classic example of real-world horror. But don’t underestimate the power of Bloody Mary, the game played by teenagers across the world as they chant in front of their mirror hoping to witness a ghostly apparition. While often told at sleepovers or around the campfire, these tales are also scarily fun to read on your own… in the form of a classic paperback book that pays tribute to these age-old stories. Folklore has never felt so good in your hands, and you’re about to discover a new type of horror with these horror books about urban legends.

Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark

Author: Alvin Schwartz

Published: 1981

Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark Book Cover

Any 90’s kid will remember Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – a children’s book about hauntings and urban legends that many have argued is not for children at all. And can you blame them? Besides the references to urban legends like the man with a hook for a hand, or the one who fled to Baghdad to escape an appointment with Death… the illustrations in this book are simply terrifying. Regardless of how many decades ago you read this book in the school library or under the covers with a flashlight, it’s not easy to get the image of The Haunt out of your head. And if you’re brave enough, just Google it. After you’ve ordered your new copy of Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark, watch the 2019 movie for even more childhood nostalgia.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid: The Book of Scary Urban Legends

Author: Jan Harold Brunvand

Published: 2004

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid: The Book of Scary Urban Legends Book Cover

All the stories you’ve heard around the campfire come to life in Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid. Jan Harold Brunvand is a professor and folklorist who has dedicated his entire career to the art of urban legends – and you’ll be shaking, crying, and laughing with this collection of tales old and new. You’ve definitely heard a million adaptations of the babysitter who receives mysterious calls from the man upstairs, but what about the snake in the strawberry patch? Or the Mexican dog that wasn’t even a dog? One of the most scary aspects of urban legends? Most of them can definitely still happen in real life, even if it’s seemingly rare, and this book will bring out your deepest fears in the best way. 

Urban Legends: Bizarre Tales You Won’t Believe by James Proud

Author: James Proud 

Published: 2016

Urban Legends: Bizarre Tales You Won't Believe by James Proud book cover

Sure, you love the traditional urban legends that you’ve heard for years… but sometimes you’re in the mood for something a bit weird. Like alligators in the subway or a two-headed dog. Oh and aliens, all the aliens. Skeptics need not read this collection of beautifully bizarre stories, which may or may not give you weird dreams. Not nightmares, per se, but dreams about unknown creatures that aren’t exactly evil, just misunderstood. Just like us. 

The Creepypasta Collection: Modern Urban Legends You Can’t Unread

Author: MrCreepyPasta

Published: 2016

The Creepypasta Collection: Modern Urban Legends You Can't Unread book cover

Yes, it’s those Creepypastas. The horror stories you’ve seen posted around the internet – telling the tales of ghosts, demons, serial killers and otherworldly creatures. But the world wide web is a big place, and these new-age chronicles are somehow even more frightening when placed in good, old-fashioned print. Discover these tales of modern terror with The Creepypasta Collection, including some of the popular stories you may have read online. Ben Drowned, Jeff the Killer, Ted the Caver… oh, and Slenderman. The tall and terrifying creature that launched countless nightmares, YouTube documentaries, and even a feature film. Take a break from the decades-old urban legends, and treat yourself to this collection of new horror stories.

Superstitions: A Handbook of Folklore, Myths, and Legends from around the World

Author: D.R. McElroy

Published: 2020

Superstitions: A Handbook of Folklore, Myths, and Legends from around the World book cover

A book about urban legends that’s both spooky and educational? What more could a horror enthusiast want? You won’t just hear about the most common legends and superstitions across all cultures – you’ll also learn exactly why they’re a “thing,” and how they’ve affected certain communities over the centuries. For example, did you know that the number 13 is considered lucky in Italy – despite being a symbol of bad luck in the United States? Or that the seven years of bad luck that supposedly comes when you break a mirror, originates from the Romans and their glass mirrors? The main goal of this book isn’t to terrify you, but to teach you about the origins of the most popular urban legends and superstitions. As it turns out, it does both!

Scary Urban Legends 

Author: Tom Baker

Published: 2010

Scary Urban Legends book cover

After you’ve finished reading D.R. McElroy’s sophisticated handbook on urban legends, you might just be in the mood to tremble with every page turn. And that’s exactly what you’ll get with Scary Urban Legends. It’s a collection of all the scary stories you heard around the campfire in high school, and possibly even did on a dare once or twice. Looking at you, Bloody Mary. Share it at a scary sleepover or simply read on your own time to discover the horrors of hitchhiking ghosts (not the Disney kind,) serial killers, and swarms of insects. Because as Jack Skellington once said, life’s no fun without a good scare.

