Tag Archives: dead body

The Secret under the Tarpaulin

The informant is a 20 year old female who went to Shipai elementary school in Taipei, Taiwan. The interview was conducted through a video call. Shipai Elementary school is a public elementary school in Beitou District. It’s directly next to Shipai Junior High School.

Informant: I remember when I was third grade, my classmate at the time asked me if I have heard about the rumors. I asked her, “What rumors?” She said that people are saying there was a dead body under the tarpaulin at the corner of the school. I asked her where exactly was she talking about. It was an empty space between the first grade building and the third grade building, next to the wall that separates the elementary school and the Junior High School. We, and other kids, decided to check it out during the long recess. We ran downstairs to the place and saw this huge tarpaulin with blue and white stripes. The tarpaulin was covering a lump on the ground, so we know there is something underneath. None of us were brave enough to approach the thing, let along uncover it. I remember we were all standing there, 10 meters away from the tarpaulin, and a squirrel ran across the tarpaulin and we all started screaming. That was that. There was another time I walked past it and a corner of the thing underneath was out. It was just a pile of wood. We don’t really know who started a rumor and we don’t really know if it was a pile of wood when we first saw it, but that corner of the school always feel weird to me. I don’t really know why though. After I started junior high, people were talking about how some bad kids would hide there, on the other side of the wall, and smoke, maybe that’s why.

This legend that circled among kids around early 2010s in a particular local school shows how a simple trivial unknown thing can become the greatest mystery through imagination. The informant’s later revelation drew a conclusion to her early legend quest and she may have found the logical explanation as of why the legend appear in the first place. There is a chance that the school teachers were trying to keep the young kids away from that space by making up the rumors in order to shelter them from exposure to bad substance.

Urban Legend: A Dead Body Hidden in a Hotel Mattress

 “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>.