Top 10 Urban Legends Debunked – Top 10 Lists | Listverse

June 6, 2010 at 11:30 pm (Uncategorized)

Top 10 Urban Legends Debunked

Share This– Published July 24, 2007 – 93 Comments

We all love urban legends, we all love to hear them, and we all love to spread them. From dead animals, dead people, and the living dead, to animals in fast food, humans have an odd desire to be horrified by these tales. This is a list of 10 of the most famous urban legends that are still doing the rounds but are completely false.

1. Walt Disney’s Body is Cryogenically Frozen

The rumour tells us that Disney, who was well known for being a technical innovator, had his body put into a vat of liquid nitrogen upon his death so that he could be re-animated (har har) when scientists discovered the means. Some versions of the tale even tell us that Walt’s cryo-vat is hidden under the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in Disneyland!

Sorry to tell you, this is entirely false. On December 15, 1966, Walt Disney died of complications from the treatment he was receiving for lung cancer. Following Disney’s wishes, his family had him cremated (they have since confirmed this fact) and his ashes were interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, which you can visit to this day.

2. Santa Claus was invented by Coca-cola

In the 1930′s, Coca-cola was looking for ways to spread their burgeoning empire during the winter months – traditionally slow for soft drink sales. They hire Haddon Sundblom, a highly regarded commercial illustrator who proceeded to create a series of images of Santa Claus that associated him with coke. His drawings became a regular annual sight for the coca-cola corporation which helped to spur on the idea that they had conceived the image.

In fact, the red-suited jolly man was already a well established depiction of Santa Claus by the 1920s. The New York Times reported this in 1927: “A standardized Santa Claus appears to New York children. Height, weight, stature are almost exactly standardized, as are the red garments, the hood and the white whiskers. The pack full of toys, ruddy cheeks and nose, bushy eyebrows and a jolly, paunchy effect are also inevitable parts of the requisite make-up.”

3. McDonald’s Shakes are made from reconstituted animal fat

This rumour has been very popular on the internet and I even remember it from my own childhood. The belief was that the liquid poured into the milkshake machine (and the icecream machine) was reconstituted fat – either from pigs or chickens. I even witnessed the filling of one of the machines when I was a teenager and the colour and consistency did seem to give weight to the legend.

However, these days fast food restaurants like McDonald’s are required by law to make the full nutritional information of their products available to consumers. This is the complete list of ingredients in a McDonald’s shake: Whole milk, sucrose, cream, nonfat milk solids, corn syrup solids, mono and diglycerides, guar gum, vanilla flavour, carrageenan, cellulose gum, vitamin A palmitate. Admittedly some of these things sound a little weird, but they are all perfectly safe for human consumption and are not animal by-products. Incidentally, carrageenan is a type of seaweed (also called Irish Moss) – it is used to control freezing agents in the shakes – if it were excluded the milkshake would be a solid block.

4. Snuff films

I am almost certain that this one will cause a stir in the comments! The idea is that films are made (either because very wealthy people will pay for them, or sick people will make their own) in which a person is murdered in the course of filming. This legend probably piggy-backs on other rumours of cannibalism, necrophagia (if you don’t know what this means, don’t look it up – you will regret it), and necrophilia. In recent years it has been helped along by films such as 8mm (starring Nicholas Cage) which treats the subject as if it were fact.

But actually, the fact is, there has not once been a snuff film that has been found. Every time there is a report in the press about one, upon investigation it turns out to be false. There is even a one million dollar reward for anyone that can come up with a commercially sold snuff film. The reward has been on offer for many years now with no one ever stepping forward to claim it.

5. The most Holy religion of Jedi

Some years ago a strange rumour started to pass around the internet – the claim was that if enough people wrote “Jedi” as their religion on a census form, the government would be compelled to include it as an official religion on the next census. This first started with an English census in 2001, followed by an Australian one, and a New Zealand one in the same year.

Not only is it entirely false (as census departments have nothing to do with the wing of Government that could make this happen), but in Australia, and New Zealand, you can be fined $1000 for falsifying your census results. Not only do you risk a fine, but the census information is used to determine allocation of tax funds, so by lying people are doing other members of society a disservice.

6. Kentucky Fried Chicken name change

I should first state that I actually believed this urban legend! The legend is that Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC because they feared that the word “Fried” had negative connotations that were not good for marketing. (There was another ludicrious legend that surely no one would believe, it claimed that KFC were breeding super chickens to get more meat from them and by law they could not refer to them as Chickens because they were a new race of animal.)

