“Once there was a couple who decided to get away for a couple days. They decided to stay at a motel and as soon as they entered their room, it smelled horrible, like maybe a rat died in there. So, they complained to the front desk, but the concierge assured them that the room was just cleaned and the cleaning staff and even the previous occupant never complained about a smell. The couple then asked to switch rooms, but the motel was in the middle of nowhere and completely booked. There was nothing they could do about it, so they started to track down the smell for themselves. The smell was coming from somewhere near the bed. They looked under it, behind it, behind the bedside tables and still couldn’t locate the smell. Finally, they decided just to check underneath the mattress. When they pushed the mattress off, the found a rotting human body in the box spring. The body was there for days, maybe weeks until it was found.”
My informant is from Pasadena, California and first heard the story when she was in grade school in the 1990s. She heard it from her friends at school and also saw it in a comic book version of urban legends that she read when she was younger. While researching this story, it turns out the story is very popular. My informant’s version is very similar to other’s I came across online. All the stories involve a couple, a foul smell, a search to find the smell and the discovery of the body. However, other versions include different descriptions: the couple is on their honeymoon, the story takes place in Las Vegas, the cleaning staff cleans the room while the couple is off sightseeing (but the smell remains when they return) and sometimes there is no complaint, just a discovery. The story of the body in the mattress has many different versions, but nonetheless, is the same story.
The most surprising and interesting discovery I made during my research was the fact that the exact same incident occurred at a Travelodge in Pasadena, CA in July 1996! I first found this information on Snopes.com, which prides with the statement: “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.” According to Snopes.com, the motel staff discovered a woman’s body ten days after her murder after multiple complaints from occupants. In another source, the body was found by a Honolulu native, while she and her brother were on vacation (“The Body in the Bed”). Although unreliable sources, the two websites illustrate common variants found in folklore. In order to really confirm the urban legend from Pasadena, I went to the City of Pasadena’s online archive. The archive only publishes the headlines of newspapers, but the title “Body found in motel room identified: Woman, 23, is named using dental records,” dated to August 2, 1996, verified this story. The urban legend was most likely a popular story already, so the incident may have simply been a reenactment of the legend. Furthermore, the event may have also revived the story, which is why my informant heard it while in grade school during the 1990s.
Emery, David. “The Body in The Bed.” About.com Urban Legends. 20 Apr. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/crime/a/body_in_bed.htm>.
Sharfstein, Daniel. “Body Found in Motel Room Identified : Woman, 23, Is Named Using Dental Records.” Pasadena Public Library. City of Pasadena. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. <http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/Library/PNI/pniAuthor.asp?page=1&pagesize=100&showAll=&calltype=sort&searchtype=&Pattern=&sortOn=subject&sqlQuery=qauthor+%27%25sharfstein%2C+daniel%25%27>.
“The Bawdy Under the Bed.” Snopes.com. 18 Mar. 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://www.snopes.com/horrors/gruesome/bodybed.asp>.