More Famous Urban Legends

Babysitting Nightmare

One evening, deep in the North Yorkshire Moors, Lucy had just turned up for her regular job baby-sitting two young children. She had arrived at around 5pm, made supper, played with the children and help finish off some homework before putting them to bed at 8pm. As usual, the parents weren’t expected home until very late. As the dark winter evening drew in and the lights flickered across the village green she had settled down in front of the  television when the phone rang.

‘There was a man on the other end of the line. ‘At midnight’, the voice said, ‘I am going to come and kill you’. Lucy immediately hung up and, shaken, phoned her family and boyfriend and who reassured her it was probably a random crank call. Settling back down again she forgot all about the call until the phone rang again. Expecting it to be her family checking on her, she answered immediately.

‘Hello again’ said the voice. ‘It is getting closer now and at midnight I am coming for you’. The line went dead. Lucy went upstairs to check on the children. They were sleeping peacefully and everything seemed normal but it didn’t stop her checking all the door locks and double bolting the back windows.

An hour later, at around 11pm, the phone rang again;

‘Hello my dear, nearly time’,. This time Lucy telephoned the Police. After explaining what had happened the police operator told her they would put a trace on the line. If the call happened again she was to try and keep the man talking so they could establish a location from which the calls were being made. Within half an hour the phone rang once more.

‘Hello sweetheart’, it’s nearly time for us to meet, I hope you are looking forward to it?’ This time Lucy tried to keep the caller on the line. ‘Who are you’, she asked. ‘Why are you doing this?’ But the sinister voice just repeated ‘I am coming to see you and the children soon. Will you leave the door open for me?’. Still clutching the phone, Lucy panicked and raced to the front door to check it was bolted. She could hear menacing laughter down the line and screamed, ‘Who are you, why are you doing this to me?’

‘Just make sure you are ready for me, darling’ and the line went dead. Shortly before midnight Lucy heard cars pull up in the lane and hurried footsteps outside. There was a knock on the door and a man ‘s voice was calling her name. By now she was frozen with  terror. She screamed as the old cottage door burst off its hinges and shadowy figures poured into the hallway, some racing up the stairs, some to the back of the house and two came towards her, crouching behind the settee in the living room. ‘Lucy’ a female voice called, ‘It’s alright you are safe now’. Disorientated Lucy tried to focus through her tears and finally made out the uniforms of two female police officers trying to calm her. Behind them, armed officers carried the children down the stairs and outside to safety and a scuffle was heard in the room overhead. ‘What’s happening?’ Lucy cried. ‘We traced the calls’, one of the officers told her. ‘They were coming from a telephone line inside the house’.

The Famous Hook Story

A teenage couple had been out to the cinema in a remote town in western France and had bought some burgers to eat on the journey home. Pulling over into a deserted but well-known Lover’s Lane they ate the food and after throwing the papers into a nearby dustbin the lad returned to the car, feeling lucky. He turned the radio on and the pair began kissing and cuddling before a news flash interrupted the song that was playing. They both listened as the radio presenter gave a warning that a convicted mass murder had escaped from a nearby mental hospital and listeners were warned not to approach the man in any circumstance. A description was given including his height, hair colour, clothing and the fact he had a hook in place of his right hand, an obvious distinguishing feature. The girl began to feel a little uneasy but the lad, feeling his luck might be in, simply locked the doors and assured the girl they would be safe. After a short while longer she became frightened and pushed the lad off her insisting to be taken home. Frustrated and fed up the youngster slammed the car into gear and sped out of the parking lay-by with the wheels of his car spinning. The two didn’t speak on the journey home but as he dropped the girl home she began screaming uncontrollably as she stepped out of the car. Alarmed he raced round to her side of the car as neighbours also ran out to investigate. There, attached to the door handle and dripping blood, was the hooked hand. Evidence that the monster was moments from reaching her back in Lover’s Lane.

