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In this 1891 painting of Lady Godiva by Jules Joseph Lefebvre, the authentic historical person is fully submerged in the legend, presented in an anachronistic high mediaeval setting.
In this 1891 painting of Lady Godiva by Jules Joseph Lefebvre, the authentic historical person is fully submerged in the legend, presented in an anachronistic high mediaeval setting.

Legend is a genre of folklore that consists of a narrative featuring human actions perceived or believed both by teller and listeners to have taken place within human history. Narratives in this genre may demonstrate human values, and possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude. Legend, for its active and passive participants, includes no happenings that are outside the realm of "possibility," but may include miracles. Legends may be transformed over time, in order to keep them fresh, vital, and realistic. Many legends operate within the realm of uncertainty, never being entirely believed by the participants, but also never being resolutely doubted.[1]

The Brothers Grimm defined legend as folktale historically grounded.[2] A modern folklorist's professional definition of legend was proposed by Timothy R. Tangherlini in 1990:[3]

Legend, typically, is a short (mono-) episodic, traditional, highly ecotypified[4] historicized narrative performed in a conversational mode, reflecting on a psychological level a symbolic representation of folk belief and collective experiences and serving as a reaffirmation of commonly held values of the group to whose tradition it belongs.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Top 10 Scary Prison Urban Legends