Creepy Urban Legends

Author: Tim O’Shei

Published: 2010

Creepy Urban Legends book cover

Even if you’re not usually much of a reader, you can still uncover all the details of your favorite creepy urban legends with this book. In only 32 pages. It has major Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark Vibes, telling the tales of your favorite urban legends in a simple way. It’s perfect for beginners, or those who want to read about their favorite superstitions and stories before watching the movie it was based on.

Say Her Name

Author: Juno Dawson

Published: 2010

Say Her Name Book Cover

Bloody Mary is one of the greatest urban legends of all time. So great, in fact, that she inspired this terrifying tale by Tim O’Shei – in which a group of teenagers unknowingly summon her from the afterlife. And not the same night they chanted her name in the mirror, either – but with a sneak attack that includes threatening messages on the bathroom mirror and strange everyday occurrences. The things you’ll do to get your high school crush to notice you, are we right? The three teenagers must find out a way to save themselves before their five days are up, and Mary comes for them like she has countless others. 

Urban Legends: 666 Absolutely True Stories That Happened to a Friend…of a Friend of a Friend

Author: Thomas J. Craughwell

Published: 2005

Urban Legends: 666 Absolutely True Stories That Happened to a Friend...of a Friend of a Friend book cover

Friend of a friend of a friend. It’s the basis of most urban legends, and these stories come together in this book by Thomas J. Craughwell. They’re scary, hilarious, and often extremely inappropriate… ranging from the alligators that supposedly roam in NYC sewers to the new parents who left their baby on a car roof. That’s right, it gets dark. You’ll be feeling all sorts of things with 666 Absolutely True Stories, and you can even convince your friends to read it for all the “did it happen, or not?” debates. 

Encyclopedia of Urban Legends

Author: Jan Harold Brunvand

Published: 2004

Encyclopedia of Urban Legends Book Cover

Another book from the father of folklore, Jan Harold Brunvand. He’s here to answer all your questions about urban legends, alphabetized and ready to discuss each one’s history and contribution to popular culture. And we’re not just talking about the much-talked-about tales that have been made into movies, but urban legends so weird and obscure that even your most folklore-obsessed friends will say “what?” Become a scholar of scary and supposedly true stories with this encyclopedia by Jan Harold Brunvand, and don’t forget to read his entire collection of books on urban legends!

Also check out our very own book based on Oregon’s Urban Legends. Atlas of Lore #1 – Oregon

If you want more Urban legends and paranormal lore check out our Encyclopedia of Supernatural horrors.

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The Demon Dog of Valle Crucis, North Carolina an Urban Legend

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

My day job is working as a pest control technician for an awesome company here in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Come to find out, I have a haunted site on my route. (Yeah, I know. What are the odds that the horror author gets the route with a haunted place or even better a place haunted by a demon dog?) I have included pictures in this article that I took the last time I was in this area. This local legend of the demon dog of Valle Crucis has been around since the late 1800s.

The story was birthed at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Valle Crucis, North Carolina around 1860. A few people were found dead in the nearby woods by an apparent animal attack. Instead of looking for a rational explanation of what happened, the local minister claimed he saw a “demon dog” kill these people. I’m not bashing ministers or any religion or denomination, for I myself an am ordained minister, but given the time period should we be surprised?

This urban legend has gone on for several generations, but the most popular story has to do with two young men who were students at App State. They were traveling down the road next to the church one moonlit autumn night. A large, shadowy figure leaped our from behind one of the tombstones from the church’s graveyard and appeared in front of their vehicle. The driver swerved to the side of the road to avoid slamming into whatever had stepped in front of them. According to witnesses, he slammed on the breaks and eased his vehicle to the shoulder.

Cemetery in Valle Crucis at St. John's Episcopal Church
St. John's Episcopal Church and gravestones

The two friends peered out the window into the darkness. The figure took shape under the moonlight and they were shocked at what they saw. A massive dog, the size of a full grown man, stood in the road staring at them. it was covered in shimmering black fur and had large, yellow teeth. It’s eyes were glowing red and did not reflect back the light like a dog or cat’s eyes will sometimes do at night. One of the young men turned to the other and said, “Do you see that?” His friend replied, “No, and neither do you.”

Sign in front of tombs at St. John's Episcopal Church

The dog eased towards the vehicle and growled. The driver took his foot off the braked and slammed on the gas. The vehicle sped down the dark, mountain road, hugging the curves as hard as it could without flipping. Sixty miles and hour…Seventy miles an hour…the driver did his best to keep the car under control. He glanced in his rear view mirror and had the shock of his life. The demon dog was keeping us with the car. No, it was gaining on them.

The driver mashed the accelerator even harder. The car sped over a the bridge where the streams in Valle Crucis meet to form a cross (the name in Latin means Vale of the Cross). The dog stopped following them and then vanished.

