On Tuesday, April 17, "Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files" will return to Syfy for its third season, as former FBI agent Ben Hansen and his team of investigators once again scour the world and the internet for bizarre phenomena that sometimes defy explanation.
And while Hansen and his team often recreate eyewitness sightings to better understand the strange events, there are some myths that endure no matter how much evidence to the contrary is found. In honor of the third season of "Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files," we've assembled a list of the Top 5 Urban Legends whose ongoing popularity probably means that they will probably outlive all of us.
Bloody Mary is often the first urban legend that children are exposed to in the earliest years of school. The story goes that if you stand before a mirror in a darkened room and say "Bloody Mary" three times then she will appear beside you. It's a classic test of bravery that plays upon our dual fears of the dark and of vengeful ghosts. Some versions of the legend state that Bloody Mary will kill those who call upon her or haunt them for the rest of their lives. Other versions suggest that calling upon Bloody Mary can predict the future for the summoner.
Either way, even normally brave people usually opt not to test out this legend rather than risk the chance that it might be real.
Bigfoot & The Jersey Devil
Cryptozoology holds that are animals on Earth whose existence has not yet been proven. For centuries, tales of unknown creatures or even better known beasts like the Lochness Monster have captured imaginations worldwide… even though there is scant or no evidence of their existence. In the United States, two of the most popular examples of cryptozoology creatures (or cryptids) are the Jersey Devil and Bigfoot.
Despite decades of searching for the man-like ape creature known as Bigfoot, no one has been able to deliver any proof of their existence aside from some cleverly shot videos widely believed to be hoaxes. But we still want to believe that Bigfoot or other sasquatch-like creatures live in the forrests and that they have successfully eluded mankind.
On the other hand, nobody wants to run into the Jesery Devil; which is a regional legend about a creature with the body of a serpent, the head and hooves of a horse, leather wings and a forked, devil-like tale. But much like Bigfoot, there is no concrete evidence that the Jersey Devil actually exists. And yet occasional sightings of both keep their legends alive.
The Chupacabra is also a prime example of a cryptid whose myth only goes back to 1995, making it one of the few modern legends to truly take hold in the popular imagination. The Chupacabra (which means "goat sucker") earned the nickname for its reported habit of attacking livestock and drinking their blood.
Unlike Bigfoot and the Jersey Devil, there is occasional evidence of livestock attacks that are sometimes accompanied by the bodies of hideous creatures that seem to match some descriptions of the Chupacabra. But when examined, these creatures have usually been determined to be mutated or diseased coyotes.
However, that hasn't weakened the Chupacabra's stranglehold on our collective fears. They are the vampires of the 21st century.
The Kidney Heist
Picture this: you're a businessman picking up a beautiful woman in a bar. It goes well, you share a few drinks and you end up back at her place before you pass out in a drunken haze.
The next thing you know, you're naked in a bathtub full of ice with surgical scars where one or both of your kidneys used to be. Other circumstances could also lead to this, as Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) demonstrates in the current season of "Justified," pictured above.
The pervasiveness of The Kidney Heist story is amazing because there are no documented cases of this ever happening. And yet the fear it inspires can make it seem very real.
It's 2012, do you know where your apocalypse is?
For almost as long as history has been recorded, people have predicted that the end of days is immanent. From the Book of Revelation to Y2K, the destruction of the world remains one of humanity's most consistent fears.
The current Doomsday watchers are fixated on the Mayan calendar; which dates back to the 5th century B.C. and it is believed to have predated even the Mayans themselves. What alarms people is that the Mayans worked out their calendars for centuries ahead of their own time… and the Mayan calendar stops on December 21, 2012.
Despite no evidence that the Mayans believed that date to mark the end of the world, many people still cling to the belief that something catastrophic is coming near the end of this year. And nothing anyone can say or do will change that… until the day passes and life goes on just as it always has. But once 2012 passes, people will just find a new reason to believe that doomsday is right around the corner. It's an endless cycle of fear and superstition.
The reality is less fanciful and a little bit more cynical. I believe that the character Jose Chung from the TV series "Millennium" said it best: "The next millennium will simply bring 1,000 years of the same old crap."