You’ve probably heard some of the urban legends about sleep, which can make it hard to fall asleep at night or at least contribute to some disturbing nightmares. The mysteries surrounding our nighttime habits such as dreaming can take on terrifying dimensions when lying in bed in the dark. Let’s uncover the history and background of some of these horrors to see which are based on truth and which are simply myth.
Some myths and urban legends have deep emotional bearing, while others are just for fun. Can you tell which is which?
10 – Late Night Spider Snacks
One of the most widely touted urban legends was started as a joke to see how fast and far it would travel. According to Snopes, the popular myth that people eat an average of eight spiders every year while sleeping was started by Lisa Holst to show just how people tend to believe everything they read on the internet. She started the rumor in 1993 and it has continued to spread ever since.
9 – Cupboard Creeper
A story that will keep you awake at night is true and happened in Japan. As you lie awake at night imagining things that go bump and worrying someone is under the bed or in the other room, you might be right. A man, who kept seeing that things were moved in his home even though it was locked up like Fort Knox, set up a camera to find out what was happening. As he watched the recording he saw a woman emerge from one of his cupboards, move around the room and then go back into the cupboard which was very close to where he stood. He called the police who found her, and learned that she had lived in his home for almost the past year without his knowledge.
8 – Mary in the Mirror
One way to scare kids at a slumber party is the Bloody Mary legend. This has been perpetuated in several books, movies and TV shows. Supposedly if everyone looks deep into a mirror and repeats “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary”, the ghost of the executed witch Mary Worth or Queen Mary I (depending on your version) will appear. Imagination is a powerful thing, and many a kid has reported seeing something in the mirror, but rest assured there is no scientific proof that Mary lives in mirrors waiting for people to say her name. There are several alternates on this myth involving different people from Beetlejuice to Candyman, but the same goes for all of them. Or does it?
7 – Save the Kids!
Sleeping children, phone calls from within the house, and a terrified babysitter are the perfect elements to use to create an urban legend that persists and adapts through time. As the story goes, the baby sitter has received a phone call from a man asking her odd or personal questions before telling her to check the children. After she calls the police to report the call they trace the number and find out it is from another line in the home. The story ends with the police arriving but too late to save the children or the sitter. Were not sure where this myth started, but it was likely either to scare babysitters into paying attention or to keep the kids in line.
6 – Clowns are No Joke
Clowns can be scary for a variety of reasons, and there’s a babysitter scare that involves a clown doll or statue. Children complained to the sitter about a clown watching them sleep, or alternatively the babysitter is weirded out by an odd clown doll. She calls their parents to ask about covering him with a blanket. The parents insisted she take the children and leave immediately as the family doesn’t have a clown statue in the living room. Having been written off as a nightmare by the parents, the clown (a real-life man) had been living in the home without anyone being the wiser. This one might have been inspired by horror films, clown phobia, or the John Wayne Gacy case, but there is not actual documented case of something like this occurring.
5 – Treacherous Tongue
If the thought of someone hiding under the bed scares you, this urban legend is bound to terrify you. A girl who has been given a pet dog falls asleep only to hear licking or dripping sounds. She gets up and turns on the light but sees nothing so lies back down, with her arm off the edge of the bed and the dog licking her fingers. After this occurs a few more times the girl becomes determined to see what is making the sound or licking. She can’t find the dog, and opens her closet door to find the dead dog hanging there. The note next to him said, humans lick too. This may also be scrawled in blood or sent in a letter. The origins of this are unknown, but might have originated in Indiana around the 1960s, but has no factual basis.
4 – Think Twice About the Lights
Are you afraid of the dark and turn on the light to dispel the shadows? A good reason not to is shown in the college dorm urban legend. In this story a young woman goes to a party while her roommate stays in to study. She returns to her dorm room late at night. Rather than wake her sleeping roommate she quietly sneaks into her bed without turning on the light. In the morning she wakes up only to find her roomie has been murdered and written above her on the wall in blood is the question, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light”. It is believed this legend is solely to play on fears.
3 – The Long Sleep
In a true story, a slumberous sleep following a heart attack led a woman in Russia to be pronounced dead. She was out cold and her family arranged the funeral, which was interrupted by her terrified screaming as she awoke to find she was at her own funeral. Which she was, as she immediately suffered another heart attack and died. There are several anecdotal and verified cases of a person sleeping being mistaken for dead, and back before modern technology could detect subtle vital stats, some even installed bells in coffins to allay fears.
2 – It’s Not Memory Foam
Of course, the latest mattresses should be odor-proof in general, but there’s this scary story. This urban legend is also based on facts, although eerily enough it has happened more than once, just not in the location of the popular story. This story begins with a couple who have rented a room in Vegas but notice a strong odor. They call the manager but aren’t able to switch rooms because of a convention. After numerous complaints, housekeeping and the manager go to investigate the cause. They find a dead body encased in the box spring under the mattress. This has actually happened in at least a few cases, from Kansas City, Pasadena, New York, Florida and New Jersey, according to Snopes. So don’t just check for bed bugs next time you check into that hotel…
1 – Fatal Fans
Wait, is that ceiling fan wobbling? Are you sure? One pervasive urban legend is that of a person who gets killed or severely maimed by a rogue ceiling fan falling down on their bed. However, while it can cause some injuries, we could not find any reports of death by ceiling fan. Another variation, popular in Korea even espoused by government officials, is that an electric fan or air conditioner left on at night can lead to asphyxiation, dehydration, or hypothermia. This myth has been thoroughly debunked by science and experience.
Now we know there is no good way to sleep. Lights on, lights off, on the bed, in the privacy of our own home, or in a hotel, the 10 urban legends about sleep have permeated our dreams. At least most can be debunked!