St. John's Episcopal Church sign established in 1862

The frightened friends drove into Boone and stopped at a local diner, which was the only place open late at night. They tried to let their nerves settle down but it wasn’t happening. They knew neither of them were going to get to sleep for a while. They also knew they had experienced something terrifying and supernatural. The two men shared their story and the urban legend of the Demon Dog of Valle Crucis was cemented into North Carolina folklore forever.

There are other stories surrounding this quaint little cemetery at St. John’s. Some have reported seeing the apparition of a woman wondering around the graves. Others have reported sounds of gunshots and a weeping female, all of which cannot be connected to any known event.

Is the legend of the Demon Dog true? Is this a case of lycanthropy maybe?

When I was out there, I called and whistled for the demon dog several times. I walked among the graves and tried to see if I could get him to come out. He was either napping or had better things to do. I got back in my truck and drove away. I looked in my review, and to my disappointment, there was no demon dog chasing me.

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The Ghost Bride Of Haynesville Woods – Maine US

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore


Maine is no stranger to grisly horror stories and urban legends. From tombstones displaying spectral images to a gruesome, lighthouse-based tale of murder, those searching for a bone-chilling kick will certainly find what they’re looking for in this New England state. There is one area of Maine, however, that sticks out as the most haunted and disturbed in the whole state. An unassuming stretch of Route 2a known as the Haynesville Woods is a route that most Mainers would recommend you avoid, and for very good reason – The Ghost Bride of Haynesville Woods.

“It’s a stretch of road up north in Maine
That’s never ever ever seen a smile
If they’d buried all them truckers lost in them woods
There’d be a tombstone every mile”

From A Tombstone Every Mile by Dick Curless

The History of Haynesville’s Treacherous Roads

Haynesville, Maine was first reached by settlers in 1828, and by 1832 a road was completed between that and a military post in Houlton to allow for easy transportation of supplies. Before I-95 was built, this part of the road was also heavily used by trucks bringing Maine’s potato harvest out of the state. The road exists today in infamy, as one of the most haunted roads in Maine. Even Dick Curless’ aforementioned song describes the great numbers of truckers who have died along that stretch, hence the name ‘A Tombstone Every Mile’. This is no surprise given the treacherous nature of the road, buried deep in the woods with low lighting and as much as 90 degree turns to keep the most seasoned of truck drivers on their toes.

Haynesville Woods Urban Legends

There are several legends regarding the Haynesville Woods road, most notable of which being a story of a particularly distraught young woman. So the story goes, the woman has been seen stranded by the roadside, running and waving manically to the passing cars. When drivers stop to ask if she is okay, she will explain that she and her husband were in a horrific car wreck on the day of their wedding and desperately need help. When drivers offer a ride, the woman is said to accept, and those who do have reported to have felt a bitter chill in the air as she entered their vehicle. She directs them to the end of the road, whereupon she disappears completely, leaving nothing but a wintery bite to the air around the passenger seat.

Enthusiasts have deciphered that this story concerns the case of a newlywed couple who crashed in Haynesville woods on their wedding night. The groom tragically died instantly while the bride, perhaps even more tragically, managed to walk to the end of the road before succumbing to the biting winter cold, and ultimately freezing to death.

Another story is told involving young girls in need of help on the roadside, similar to the spectral bride. Much like the bride, the girls, sometimes seen singularly and sometimes as a pair, disappear from helpful passerby’s cars once they reach the end of the road. In 1967 two young girls were reported to have been struck and killed by a tractor trailer, though whether this tragedy was enough to spark a new urban legend or whether those girls still haunt the road to this day is another matter altogether.

If you like highway ghost stories, you should also check out the Bandage Man of Cannon Beach.

Resources and further reading:

https://949whom.com/route-2a-in-maine-haunted/
https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/maine/most-haunted-street-me/
https://umaine.edu/undiscoveredmaine/aroostook-county-maine/southern-aroostook/haynesville/
https://detour-roadtrips.com/home/five-of-americas-most-haunted-highways

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The Ghost of Deer Island

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Deer Island sits just offshore from the coast of Mississippi. It’s maintained by the Mississippi Coastal Preserve and it’s 400 acres are home to the great blue heron as well as ten different rare or endangered species. If seen from the nearby beaches of historical Biloxi, one would hardly assume this undeveloped paradise for boating and beach recreation is also home to some of the state’s most haunting urban legends – The Ghost of Deer Island.

Deer Island Biloxi bay

One of the legends tells of a supernatural occurrence from centuries prior. The “Firewater Ghost”, as it became known, was a mysterious blue light that people would see roaming Biloxi Bay between Biloxi and Ocean Springs. One sighting, from back in 1892, describes a luminescent ball hovering about a foot over the water’s surface. It’s believed to be a restless sentry protecting the bay.

