The Procession

"This collage is based on the legend of the White Lady who haunted the Union Cemetery in Easton, Connecticut, near where I grew up," Marnie Weber writes in an artist's statement. “She would stand in the road and cars would hit her and then hear a thump. Upon investigating there would be nothing there."

Frozen Walt Doll

"There is a persistent rumor that Walt Disney was cryogenically preserved in the basement of a building on the idyllic CalArts campus," writes Burt Payne. "In 1989 Stephen Hillenburg and I were graduate students at CalArts. Steve relayed to me the myth about Walt Disney being frozen, and the rumor about his cryogenic crypt in the basement at CalArts. I grabbed a flashlight and our search began. We actually searched for the access door leading to the laboratory where Disney would be reanimated. Although our search was fruitless, it was the beginning of our quest to create an homage to the man who envisioned our school."

Poisoned Apples

"At Halloween, adults told me not to accept an apple from anyone because a razor blade could be inside it," writes Chris Ulrich. "'There are bad people who do this and others may be doing it too, so watch out!' Suddenly you are infected . You become an adult yourself and the child you once were is gone, a ghost, just past memories that may come up now and again. Then it hit me, that the razor blade in the apple is the doubt that kills the magic of make believe. Perhaps that is what wisdom is for: to never truly grow old, one must remember what it felt like not knowing."

Bigfoot Dropping

In 1971, inspired by "Bigfoot" stories that he read in the Weekly World News tabloid Clayton Bailey claims that he and his imaginary alter ego Dr. Gladstone discovered the skeleton of a Bigfoot and a Bigfoot dropping in a California backyard.


The Goatman is a half-human, half-goat monster that gets his jollies banging on the cars of teenagers who just want a fun night on an isolated Lover’s Lane," writes Lew Delport "He’s a modern, Bizarro version of a satyr, a prudish Pan spawned by technology rather than a horny god, silly as a Scooby Doo villain in the light of day, but prone to lurking in storm drains, dark closets, the abandoned construction sites in the woods and other shadowy nooks and crannies, waiting to pounce on any unwary child who stumbled past."

Haunted Boy

"When I first came upon the legend of the "Haunted Painting of eBay," it struck me as a metaphor for the power of superstition as it relates to an image," writes Gregg Gibbs. "How could a painting have such an effect on an individual as to make mere coincidence seem paranormal? I discovered that the artist, Bill Stoneham, never intended to create a haunting. He himself is baffled by the phenomenon. Many people project special powers onto paintings and other totemic objects as a way of making sense of the mysteries of the universe. In that way, every painting is haunted by the artist who creates it."


"Coming from the Appalachian mountains in the eastern portion of Tennessee, Bigfoot was always something to be on the lookout for," writes Kevin Bradley. "It took many years of study before I realized, that the creature was in fact a robot, controlled by aliens. I saw it in a vision in 1978."


Lauren Morison writes "Local legend states that there are three haunted locations Caryville, Wisconsin: the church, the old schoolhouse, and the abandoned cemetery. According to rumor, one cold night in the dead of winter, a little boy ran away from his abusive home and went to hide in the school. He was found sitting at his desk, frozen, in the morning. The schoolhouse wasn't even locked so my friends and I would walk along the lines of desks and try to figure out where the little boy died. The dare was to sit in each desk, and you would feel a chill, the presence of the boy’s spirit, when you sat in his desk."

What The Tree Remembers

“'The Legend of Griffith Park' took place some 30 years ago and tells of a couple who were instantly killed by a large tree that fell on them as they made love beneath its branches," writes Laurie Hassled. "According to the legend, any park ranger who has attempted to remove the fallen tree has met with illness or death and, to this day, the fallen tree remains. What the Tree Remembers focuses on exploring the archetype of star-crossed lovers and forbidden fruit that dates back to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil itself."

Walking The Dog

"I’ve seen Angelyne on a number of occasions in my neighborhood," writes Laurie Pilton. "She seems to be emblematic of the aging Starlet. Her whole identity froze when she was buxom and in her 20s, and even though she is now old and decrepit, she can’t seem to let go of her past self. Angelyne is the ghoulish ghost of fame and fortune. She is what happens to young girls with nothing but looks and dreams of stardom. In her pink corvette and her collapsed body she haunts Hollywood like the withered wraith of youth."


"I was alone in a very old Antebellum Mansion in New Orleans," recalls Matjames Metson. "It was called the Pearl Lounge, and this place was haunted as fuck. The electric didn’t work so well and there were lots of truly dark corners. One night was sitting, trying to light a cigarette. When the lighter lit I saw a young girl to my right. The flame went out. I struck it again. She was gone, but then a very tall, man, well dressed in tails, stood in front of me. Later, I asked my friend if he had seen either of them before. He said he had seen the tall man, usually when he was taking a bath."

The Haunting of the Haunted Paining

"The urban myth of the bewitched painting bought on eBay strikes me because of the metaphor of the persisting power of painted images in our time," writes Nicola Verlato. "Even today, our empathy is activated in front of painted images like it used to happen to our ancestors 50,000 years ago in the cave of Lascaux, or 500 years ago in the Sistine Chapel. Ultimately, if we want to stop this form of witchcraft we should submit to a lobotomy."

Teke Teke

"The Japanese legend of Teke Teke is a disturbing ghost story about a young school girl cut in half by a train after being bullied by mean spirited classmates," according to Ransom and Mitchell. "Teke Teke endlessly roams the streets in search for others to cut in half as punishment for her misfortune. She uses both her sweet charm and disturbing appearance to woo and paralyze her victims who are fated to themselves become Teke Teke. She walks on her hands and drags along with her a sword. Her staccato movements sound like 'teke teke teke' on the ground and if one hears this behind them late at night, it is surely too late."

