Cemeteries and Urban Legends

Whenever I ride my bike, I end up at a cemetery.

This could be a really good start to a story, but in reality, it’s just what actually happens to me. I live in an area with a lot of graveyards (although the town over has the most cemeteries per square footage in the state or something like that) so it’s kind of something you expect to run into if you bike for long enough in any direction—I think that’s the case for any small town in the U.S., to be honest—but it’s something that still happens without fail regardless of which direction I end up going in. All roads lead to the same place, or something.

It definitely fits with the persona I seem to have though; I spend a lot of time talking about ghosts and monsters, so it seems like even if the likelihood of me riding to a cemetery whenever I went were lower, it would still probably happen. At least I should be happy about the fact that I’m not the main character in Paranorman.

I’m reminded of this weird fact about myself because it’s summer time (and finally looking like it), and summer is the best time to both ride your bike and tell scary stories.

There’s one about a group of teenagers (it’s always teenagers) who are psyching each other out and getting their hearts pounding really fast by telling scary stories and playing dumb pranks. It’s after a dance—probably prom, since it’s that season—and they’ve been drinking a little. Not very far from someone’s house, there’s a cemetery. They’ve ventured near it before, but the place gives everyone the creeps, so they never go much farther in than a few feet. Anyway, they’ve been drinking and playing truth or dare, and someone dares a girl that she won’t spend the night in the cemetery. It takes some cajoling, but eventually she says she’ll do it, because she doesn’t like being made to feel like a coward (who does?) and also, it’s a cemetery. Everything’s already dead. What’s the worst that’ll happen?

They tell her to stick a knife in the ground where she was so even if she leaves in the morning, they’ll know which grave she went to and where she stayed. It’s pretty poorly thought out, but then, they’re drunk, and who comes up with good plans anymore? Someone hands her a pocket knife and she, in her prom dress still, goes into the cemetery. It takes a while, but she finds a grave and she plants herself there and sticks the knife in the ground.

Because people are jerks, a few of the guys decide that they’re going to try to scare her. Everyone else has pretty much passed out at this point, but they go into the cemetery with the intention of just freaking her out a little and then maybe getting her home so nobody gets into any actual trouble.

The problem is, they freak her out so bad (and she can’t see where they are), that she starts to actually panic, and she’s ready to make a run for it. Something’s holding onto her dress though, and she can’t move, and she’s thinking she’s a goner. Maybe zombies actually are real, or someone was buried still alive, or something, and someone is holding her in place. She can’t run. She’s so afraid that she has a heart attack. The guys figure she probably ran off, so they don’t go looking until they’re with everyone in the morning. They tell them, she probably freaked out and went home. The entire group goes to the cemetery anyway, and there’s their friend.

As a story, it doesn’t really work anymore since people don’t usually die of fright, pocket knives aren’t usually strong enough to keep someone’s dress pinned to the ground, and it’s unlikely to happen now anyway. That said, there are some urban legends that have been around since at least the 50’s. Some of them are even made into movies—there was one about a babysitter who was receiving threatening calls, and it turned out that calls were coming from upstairs. In theory, this could still be pretty frightening, especially with cell phones since anyone can call from pretty much anywhere, and home intrusions are going to be something everyone always fears. We want to feel safe, and stories that play on the idea that someone could get into our homes without us knowing that they did is scary.

The best kinds of ghost stories anyway are going to be the ones that actually happened to people you know—so when you tell an urban legend, it helps to start it off with, well, this happened to my uncle’s roommate, or so on. We’re much more worried about things that have happened to our friends than we are about some random girl on prom night—the ones that are close are the ones that tend to stick with us.

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Author: jillboger

Part time writer. Editor-in-Chief for the Bridge volume 13, former EIC for The Odyssey at BSU. My glasses protect my secret identity.

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