How’s it going YouTube? I’m your host Landon Dowlatsingh and welcome back to another most amazing video. If you guys love hearing about urban legends, you should definitely watch our urban legends play list. But I wouldn’t recommend watching these videos alone or at night…unless you want to freak yourself out. Today we are going to lock ourselves behind bars and hear about creepy urban legends from prisons all over the world. As if prisons weren’t scary enough…So let’s jump right into this list of the top 10 scary prison urban legends. Haunting us in at number 10 we have Idaho’s scariest ghost. Raymond Allen Snowden used to be referred to as Idaho’s Jack The Ripper because he brutally slayed a woman while he was out on a date with her and he showed absolutely no remorse. He slashed her throat and then stabbed her skull severing her spinal cord. If that wasn’t brutal enough, the corpse also had thirty stab wounds all over her body. He even bragged about murdering her while he was locked up. He was sentenced to death by hanging but when it came time for his execution, his neck didn’t snap properly and he spent 15 minutes gasping for air before he finally died. According to this urban legend, if you visit Idaho State Penitentiary, you can hear someone gasping for air and strange things have occurred at this prison that no one is able to explain. Seems like this prison needs some sage and holy water to clear this ghost. Private prisons use third grade data to plan for prison beds and this makes it onto this list in at number 9. There is an urban legend that says the government uses third grade test scores to determine future number of prison beds that will be needed. So basically, they believe that there is a correlation with low test scores at this age and the likelihood that they will go to prison. This is actually an urban legend that has been circulating for a long time and a lot of people think that it is true. Well I’m here to clear the air, this is only an urban legend…they actually use fourth grader test scores. All jokes aside, I bet they use a similar strategy to actually predict how many people will be sent to prison each year. It’s actually scary to think about it so let’s move on. Things get pretty intense in at number 8 with the legend of Lavinia Fisher. According to this legend, she is known as America’s first female serial killer. Lavinia and her husband ran a bed and breakfast just north of Charleston where a lot of travelers would stop in to get some rest. Little did they know that Lavinia would serve poisoned tea to her victims in order to rob them of their possessions. She would lure wealthy men into a room and serve them this poisoned tea. She would suggest that they get some rest on a particular bed that had a trap door beneath it. When the victim would pass out, she pulled a lever causing their body to fall into a pit below the house. One night a man stopped at this bed and breakfast for some rest and he was invited to have some tea. He really didn’t like tea but he was too polite to refuse. When Lavinia wasn’t looking, he dumped his tea in the plant next to him so she thought he drank it. He felt that she was acting strange so he decided to leave and go back to his room. Lavinia thought that he drank the poisoned tea so when she went into his room to rob him and drop his body into the pit, he was stunned to learn what her real motives were. He was able to escape and report the whole thing. The Fishers were executed in 1820 and according to the local legend her spirit haunts the Charleston Jail where she was hanged. Things get even more spooky in at number 7 with the Montana Territorial Prison. This was a prison that was operational in the late 1800’s. However, due to lack of funding and exceeding capacity, the prison quickly became overcrowded and violent. The prisoners were basically starving to death and were crammed into small spaces that they began to show extreme violent behaviours. A lot of the prisoners committed suicide and even killed each other. Because the prison was so under funded, it remained in a dirty and rundown state for over a century until a massive riot broke out where the prisoners took control for a whole day in 1959. The prison was shut down in 1976 but visitors claim that they have heard voices, footsteps and scary sounds lurking through the abandoned halls. Some people even say that they can feel ghosts touching them or they’ve been ghosts pushing people. Apparently, you can also feel a sense of impending doom and you feel like you are always going to be attacked. Well, if I ever plan a trip to Idaho I don’t think I will be taking a tour of this prison. I think I would rather spend my time eating Idaho potatoes instead of being attacked by scary prison ghosts but that’s just me. Moving on to number 6 we are talking about Cripple Creek jail. Wow, with a name like that no wonder this prison is haunted and has a creepy urban legend. Seriously, who was in charge of naming this building. This poorly named jail house was opened in 1901 and it was in operation for almost one hundred years. Only one prisoner was known to die within the jail walls after he fell from the second-floor catwalk. After his death, there have been strange paranormal actitvity that no one can explain. People have heard heavy footsteps going up and down the wooden staircase, there is a ghost child who can always be seen roaming the halls looking for her parents but the scariest urban Legend is about the dead prisoner’s cell. It is reported that if you walk past his cell you can feel a hand reach out and grab you. Some people have even said that they felt their hair being pulled and then they felt someone breathing heavily on their necks… And now in at number 5 we have the Wyoming Territorial Prison. This one is pretty creepy guys. This prison is known to be a hotspot for paranormal and unexplained occurrences. During its 80-year run, the prison housed some of the most violent and sadistic criminals who have ever walked the planet. One of them was a very young inmate named Andrew Pixley was a child serial killer and cannibal who was executed in the 1960’s. After it was closed, the prison became a huge tourist attraction because there are many ghost urban legends that surround this prison. Lots of people claim that they can hear Andrew’s creepy voice screaming about wanting to eat human flesh and how he wants to mutilate your body. Some other visitors also claim that they can feel cold spots and a spooky feeling that something bad is going to happen. The Russian Sleep experiment comes in at number 4. Alright guys, prepare yourself because this urban legend is pretty graphic and brutal. Let me take you back to the 1940s where Russian researchers wanted to conduct an experiment to see what the effects were if you deprived yourself of sleep. Due to ethical reasons, they didn’t want to pick any volunteers off the street so they decided to force five prisons to participate in this experiment. Yeah…that is so ethical (act sarcastic) The prisons were given an experimental gas that would prevent them from sleeping. Their conversations were recorded and monitored through video cameras and a two-way mirror. For the first few days, everything was fine and the prisoners were behaving normally. But on the fifth day, things got really bad. The prisoners became paranoid and started whispering about each other in the microphones. Eventually the prisoners were running around, screaming and almost breaking their vocal cords. On the 15th day, the experimenters decided to put in fresh air instead of the harmful gas but that just made things even worse. One prisoner died and the others severely mutilated their bodies. They tore off their flesh, ripped out their abdomen and muscles. When the researchers came to remove them from the room, the prisoners refused and they wanted to be locked up forever. Eventually all of the prisoners were shot and killed because they wanted to cover up this highly unethical experiment. Now, many people claim that this is only an urban legend and shouldn’t be taken seriously but I think that this has a chance of being real. I mean, there are so many experiments that humans have done in the past that would be totally illegal today. Shepton Mallet prison brings us to number 3. This prison has had some pretty intense people locked up behind these walls. People such as child killers, rapists and gangsters wrecked havoc here until they were either executed or when the prison shut down. There were a ton of murders and suicides that happened here and that is why this prison is known to have a lot of angry and vengeful ghosts here. This urban legend says that if you visit this old haunted prison, an old prison ghost will follow you home and haunt you for the rest of your life. Yeah, I don’t think I would be willing to take that risk. Imagine if the child killer followed you home…no thanks. I think this prison should be burned to the ground or at least have a priest bless this prison. Our next prison urban legend brings us to the Eastern State Penitentiary and this takes us to number 2. This prison was one of the most expensive buildings built in the US and it was going to be used as a prototype to build 300 other prisoners. The facility was operated by a corrupt company who opened up the prison doors to people who wanted to lock themselves up in order to find God. These people might have been under the impression that they are going to find God but they were literally placed in hell. They had to live in complete solitude and silence and if they broke any of the rules, they would have to face severe punishments such as the Mad chair where they would be strapped so tightly to a chair where it was impossible for them to move. They would sit there for days without food and eventually they would go insane. So apart from the prison being a nightmare, there is an urban legend about a Locksmith who was doing some repairs on cell block #4. He was hired to remove a very old lock from the cell door but as he was working he felt a massive force overcome him where he was unable to move and he had an out of body experience. He says that this lock is the gateway to someplace evil and anyone who dares remove it will experience terrible things. To this day, that lock remains there because people are absolutely terrified of the consequences. The infamous Alcatraz Prison scares us in at number 1. This is recognized as the most notorious prison in the entire world. I actually visited this prison a few years ago, and you can definitely sense evil within the walls of the prison. Although this prison has a lot of paranormal activity and a ton of urban legends, I want to talk about cell 14D. This cell was used to brutally punish prisoners who got out of line. The prisoners would be kept in this small cell with a toilet, sink, one light bulb and a mattress that was only given to them at night. There were several of these punishment cells but cell 14D had very active spirits. People who visit this cell report a raw coldness and have claimed that at times they feel a sudden evil force. Prisoners locked in cell 14D screamed throughout the night and they have all said that they saw a creature with glowing red eyes. One prisoner who screamed that he was being killed by this demon ghost was found the next morning strangled to death and he also had unexplainable marks all over his body. The prison guards are claiming that this is only an urban legend but what if this is a big cover up for the way that the prison guards mistreated the inmates. Maybe a prison guard killed this prisoner and made up this entire urban legend. Well there you guys have it


