Every generation has had its share of spooky tales and murderous myths; but with Halloween only six days away, a look at the scariest urban legends seemed most appropriate. Delving into the internet and checking various sources to prove or disprove them, also seemed apropos. This investigation may prove much more frightening once the truths are exposed.
In 1991, a story began to circulate out of Las Vegas. A couple checked-in to a hotel and spent the evening, in spite of a grotesque odor that filled their room. After many failed attempts to sleep, the pair finally called the front desk to complain. Upon inspection, the hotel staff found the rotting remains of a woman inside the box spring. Like many folktales and urban myths, this story gained currency and a reputation for having changed details, location and characters.
Unbelievably, dead bodies are stashed in mattresses much more than you might think. The discovery of bodies is more often than not, due to the smell of decaying flesh, days after the life was taken; and generally only when a new tenant arrives. This scary urban legend is full of truths. In fact, this has happened so many times, that the chances are that you or someone you know has been an innocent bystander in a room with a stashed corpse, without ever knowing.
In 2003, in a Kansas City motel, a man complained to the motel management of a raunchy smell in his room. After being told nothing could be done to remedy the odor, the man stayed three days before checking out of his room because he could not stomach the smell. When housekeeping arrived the following day, a man’s remains were found beneath the mattress in a state of advanced decomposition.
In Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1999, the rapidly decomposing body of a 64 year-old man was found beneath the bed in room 112 of a motor inn. When a couple complained about a foul smell a search of the room was conducted and the remains were found. The couple had spent the previous night on top of the dead man’s corpse.
There have been numerous other cases of similar episodes – eleven in total are listed on only one website. None of the stories found matched the original urban legend precisely but all were eerily similar. The moral to this story is, well— bodies end up under the beds of unsuspecting hotel and motel guests. The question behind the story is, have you ever slept on a mattress or box spring stuffed with the rotting flesh of a tucked-away corpse? Each of these people slept on a temporary crypt; they inhaled flecks of human decay, throughout the night or more disturbingly, even longer.
A carnival mummy in California was found to be made of human skin and bones. All of the children who visited the haunted house had touched it, poked it with sticks and laughed at a real mummified human body. This, one of many of the scariest urban legends, is a most gruesome one.
In 1976, a camera crew for The Six Million-Dollar Man began to setup for an episode at the Nu-Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach, CA. While rearranging the props and getting ready for the production, a crew member accidentally hit a hanging prop. This caused part of the “prop” to fall off; it turned out on closer inspection of the prop, that the part that fell off was in fact a human arm.
The truth about this spooky urban legend is that the body was that of Elmer McCurdy; a train robber killed in a shoot-out in 1911. After the undertaker embalmed the criminal, he propped the remains up in his funeral home as proof of his fine workmanship. The undertaker charged visitors 5 cents each for anyone who might have had hankering to ogle the dead felon. After years of charging nickels, the McCurdy brothers showed up to claim their sibling’s remains and to take him home. The weirdest part of the story- the brothers were not really his brothers at all and went-on to showcase McCurdy’s mummified remains at carnivals all across the nation. After the morbid country-wide side-show, McCurdy’s remains were finally laid to rest in a cemented casket- to prevent thieves from resurrecting him ever again.
Keeping with the macabre theme, this next urban legend has been proven not just once but repeatedly. A woman was found Halloween night hanging from a noose tied to a tree. Spectators “oohed” and “aahed” as they walked past with their children, for the annual trick-or-treat night out. The following day, as a crowd gathered around the “decoration,” it was discovered not to be a trick at all but the body of a suicide victim.
The fact is that suicide victims have been mistaken for Halloween decorations for many years. What used to be a simple jack-o-lantern has turned into a gory blood-bath for many families when October comes around. To have the most gruesome yard and eeriest walkway for the children has become an annual competition among neighbors in many communities.
Parents are no longer concerned to see zombie-like bodies propped-up in yards or nooses tied to trees, dangling young broken-hearted women by their fractured necks. The displays have become increasingly over-the-top and an expected part of the landscape; this ornamentation does not cause most seasoned trick-or-treaters to even bat an eye.
In 2005, a 42-year-old woman’s corpse was left hanging in public view for hours because Halloween was only five days away. Spectators had assumed that she was just one of the ghoulish decorations, set-up for display.
In 2009, a similar scene remained undisturbed in Marina Del Rey, California. The decomposing body of a 75-year-old suicide victim was on display, assumed to be a ghastly Halloween decoration in mid-October. Authorities later found out that the man had been dead for three days as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The body was found on the third story of his apartment complex and could easily be seen by everyone in the area.
All of the scariest urban legends have some element of truth. It is just a matter of finding their origins and of doing a bit of research. With Halloween just a few days away, this is the first in a three-part series.
Editorial Written by: Amy Magness Whatley