I’ve always had a fascination with urban legends. Part of that stems from growing up in the ‘90s, in a decade obsessed with them. When Urban Legend was released, I ate it up. I loved hearing these stories, these horrific American folk tales. In many ways, they’re the modern Grimm Fairy Tales. They serve the exact same purpose: gory morality tales written to frighten people into staying out of trouble.
There have been so many over time and some of them have been very inventive and imaginative. Some of them stem from truth, some of them don’t. Either way, I’m always intrigued. Many have made it to the screen in some form or another. The archetypal babysitter story has influenced films like When a Stranger Calls and Halloween. The tales of alligators in the New York sewer served as the basis for Alligator.
But there are others, even if they’ve received references in some form or another, that still haven’t gotten their cinematic due. There are some urban legends that would still make for great movies. Our own Jonny Metro did an excellent piece exploring some of these options, but I think there are always more out there.
The Laundry Room Killer
This urban legend dates back only to 1997, as far as anyone can tell, and seems to be an extension of the classic “The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs.” In most variations, a killer lures the babysitter downstairs to the laundry room with the sound of a thumping washing machine. In some variations, it’s a body. In some, he’s simply putting rocks in the dryer to lure her down there. And in another version, he’s tapping on the washer with his knife. Either way, I think a confined Laundromat thriller would work in an unlikely way.
Maybe you’ve gotten the chain letter in email or Facebook spam at some point. A girl named Carmen Winstead was pushed down a well. A boy named Gregory died when he didn’t pass the letter on. The only way to keep her vengeful spirit at rest is to keep the story circulating, keep sharing the chain letter. I think this would make for an amazing movie. We’ve all seen these annoying posts that say you’ll die if you don’t share. Well, what if you did? It’s such an absurd premise, but I think it could actually be a lot of fun. A somewhat similar premise was explored in the less-than-entertaining film Chain Letter but I would love to see this idea done justice.
The Babysitter & the Clown Statue
Another babysitter story. This one is about a girl who sits for a family obsessed with collecting clown memorabilia. Thousands of pictures, toys and statues, some small and others life-size. She’s creeped out by a life-size clown in a rocking chair, so she calls the parents asking if she can move it. They’ve never heard of it before and tell her to get out of the house. Another variation on the original Babysitter story, this one would make for terrifying cinema as clowns are definitely in right now—maybe even too in.
The Library Murderer
Not a person who kills libraries, this is instead about a girl who is silently killed in a public library without anyone noticing. While I’m not sure it could sustain a feature film, it would make for a great opening sequence or short. Actually, libraries are so deserted now anyway that large ones can easily convey a feeling of dread. Being trapped in a library with a killer could work in a P2 kind of way. There’s also the fact that this one really happened to a girl at Penn State in 1969.
The Killer Hiding in the Attic
In this urban legend, a killer hides out in a family’s attic for weeks if not months before eventually murdering them. There are so many scary elements to this one. First, there’s the fact that there’s a killer not just in your house, but living there without you knowing about it. That’s like taking the Babysitter story to the extreme. Then there’s the way he goes about killing. Why does he wait so long? What, if anything, makes him decide when to go through with it? This one happened in Germany in 1922.
The Hanging Woman
This one has always scared me, especially after hearing a true case of a similar situation that happened when I was in high school. In the story, a woman hangs herself on Halloween and her body goes undiscovered for weeks because people simply mistake her for a decoration. There’s something about that negligence, about the fact that nobody gets close enough to see the truth or bothers to check up on her. So much about it has always stuck with me.
I know, I know, this is the quintessential urban legend and it’s been done to death. Campfire Tales, I Know What You Did Last Summer, etc. etc. But this article’s about urban legends that haven’t gotten their cinematic due, not those we’ve never seen adapted at all, necessarily. And as much as “The Hook” has influenced so much of pop culture for the past fifty years, at least, no one’s ever really taken the story and just ran with it. As a kid, I wanted so badly to see an actual movie adaptation of the classic story. Start with the oldest premise in the book and the just go wild with it. I think there’s potential there.