Etymology and origin

Holger Danske, a legendary character
Holger Danske, a legendary character

Legend is a loanword from Old French that entered English usage circa 1340. The Old French noun legende derives from the Medieval Latin legenda.[5] In its early English-language usage, the word indicated a narrative of an event. The word legendary was originally a noun (introduced in the 1510s) meaning a collection or corpus of legends.[6][7] This word changed to legendry, and legendary became the adjectival form.[6]

By 1613, English-speaking Protestants began to use the word when they wished to imply that an event (especially the story of any saint not acknowledged in John Foxe's Actes and Monuments) was fictitious. Thus, legend gained its modern connotations of "undocumented" and "spurious", which distinguish it from the meaning of chronicle.[8]

In 1866, Jacob Grimm described the fairy tale as "poetic, legend historic."[9] Early scholars such as Karl Wehrhan [de][10] Friedrich Ranke[11] and Will Erich Peuckert[12] followed Grimm's example in focussing solely on the literary narrative, an approach that was enriched particularly after the 1960s,[13] by addressing questions of performance and the anthropological and psychological insights provided in considering legends' social context. Questions of categorising legends, in hopes of compiling a content-based series of categories on the line of the Aarne–Thompson folktale index, provoked a search for a broader new synthesis.

In an early attempt at defining some basic questions operative in examining folk tales, Friedrich Ranke [de] in 1925[14] characterised the folk legend as "a popular narrative with an objectively untrue imaginary content" a dismissive position that was subsequently largely abandoned.[15]

Compared to the highly structured folktale, legend is comparatively amorphous, Helmut de Boor noted in 1928.[16] The narrative content of legend is in realistic mode, rather than the wry irony of folktale;[17] Wilhelm Heiske[18] remarked on the similarity of motifs in legend and folktale and concluded that, in spite of its realistic mode, legend is not more historical than folktale.

