Spark Your Curiosity With 10 American Folk Stories and Urban Myths

Published on February 5, 2024

Credit: Michael Herren

Delve into the mysterious realm of American folklore and urban mythology, where reality blurs the lines with the supernatural. These captivating tales of mystery, passed down through generations, are now part of the very fabric of American culture.

From strange creatures of the forest to all kinds of unexplained phenomena, here are 10 riveting stories of the unknown that are as American as apple pie.


The Mothman

Credit: Henry Lai

Location: Point Pleasant, West Virginia

The legend of the Mothman first took flight in the 1960s, in the quiet town of Point Pleasant. Witnesses reported encounters with a winged humanoid with glowing red eyes that induced a sort of hypnotic effect on onlookers. The most infamous sighting preceded the collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967, leading locals to consider his appearances a bad omen.

While today most agree that the legend likely originated from sightings of out-of-migration sandhill cranes, for many the Mothman remains an enigma. Was it an evil creature or a guardian spirit that wanted to warn of impending tragedy?


The Jersey Devil:

Credit: Timothy Dykes

Location: Pine Barrens, New Jersey

Legend has it that this supernatural creature originated in 1735 from a resident of the Pine Barrens called Jane Leeds, better known as "Mother Leeds." After giving birth to twelve healthy children, Mother Leeds' cursed 13th child was born with bat-like wings, hooves, a forked tail, and a devilish visage. But before anyone could recover from their shock, the devil child escaped, flying up the chimney and disappearing into the dense forest.

There are many versions of the tale, retold many times through the centuries, but what’s sure is that the Jersey Devil is now a permanent resident of both the Pine Barrens and New Jerseyans’ minds.


The Vanishing Hitchhiker

Credit: Will

Location: Anywhere in the States

An urban legend so popular that there are more versions of it than anyone could remember, the Vanishing Hitchhiker’s Tale has hitchhiked through the whole country, from mouth to mouth. However, all versions agree on the following: Travelers pick up a hitchhiker who mysteriously disappears during the journey. In most cases, the ghostly hitchhiker leaves behind a personal item - later revealed to be from a deceased person - as a chilling reminder of their spectral presence.


The Headless Horseman

Credit: Markus Spiske

Location: Sleepy Hollow, New York

Washington Irving's timeless tale introduced the infamous Headless Horseman in the New York village of Sleepy Hollow. The ghostly figure, believed to be a decapitated Hessian soldier, roams the countryside seeking his lost head. The legend has inspired countless adaptations and remains a Halloween staple. Interestingly, Irving was also responsible for the popular story of Rip Van Winkle, a man who falls asleep for twenty years in the Catskill Mountains after being tricked by a group of mysterious Dutchmen.


The Bunny Man

Credit: Robert Gourley

Location: Fairfax County, Virginia

Originating from two real incidents in Northern Virginia in 1970, the Bunny Man legend has taken a life of its own, becoming an urban myth throughout neighboring states. While there are many variations to the tale, most involve an escaped mental patient donning a bunny costume and wielding a hatchet, terrorizing anyone who has the misfortune of crossing paths with him.

The Fairfax County Police actually opened an investigation into the reported incidents, but the case was eventually closed for lack of evidence.


The Curse of the Billy Goat

Credit: Peter Neumann

Location: Chicago, Illinois

For almost a century, the Chicago Cubs MLB team endured a purported curse, allegedly stemming from the mistreatment of William Sianis, the owner of a local tavern called Billy Goat. Faithful to his business’ name, Sianis brought his pet goat Murphy to one of the games of the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field. When the pair were asked to leave the stadium, he got enraged and declared, "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more."

According to fans and believers, the tavern owner’s curse caused the team's prolonged championship drought, which was finally broken in 2016, after 71 years.


The Legend of Bigfoot

Credit: Jon Sailer

Location: Pacific Northwest

In the vast wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, the elusive Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch (an anglicized version of sasq'ets, meaning "hairy man" in the Halkomelem language), has been the subject of countless sightings. Bigfoot is usually described as a very large and bipedal ape-like creature covered in dense dark-brown hair.

