8 Horror Myths Debunked (or Confirmed!)

At my house, Halloween is like Christmas. So, you'll notice a larger-than-usual number of my posts this month will be focused on the creepy and macabre. Today, we turn to Snopes to help us debunk (or validate!) a bunch of horror myths.

1. Crazy people put razorblades in apples and needles in Halloween candy. Sadly, that's true. There have been specific, documented cases about kids being pricked by needles hidden inside of Halloween candy. More than 80 cases have been recorded since 1959, but only 10 resulted in even a minor injury. The worst case was when one woman required a couple of stitches. In most cases, Snopes says, it's usually because siblings or friends were trying to freak each other out. In 2000, though, a man in Minneapolis did put needles in Snickers bars and handed them out to kids he didn't even know. One boy did get stuck, but not enough to require medical attention. The man responsible was charged with intent to cause death, harm or illness.

2. Crazy people poison Halloween candy. This one is NOT true. At least, not in the way you think. Most people would assume that someone like the above guy in Minneapolis would poison candy and hand it out to any little kid that shows up at his doorstep. Nope, no documented proof of that. But in 1974, Texan Ronald O'Bryan killed his own son and tried to make it look like he was given poisoned Halloween candy. He poisoned four Pixie Stix and gave one to his son and one to three other children "“ but not as the act of a random madman. He was just trying to make it appear random so he could blame this urban legend for his son's untimely death. None of the other children ate their Pixie Stix, but Timothy O'Bryan did and was pronounced dead at 10 p.m. on October 31, 1974.

3. Bad guys hide under women's cars in parking lots and slash their Achilles' Tendons. We've all gotten that e-mail, right? This scary story has been lurking around since the 1950s and has seen a resurgence in recent years with e-mail chain letters. Snopes says that yes, people have definitely been attacked in shopping mall parking lots. But none of attackers were ever lying underneath the car, and there are no documented cases of them slashing the victims' ankles.

4. We all know that The Amityville Horror was based on a true story"¦ except it wasn't.

amityvilleYes, Ronald DeFeo, Jr., did kill his entire family in that house, but no demons were involved. The family that bought the house after the DeFeos didn't experience anything supernatural. William Weber, Ronald Jr.'s lawyer, admitted that he and the Lutzes completely fabricated the entire "haunted" story over a lot of wine. The author of the book, Jay Anson, built upon their tall tale and wrote the book.

5. A "bug bite" on a woman's cheek ends up erupting with baby spiders "“ turns out a spider laid eggs under her skin. Nope. Not possible. There's a short story about this legend (involving a kiss from the devil) that dates all the way back to 1849, so it's an oldie. Apparently in 1998, a doctor in Mexico did tell a man that a bulge on his thigh could possibly be where a spider laid eggs, but no baby spiders ever erupted from it.

ohio6. That song "Love Rollercoaster" originally done by the Ohio Players and later covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers incorporates the scream of a woman being murdered. Not true. Some rumors say that they killed a woman in the studio to get the scream; one said that microphones picked inadvertently picked up a murder next door; others said the band just used a 911 recording. Nope. Visit Snopes for a sound clip and you can listen for yourself to see if you think it sounds like someone being killed. The band kept mum on the rumors for a while to sell more records, but eventually admitted it was a just one of the singers reaching a high pitch. Not a murder.

7. People posing as the hanging victim at a haunted house have actually died"¦ and the whole night passed before they were discovered. Yep, that's true. It's happened on multiple occasions, actually, and suicides have been mistaken for Halloween pranks as well. One such occasion happened on October 26, 2005. A 42-year-old woman committed suicide by hanging herself from a tree on a busy road, but no one reported it for hours because they assumed it was just a Halloween decoration.

kidney8. People are drugged and then relieved of their kidneys, which are then sold on the black market for $10,000 each. That's a negatory. And you're thinking, "But wait, they're also left in a bathtub full of ice." Well, that's only been added to the story since the mid "˜90s. The victim used to just be left along the side of a building or something. A Turkish man claimed that this exact thing happened to him in 1989, but it turned out that he willingly participated in the "surgery."

