Folklore is all around us, and urban legends are especially interesting. Often, these legends, social media myths, and moral panics are taken as true stories (and real threats). Ben has researched dozens of urban legends and internet lore, from the Vanishing Hitchhiker to the Blue Whale game, evil clown panics, and much more. Here are some selected highlights.

Select investigations

Bitter Harvest: The Organ-Snatching Urban Legends

Organ theft legends are common, and a staple of horror film—but do they happen?
Read at Skeptical Inquirer magazine

Your 2022 Resolution: Stop Falling for Made-Up TikTok Moral Panics

The penny challenge? National Rape Day? Online urban legends are usually hoaxes — so why do we believe them?
Read at Rolling Stone

Moral Panic Du Jour: The ‘Blue Whale Game’

Over the past few months scary warnings have been circulating on social media asking parents, teachers, and police to beware of a hidden threat to children: a sinister online “game” that can lead to death! Some on social media have limned their reporting on the topic with appropriate skepticism, but many panicky social media posts plead for parents to take action.
Read at Skeptical Inquirer magazine

Momo Is Not Trying to Kill Children

Like eating Tide Pods and snorting condoms, the Momo challenge is a viral hoax.
Read at The Atlantic

Urban Legends of Albuquerque: A Look Back at Our City’s Weird History

A look at the urban legends around New Mexico
Read at The Paper

Was ‘Amityville Horror’ Based on a True Story?

Radford digs into the true story behind the classic horror movie: “I remember going by that house and how scary it was.”
Read at Snopes

Folklore Conference Blends Academia and Skepticism

The 38th International Conference of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research (ISCLR) was held this week. Normally it would have been hosted in Tarragona, Spain, but because of the pandemic it was held online. As a member of both ISCLR and the American Folklore Society, I’ve written dozens of articles on folklore-related topics including the Blue Whale Game, the Momo Challenge suicide conspiracy, evil clown legends, faked abduction rumors, vaccine hesitancy rumors, and much more.
Read at the Center for Inquiry blog

Book Review of Killer Miracle and Mysterious New Mexico

In Mysterious New Mexico, Benjamin Radford hunts down some of the state’s most intriguing legends.
Read at New Mexico magazine

A Target Sex-Trafficking Hoax Is Going Viral on TikTok

Those kidnapping warnings on TikTok aren’t real—thankfully!
Read at Rolling Stone

What Is the Momo Challenge?

Why parents are freaking out about this terrifying “game”
Read at Rolling Stone

The Truth About 2016’s ‘Clown Panic’

Expert Benjamin Radford spoke to PEOPLE and broke down the spate of clown “sightings” in 2016: Why they happened and what could happen next.
Read at People magazine

Things That Go Bump in the Night?

The mysterious, scary, and weird around New Mexico
Read at The Santa Fe New Mexican

Blue Whale Hoax? Recent Study Suggests Suicide Game Isn’t Real, But Rather Stems From Urban Legend

The social media phenomenon surrounding the so-called “Blue Whale” suicide game plays into all of our fears as human beings: it’s a game that encourages people — particularly vulnerable teenagers — to kill themselves. And there are few things that will cripple a parent with fear more than the thought of their child being irreparably harmed, especially if the child is vulnerable.
Read at Inquistr

Other investigations

  • Bell Witch Mystery
    Adams, Tennessee, 2011
  • Djinn Reports
    Cairo, Egypt, 1998
  • Djinn reports
    Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 2007
  • Djinn reports
    Marrakech, Morocco, 2007, 2018
  • Duende / Bigfoot investigation
    Dangriga, Belize and Nicaragua, 1997
  • Eyeball Licking Panic / Urban Legend
    Japan, 2013
  • Ghost-Haunted Factory Toilet
    Gazipur, Bangladesh, 2013
  • Goatbird Monster
    Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, 2007
  • KiMo Theater Ghost
    Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2008
  • La Llorona: Wailing Witches Haunting the Ditches
    Corrales and Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2009, 2012
  • Labyrinths: Sacred Symbols in the Sand
    Taos, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2012
  • Likichiri vampire
    La Paz, Bolivia, 1997
  • Mad Hermit’s Cave Murder
    Las Cruces, New Mexico, 2009
  • Muti Witchcraft Murders
    Swaziland and South Africa, 2013
  • Pokemon Panic
    Tokyo, Japan, Southern Medical Journal, 2000
  • Popobawa Bat-demon Djinn
    Zanzibar Island, Tanzania, 2007
  • Roswell Crash
    Roswell, New Mexico, 2007, 2012
  • The Haunted La Posada Hotel
    Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2011
  • White Witch of Rose Hall
    Montego Bay, Jamaica, 2005
  • Witchcraft / psychics
    Caye Caulker, Belize, 2011
  • Zozobra Folklore
    Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2009