Don’t Turn the Lights On

Here is a story that has been frightening college and university students for decades, once again often with somebody claiming it actually happened to a person they knew

A girl was working alone in a library. It was getting so late and she realised reluctantly that she was probably going to have to stay there all night. So she decided to go back to her room and pick up a jumper. As she walked back across the deserted campus, she could see that her window was dark and it looked like her roommate was asleep. When she quietly opened the bedroom door she could hear heavy breathing so she didn’t turn on the light and just crept in, grabbed her jumper and crept out again.

Dawn was breaking as she finished her essay and she decided to go back to her room and start the day. But when she got back to her floor, there were three policemen standing outside her room. They told her that something terrible had happened. Her roommate had been found, horribly murdered and they needed her help deciphering a strange message they’d found inside the room. So she took a deep breath and opened the door. And there on the wall, in her room mate’s blood was written…AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU DIDN’T TURN THE LIGHT ON?

Extracts from The President’s Brain is Missing (And Other Urban Legends)

Albert Jack books available for download here

The Famous Scuba Diver Legend

Sky Diving

In the mid 1990’s a story circulated America of a mystery surrounding the aftermath of a forest fire in California. Such fires are common during the hot dry summer months and usually are not the subject of conversation across the land, but one such fire held a puzzle that needed solving. Inspecting the aftermath of a small but raging blaze, Fire Marshals discovered the badly charred body of a man in his twenties dressed in full scuba diving gear including a recently melted wetsuit, flattened air tanks, facemask and flippers. Given that the discovery was made a full 15 miles from the nearest coastline it was apparent the chap was not on his way to a dive centre when he died. Suspecting foul play a post mortem was held which revealed the man had not died from either drowning or burns, but from massive internal injuries. A full investigation began and, after dental records revealed his identity and his next of kin were informed, the mystery of the scuba diver in a smouldering forest began to unravel.

On the day of the fire the deceased had been out diving in the Pacific Ocean and had already completed two successful dives when he entered the water for a third time. Meanwhile, 15 miles away, Fire fighters battling to control a routine blaze, which was in danger of spreading to nearby homes, called in a fleet of helicopters to douse the area with water. It is known that the fire helicopters all carried large buckets beneath them, which were dipped into the ocean for rapid filling before being flown to the fire and emptied. It couldn’t happen could it? Well, according to legend it did. One minute the diver was peacefully enjoying the underwater scenery and the next he found himself in a fire bucket half a mile in the air. Presumably he then endured a terrifying 15-mile journey before being released with the sea water amongst the burning trees.

Apparently divers and pilots alike are warned of this story and encouraged to be alert at all times. Divers are advised to remain calm if they are hooked out of the water and to hang on to the bucket when the water is released. There is something fishy about this Urban Legend.

Extracts from The President’s Brain is Missing (And Other Urban Legends)

Albert Jack books available for download here


Football Legends

Football Fanatic

The following story is a tale I have heard at many football stadiums over the years involving supporters of several different clubs. The fact that the same story is always told, with a few slight modifications here and there but mainly insisting it is true, elevates it from mere rumour or joke to the status of Urban Legend. It goes something like this. Chelsea were playing Manchester United in one of the most keenly awaited Cup matches in recent memory.

During the first half a couple of fans noticed the elderly gentleman, sitting in front of them, had an empty seat next to him and as the game had been a complete sell out asked the old chap at half time who had not turned up for the game. ‘That is my wife’s seat’, he told them. ‘We have been coming to see United for 53 years, not missed a single match in all of that time. But unfortunately she died last week so I am on my own today for the first time in my life’.

The fans felt for the old man and asked him if there were other members of the family who could have could have accompanied him on such an emotional day. ‘Ay, sure there are, laddy’, said the northerner. ‘But they are all at the funeral.’