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Bad Moods Might Make You More Productive
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iStock

Being in a bad mood at work might not be such a bad thing. New research shows that foul moods can lead to better executive function—the mental processing that handles skills like focus, self-control, creative thinking, mental flexibility, and working memory. But the benefit might hinge on how you go through emotions.

As part of the study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, a pair of psychologists at the University of Waterloo in Canada subjected more than 90 undergraduate students to a battery of tests designed to measure their working memory and inhibition control, two areas of executive function. They also gave the students several questionnaires designed to measure their emotional reactivity and mood over the previous week.

They found that some people who were in slightly bad moods performed significantly better on the working memory and inhibition tasks, but the benefit depended on how the person experienced emotion. Specifically, being in a bit of a bad mood seemed to boost the performance of participants with high emotional reactivity, meaning that they’re sensitive, have intense reactions to situations, and hold on to their feelings for a long time. People with low emotional reactivity performed worse on the tasks when in a bad mood, though.

“Our results show that there are some people for whom a bad mood may actually hone the kind of thinking skills that are important for everyday life,” one of the study’s co-authors, psychology professor Tara McAuley, said in a press statement. Why people with bigger emotional responses experience this boost but people with less-intense emotions don’t is an open question. One hypothesis is that people who have high emotional reactivity are already used to experiencing intense emotions, so they aren’t as fazed by their bad moods. However, more research is necessary to tease out those factors.

[h/t Big Think]

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The 10 Wildest Movie Plot Twists
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

An ending often makes or breaks a movie. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having the rug pulled out from under you, particularly in a thriller. But too many flicks that try to shock can’t stick the landing—they’re outlandish and illogical, or signal where the plot is headed. Not all of these films are entirely successful, but they have one important attribute in common: From the classic to the cultishly beloved, they involve hard-to-predict twists that really do blow viewers’ minds, then linger there for days, if not life. (Warning: Massive spoilers below.)

1. PSYCHO (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock often constructed his movies like neat games that manipulated the audience. The Master of Suspense delved headfirst into horror with Psycho, which follows a secretary (Janet Leigh) who sneaks off with $40,000 and hides in a motel. The ensuing jolt depends on Leigh’s fame at the time: No one expected the ostensible star and protagonist to die in a gory (for the time) shower butchering only a third of the way into the running time. Hitchcock outdid that feat with the last-act revelation that Anthony Perkins’s supremely creepy Norman Bates is embodying his dead mother.

2. PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

No, not the botched Tim Burton remake that tweaked the original movie’s famous reveal in a way that left everyone scratching their heads. The Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi gem continues to stupefy anyone who comes into its orbit. Heston, of course, plays an astronaut who travels to a strange land where advanced apes lord over human slaves. It becomes clear once he finds the decrepit remains of the Statue of Liberty that he’s in fact on a future Earth. The anti-violence message, especially during the political tumult of 1968, shook people up as much as the time warp.

3. DEEP RED (1975)

It’s not rare for a horror movie to flip the script when it comes to unmasking its killer, but it’s much rarer that such a film causes a viewer to question their own perception of the world around them. Such is the case for Deep Red, Italian director Dario Argento’s (Suspiria) slasher masterpiece. A pianist living in Rome (David Hemmings) comes upon the murder of a woman in her apartment and teams up with a female reporter to find the person responsible. Argento’s whodunit is filled to the brim with gorgeous photography, ghastly sights, and delirious twists. But best of all is the final sequence, in which the pianist retraces his steps to discover that the killer had been hiding in plain sight all along. Rewind to the beginning and you’ll discover that you caught an unknowing glimpse, too.

4. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

Sleepaway Camp is notorious among horror fans for a number of reasons: the bizarre, stilted acting and dialogue; hilariously amateurish special effects; and ‘80s-to-their-core fashions. But it’s best known for the mind-bending ending, which—full disclosure—reads as possibly transphobic today, though it’s really hard to say what writer-director Robert Hiltzik had in mind. Years after a boating accident that leaves one of two siblings dead, Angela is raised by her aunt and sent to a summer camp with her cousin, where a killer wreaks havoc. In the lurid climax, we see that moody Angela is not only the murderer—she’s actually a boy. Her aunt, who always wanted a daughter, raised her as if she were her late brother. The final animalistic shot prompts as many gasps as cackles.

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)

The Usual Suspects has left everyone who watches it breathless by the time they get to the fakeout conclusion. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a criminal with cerebral palsy, regales an interrogator in the stories of his exploits with a band of fellow crooks, seen in flashback. Hovering over this is the mysterious villainous figure Keyser Söze. It’s not until Verbal leaves and jumps into a car that customs agent David Kujan realizes that the man fabricated details, tricking the law and the viewer into his fake reality, and is in fact the fabled Söze.

6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

No courtroom movie can surpass Primal Fear’s discombobulating effect. Richard Gere’s defense attorney becomes strongly convinced that his altar boy client Aaron (Edward Norton) didn’t commit the murder of an archbishop with which he’s charged. The meek, stuttering Aaron has sudden violent outbursts in which he becomes "Roy" and is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, leading to a not guilty ruling. Gere’s lawyer visits Aaron about the news, and as he’s leaving, a wonderfully maniacal Norton reveals that he faked the multiple personalities.

7. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

Edward Norton is no stranger to taking on extremely disparate personalities in his roles, from Primal Fear to American History X. The unassuming actor can quickly turn vicious, which led to ideal casting for Fight Club, director David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Fincher cleverly keeps the audience in the dark about the connections between Norton’s timid, unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s hunky, aggressive Tyler Durden. After the two start the titular bruising group, the plot significantly increases the stakes, with the club turning into a sort of anarchist terrorist organization. The narrator eventually comes to grips with the fact that he is Tyler and has caused all the destruction around him.

8. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

Early in his career, M. Night Shyamalan was frequently (perhaps a little too frequently) compared to Hitchcock for his ability to ratchet up tension while misdirecting his audience. He hasn’t always earned stellar reviews since, but The Sixth Sense remains deservedly legendary for its final twist. At the end of the ghost story, in which little Haley Joel Osment can see dead people, it turns out that the psychologist (Bruce Willis) who’s been working with the boy is no longer living himself, the result of a gunshot wound witnessed in the opening sequence.

9. THE OTHERS (2001)

The Sixth Sense’s climax was spooky, but not nearly as unnerving as Nicole Kidman’s similarly themed ghost movie The Others, released just a couple years later. Kidman gives a superb performance in the elegantly styled film from the Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenábar, playing a mother in a country house after World War II protecting her photosensitive children from light and, eventually, dead spirits occupying the place. Only by the end does it become clear that she’s in denial about the fact that she’s a ghost, having killed her children in a psychotic break before committing suicide. It’s a bleak capper to a genuinely haunting yarn.

10. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

David Lynch’s surrealist movies may follow dream logic, but that doesn’t mean their plots can’t be readily discerned. Mulholland Drive is his most striking work precisely because, in spite of its more wacko moments, it adds up to a coherent, tragic story. The mystery starts innocently enough with the dark-haired Rita (Laura Elena Harring) waking up with amnesia from a car accident in Los Angeles and piecing together her identity alongside the plucky aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts). It takes a blue box to unlock the secret that Betty is in fact Diane, who is in love with and envious of Camilla (also played by Harring) and has concocted a fantasy version of their lives. The real Diane arranges for Camilla to be killed, leading to her intense guilt and suicide. Only Lynch can go from Nancy Drew to nihilism so swiftly and deftly.

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