Urban legends fascinate us as much as they frighten us. The settings are familiar, the situations seem plausible, if you dare to believe.
Leave a comment about your favourite urban legend or experience with one to enter the draw for an Amazon gift card.
Now sit back while Jay Casso tells you a tale.
A cool wind nips your nose as you hurry down the street, trying your best to ignore the way the street lamps flicker as you pass. It’s late and this part of the city is quiet. The only sound you can hear is the echo of your own footsteps against the concrete sidewalk.
You turn the corner, and that’s when you see her. Immersed in shadow is the lone figure of a woman, and the light from a nearby lamp is enough to draw attention to the surgical mask covering the bottom half of her face. Your steps falter as you approach.
She’s staring right at you, eyes dark and haunting. “Am I pretty?” She asks, her head tilting ever so slightly to the left. That’s when you notice the scissors clutched at her side.
According to legend, there are several possible outcomes to this scenario. If you answer with no, she stabs you with the scissors, leaving you to die. If you answer with yes, she pulls off her mask, revealing a bloody mouth that has been split from ear to ear, and asks, “Am I pretty now?” Answer her second question with a no, and she kills you. Answer with a yes, and she uses the scissors to split your mouth just like hers.
Over time, several variations of the legend describe possible ways to escape, including asking if she thinks you are pretty, making her pause to think, or telling her you have somewhere to be – apparently she still has some manners, and will let you go. Another option is to answer with a yes when she asks you the first time, and then with “average” or “so-so” when she asks you again.
This urban legend, called either Kuchisake-onna or the slit-mouthed woman, grew popular in Japan in the 1970’s before spreading to South Korea. The original story is far older, however, dating back to roughly one-thousand years ago, describing a samurai with a beautiful and extraordinarily vain wife. She ended up cheating on her husband, and as revenge he cut her mouth open from ear to ear, asking “Who will think you’re beautiful now?”
This legend has made a couple of appearances in popular media, such as Constantine (Episode 5) and various movies like Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman (2007). Most of its influence seems to be in Japanese games, films, and literature.
Jay Casso is an aspiring queer science fiction author and book reviewer. You can find her over at her blog, or on Twitter. When she’s not attending classes at her university, she’s at either working in retail, managing the marketing team at her internship, or writing at the local coffee shop where she drinks more Peanut Butter Screams than is necessary (or healthy).