Half Time Relief

The following exchange has gone down in football folklore, often as a joke but is still told in earnest about many different footballers and their managers over the years. The actual root can be traced to January 1973 in the Wembley dressing room as England prepared to take on Wales. The National Team Manager Sir Alf Ramsey said to Rodney Marsh, the Manchester City player making his ninth international appearance;

‘Rodney, this is your last chance to play for England. I will be watching you for the first 45 minutes and if you don’t work hard enough I will pull you off at half-time’. To which Marsh replied, ‘Christ, Alf, at Man City all they give us is an orange and a cup of tea’.

Ramsey, a strict disciplinarian, didn’t appreciate this and that was the last game Marsh, a gifted striker, ever played for England. Ramsey confirms the exchange in his autobiography and Rodney Marsh has since admitted publicly that that making the joke may have cost him his England career.

Extracts from The President’s Brain is Missing (And Other Urban Legends)

Albert Jack books available for download here

The Great Fire of London

There are two popular myths surrounding the Great Fire of London that destroyed the City in 1666. The first is that the fire had been started deliberately in a bake-house by a French catholic and the second is that it brought about the end to the rat carried disease known as The Bubonic Plague that had been responsible for 50,000 deaths during 1665, although many historians now believe as many as 500,000 lives could have been eventually lost.

Europe was in religious turmoil during the mid 17th century with wars raging on all sides. The French, Spanish, Irish and Italians were all catholic countries whislt England had been a firmly protestant nation during the rule of Charles II. But Charles had strong links with the catholic French nation as he had lived there and in Holland since his father’s execution in 1649 (Charles 1st) But England looked like losing the war with the Dutch in 1665 and the nations people were in a state of high anxiety. Many even blamed the Great Plague on the Catholics and when the City catastrophically burned the following year natives were looking for a Catholic scapegoat.

They found one in the shape of a simpleton watchmaker called Thomas Hubert, who also happened to be a French catholic. Hubert confessed to starting the fire deliberatly in Westminster and was promptly arrested. It was then pointed out the fire had not been started in Westminster and had not even reached there. It had began in Thomas Farriner’s bakery in Pudding Lane, so Hubert changed his story and confessed to starting it there instead. Despite not being able to describe the bakery or even to explain where it was he was hauled before the court. Three of the panel of judges were members of Farriner’s own family who strongly denied responsibility for the devastating fire that destroyed 13,200 houses and eighty seven churches and although confirmation was presented that Hubert had not even arrived in London until two days after the fire had started, his confession was accepted and he was hung on the gibbet at Tybern.

Nobody knows why Hubbert insisted his responsibility but nobody doubts he was both stupid and French and that was enough to hang any man during the 17th century. Catholic baiting continued over the coming years and further smaller fires met with similar accusations from Londoners. When the Monument was finally erected to commemorate the Great Fire it displayed an inscription reading ‘The burning of this Protestant City was begun and carried on by the treachery and malice of the Popish faction.’ This was removed during the catholic rule of James II between 1685 and 1689 but soon reappeared and stayed in place until the more tolerant 19th Century, particularly 1831 when it was finally removed for good.

Contrary to popular opinion the Great Fire did not kill thousands of Londoners. In fact, the fire spread so slowly, giving plenty of time for escape, that official records cite only five deaths – the baker’s maid, who was too frightened to climb to safety over the roof with the rest of the family and was left behind, a shoemaker, an elderly gentleman who died trying to retrieve his blanket from St. Paul’s Cathedral and two people who fell into their cellars whilst trying to protect their possessions under the surface of the ground.

It is also widely believed that the Great Fire was responsible for killing London’s rats, the known carrier of the fatal disease, but this is also untrue. Mainly because the fire was contained in the City of London and did not actually reach any Parish affected by the disease to the north and west of the fire. The result would have been to drive more rats into those areas, not to reduce numbers.