While Traveling Near or Traveling Far, Keep Your Hands Inside The Car

Robert Williams writes, "I remember early in my childhood while out motoring around the countryside my parents would tell me, 'Don’t stick your hands outside the car, there’s a man that stands beside the road that will cut your arms off!' Our central figure is the bogeyman arm whacker, his right hand holding a bloody butcher knife, his left grasping a sack of cut-off children’s arms. His skin is green and his anatomy is grotesque, with a hunchback. His head bares a large square chin, a crooked carrot nose and two dimensional white and green lightning shaped hair. His eyes at first appear to be giant cartoon pie-eyes, but at closer inspection real eyes are visible under the larger eye patterns. The most vulgar feature of this creature is that his pants are down, and exposed in open sight is a pair of distended ass cheeks used as a receptacle for the many knives he carries."

Red Mask

"The Red Mask wears a blood-soaked surgical mask and she carries a knife," explains Hellen Jo. "She approaches people to ask, 'Am I pretty?' If you say yes, she’ll kill you, and if you say no, she’ll take off her mask and show you her horrific Glasgow smile, the result of a cosmetic surgery procedure gone terribly wrong. She asks again, 'Am I pretty?' If you say yes, she’ll cut up your face; if you say no, she’ll follow you home and THEN cut up your face."

The Passion and the Death of Poopsie

"I wanted to illustrate the tale of the woman who dried her poodle in the microwave," writes Rex Barron. "The woman here is someone I knew from a drawing group, who had a very expressive face, and the rest I made up."

Sewer Gator

"The pavement is a thin veneer of civilization," writes Chris Farling. "When I encountered this realistic facsimile of an alligator seemingly emerging from under a manhole cover. Though I had always been highly skeptical of the legend, my familiarity with it is probably what made it actually more believable at first glance, like I was primed to see the alligator as real. The subconscious mind is ever gullible no matter how carefully we layer logic on top of it."

The Baby Sitter

Mike Cockrill writes, "In the urban legend that recounts the story of a baby sitter
unwittingly alone in a bedroom with a clown pretending to be a statue, I was struck by how frightening it is for both (characters). In my version of the drama, the unconvinced girl wields a Glock revolver and practically winks at the viewer as she prepares to turn towards the clown. The terrified clown can only hope she fires at his reflection in the mirror, buying him time to slip away amid the confusion of a gunshot and shattering glass."


"Growing up in the Bay Area," writes Tony Huynh, "I remember hearing stories on the news of the Zodiac killer resurfacing with new clues, cracked codes, confirmed identities, and connections to new victims. I was raised in a traditional Asian family and Zodiac meant the animals you were labeled with from birth and from the 12 signs I always feared two, predators, which was the dragon and tiger. There were stories and myths about dragons and tigers that I have heard when I was little and it was the same fear I shared when I heard about the Zodiac killer."


See Your Favorite Urban Legend Brought To Life In This Art Show Of Nightmares

From frozen Walt Disney to the haunted boy on eBay, artists reimagine global urban legends in a new exhibit.

Walt Disney did not, as it turns out, have himself cryogenically frozen. But that didn't stop Burt Payne and SpongeBob SquarePants Bob creator Stephen Hillenburg from investigating the urban legend for themselves. While students at CalArts, they rummaged through the basement of the university's main building looking for signs of suspended animation. Instead, they found the quirky inspiration for "Frozen Walt Doll."

Their sculpture is one of some three dozen art pieces on display in Hearsay: Artists Reveal Urban Legends. Running through May 17, the Cal State Fullerton exhibition celebrates mutant superstars of modern folklore including Goat Man, Sewer Gator, Bigfoot, and Poodle Fried in a Microwave.

In addition to American monstrosities, artists pay homage to Japanese urban legend "Teke Teke," said to wander the streets with no legs after being torn in half by schoolyard bullies. Then there's the bitter Korean plastic surgery victim known as "Red Mask," who, so the story goes, taunts strangers with her mutilated visage.

The Creepier The Better

Heresay co-curator Wendy Sherman says, "The definition of urban legends is kind of difficult, but for me, it's about confronting your fear, the creepier the better." Exhibition essayist Jan Harold Brunvand notes that "modern folklore has spawned many rumors of an animal--usually a fearsome one--lurking where it does not belong."

But Sherman gave artists wide berth to reference ghost stories, scary clowns, and supernatural phenomena for inspiration. She says, "The most horrible, scary, disgusting thing you can think of--if you can just get it out there and tell a story about it, then you don't need to be so afraid any more."

Connecting Through Gossip

Urban legends flourished during the pre-Photoshop era when Weekly World News and other tabloids shocked the collective id with hilarious mutants like Batboy. In the Internet age, outlandish lore continues to ignite people's imagination. For example, the "haunted" eBay painting The Hands Resist Him that went viral in the early 2000s is represented in the exhibition by Gregg Gibbs's Haunted Boy portrait. "That was completely generated online," Sherman says. "One important aspect of urban legends is that it's gossip--'Ooh, I've got this story!' It's a way to connect with each other, and, like Aesop's Fables, there's usually a moral to the story."

Check the slide show for a sampling of urban legend artworks and their gruesome backstories as described in the artists' own statements.

Images courtesy of the artists.

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