Although the term “urban legend” implies folklore from an urban area like a heavily populated city, it is actually used to differentiate modern stories and folklore from traditional folktales developed before the advent of modern technology. Traditional folklore has often dealt with magic and monsters, and contemporary legends have built upon such stories, at times adding facets of technology to reflect the evolution of such folklore.
Sociologists, folklorists, and psychologists have notes that despite their modern trappings, urban legends for the most part are inexorably linked to traditional folklore. The reason for this is quite simple: fear as an emotion has changed little, despite humanity’s evolution of technology. For example, traditional folklore tells the story of vampires who drink on the blood of the living to sustain their living death. A modern variation of such folklore involves people who are ambushed, anesthetized, and are drained of blood or other fluids for nefarious reasons. Although the latter story is given modern trappings, the instigators of such crimes could be looked at as modern vampires.
The following list compiles monsters taken from modern urban legends. These monsters reflect much of the technology available today. Cell phones (many with cameras), tablets, and of course the proliferation of the Internet have all contributed to an explosion of modern monsters that originate as tall tales, monster design contents, or pranks, only to go viral and develop a “creepy life” of their own.
When such technology is stripped away, however, it is possible to find a kernel of traditional folklore that links deeply into past folklore. In other words, even the most contemporary of monsters goes way, way back and tap into fears that have existed for thousands, perhaps even millions of years.
Originally created as an Internet meme on the Something Awful forums on the Internet, The Slender Man has taken on a life of his own, becoming a modern incarnation of the bogeyman. “Proof” of The Slender Man comes from photos and videos, all of which are typically posted online. The concept of The Slender Man has gone viral, with many people contributing to the mythology of the entity’s appearance, mannerisms, and abilities.
Although there are countless variations of The Slender Man’s Descriptions, most agree that he is thin and unnaturally tall; has a blank, featureless face; and has unusually long arms that can become tentacles. He is typically shown wearing a black suit, complete with hat. The Slender Man stalks victims for long periods of time, even years, before abducting them or driving them to the brink of insanity. Some tales say that he favors children or teenagers as victims. The Slender Man folklore has reached a fever pitch, with some young people actually causing harm to others in the name of the made-up creature.
The story of Bloody Mary is quite simple. Stand in front of a mirror with all the lights out in the room and recite the phrase “Bloody Mary” three times. Such an action supposedly summons Mary from the other side of the mirror. If Mary does appear, she punishes the person who summoned her by inflicting bodily harm (cuts, tearing out of the eyes, and other variations), driving the person insane, or committing murder.
One modern variation on Bloody Mary has a person stand with their back to a mirror and then recite the “Bloody Mary” phrase three times. The person then uses his or her camera phone to try to capture an image of Bloody Mary when she appears. The idea is to take a “selfie” with Bloody Mary. Although there is a technological component to this story (and a ghost hunter one at that), the core of the legend remains intact.
Greek mythology tells of the Minotaur, a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man. The Minotaur lived at the center of an elaborate maze, which the creature used to confuse and trap his victims. A modern variation of this myth is Maryland’s Goatman, who supposedly has the head of a goat and the body of a man. Although based in Maryland, the Goatman has been spotted in various locations, from Florida all the way into Canada.
This contemporary story states that the Goatman was a scientist working at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. He was supposedly experimenting with the genetics of goats. One of his experiments went horribly awry, turning him into an abomination. A variation of the story has the scientist actually experimenting on an assistant that is turned into the Goatman. Like the Minotaur, the Goatman wields an axe. The Goatman despises humans and will attack even if unprovoked. He has been known to use his axe on automobiles on lesser-traveled roads.
The Seed Eater
A common theme in folklore involves the abduction of children. Creatures that range from the Coco to trolls are all known to take children, particularly those who cannot behave themselves. A modern version of such creatures is known as either the Bird Man or the Seed Eater.
The Seed Eater is described as a hybrid, typically an amalgamation of a large bird and a human being. The creature wears a rag mask with holes for one eye (the other eyehole is stitched shut) and for its beak or pronounced snout. The creature supposedly has dark green skin and long dark hair. The Seed Eater hunts down children to eat them or to turn them into fellow creatures. The creature originally preyed upon victims in the forest, but some stories have moved the Seed Eater into the cities, where it prefers to hunt in parks or empty fields during the nighttime hours.
Like The Slender Man, The Rake was created online. In 2005, the creature made its debut at a site known as creepypasta. The Rake started as a thread on the site, with an anonymous poster asking others to help with the creation of a new monster. Since that time, the meme has grown, with contributors posting doctored pictures, fan art, and even video of the Rake.
Although there are many variations of the Rake, the creature typically resembles a tall humanoid with pale gray skin. Its face is typically blank, save to two large, round eyes and a slit for a mouth. Supposedly, the mouth is filled with hundreds of smallish teeth. The Rake is said to stalk and simply stare at people. However, when provoked it attacks, unhinging its wide mouth to bite. One story has it that the creature’s bite is so powerful that it can decapitate a victim with one bite. Like The Slender Man, the Rake affects cameras by blurring them when in their presence. However, the Rake does not affect other electronics like The Slender Man.
Directed by Justin Jones, this movie tells the story of the slenderman. The concept of The Slender Man has gone viral, with many people contributing to the mythology of the entity’s appearance, mannerisms, and abilities.