Urban legends were a part of every playground paradigm in the 1990s, perhaps brought on in part by the hugely popular children’s book series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. The series featured disturbingly matter-of-fact retellings of some of the most famous urban legends and folktales, shot through with the magical terror of Stephen Gammel’s memorable illustrations. With the 1998 horror-thriller Urban Legend, the 90s saw its obsession with urban legends come alive with a creative serial killer that forced their victims to live inside popular urban legends—and die in them. Every generation has their stories, cautionary tales of things that happened to “a friend of a friend,” but really never happened at all. Here are four of the most memorable urban legends from the 90s.
People Lick Too
A young girl, home alone for the night, lies in her bed unable to sleep. She keeps hearing the same sound, a drip drip drip somewhere outside her dark room. Each time she hears the sound she puts her hand down beside her bed where her golden retriever always sleeps. Each time the dog licks her hand, and she feels comforted knowing he is there to keep her safe. The sound goes on for a couple hours, with the girl continuously letting the dog lick her hand. Finally, she puts her hand down and her dog is no longer there. When the dog doesn’t respond to her calls, she musters her courage and goes to find him and find the source of the dripping noise. She keeps calling him, and following the noise to the bathroom down the hall. When she turns on the light, she can tell the sound in coming from the bathtub, obscured by a shower curtain. When she pulls back the curtain she sees her dog, gutted and hanging from the showerhead, dripping blood into the tub. On the wall beside the dog is scrawled in big, bloody letters People Lick Too.
Footprints in Snow
A 15-year-old girl is home alone one snowy winter night watching television on the couch. The TV is next to a large sliding glass door, and it is pitch black outside in the yard. Suddenly, she sees an old man standing at the sliding glass door staring in at her. Terrified, she grabs the telephone from the table beside her and pulls a blanket over her head. She calls the police and as she waits from them to arrive she stays under the blanket, too afraid to move. When the police arrive, they go to the backyard and look for footprints in the snow. There are none—but when they come inside they see watery footprints on the floor behind the couch. The man had been inside the house standing behind her. What she had seen was his reflection in the glass door.
Flashing Headlights Gang Initiation
Police officers working with the DARE program have issued a warning concerning gang activity during this weekend. Hopeful new members of the gang will drive down a dark road without their headlights on. The first person to flash their headlights to remind the driver to turn their lights on will be the target of the “initiation game.” They will turn around and follow the driver, either driving them off the road or shooting to kill. Officers are warning the public not to flash their lights at anyone this weekend!
Email chains and news stories spread to concerned adults prompted grave concern, and that anxiety was passed onto the kids as well. Whose parents didn’t fall for this one?
Poisoned Halloween Candy
News reports warn of the dangers of trick-or-treating to this day. But in the 90s, it seemed like every kid’s parents were carefully checking over the loot their kids brought home Halloween night.
Reports of razor blades being found inside candy apples (who ever got a candy apple trick-or-treating?), needles pushed inside candy bars, and ant poison rubbed on chocolate had kids spreading rumors of friends of friends dying Halloween night. There were even reports of cocaine laced treats. The person responsible for the deaths was always a man of pure evil—someone who wanted to kill random kids indiscriminately. Every Halloween, televised news would warn parents of the potential dangers of Halloween night, and would detail the proper way to check the candy for malevolent tampering.
So, what urban legends scared you as a kid or parent?