Some Bigfoot believers attribute the reports to the survival of a relict population of the extinct southeast Asian ape species Gigantopithecus blacki, an animal of very large proportions certainly compatible with the sightings.

While scientists and skeptics dismiss these encounters as mostly hoaxes or misidentifications of known animals (particularly black bears), the allure of discovering this giant and mysterious creature persists, with dedicated enthusiasts exploring remote areas in search of conclusive evidence.


The Greenbrier Ghost

Credit: Steinar Engeland

Location: Greenbrier County, West Virginia

In 19th-century West Virginia, Elva Zona Heaster’s testimony from beyond the grave played a pivotal role in solving her own murder. Elva's mother claimed her daughter's ghost revealed the truth about her suspicious death, leading authorities to reopen her case. Although it is unlikely prosecutors believed the ghost story, there was enough doubt about the case to justify a new inquiry. After reexamining the evidence, unmistakable signs of violence were found on her body, leading to the conviction of the main suspect, her own husband.

A unique blend of ghost story and true crime, the story of the Greenbrier Ghost remains forever etched in the memory of West Virginians.


The Legend of Slender Man

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Location: Anywhere with an Internet connection

A recent addition to the long-winded bestiary of urban mythology, the Slender Man is a faceless, extremely tall entity that stalks and traumatizes children. Born from internet forums and "creepypasta" tales (meaning viral spooky stories that are copy and pasted - and often enriched in a collaborative fashion by anonymous Internet users), this modern myth is influenced by the writings of various horror authors, including H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King.


The Mystery of Area 51

Credit: Oliver Pacas

Location: Lincoln County, Nevada

Hidden in the Nevada desert, Area 51 is a highly classified United States Air Force facility within the Nevada Test and Training Range. The secrecy and isolation of the facility have fueled conspiracy theories and urban myths surrounding extraterrestrial life and government secrets for decades. Many conspiracy theories claim that the base hides evidence or remains of crashed UFOs, weather control devices, and even time travel technology.

Ironically, the rumors may have helped to maintain the secrecy over Area 51’s actual operations, mainly related to the testing of classified aircraft prototypes.


12 Culinary Terms to Show Off to Your Foodie Friends

Published on February 5, 2024

Credit: Kelsey Chance

Whether you really know your way around a kitchen or you are simply a food enthusiast, you probably recognize and even use a few words that belong to the realm of the kitchen, the foodies, or perhaps the high cuisine .

From the ubiquitous to the obscure, the following list compiles a few of these terms and idioms, their origins and meanings, for your perusal. So, go ahead and read. Perhaps you'll even learn something to impress an annoying food snob uncle or the high-brow sommelier of your local wine bar.


Al Dente

Credit: Bozhin Karaivanov

In the lexicon of food enthusiasts, the phrase al dente reigns supreme. In its original Italian, it means "to the tooth," describing pasta cooked to a firm, slightly resistant texture. In the modern foodie world, achieving the perfect al dente is considered an art.

Al dente pasta showcases the chef's mastery over timing and precision. It's a departure from the overcooked, mushy noodles, with foodies embracing the authentic bite and texture that al dente brings to the table.



Credit: Luca Lago

In today's culinary landscape, the term "artisanal" has become a hallmark of quality and craftsmanship. Derived from the word "artisan," which refers to a skilled craftsperson, artisanal signifies a return to traditional, handcrafted methods.

Whether it's beer, bread, cheese, chocolate, or coffee, consumers seek out artisanal options for a more intimate connection to the food they consume. Unlike mass-produced items, artisanal goods often involve small-batch production, emphasizing quality over quantity.



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Derived from the French word chiffon, meaning "rag" or "cloth," this technique involves finely shredding or cutting greens and herbs into delicate ribbons. While originally applied to herbs like basil, mint, or sage, the concept has expanded in the contemporary food world.

Chiffonade offers a visually appealing way to incorporate herbs into dishes. Beyond aesthetics, the method enhances the flavor profile by ensuring each bite carries a bit of the herb’s essence.



Credit: Manek Singh

The term "confit" brings a sense of indulgence and culinary mastery. It originates from the French verb "confire," which means to preserve meats slowly cooked in their own fat. Today, the term has evolved beyond its preservation roots, becoming a hallmark of refined flavors in the modern foodie world. Confit techniques extend beyond meats, encompassing fruits, vegetables, and even garlic.

