Joshua Zeman and Rachel Mills investigate the origins of several urban legends:
In The Hook, a man with a hook for a hand attempts to murder teenagers who park in a lovers’ lane. Zeman and Mills trace this to the Texarkana Moonlight Murders, which were the basis for The Town That Dreaded Sundown, an early slasher film. Zeman and Mills compare and contrast the film to the real-life events, and both to the urban legend. Neither the real-life events nor the film feature a killer with a hook for a hand, but they do feature a serial killer who preys upon teenagers who make out at a lovers’ lane. These murders are unsolved.
Zeman and Mills travel to Houston, Texas, in order to investigate the urban legend of poisoned candy. Though they dismiss the widespread belief that strangers have handed out poisoned candy to neighborhood children, Zeman and Mills describe Ronald Clark O’Bryan, a man who poisoned his own son for insurance money and used the urban legend to deflect suspicion from himself. O’Bryan also attempted to kill several other children, but they did not eat their poisoned candy. O’Bryan was convicted and executed for the crimes.
The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs
In Columbia, Missouri, Zeman and Mills investigate the legend of The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs, in which a babysitter is harassed and ultimately killed by a man already inside the house. Although there are no documented cases of serial killers who have targeted babysitters, Zeman and Mills describe how Janett Christman was murdered while babysitting. An African-American man was convicted and executed for the murder, but Zeman and Mills question whether he was guilty. They instead point to an acquaintance who knew Christman was babysitting and had become obsessed with her.
The Killer Clown
In Chicago, Zeman and Mills investigate the evil clown trope and associated “phantom clown” sightings across the world. In these cases, children report having seen a suspicious clown that attempts to entice them into an unmarked van, presumably in order to kidnap them. Zeman and Mills express skepticism and explain it as a manifestation of coulrophobia, the fear of clowns. They trace this urban legend to John Wayne Gacy, a serial killer who unrelatedly worked as a clown. Although Gacy never killed anyone while dressed as clown, they state that his infamy popularized the trope.