As the winter of 1665 set in the cold harsh weather severely restricted the reproductive activity of the  Ceratophyllus fasciatus (the rat flea) and the Rattus Rattus (the black rat) who were the main carriers of the Plague Bacillus. This caused a temporary reduction in the rodent and flea population of London and a short relief from the effects of The Plague. But more importantly there had been growing numbers of human survivors after each outbreak and this lead to a growing immunity among the population of London and this, added to the knowledge that each outbreak of disease will result in lower virulence and weaker effects are the main reasons for the disease quickly dying out in London. It is generally believed that the fatal strain would quickly have been weakened to the point of no longer being fatal before disappearing altogether.

But the fire will have had some effect in that the brick buildings replacing the squalid wooden structures destroyed by fire would have reduced the number of rats and fleas in the area significantly, driving them into less populated areas where infection was less likely to raise to epidemic levels as they had done in the cramped highly populated London of its time. Rapid increases in health and hygiene standards killed off any remaining strains of the Plague and London has remained free from its grip ever since.

Extract from The President’s Brain is Missing (And Other Urban Legends)

Albert Jack books available for download here

The One Man World War

Hiroo Onoda was a twenty-year-old man working for the Tajima Yoko Trading Company in Hanokow, China when the Second World War broke out and in August 1942 he returned home to Wakayama in Japan and joined the Japanese Army. He trained as an officer at The Imperial Army Intelligence School in how to conduct guerrilla warfare, survival techniques and intelligence gathering before being sent to the Philippines, joining the Sugi Brigade (the Eight Division from Hirosaki). There he was ordered to lead the Lubang Garrison in a campaign of guerrilla warfare and as he prepared to join the action his division commander gave him his final orders. ‘You are completely forbidden to die by your own hand. It make take three years, it may take six years but whatever happens we will come back for you. Until we do and as long as you have one soldier to command you must continue to lead him. You may have to live on only coconuts and if so, that is what you must do. Under no circumstances must you give up your life voluntarily.’ With those words resonating around his soul he left, on December 17th 1944, for Lubang Islands, located between the Philippine Sea and South China Sea, with orders to destroy the airfield, lay explosives at the pier and sabotage the Allied Campaign.

However, soon the Allied Forces had overrun the island and after brief resistance, during which Onoda lost many of his men, his unit were forced to retreat to the inner and remote areas of Lubang in order to regroup. After several attacks and the loss of many more soldiers Onoda decided to split the remaining men into cells of four. His group included Corporal Shoichi Shimada aged thirty, Private Yuichi Akatsu, aged twenty-two and the twenty four year old Private Kinshichi Kozuka. The four lived in self-made shelters with limited ammunition, very little in the way of food ration, the clothes they were wearing and a rifle each. Between them they survived on coconuts, bananas, fresh rain water and any animal they could catch and kill, including the odd cow owned by a civilian farmer. All of the cells were either captured or killed over the following year and whilst Onoda had been involved in one or two skirmishes he decided his cell should remain hidden and used only for guerrilla raids on known Allied positions.

But in October 1945 Onoda went alone to the farm for a cow and found notes left by the farmer reading ‘The war ended on August 14th, come down from the mountains.’ The note did not make sense to Onoda as his cell had been fired upon only weeks earlier so the four men decided the note must have been left by enemy soldiers attempting to coax them out into the open. They didn’t fall for it and remained hidden. Many times over the next few years islanders tried to contact Onoda and even flew an aircraft over the mountain region dropping leaflets depicting the Japanese Surrender Order signed by General Yamashita of the Fourteenth Area Army but the men believed this also to be a hoax. Presumably the letters and photographs from friends and relatives at home in Japan were also not enough to persuade Onoda and his men and Islanders repeatedly called out over load speakers in areas all over the mountains but Onoda and his men responded only by firing on them. Nothing made them believe the war was really over.

Year after year the four men eked out their existence and fired upon villagers or holidaymakers who stumbled upon the group, believing them to be enemy soldiers in disguise. One day, in September 1949, the resolve of Private Yuichi Akatsu was exhausted and he managed to successfully walk away from the others and survived alone for six further months in the jungle before he eventually surrendered. The other three, who presumably had found wild cannabis plants growing in the regions given the state of their paranoia, regarded this as a security leak and, sure enough, when Akatsu later returned with news the war really was over after all, they shot at him.

