Urban legends stick with us because they spark our fears about modern life and often have just enough truth in them to seem like they could be legitimate. However, some of these urban legends have more than a little truth to them! Here are the craziest urban legends that turned out to be true.
Toronto’s leaping lawyer
This urban legend has it all – a modern setting, the hubris of the elite, and a deadly plunge.
The story goes that in Toronto there was a lawyer whose peculiar pastime was demonstrating how strong the windows in his skyscraper office were. How did he do this? By running at them full speed and slamming his body into them. He continued to do so until the fateful day that the window in question did not hold, and he fell to his untimely death.
As ridiculous as the story sounds, it is very real. Gary Hoy, a partner at the law firm Holden, Day, Wilson, decided to impress a group of students visiting his office by slamming himself into the window. The window managed to hold on his first attempt – but on the second impact, the glass was dislodged from its frame, and Hoy plummeted 24 stories to the ground.
The Maine hermit
For almost 30 years, residents near the Belgrade Lakes in Maine reported items missing from their homes and summer cabins. There was a certain amount of overlap regarding the items that were taken, leading some to speculate that there was a strange hermit living in the woods. As the thefts stretched over years and then decades, the story of the North Lakes Hermit became an urban legend.
And then, in April of 2013, Christopher Knight was caught by a game warden while stealing from the supply shed of a camp near Rome, Maine. After his arrest, he revealed to the authorities that he had lived in the woods since 1986. He stayed in a cabin he had built himself, which was stocked only with items he had burglarized from nearby homes.
Knight served seven months in jail for the thefts he committed and now works with his brother in Maine.
Legends circulated for hundreds of years of tunnels constructed under the city of Puebla, Mexico. These tunnels, the legends say, were used by a secretive sect of the Catholic Church to move treasures and wealth out of the city without the public having any idea. But the tunnels were never located, and the story was assumed to be a myth.
However, in 2015, construction workers found the very tunnels that had been hinted at. Excavations began, and eventually a network of hidden passageways under the city was discovered, stretching over six miles long. The tunnels were confirmed to have been built by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.
The tunnels were evaluated for safety and are now accessible for visits by the general public.
New York sewer crocodiles
The ultimate urban legend is of the colonies of crocodiles or alligators that call the New York City sewers their homes. This story goes that when impetuous New Yorkers became tired of their exotic pets, they flushed them down the drain. However, the resilient animals survived the trip and then thrived under the city streets. This tale has inspired movies and comic book villains but was routinely dismissed as ridiculous, considering the reptiles are cold-blooded animals that could never survive New York’s cold winter season.
But that hasn’t stopped "The New York Times" from reporting it – twice. The first and most famous happened in 1935, when some children shoveling snow spotted an alligator in a manhole. They were were said to have killed it after it turned violent.
The second time was more recent, and this time, there was photographic evidence. In 2010, a small crowd gathered around a car where a two-foot long alligator was hiding. Joyce Hackett managed to get a picture of the animal but was unable to confirm if the alligator had come from the sewer.