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Wonder where alligators in the NYC sewers, the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot might be lurking next?

They remain the stuff of legend or, more specifically, urban legends — which have persisted in sparking imaginations among millions of fans who have rapidly circulated them by word-of-mouth, e-mails, message boards and blogs.

As ever, you can usually spot a good urban legend if it includes just enough juicy facts to be at least plausible.

In the end, however, urban legends also feature suspiciously lurid plot details to prove that they're anything BUT true.

First, a few common urban legends debunked

alligators in NYC sewers!Baby alligators roam NYC sewers and can come up through the pipes and attack you! False, although it is admittedly one our favorite urban legends. And it's quickly debunked by the fact that alligators couldn't possibly survive the temperatures of a New York winter -- let alone the germ-laden waters of an urban sewer system.

Rice makes pigeons stomachs explode! False, and this one was probably started by maintenance crews who got tired of sweeping up the mess after so many wedding ceremonies.

Swallow your chewing gum and it will stay in your stomach for 7 years. Although it's probably not the best idea, swallowing chewing gum is processed normally by your digestive system along with anything else you've eaten that day.

We only use 10% of our brain. It might seem that way (especially when the family is gathered at Thanksgiving), but your brain -- just like your heart and lungs -- operates at full capacity 24/7.

also see -> UFOs | Friday the 13th

Popular urban legends in the US coast to coast

Favorite tales and urban legends persist in every US state or region. And playing a big part in their longevity is a fascination with the weird or macabre.

Take, for instance, Wyoming's famous jackalope, a large jackrabbit with antelope horns that is now a fixture of the state's history and legend.

Douglas, Wyoming is known as the "Home of the Jackalope" with a
statue in honor of the mythical creature, part jackrabbit and part antelope.

Now lets go to the oldest and revered American urban legends -- the Nain Rouge -- or red dwarf, named by Detroit, Michigan's early French settlers. Although more of a leprechaun-type figure, he's more of an evil twin who's usually the cause of any calamity that befalls the city.

To keep him at bay, the Nain Rouge is celebrated every year in Detroit with a costumed community parade called the Marche du Nain Rouge, during which he's symbolically chased out of the city "banishing the evil spirit from the city for another year".

Heading south, there be ... aliens! At least that's the reason given for Oklahoma's Shaman’s Portal, where people have reportedly disappeared into thin air while venturing around the dunes in Beaver Sands. The legend dates back back to the times of the Spanish explorer Coronado. 

Today, famously known as "Oklahoma's Bermuda Triangle", Shaman's Portal is where a UFO supposedly crashed long ago and opened the door into another dimension ...

Enter if you dare: Shaman's Portal in Beaver Dunes Park is known as "Oklahoma's
Bermuda Triangle" where people have been reported to disappear into thin air ...

Finally, rounding out our top favorite American urban legends is Rhode Island's Fingernail Freddie.

Some say he was the inspiration for the horror flick "The Nightmare On Elm Street" but in New England he's simply a wild woodsman with bizarrely long fingernails. And he's known to come out at night to attack campers with his sharp talons if they make too much noise.

Moral of the story? Be very, very quiet when camping in Rhode Island.

More about urban legends around the Web:

Around the Web, check out classic stories with a look at the most famous urban legends of all time, along with a look at little-known yarns and fascinating tales that continue to hold us in thrall ...

Urban Legend - Wikipedia - The online encyclopedia with a good overview of what becomes a legend most with information on their history & how they get started, and a list of the most enduring.

Urban Legends and Hoaxes Resource Center - A good link list of all the major e-mail hoaxes that have made the rounds featuring classics like Flesh Eating Bacteria, Spiders Under the Toilet Seat, and other classics.

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