In June 1953, a full eight years after the war had formally ended and everyone had gone home, Corporal Shoichi Shimada was wounded in a skirmish with a search party and despite having no medicine or first aid equipment his leg injury slowly healed although he finally died nearly a year later in May 1954 after attacking local fisherman. They returned fire and killed him on the beach leaving just two men remaining. And this is how it stayed over the next eighteen years with both men hiding out on the remote island waiting for their next orders from The Imperial Army, all the time reminding themselves of their divisional commander’s final words; ‘whatever happens, we will come back for you.’

The two men were officially declared dead in December 1959 but in October 1972, at the age of fifty-one years old Private Kinshichi Kozuka, was killed by a Philippine army patrol. His discovery lead to speculation that Onoda may also still be alive and efforts were renewed to find him and put an end to the one-man world war he was waging. Search parties were dispatched but Onoda managed to remain hidden. That was until a Japanese student called Norio Suzuki announced to his friends he was going to travel the world to find ‘a Panda, the abominable snowman and Lt Hiroo Onoda,’ and where so many others had failed, he actually succeeded. He tried to convince Onoda the war had been over for many years but failed to persuade the ageing soldier.

However, Onoda had become weary of being alone and made one concession. He said he would return home on the condition that his former commanding officer ordered him to. Suzuki travelled back to Japan and luckily found Major Taniguchi was still alive. The former officer agreed to return to Lubang Islands and on March 9th 1974 Major Taniguchi formally ordered Onoda to cease all combat duties with immediate effect and the weary mountain soldier came down from the hills. For a little while the news failed to sink in properly but when it did Onoda said ‘We really lost the war? How could they have been so stupid.’ Presumably the irony of those words being uttered by a man who had spent thirty years living under a rock, for no reason at all, was lost on Onoda, but there was worse to come and the man himself described the moment many years later.

‘Suddenly everything went black and a storm raged inside me. I felt like a fool for having been so tense and cautious on the way down here. Worse than that, what had I been doing for all of these years? But gradually the storm subsided and for the first time I really understood my thirty years of guerrilla warfare were over. It was the end. I pulled back my rifle bolt and emptied it of shells. I eased off the pack I always carried with me and laid the gun on top of it. Would I really have no more use for the rifle I had polished and cared for like a baby all these years? Or Kozuka’s rifle, which I had hidden in a crevice in the rocks? Had the war really ended thirty years ago? If it had, what had Shimada and Kozuka died for? If what was happening was really true then wouldn’t it have been better if I had died with them?

During their thirty years on the Island Onoda and his men had killed at least thirty Filipinos and had wounded over one hundred more. But after formerly surrendering to the Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos he was officially pardoned and allowed to return to Japan as a national hero, receiving world media attention as he arrived. But, as expected, he soon found life in Japan to be very different from the one he left behind all those years previously so he moved to a remote farm in Brazil where he wrote his memoirs entitled ‘No Surrender, My Thirty Year War.’

He travelled back to Lubang Island in 1996 to lay a wreath at the war memorial before marrying a Japanese lady and returning to his homeland to fund a nature reserve camp for children. Remarkably, at the time of writing this in 2006, Hiroo Onada is still alive and at eighty-five years old lives quietly with his wife in Japan. The story we have all heard about the lone Japanese soldier, who refused to believe the war was over and was living in a jungle, was no myth or urban legend after all, it was a true one.