As it turns out, Kentucky Fried Chicken were not concerned about bad publicity at all – in fact, the company has not given a specific reason for the name change. You may be interested to know that the company is now once again beginning to use the original name of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

7. Lemmings occasionally throw themselves from cliffs

This urban legend has quite an awful beginning; in the 1958 Disney documentary White Wilderness, a camera crew forced a group of lemmings off a cliff to document their supposed suicidal behaviour. The film was made in Canada and lemmings were brought in for the film after they were purchased from Eskimo children. The lemmings were filmed in a variety of artificial situations and then herded to a cliff where they were pushed to the edge to simulate a migration.

It is unknown whether Disney was aware of the behaviour of the film crew, but the fact remains, lemmings do not throw themselves from cliffs.

8. The Daddy Longlegs

For quite some time there has been a rumour spreading that the daddy longlegs spider is the most poisonous spider but is unable to kill humans simply because its fangs are not strong enough to pierce our skin. In fact, there is a small twist here – it is not possible for us to test the toxicity of the spider because of international codes of ethics and amnesty international (for some bizarre reason).

In reality, the most poisonous spiders are the Brown Recluse and the Funnel Web Spider.

9. Who invented the toilet?

Contrary to popular belief, it was not Thomas Crapper. Crapper is known to most as an ingenious Victorian plumber who came up with the idea of a flushing lavatory. The majority of this deceit comes from a book written in 1969 by Wallace Reyburn: Flushed with Pride: the Story of Thomas Crapper. This author also, interestingly, wrote The Uplifting Tale of Otto Titzling and the Development of the Bra. Crapper was in fact a plumber, and he did take out a number of plumbing related patents in his time, but none was for the flush toilet.

In reality, Alexander Cummings is generally credited as being the inventor of this illustrious gadget, in 1775 (50 years before Crapper was born). Joseph Bramah and Thomas Twyford improved upon Cummings’ design by adding the ball-cock. Finally, the use of the term crapper for a lavatory is of unknown origin but is believed to have started out in America.

10. Made in USA, Japan

I am sure you have all heard this one: apparently the Japanese renamed a town in Japan to Usa so they could legally exports goods to the US and conceal their original place of origin. This legend was spurred on by the fact that in post-war American, Made in Japan became synonymous with cheap poorly made goods. It is, of course, ludicrous to think that American customs officially would simply shrug off the import of products that are clearly labelled to mislead.

An interesting addition to this tale is that Sony Corporation intentionally made their “Made in Japan” labels small so that American people would not realise that it was a Japanese company. A large number of Sony shipments were turned away by Customs officials because the labels were smaller than regulations required them to be.

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Top 10 Internet Memes and Phenomena – The List Universe

[…] June 2007 (3) Home > Bizarre > Top 10 Internet Memes and Phenomena Top 10 Urban Legends Debunked […]

I am so, so, so glad to hear that about snuff films. That restores the faith in humanity that I had lost upon hearing about them. Regardless of the stories I have heard, I am going to stick to what you said about one never being found, because I truly believe that if they existed, one would have turned up somewhere. is a great website dedicated to the proving (or debunking) of urban legends. They’ll have a pretty good explanation for any that didn’t make it onto this list!

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

kelsi: I agree – snopes was very useful in my research for the items in this list. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to kill a few hours (because you can’t help but get caught up!)

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

Lemmings throwing themselves off cliffs! I believed that for the past 25 years! I remember feeling smart when I would reference that to something else I would see. Funny thing is that if I ever said now that they don’t I would look the fool! Strange how 1 show made almost 50 years ago makes a lasting impression.

1 reply · active 2 weeks ago

Lemmings do throw themselves of , well not cliffs but certainly steep, I mean really steep mountainsyou see they curl up in to a fluffy ball so they don’t get hurt. They do it to get away from danger.

You got that about KFC from Snopes, didn’t you? Did you click the link at the bottom of the page, the one that says “More information about this page?” Because the page it links to says, in part, “If any or all of the stories in this section caused your internal clue phone to ring, we hope you didn’t let the answering machine take the call. That niggling little voice of common sense whispering to you in the background was right — there was something wrong with what you read. You’ve just had an enounter with False Authority Syndrome…As for Mississippi’s doing away with teaching fractions and decimals in its school systems because kids find them too hard to master, that’s no more true than Kentucky’s imposing a licensing fee on uses of its name.”

Dude, you’ve been trolled.

