What Are Urban Legends?

An urban legend is a form of modern folklore that are composed of made up stories being circulated by people, having thought of them as factual. Urban legends are in fact usually made up stories that more and more people come to believe as fact due to its increasing spread by word of mouth. But it turns out that urban legends are actually false.

But urban legends are not necessarily false in all totality. Some of the urban legends can be based on some facts that can become distorted as they legends are being circulated. It can start out as a fact and then usually spread by word of mouth. But then some additions, usually false, become connected with the original fact of the story until the addition itself is accepted as fact.


The origin of the term urban legend and the concept behind it can be traced back to the late 1960’s. The earliest use of the term can be traced to Jan Harold Brunvand, who used the term in 1979 in a book review that appeared on the Journal of American Folklore. But during that time, the concept has already been studied and wrote about for a long time but using different terminologies.


There seems to be a common pattern and structure to most urban legends. They are usually constructed as complete stories with their own characters and plot.

What makes urban legends so appealing and interesting is because of their elements of horror, of mystery and surprise. With facts usually inter-sped with made up elements, the urban legend tends to create an aura of mystery and a touch of fear and horror but just with the enough dose to keep it believable.


A common means how an urban legend is being spread is the claim that the story comes from a friend or otherwise happened to a friend. Coming from someone that the teller seems to know somehow gives the story some degree of unfounded credibility.

Since its tellers may tend to exaggerate, the urban legend can evolve over time. Sometimes the urban legends are handed down with changes and modifications over time to make them up to date with current norms and events.

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