In Einleitung in der Geschichtswissenschaft (1928), Ernst Bernheim asserted that a legend is simply a longstanding rumour.[19] Gordon Allport credited the staying-power of some rumours to the persistent cultural state-of-mind that they embody and capsulise;[20] thus "Urban legends" are a feature of rumour.[21] When Willian Jansen suggested that legends that disappear quickly were "short-term legends" and the persistent ones be termed "long-term legends", the distinction between legend and rumour was effectively obliterated, Tangherlini concluded.[22]

Christian legenda

In the narrow Christian sense, legenda ("things to be read [on a certain day, in church]") were hagiographical accounts, often collected in a legendary. Because saints' lives are often included in many miracle stories, legend, in a wider sense, came to refer to any story that is set in a historical context but that contains supernatural, divine or fantastic elements.[23]

Related concepts

Giants Mata and Grifone, celebrated in the streets of Messina, Italy, the second week of August, according to a legend are founders of the Sicilian city.
Giants Mata and Grifone, celebrated in the streets of Messina, Italy, the second week of August, according to a legend are founders of the Sicilian city.
The mediaeval legend of Genevieve of Brabant connected her to Treves.
The mediaeval legend of Genevieve of Brabant connected her to Treves.

Hippolyte Delehaye distinguished legend from myth: "The legend, on the other hand, has, of necessity, some historical or topographical connection. It refers imaginary events to some real personage, or it localizes romantic stories in some definite spot."[24]

From the moment a legend is retold as fiction, its authentic legendary qualities begin to fade and recede: in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving transformed a local Hudson River Valley legend into a literary anecdote with "Gothic" overtones, which actually tended to diminish its character as genuine legend.[citation needed]

Stories that exceed the boundaries of "realism" are called "fables". For example, the talking animal formula of Aesop identifies his brief stories as fables, not legends. The parable of the Prodigal Son would be a legend if it were told as having actually happened to a specific son of a historical father. If it included a donkey that gave sage advice to the Prodigal Son it would be a fable.[citation needed]

Legend may be transmitted orally, passed on person-to-person, or, in the original sense, through written text. Jacob de Voragine's Legenda Aurea or "The Golden Legend" comprises a series of vitae or instructive biographical narratives, tied to the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. They are presented as lives of the saints, but the profusion of miraculous happenings and above all their uncritical context are characteristics of hagiography. The Legenda was intended to inspire extemporized homilies and sermons appropriate to the saint of the day.[25]

Urban legend

The tale of the White Lady who haunts Union Cemetery is a variant of the Vanishing hitchhiker legend.
The tale of the White Lady who haunts Union Cemetery is a variant of the Vanishing hitchhiker legend.

The vanishing hitchhiker is the best-known urban legend in America, traceable as far back as 1870, but it is found around the world including in Korea and Russia. In the legend, a young girl in a white dress picked up alongside of the road by a passerby. The unknown girl in white remains silent for the duration of her ride, thanks the driver, and quietly gets out at her destination. When the driver turns to look back, the girl has vanished.[26][27][28][29] In 1942, Beardsley and Hankey collected 79 written accounts of the legend.[30][31]