Extract from The President’s Brain is Missing (And Other Urban Legends)

Albert Jack books available for download here

Sometimes People are Buried Alive

The idea of being buried alive is just about everybody’s worst nightmare. But whilst such stories are often dismissed as pure fiction and scare mongering, the reality is that before modern medicine, and particularly comas, were fully understood, many people were interred, believed to be dead when in fact they came back to life in the grave. There have been hundreds of exhumations where the coffin lid was found to be scratched and the fingers of a body worn to the bone as they had tried to dig themselves out of their graves. Whilst most remain undetected there are famous stories confirming such misfortune.

During the late 16th century and by the time modern medical science had advanced to the stage whereby if your breath did not steam up a mirror you were officially deceased, Mathew Wall had been pronounced dead and was being taken to his grave in the village of Braughing in Hertfordshire, England, when one of his pallbearers slipped and dropped the coffin. This revived the ‘deceased’ and Wall went on to live many more years, each year famously celebrating his resurrection. He eventually died for real in 1695. In one of the more famous cases Anne Greene was hanged for felony on 14th December 1650 and taken to a medical laboratory for dissection. Whilst there and yet before the first incision was made, she revived and lived on for many more years.

The murderer William Duell was hanged at Tyburn in November 1740 but prior to his dissection an laboratory assistant noticed a faint pulse. Within two hours the executed man was sitting up and drinking wine. He was later transported for life. At around the same time Professor Junker of Halle University in Germany had delivered to him a sack containing the body of an executed man for dissection. But Junker had already retired for the night and the sack was dumped on his front door step. During the night Junker was woken by a naked and freezing man holding the empty sack. After hearing his story the good Professor decided to help the man escape further punishment and was delighted to meet him in the street, many years later, by then a prosperous and married merchant with two young children.

Marjorie Elphinstone died during the early 17th century and was buried in Scotland but shortly after her funeral grave robbers broke into the coffin, planning to steal her jewellery. But as they opened the coffin lid they found the terrified Marjorie alive and well. I doubt she was as terrified as they were when they fled the scene and I imagine were probably haunted by the image for the rest of their lives. Marjorie, however, walked home and lived the rest of hers quite happily, including giving birth to two sons. In the end she outlived her husband by more than six years.

During that century William Tebb alone recorded no fewer than 149 cases of premature burial, 219 cases of narrow escape from premature burial and ten cases of a dissection starting on a person who was not dead at the time. There are heartbreaking stories including the one of a young girl from South Carolina who died of diphtheria whilst on holiday and was quickly interred in a local family’s mausoleum for fear the disease might rapidly spread through the community. Many years later, when the mausoleum was next opened to admit the body of one of the families’ own sons who had been killed during the civil war, the tiny skeleton of the youngster was found behind the door. The terror of her final days does not bear thinking about.

In Naples, Italy a lady was buried with all the expected formalities after being pronounced dead. Only a few weeks later her grave was re-opened to receive another family member and her unfortunate predecessor was found with her clothing in tatters and with several broken limbs, presumably caused by her trying to get out of the tomb. It was judged she had not been dead and simply in a trance instead. The doctor who had signed the death certificate and the Mayor who had authorised the funeral were both later sentenced to three months in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

As recently as 1896 Mr T.M. Montgomery supervised the relocation of remains at the Fort Randall Cemetery and recorded that two percent of all those exhumed had shown signs of premature burial. It is a situation far less common in modern times but as recently as 1994 an eighty-four year old lady called Mildred C. Clarke had been found lying on her living room floor and with no detectable heartbeat or pulse. She was pronounced dead at the scene and then spent ninety minutes in a body bag at the morgue before an assistant noticed the bag was breathing. Muriel lived on for another week and hopefully more thorough tests were carried out before she was taken to the morgue for a second time.

Extract from The President’s Brain is Missing (And Other Urban Legends)

Albert Jack books available for download here


Islam – A Peaceful Religion?

Professor David Horowitz was giving a speech to students at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) during ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’  when he found himself involved in this exchange with a Muslim student.

Apparently this was in 2010. Imagine how many more young people there are now in America, Europe, Africa and Australia who share this sentiment?  Do you still believe Islam is a peaceful religion?