Legend of the Headless Ghost

The most famous urban legend from the area concerns a headless ghost that haunts the island. As the story goes, two fishermen happened upon the island back in the 1800s. They explored and decided to camp for the night. Later that evening, while tending to their fire, they heard rustling noises coming from the bushes. They assumed the raucous was caused by wild hogs, but when it didn’t let up they went to investigate. Imagine their surprise when a headless skeleton jumped out of the palmetto bushes and chased them all the way back to their boat! They returned to the spot the next morning, but the creature had vanished without a trace.

Skeleton hand reaching in the dark

This particular story was first documented in a 1922 article written by local author and historian A.G. Ragusin for the Sun Herald. His primary source for the article, appropriately titled “Headless Ghost Haunted Deer Island In Olden Times”, was Captain Eugene Tiblier, Sr., who had lived in the area his entire life. But he also had the story verified by other fishermen who had visited the island and experienced similar sightings. In all instances, the men were confronted with a terrifying bone man before narrowly escaping his clutches, and this infamy has earned him the title of “Ghost of Deer Island”.

Fact or Fiction?

This legend of a headless haunt appears to originate from an even older source. According to an old pirate tale, a pirate captain once steered his ship to Deer Island in order to hide a large amount of treasure. Once the gold was buried, the captain asked for volunteers to stay behind and guard it. One of the crew members volunteered, not realizing that this participation would involve cutting off his head so that his ghost could guard the hidden riches instead (the captain assumed his eagerness was due to the fact that he wanted the treasure for himself when everyone left). His head was hung in a tree and his body laid to rest nearby, allowing his ghost to be sole protector of the loot. 

Haunted Treasure chest in sand

Despite the grisly account, and the few eyewitness accounts from long ago, there hasn’t been much in the way of recent sightings. But the legend is still entertaining, and it remains a favorite piece of lore for the area. And who knows? The alleged treasure has never been found and could still be out there. Perhaps one day soon a happy go lucky tourist, sailor, or fisherman will cross the wrong spot at the wrong time and come face-to-skeleton with…the Ghost of Deer Island.

Sources

https://www.sunherald.com/living/article39639327.html

https://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/biloxighost.html

https://theresashauntedhistoryofthetri-state.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-headless-skeleton-of-deer-island.html

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The Hatchet Lady of Red Rocks – Urban Legend

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The Red Rocks park and amphitheater in Colorado is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful landmarks in the United States, as a simple Google search will explain. What your favorite search engine won’t tell you, however, is that this site isn’t home to just hiking trails and memorable concerts…but also to one of the most terrifying urban legends of the state. One that will keep you up at night and make you think very differently about the gorgeous red rocks that sit below the legendary Colorado sunset. Let us tell you about the story of the Hatchet Lady of Red Rocks.

redrocks theatre Colorado

Urban Legend of the Headless Hatchet Lady

Several ghosts have been rumored to lurk the grounds, but none are more famous than this decapitated damsel. People have reported seeing a headless woman riding horseback through the Red Rocks area, while carrying a bloody hatchet and scaring the life out of teenagers who try to get frisky or cause trouble. What is it with urban legends and their love for taunting young adults? Versions of this tale revolving around the headless woman typically say that she’s a former camper who was murdered, and later decapitated, on the grounds and who stays around in the afterlife to get a few spooks in. And maybe catch a few concerts at the arena, perhaps? While the tales of her being literally without a head are the most commonly told around the campfire, there are also several other versions of the origin of The Headless Hatchet Lady.

Old Mrs. Johnson

Hatchet Lady of Red Rocks witch with head

Another tale gives the woman a name, Old Mrs. Johnson, and believes that she lived on the premises in a small cave. According to stories, she used to pull a coat over her head and walk around the property swinging a hatchet to scare off her daughter’s suitors. In some cases, she even went as far as to chop off the offending body parts of any man who came near her precious daughter. It was their blood that stained the rocks, and gave them the signature red color! Terrifying, right? Old Mrs. Johnson was a lonely lady who wasn’t too keen about the idea of young love, which explains why her ghost is said to scare off primarily teenagers who are getting busy amid the red rocks. 

The idea of blood-soaked rocks and hatchet-wielding old ladies is far-fetched to most of us, but not to those in the Colorado area who believe in the wrath of the Headless Hatchet Lady. The tales say that when her apparition is seen with a head, she looks exactly like you would expect… an older, feral-looking woman with ratty hair and a witchy vibe that would make you want to run the other way. Even so, many flock towards the more deserted parts of this Colorado landmark in hopes of getting a glimpse of the Headless Hatchet Lady. The Red Rocks area of Colorado is undeniably beautiful and has a history of athletes, musicians, and other famous figures that have taken selfies in front of the scenery. However, if you look hard enough, you might just come face-to-face with one of the state’s most terrifying urban legends… the Hatchet Lady of Red Rocks!

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