See also


  1. ^ Georges, Robert; Owens, Michael (1995). Folkloristics. United States of America: Indiana University Press. p. 7. ISBN 0-253-32934-5.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Norbert Krapf, Beneath the Cherry Sapling: Legends from Franconia (New York: Fordham University Press) 1988, devotes his opening section to distinguishing the genre of legend from other narrative forms, such as fairy tale; he "reiterates the Grimms' definition of legend as a folktale historically grounded", according to Hans Sebald's review in German Studies Review 13.2 (May 1990), p 312.
  3. ^ Tangherlini, "'It Happened Not Too Far from Here...': A Survey of Legend Theory and Characterization" Western Folklore 49.4 (October 1990:371–390) p. 385.
  4. ^ That is to say, specifically located in place and time.
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. "legend"
  6. ^ a b Harper, Douglas. "legendary". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  7. ^ "Legendry". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  8. ^ Patrick Collinson. Elizabethans, "Truth and Legend: The Veracity of John Foxe's Book of Martyrs" 2003:151–77, balances the authentic records and rhetorical presentation of Foxe's Acts and Monuments, itself a mighty force of Protestant legend-making. Sherry L. Reames, The Legenda Aurea: a reexamination of its paradoxical history, 1985, examines the "Renaissance verdict" on the Legenda, and its wider influence in skeptical approaches to Catholic hagiography in general.
  9. ^ Das Märchen ist poetischer, die Sage, historischer, quoted at the commencement of Tangherlini's survey of legend scholarship (Tangherlini 1990:371)
  10. ^ Wehrhan Die Sage (Leipzig) 1908.
  11. ^ Ranke, "Grundfragen der Volkssagen Forshung", in Leander Petzoldt (ed.), Vergleichende Sagenforschung 1971:1–20, noted by Tangherlini 1990.
  12. ^ Peuckert , Sagen (Munich: E Schmidt) 1965.
  13. ^ This was stimulated in part, Tangherlini suggests, by the 1962 congress of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research.
  14. ^ Ranke, "Grundfragen der Volkssagenforschung", Niederdeutsche Zeitschrift für Volkskunde 3 (1925, reprinted 1969)
  15. ^ Charles L. Perdue Jt., reviewing Linda Dégh and Andrew Vászony's essay "The crack on the red goblet or truth and the modern legend" in Richard M. Dorson, ed. Folklore in the Modern World, (The Hague: Mouton)1978, in The Journal of American Folklore 93 No. 369 (July–September 1980:367), remarked on Ranke's definition, criticised in the essay, as a "dead issue". A more recent examination of the balance between oral performance and literal truth at work in legends forms Gillian Bennett's chapter "Legend: Performance and Truth" in Gillian Bennett and Paul Smith, eds. Contemporary Legend (Garland) 1996:17–40.
  16. ^ de Boor, "Märchenforschung", Zeitschrift für Deutschkunde 42 1928:563–81.
  17. ^ Lutz Röhrich, Märchen und Wirklichkeit: Eine volkskundliche Untersuchung (Wiesbaden: Steiner Verlag) 1956:9–26.
  18. ^ Heiske, "Das Märchen ist poetischer, die Sage, historischer: Versuch einer Kritik", Deutschunterricht14 1962:69–75..
  19. ^ Bernheim, Einleitung in der Geschichtswissenschaft(Berlin: de Gruyter) 1928.
  20. ^ Allport, The Psychology of Rumor (New York: Holt, Rinehart) 1947:164.
  21. ^ Bengt af Klintberg, "Folksägner i dag" Fataburen 1976:269–96.
  22. ^ Jansen, "Legend: oral tradition in the modern experience", Folklore Today, A Festschrift for William Dorson (Bloomington: Indiana University Press) 1972:265–72, noted in Tangherlini 1990:375.
  23. ^ Literary or Profane Legends. Catholic Encyclopedia
  24. ^ Hippolyte Delehaye, The Legends of the Saints: An Introduction to Hagiography (1907), Chapter I: Preliminary Definitions
  25. ^ Timothy R. Tangherlini, "'It Happened Not Too Far from Here...': A Survey of Legend Theory and Characterization" Western Folklore 49.4 (October 1990:371–390). A condensed survey with extensive bibliography.
  26. ^ Bennett, Gillian. (1998). The Vanishing Hitchhiker at Fifty-Five. Western Folklore. Vol. 57, No. 1. pp. 1-17.
  27. ^ Langlois, Janet L. (July–September 1983). "The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings by Jan Harold Brunvand". The Journal of American Folklore. 96 (381): 356–357. doi:10.2307/540959. JSTOR 540959.
  28. ^ Georges, Jones, Robert, Michael (1995). Folkloristics. Indiana University Press.
  29. ^ Fine, Gary Alan (April 1982). "The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings by Jan Harold Brunvand". Western Folklore. Western States Folklore Society. 41 (2): 156–157. doi:10.2307/1499791. JSTOR 1499791.
  30. ^ Beardsley, Richard K; Hankey, Rosalie. (1942). The Vanishing Hitchhiker. California Folklore Quarterly 1: 303-335.
  31. ^ Beardsley, Richard K; Hankey, Rosalie. (1943). A History of the Vanishing Hitchhiker. California Folklore Quarterly 2: 13-25.
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