Old School Americana & Nostalgia


The 1990s Urban Legends We Forgot About

The 1990s Urban Legends We Forgot About

The 1990s seemed to be a peak era for urban legends and lore. At a time when shows like Unsolved Mysteries and The X-Files ruled the screens, kids loved to scare each other with tales of alien abduction and murderous clowns. A few stories, however, traveled through playgrounds like wild fire and gained so much popularity that television shows, newscasts, and scientists even looked into them. While they haunted 90s kids, we all mostly forgot about them over the years. Well, we’re here to remind you.

The Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle is a 440,000-mile region over the North Atlantic Ocean that is, as you would assume, triangle-shaped. For decades, it was shrouded in mystery because dozens of ships and aircraft seemingly disappeared while traveling through the area. According to Brittanica, somewhere around 20 planes and 50 ships is the current estimate, including Flight 19.

What makes the stories even more bizarre is that rescue crews never found traces of the missing vessels or the people who were on them. Because of that, rumors spread that aliens were plucking people off the planet, the Lost City of Atlantis swallowed them whole, ships and planes flew through interdimensional portals, and more.

The most popular scientific theory is that the Bermuda Triangles has a particularly strong natural magnetic force that creates electromagnetic interference, which messes with navigation equipment, reports Marine Insight. Why authorities never uncover the missing, however, leaves even the brightest minds baffled.

In the 80s and 90s, the Bermuda Triangle earned loads of press, but the fascination seemed to have fizzled away. However, scientists still look into the strange occurrences. And some, including Karl Kruszelnicki, don’t believe there is anything out of the ordinary about the Bermuda Triangle. He told The Independent in 2017 that such events happen all over the oceans. But for some reason, people only focus on that region. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) agrees. In 2010, it published that “there is no evidence that mysterious disappearances occur with any greater frequency in the Bermuda Triangle than in any other large, well-traveled area of the ocean.”

Spontaneous Human Combustion

We can’t forget the fear of spontaneous human combustion, which gained traction thanks to Unsolved Mysteries host Robert Stack. The phenomenon is exactly as it sounds. People randomly burst into flames, leaving only their hands and feet behind. Britannica writes that the legend got its start in 1885 when a woman named Matilda Rooney supposedly suffered this fate. Business Insider reports that a man died from possible spontaneous human combustion as recently as 2010.

University of Adelaide pathologist Roger Byard explains that human combustion does happen, but not spontaneously. He and many other scientists explain the phenomenon as the wick effect.

When a person experiences this, their body fat fuels a fire that is sparked by a random mishap. “You can picture people wrapped in blankets, drinking spirits — and spilling the spirits, which basically act like an accelerant with petrol or gasoline,” said Byard. “What happens is they drop a cigarette into this massive pool of alcohol, which then ignites and just burns very slowly. We know that fat can actually burn at very low temperatures.”

The reason their hands and feet often remain is that those body parts do not have as much body fat.

Urban Legends of Tainted Halloween Candy

And, of course, who can forget the fear of being killed by a madman who hands out poisoned candy on Halloween, or, being rushed to the hospital after biting into a chocolate bar with a tiny razor blade inside? This urban legend still has some hold over people, perhaps because the ’80s and ’90s kids now have children of their own who trick or treat. That said, it doesn’t get quite as much press as it did in decades past. 

Local news channels used to help the urban legends by telling parents to always make sure candy is properly wrapped because letting their kids dig into their sugary loot— which is good, common sense advice. But Joel Best, a sociology and criminal justice professor from the University of Deleware, researched the rumors. And he says they’re unfounded.

“My research stretches back to 1958,” he told Fox News. “I have been unable to find any evidence that any child has been killed or seriously injured by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick-or-treating.” 

Best further explained that the legend started back in 1974 when Ryan Clark O’Bryan poisoned his own son with potassium cyanide-laced Pixie Sticks.