Urban legends and Halloween go hand and hand, and they've both served the horror film genre well. We all know an urban legend or two, whether we know it as such or not. Many times they involve a friend of a friend, or they occur in a distant area where the facts cannot be easily verified. Urban legends are a kind of modern folklore, and they often serve as a cautionary tale for people. Whatever the situation, they're usually macabre and fairly terrifying. Nobody would want to be that friend of a friend that these things happen to.
In 2009 a documentary came out called Cropsey, which examined the Staten Island urban legend of Cropsey, a supposed escaped mental patient that would come out at night and abduct children. The filmmakers discovered that the myth had its roots in an actual missing persons case that occurred in 1987, and that the real life boogieman behind that abduction was also responsible for the deaths of several children.
In 2014 the same filmmakers returned to the world of urban legends, this time digging into some of the most notorious ones that have served as the source material for horror movies and Halloween paranoia. Killer Legends digs into four of these legends, and the investigations reveal the truth behind them. Here's what they cover.
A MANIAC POISONS HALLOWEEN CANDY
Every year we hear news reports about a maniac that passes out poisoned Halloween candy, which results in the illness or death of children around the country. These stories have impacted the trick-or-treat habits of the entire nation. The reality is that there has never been a case of a maniac handing out poisonous candy to children on Halloween night. Nearly every documented case of similar misfortune that has occurred has been the result of a family member or a loved one either deliberately or accidentally poisoning the child.
Does this mean we should be negligent about checking our children's candy for tampering? Absolutely not. You gotta look after the kids. If increased care in looking after the welfare of children is the end result of an urban legend, then that's not a bad thing.
THE LOVERS LANE HOOK HANDED KILLER
I remember hearing this story at Scout Camp about a million summers ago. A couple are on Lover's Lane listening to music on the radio and doing what people do at Lover's Lane. Suddenly a news report comes on stating that a maniac has escaped from the mental institution and he has a hook for a hand. They don't think anything of it until they start hearing metal scraping on their car. Terrified, they peel out and the guy drives his girlfriend home. When she gets out of the car she sees A BLOODY HOOK HANGING FROM THE CAR DOOR!
You've probably heard several versions of it, and if you've seen the movie Candyman (which I recommend), you've seen that story mashed up with several other urban legends. It turns out that this one is based on a true story that took place in Texarkana in the 1940s. The case is either referred to as the Moonlight Murders or the Phantom Murders. Over the course of four months, couples were attacked at various Lover's Lane locations around the town. Eight people were attacked and five were killed. After the final murders the crimes suddenly stopped, and the case remains unsolved to this day. Notably, there is no evidence that the killer had a hook for a hand.
The most famous film version of this case is The Town That Dreaded Sundown from 1976. The killer wears a bag over his head and commits crimes very similar to those that took place in Texarkana. Look at how creepy this poster is:
The city tried to take legal action against the film because the advertising campaign cast a bad light on the community, and the survivors of some of the victims actually sued (but lost) director Charles B. Pierce, who also directed Legend of Boggy Creek, for invading their privacy and slandering the reputation of the victims. Today, however, the community has embraced the film and they show it every summer as part of their Summer film series. Also, they screen the film on the sites of some of the murders. Yeesh.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a wonderfully creepy film. You guys should watch it right after you finish reading this blogpost.
THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!
It's late at night. The babysitter has put the kids to bed and she's watching TV when the phone rings and the voice on the other end says "Have you checked on the children?" At first she dismisses it, but then the calls keep coming and they continue to get more and more sinister. She calls the police who tell her she needs to keep the caller on the line so they can trace the call. When the creep calls again she keeps him on the line, and eventually the police break in and say "THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!"
Creepy. It's even creepier because it appears to be based on a true case that happened in Columbia, Missouri, in 1950, when young girl was murdered while babysitting. Despite circumstantial evidence linking a suspect to the crime, there wasn't enough solid evidence to charge him, and he was released. To this day the crime is unsolved.
The most famous film version of this urban legend is When A Stranger Calls from 1979. You can watch it now, if you want.
CREEPY KILLER CLOWNS
They're stretching here. There's nothing much to go on other than the fact that clowns are just plain creepy.
Killer Legends is an interesting documentary. It sort of plays like several episodes of a TV show strung together, but it makes for a creepy anthology. Finding out the true stories behind these terrifying tales is interesting, but at the same time the truth does nothing to take the edge off them. If anything, the reality of it all makes it worse.
On that note, please enjoy the creepy documentary Killer Legends!