Welcome to my countdown of the 10-scariest Urban Legends of all time. We are doing this in honor of Halloween month, so grab a blanket and gather ‘round the campfire because it’s about to get really scary!
Today, I will share #4 with you, followed by the next highest tale each day leading up to the frightfully spooky #1! If you make it all the way through, reward yourself with a pat on the back for courage! But these “true” tales are not for chumps! Let’s get to it! And no closing your eyes! (Makes it harder to read if you do)!
#4: They Laid Eggs!
A man complains of intense headaches so he goes to the doctor. X-rays and tests reveal a gruesome truth … an earwig had imbedded itself in the man’s brain and there is nothing anyone can do. The man will die as the earwig slowly eats the man’s brain. But after a few days by some miracle, the bug emerges from the other ear and the man survives! What great news, until he discovers that the earwig was female … and she laid eggs!
Comment: This one has probably been told a million different ways. I recall an episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery that used this as its theme. The Caterpillar aired in March of 1972. This episode follows the arrival in Borneo of one extremely prickly British civil servant named Macy who moves into the home of 66-year old Mr. Warwick (played by the great Laurence Harvey, who played Colonel William Travis opposite John Wayne’s Davy Crockett in The Alamo (1960)) and his gorgeous young wife, Rhona. Macy is convinced that Rhona should be with him rather than the kindly old man, and meets with a local rogue, Tommy Robinson in a bar. Robinson suggests not an assassination, but rather an “act of destiny.” For a price, Tommy will send one of his native friends to deposit an earwig on Mr. Warwick’s pillow.
These bugs are so light, so small, that they are practically unnoticeable. And, according to Robinson, earwigs have this “decided liking” for the human ear. Once inside the ear canal, the odds of an earwig evacuating it are a thousand to one. They can’t turn around you see, and so instead keep plowing endlessly forward...burrowing into the brain and feeding on grey matter as they seek an escape route.
The pain caused by these “stealthy chaps” is agonizing, horrible, and death is nearly always the result. Still, this sadistic plan appeals to Macy. He feels that after her antiquated husband dies, 28-year old Rhona will turn her affections to him. With little shame, Macy authorizes the plan. However, Robinson’s thug makes a fatal mistake that very night…and puts the earwig on Macy’s pillow instead of Mr. Warwick’s.
Macy wakes up the following morning with a bloody ear and immediately realizes what has occurred. The earwig is inside his ear! In the ensuing two weeks, Macy undergoes agonizing pain as the earwig digs in. In fact, his hands have to be bound to his bed-posts so Macy doesn’t claw his face apart in an attempt to get rid of the skittering bug chewing a path through his brain.
By some miracle, Macy survives the ordeal, which he describes as an “agonizing, driving, itching pain,” and the earwig exits his ear. An unrepentant Macy tells the Warwicks that what he did, he did “for love,” and that he paid the price with two weeks of Hell.
Unfortunately, those two weeks are only the beginning of Hell for Mr. Macy. You KNOW how it ends! The Caterpillar boasts one of the nastiest and most macabre twists ever featured on network television. It’s easily Night Gallery’s most famous episode. (There were others, though … hmmm … I may have to do a blog on this series one day)!
I proposed a comic “horror series” in the 90s with a fellow artist that used this plot as the premise for the opening story. And while I loved Ricardo Montalban as Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982), I still feel slightly creeped out at the scene where he puts the “centipede on steroids” in Chekov’s ear! GROSS! Am I right? Huh? It’s just a wonderful YUCK story, though! I’m just happy such things can’t really happen. This one was so creepy, I almost rated it #1. But if it’s “only” #4, what horrors must lie ahead?
Hey, what’s that crawling in my ear? Or yours?