Especially around Halloween, most of us enjoy a good old-fashioned “it happened to a friend of a friend” urban legend that gives us a bit of a fright. Some of these tales may have even really happened. Well, kind of.

Most of the time, the legends aren’t true and have no foundation in truth whatsoever. They’re just really good stories that are fun to tell when you want to get a little spooked. There was a Headless Horseman, but he never killed a skinny schoolteacher walking through the woods. There was a Bloody Mary, but she’s not forever trapped in your mirrors waiting for you to spin around with a candle and let her out. But every once in a while, a Halloween legend grows out of real and very frightening incidents, and it becomes part of our collective history. These are a few of them:

Poisoned Halloween Candy

Every year, parents are frightened into over-protectiveness by stories of evil strangers poisoning Halloween candy or hiding razor blades in tasty snacks. Statistically, this is something that is very unlikely to happen, although the legend has been passed down for decades. But there is some truth in the history of these tales. In 1974, a man did hand out five poisoned Pixy Stix. He was attempting to kill his own son for insurance money and gave out four other poisoned treats to random children to hide his crime. Sadly, his son did die that Halloween night, but the father's plot was quickly uncovered and none of the other children were hurt.

Real Haunted-Attraction Dead Body

Haunted houses are a staple of Halloween celebrations, as is the story of the kids who went on a haunted ride at a carnival, touched one of the props on the ride, and when a piece broke off, it turned out to actually be a dead body. Sounds disgusting and impossible, but it actually has happened. In the early 1900s, the embalmed body of criminal Elmer McCurdy was displayed by a mortician to show off his skilled workmanship. The body was later recovered by McCurdy’s “family,” who turned out to be owners of a carnival. They stole the body to display at the show. The corpse had been passed around to different carnivals until the 1970s, when a television crew, setting a scene at a carnival for the show ‘The Six Million Dollar Man,’ accidentally bumped the prop body, broke off its arm and discovered this was no fake.

The Body in the Bed

If you’re traveling on or around Halloween, you might hear the story of the couple who stayed in a hotel room with an overwhelming stench. Hotel staff, thinking the couple is overstating the problem, investigate and find a dead body rotting inside the mattress or box spring of the bed. This is the stuff of movies ... and also the stuff of reality. This has happened a number of times around the country—in Kansas City in 2003; in Atlantic City in 1999; and in Pasadena in 1996, to name just a few.

Death on Lovers' Lane

By the time many of us were old enough to have our own “parking” sessions on secluded roads, we had heard the story of the teenage couple who were at the local lovers’ lane kissing when they heard an announcement on the radio about an escaped mental patient or convict in the area. The girl wants to leave, but the boy says they’re fine, nothing to worry about. There’s a scratching on side of the car, the boy gets out to investigate, and he doesn’t return. The girl hears the scratching again and decides to check for herself, only to find her boyfriend murdered and hanging above the car and making the scratching noise with his feet on the roof. (This is also a variation on the Hook Man story.)

Buried Alive

Halloween is the perfect time to walk through a graveyard and tell the tale of the man who died and was buried, only to wake up in his coffin, not at all dead, and then really die of suffocation and fright as he tried to claw himself out. His widow, haunted by his calls from the grave, has him dug up, sees the desperate scratches and his scraped up fingers and realizes what has happened. This story can be good and spooky because it’s also far too real. There’s the little Brazilian boy who woke up at his own funeral; the Yemeni man who woke up in his grave and yelled at his family for trying to bury him alive; and the Venezuelan man who, in 2007, woke up in the middle of his own autopsy. When death is the final assessment, a second opinion might be a good idea.

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