As the foodie movement evolves, confit remains a symbol of the pursuit of exquisite tastes in every gastronomic endeavor.



Credit: Amanda Lim

The term "braising" describes the art of transforming tough cuts into tender masterpieces. This slow-cooking method involves searing meat and then simmering it in a flavorful liquid. Braising has become a staple technique in the modern foodie's repertoire, offering a perfect balance of convenience and culinary excellence.

The beauty of braising lies in its ability to turn humble ingredients into culinary triumphs. Often overlooked tough meats become succulent and infused with the deep, savory notes of the braising liquid. This method not only tenderizes but also intensifies flavors, resulting in amazing dishes.



Credit: Rob Wicks

While French in origin, it can be translated to "mouth amuser": those bite-sized appetizers that serve as a prelude to a culinary journey, awakening the palate with unexpected flavors and textures.

Chefs experiment with diverse ingredients, drawing inspiration from seasonal produce, global cuisines, and avant-garde techniques. From foams to edible flowers, the amuse-bouche has become a canvas for culinary artistry, reflecting the dynamic nature of contemporary gastronomy.



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Yet once again, originating from French cuisine, roux is a simple mixture of flour and fat, often butter, cooked to varying degrees of color. While its roots lie in classic French sauces, the contemporary foodie world has embraced roux as a versatile and indispensable culinary tool.

Roux plays an all-important role in thickening sauces and stews. Its ability to transform liquids into velvety, rich textures, elevates dishes from ordinary to extraordinary. Modern chefs and home cooks alike appreciate the complex flavor and depth that roux imparts to their creations.


Mise en place

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Translating to "everything in its place," this culinary philosophy emphasizes meticulous preparation and organization before cooking. Beyond a practical approach, mise en place has become a mantra for the contemporary foodie, symbolizing a mindful and systematic approach to the culinary journey.

Mise en place is more than just chopping vegetables and measuring ingredients, it embodies a mindset. Chefs and home cooks alike appreciate the discipline it instills, generating a smooth and enjoyable cooking experience. This methodical preparation not only enhances efficiency but also allows for greater creativity and focus on the artistry of the kitchen.



Credit: Liuda Brogiene

Originally associated with raw minced meat, typically beef, modern cooks have embraced the "tartare" concept, expanding it to include variations like fish, vegetables, and even fruits.

Tartare signifies a departure from traditional cooking methods, emphasizing the purity and quality of ingredients. The modern food enthusiast appreciates the raw, unadulterated flavors showcased in a well-prepared tartare. From tuna tartare to avocado tartare, this dish has become a canvas for inventive combinations, celebrating diverse textures and tastes.



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It is no wonder why so many of the words in this list have a French origin. After all, that noble country is home to a great deal of culinary inventions that transcended its borders and have since become universal.

Demi-glace is a culinary alchemy that elevates dishes with its deep, savory essence. This reduction serves as a foundation for sauces, gravies, and braises, imparting a complexity that transforms ordinary meals into extraordinary culinary experiences.


En papillote

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This cooking technique involves sealing ingredients in parchment paper or foil, creating a pocket that steams and infuses flavors. Beyond its classic roots, "en papillote" has become a favorite among modern foodies, celebrated for its ability to produce moist, flavorful dishes with minimal effort.

This method not only enhances the taste but also preserves the nutritional value of ingredients, making it a go-to choice for health-conscious cooks. The sealed package allows for gentle cooking, resulting in dishes that are not only delicious but also vibrant and nutrient-rich. A win-win foodie invention, so to speak.



Credit: Wikimedia Commons

One of the few non-French terms in this list, ziti will bring memories of The Sopranos to some and memories of home comfort food to others.

Ziti is a versatile and beloved pasta shape among food enthusiasts. Originally hailing from Southern Italy, ziti's tubular form, often with ridges to capture sauces, has made it a favorite in contemporary kitchens. Its hollow, cylindrical shape pairs well with a variety of sauces, from traditional marinara to inventive, contemporary concoctions.

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