5 American Urban Legends Way Scarier than Horror Movies

Fans hoping for more horror movies in 2017 might enjoy the stories of Elisa Lam and Emilio Carranza.

The Ghost Diaries

Horror fans are addicts, always chasing the high of being frightened to death. Since Get Out’s hype has died down, and Stephen King’s It isn’t coming until later this year, many horror fans now roam the internet for new nightmares, reorganizing their Blu-rays and hoping in vain for 2017’s summer scare, a la It Follows.

But fear not horror fanatics — or, actually, continue to fear! Some of the scariest urban legends and ghost stories haven’t been adapted to films yet, partially because they involve actual victims. Before you end up watching another “based on a true story” horror movie, check out our list of creepy unsolved mysteries and ghostly rumors. We begin, of course, with the best of the best: the unsolved, mysterious death of Elisa Lam.

Who Was Elisa talking To?

In 2013, the residents of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles complained to management that the hotel’s drinking water tasted funny. When a hotel maintenance employee investigated the hotel’s water tanks, he found the body of 21-year-old Elisa Lam floating, naked and decaying, in one of the tanks. The tank was sealed from the inside, which investigators still maintain would have been impossible for Lam to close herself. Lam, it appeared, had been pushed into the tank and locked inside to die, though the coroner’s report ruled her death an “accidental drowning.”

The story gets weirder.

During the investigation of Lam’s death, detectives released a 4-minute silent video of Lam standing in the hotel’s elevator. It was recorded the night she died, and it is the last footage of Lam available. It is also highly disturbing.

In the video, Lam studies the elevator’s buttons, pushes several of them, and then walks into the hallway and moves her hands in what appears to be an erratic ritual. She interacts with an unseen entity and then hides in the elevator as if suddenly threatened. But wait, it gets weirder.

Speculation about Elisa Lam’s death typically touches on her bipolar disorder diagnosis and the mysterious tuberculosis outbreak that affected many patients who were staying in the hotel while Lam lived there. The test for tuberculosis, by the way, is called the LAM-ELISA.

Think about how fucking insane that is while watching a pale, strange-looking Elisa contort her body in a hotel elevator, just hours before she turned up dead.

Emilio Carranza departs on his final flight, never to be seen again

Flickr / San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives

Emilio Carranza’s forest grave

In 1928, Mexican pilot Emilio Carranza made headlines as the “Mexican Lindbergh”. He was widely considered a young, handsome hot-shot, and at age 22, he embarked on a daring flight from Mexico City to New York City and back again. The first trip went well, and he was greeted in New York as a celebrity. When it came time for the return trip, Carranza balked at bad weather, delaying his take-off by three days. A Mexican general who was rumored to be jealous of Carranza’s new-found celebrity sent him a telegram, which read: “Leave immediately or the quality of your manhood will be in doubt.”

That telegram was found in Carranza’s shirt pocket when authorities retrieved his mangled body from the crash site in the Pine Barrens.

Carranza, who was found inside his small airplane’s cockpit, had been looking among the dark, tall trees for a place to land. The flashlight with which he had been illuminating the ground below was forced into his right hand during impact. It was a grisly scene, and his adoring fans were horrified. A large monument was erected at the crash site, its inscription both in English and Spanish, and ghost hunters often make pilgrimages out into the Barrens to see it.

The Pine Barrens have terrified New Jersey residents for hundreds of years, for good reason. First, the huge forest doesn’t support much life in its acidic, nutrient-poor soil, though carnivorous plants mysteriously thrive there. Second, there are quite a few ghost towns still erected within the woods, where settlers simply left behind their buildings and belongings for unknown reasons. Third, the Pine Barrens are the location of most Jersey Devil sightings, which some paranormal researchers believe might be the ghost of Emilio Carranza.

Finally, because the Pine Barrens are unfathomably huge, cell service and radio signals drop out as one drives into the dark. There’s nothing like going on a ghostly excursion to Emilio Carranza’s grave and listening as all contact with the outside world fizzles out…


The apocalypse will begin at the Denver International Airport

Many conspiracy theorists believe the Denver International Airport was built to cover up a gaping hole into Hell. Upon hearing this, you might think, “That’s insane, but couldn’t you say that about any building?” Possibly, but Denver’s airport has a mysterious and dark history, and its art and iconography suggest that those who built it believed they were creating the nucleus of the coming apocalypse.

First, consider “Blucifer”, the fucking giant horse heralding the End of Days, who stands outside the airport looking like the God of Destruction. In 1993, the airport commissioned a huge statue from artist Luis Jiménez, and he decided a demonic horse with glowing eyes was the most appropriate choice. While building the statue, Jiménez fell from the structure. A 9,000-pound chunk of the horse fell along with him, crushing him against the steel structure supporting the horse. It also severed an artery, and he bled violently to death while pinned against one of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse. His sons inexplicably finished building Blucifer after their father died.

If Blucifer doesn’t convince you, theorists have pointed out that much of the mural art in the airport features images of a New World Order. Children scream and run from giant Nazis wearing gas masks, and symbols indicating the Freemasons adorn several of the airport’s doorways and buildings. The Freemasons, a secret society dating back to the Middle Ages, believe our world will end in 2022.

Dudleytown, the Village of the Damned

In the mid 1740s, a group of British explorers began a settlement in Connecticut. They abandoned the site completely in the 1800s, and many of the first-hand accounts preserved from settlers cite mysterious activity, the death of crops, and widespread erratic behavior from Dudleytown’s inhabitants as reasons for why the settlers up and left. Formerly “healthy” people killed themselves violently, and others simply vanished.

Rumor has it, many of the settlers of Dudleytown were descendants of Edmund Dudley, a British nobleman who was beheaded for treason by Henry VII. Nearby settlers in the 1800s simply assumed the inhabitants of Dudleytown had brought a curse from the Old World to America, and the New World’s mysterious forests had only let that curse thrive.

You’d think Connecticut would use Dudleytown, which is still technically visible, as a source of tourism funds for ghost-hunters and fans of the paranormal, but because there were so many violent and disturbing incidents taking place in the area, the state of Connecticut banned public access to Dudleytown in a highly unusual court decision. Though no one can explain why terrible things happen at the settlement site, the state’s government is convinced enough of the site’s bad vibes that they made it illegal to check it out.

The gates to hell in Kansas

In 1867, the inhabitants of Stull, Kansas erected a small church and began a cemetery which still exists to this day. In 2002, on Good Friday, the church next to Stull Cemetery simply…fell apart. Many ghost hunters believe this was when Stull’s portal to Hell opened, and Satan chose Stull Cemetery as the location of his bi-annual appearances on Earth.

Local Kansan papers have reported on Satanist vandals who love marking up the gravestones in Stull Cemetery with marks of the Beast. Legends about the area include that the town mayor was stabbed to death on the cemetery grounds (untrue), and that the Pope had his plane rerouted on a trip to Colorado in 1995, to avoid flying on Stull Cemetery (unfounded).

The staircase which once led into the church’s basement is said to “trap” those who attempt to climb it, by holding them there longer than they realize.

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