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

I was watching Modern Marvels on the History Channel and they said that the term “Crapper” came from American GIs who were in England during WWII. A popular brand of toilet over there at the time was by Thomas Crapper, so many toilets had “Crapper” written on them.

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

Keebler – haha you are right – and the worst thing about it is I started writing the article and said the Kentucky copyright was false – then I started doing research for more information and found the snopes article which made me think I must have been confused over the issue so I changed it!!! I am going to rewrite that bit RIGHT NOW! Thanks 🙂

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

Nathan: I believe that there is a mention of US GIs in the wikipedia article. It would make sense considering Crapper was a plumber with lavatory patents.

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

The myth about daddy longlegs was done on mythbusters. If I remember correctly, Adam Savage let one bite him.

2 replies · active 2 weeks ago

A daddy longlegs is a type of flying insect.

ChrisinMB's avatar

ChrisinMB · 2 weeks ago

In North America they aren’t. A Daddy Longlegs refers to a Harvestman here.

Jesse – how did they manage to get it to bite him and what was the outcome?

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

So what exactly does the part about international codes of ethics and amnesty international have to do with testing a spider’s bite? I don’t see the connection…

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

jfrater- In the mythbusters episode they got a daddy longlegs to bite adam by having him stick his entire arm into a plastic box filled with them. The outcome was that the venom was no where near potent enough to harm humans, much less be the deadliest.

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

erik: wow – good thing they aren’t deadly then 🙂

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

See if you can debunk this one,

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

Don: I don’t know enough about politics to understand what the problem is with that one.

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

I thought they did a pretty good job of debunking rudy. It’s a shame you don’t know more about politics.

Best Regards, Don

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

Sorry Don, I should have been more clear – I don’t know much about US politics.

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

If it is not possible for us to test the toxicity of the spider because of international codes of ethics and amnesty international, then how can we know that the most poisonous spiders are the Brown Recluse and the Funnel Web Spider? hmmmm?

And I agree with above stated “don’t believe everything you read on Snopes”.

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

Jerry: I presume it has something to do with crushing the spiders to get the data – as they are so small we probably can’t milk them for venom without killing them. I will do some research and see if I can find something more about it.

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

Ever heard of the Californian viners scam ?
Apparently, they would fill a tanker full of Californian wine, ship it across the atlantic, dock it in Bordeaux harbour, duty free of course, bottle it on the boat, and ship it promptly back to the US with “bottled in Bordeaux” prominently displayed on the labels…with a big mark-up, .
No idea if this is true or not – i wouldn’t put it past a dynamic marketing team, though.

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

Che: I haven’t heard that – it doesn’t seem very cost effective though – is the markup so high on French wine that it is worth doing?

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

Yeah, I know, sounds dodgy, economically, to me too.
But I was told it was in the sixties – before US wines could command a premium – and French wines were heavily taxed with import duty.
I’ll try and track down the truth of this, otherwise : another nice urban legend !

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

Che: do – it seems very interesting

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

Alexandra's avatar

Alexandra · 134 weeks ago

….and Funnel Webs come from Australia…. 😦

And my cousin told me he put Jedi down when he filled out the census. How humorous. I didn’t know there was a fine.

You are a great person for putting all this knowledge out there. Well done!

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

Just a note on number 10, there is in fact a city in Japan named Usa. I have never checked on the veracity of that name, and I forget where it is located, but there is definitely a town or city by that naming. Any foreigner (especially american) who sees the sign for Usa will of course be surprised at first sight, as I was.

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

SuperLyndsey's avatar

SuperLyndsey · 128 weeks ago

I know that this list is older, but I wanted comment anyway.

Thank god you posted number one- I work in the cryogenics industry, and I am SO TIRED OF THAT JOKE. No, we do not have Walt Disney’s head/body/penis/dog/whatever. ARGH.

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

I am so sick of hearing that spider story! It’s such nonsense. If it was true then I’m sure I’d be dead because I think I accidently ate one (don’t ask)…

Another one is that people only use 10-15% of their brain at one time. That’s even more stupid. Maybe that’s the maximum amount that they were use at any one given time, but not EVER. If parts of our brain weren’t needed then we wouldn’t have them

1 reply · active 2 weeks ago

Its how much of the brain that americans use because they are stupid.

uhh god i looked up necrophagia…I couldnt help it :p


I shoulda listened

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

also known as dinner. 🙂

j/k 🙂

0 replies · active less than 1 minute ago



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