Jan Harold Brunvand's The Vanishing Hitchhiker is a classic investigation into the modern phenomenon of the urban legend. Ghost stories, apocryphal stories about a friend-of-a-friend, spooky campfire tales - they all follow the tradition of folk stories that used to be told before we actually had, y'know, books and stuff to write things down in. Used to be that famous tales would be passed on with people telling them, which went out the door with the invention of the printing press. That is, until it mutated into the urban legend, the sort of stories you hear on a hiking trip, on the schoolyard, during sleepovers when you're trying to get your friends to wet themselves. Brunvand's book marvels at the way those stories spread nationally, even internationally, through people visiting other towns and sharing them. The Vanishing Hitchhiker came out in 1981, though, and even a writer as smart and skilled as Jan couldn't predict the earth-shattering change in how humans would communicate. The advent of the internet allows us to contact people all over the globe and, amongst other things (mainly the dissemination of pornography and funny cat photos, although hopefully not at the same time), has given new life to the urban legend. Now stories can be spread across the entire world without the tellers even having to leave their chair. Stories change and evolve in seconds as countless online users get their hands on them and twist them to their own proclivities. Plus the internet is so full of weird stuff - bizarre YouTube videos, broken websites, blogs full of insane ramblings - that you're more inclined to believe some of the spooky stuff that allegedly goes on here. Well gather round, readers, as we roast digital marshmallows on that fire clip Netflix put up as a joke, and share twenty of the most terrifying internet urban legends we've had the misfortune of coming across.
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