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Urban legends occupy a unique space in pop culture — too wild to be true and too good to check. Let’s take a look at some of the common urban legends that RVers may hear while out on the road. And we’ll explore whether they’re fact or fiction.
What are Urban Legends
Urban legends are those fantastic, scary, exciting, unusual, or just hard-to-believe stories that you may hear. They range from scary stories about waking up in ice without a kidney after accepting a stranger’s drink to scary stories about the Jersey Devil or Slender Man.
The person telling these stories seldom experiences them. Usually, a friend or someone else told them. In any case, they’re typically hard to pin down the details. This is part of the reason you can retell them in many places as if they happened just around the corner.
Cruise Control as Autopilot
Many RVers love cruise control, especially on long drives. But what would happen if you didn’t quite understand how it worked? According to the story, a man hit the highway in his new Winnebago, set the cruise control. He then went into the RV’s kitchen to make coffee. He thought the feature would drive for him like an autopilot system.
Instead, as you might expect, the RV crashed. The man then sued the RV company, claiming it didn’t clarify that cruise control didn’t work that way. The result? A significant cash award for the hapless driver and a new RV to boot.
Fact or Fiction?
Thankfully for the rest of us out on the roads, there’s no evidence this wild story took place, especially with a company as well-known as Winnebago. If it had indeed happened, you can bet you’d have heard about it.
If anyone has been absent-minded enough to try to use their cruise control as autopilot, they certainly didn’t try to sue the RV manufacturer over it. While this story still circulates in chain emails and online groups, it’s decidedly fiction.
Riding with a Corpse
Talk about an RV trip gone wrong. A group rented an RV for vacation from a private owner and hit the road. Shortly after departing, one of the group members opened one of the rig’s exterior compartments and smelled something odd. Upon further investigation, they discovered a man’s body hidden inside. Even worse, the body appeared to have been stored in the compartment for some time.
Fact or Fiction?
As grisly as it sounds, this story actually happened in a rented RV from Minnesota back in 2014. The group, a bachelor party bound for the Kentucky Derby, didn’t make it far before the grim discovery.
Before departing, the RV’s owner had reportedly warned the group not to open two exterior compartments, saying they didn’t work. While initially questioned by police, they cleared the group of any involvement in the man’s death.
RVer Left His Wife on the Side of the Road
A man drives his rented RV down the highway, enjoying the vacation of a lifetime. While he pilots the rig to their destination, the man’s wife sleeps in the back. In need of a spot to stretch his legs and use the bathroom with no rest stops in sight, the husband pulls over on the side of the road and steps out.
His wife awakens, assuming the stopped RV means they’ve arrived at their campground. She exits the RV in her nightgown to survey the campsite. But as she walks around the back of the RV, her husband reenters and starts up the rig, not noticing she was no longer in bed.
With his wife stuck in the RV’s blind spot, he pulls away, unaware of the precious cargo left behind. The wife flags down a passing biker, who helps reunite the couple by pulling up beside the RV on the highway.
Fact or Fiction?
This urban legend falls between fact and fiction, based on plausible events, but with some unrealistic and embellished elements. Many people have gotten left behind, often not while traveling in an RV. For example, then-First Lady of California Nancy Reagan was left at a gas station, dressed in regular clothing, and quickly retrieved.
Other elements of the story are somewhat unrealistic. For one, just about any RV big enough for the husband to not immediately notice his wife missing would have a bathroom on board. Also, RV blind spots are smaller than commonly thought. Many rigs now have rear cameras. This means that all but the most oblivious drivers would notice a person chasing after them.
La Mala Hora
If you’re traveling a lonely road through New Mexico late at night, keep your eyes peeled for La Mala Hora. Translated as “the evil hour,” La Mala Hora is an evil spirit that terrorizes those traveling alone at night on the roads of the Southwest.
It can appear as a black shroud that grows larger or smaller and tries to hypnotize anyone who sets eyes upon it. These unfortunate souls risk going insane from just a glance or end up dead on the side of the road by morning.
The phantom can also take the form of a woman with long black hair and black clothing and usually is an omen of death for someone the viewer knows. It’s this version of La Mala Hora that a woman saw in the common urban legend.
With her husband away on business, she traveled to visit a friend. As she crossed a lonely desert highway, she spotted a black shape that forced her to slam on her breaks. Suddenly, La Mala Hora appeared next to her car as a terrifying old woman with red eyes, clawing at the glass. She sped away to the friend’s home only to learn the next day that her husband had been killed by a mugger the previous evening, just about the time of the ghostly sighting.
Fact or Fiction?
Those traveling through New Mexico can breathe easily. Like most regional ghost stories, La Mala Hora is fiction, based on generations of passed-down lore.
It’s not clear whether there ever was any woman who had an experience like the one in the story. But if so, you can most likely consider the incident a coincidence. Still, it couldn’t hurt to get your New Mexico driving done before the sun goes down.
Just outside of Denver, Colorado, lies a stretch of road with a reputation as one of the most haunted roads in America. Riverdale Road between the towns of Thornton and Brighton is the site of numerous urban legends that can send a shiver down the spine of even the most experienced ghost hunters.
Among them is the tale of the phantom jogger. According to the story, a man running along the road was murdered on what’s now known as “Jogger’s Hill.” In the years after his violent death, cars have reported seeing a man following their vehicles, even tapping on their sides to menace the occupants.
Fact or Fiction?
Those traveling through the area don’t need to take the long way. Riverdale Road is the site of numerous spooky legends, from the jogger to phantom cars or bodies hanging from trees. Local police say they’ve never investigated a murder in the area.
Furthermore, calls about suspicious figures along the road have always turned out to be human and not spirit. Still, a few fatal crashes have occurred along the winding street. So it’s impossible to rule out the presence of something spooky entirely.
Keep in Mind: If reading legends isn’t enough, you can visit the 7 most haunted RV parks in America.
What Are Your Favorite Urban Legends?
While it may disappoint you to learn some of these RV urban legends may not iron out in truth, don’t get too discouraged. Urban legends occupy a unique space in pop culture and memory. Plus, plenty of seemingly tall tales turn out to have actually happened. As for the others, at least you’ve still got some great stories for your next night around the campfire.