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Why do we tell Urban legends?

Let us first define what urban legends are. Urban legends are widespread narrative accounts of fantastical and bizarre events. These events can range from factual falsehoods to the paranormal; it all really depends on what the storyteller is aiming to accomplish in telling their story. And that brings us to why we tell urban legends. If the goal is to scare your audience, then you might tell them tales of demons and phantoms. A few examples of such stories are the Sallie House in Kansas or one of the many sightings of ghost trucks that follow drivers at night. Other stories like La Llorona have another purpose aside from just scaring people; they warn against immoral actions and remind people of what could happen to them if they make the same mistakes. Urban legends also change and evolve over time, and many are born from cultural shifts.

Many urban legends stem from real events, a good example of this is the legend where a med school class are preparing to dissect bodies when one of the students recognizes one of the people they are going to dissect. This comes from the time when med schools received the majority of their bodies from grave robbers. Another urban legend with truth in it is the fake corpse being real. On the set of The Six Million Dollar Man a prop was discovered to be the body of an outlaw who was killed in 1911. He was shortly given a proper burial.

As smartphones became more common and more people gained access to the internet, urban legends became more accessible to the average person. There are now urban legends that relate to technology and other modern tech. One notable case of this is the stories of people who receive phone calls or SMS from those who have already passed on. People will unknowingly tell urban legends because of a lack of understanding of how things work, assuming these stories to be true facts when there is no evidence supporting the claim. For instance, cracking your knuckles will not give you arthritis, nor will chewing gum stay in your stomach for seven years. But these legends are so ingrained in our minds that we believe they are true especially when coming from someone we trust or respect. Ultimately, the reason we tell urban legends is that we as humans love to share stories with one another. For as long as human speech has existed, we have told stories; it is simply a part of who we are as a species.

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