Teeny Haunts: The Bus to Nowhere

This urban myth began in Philadelphia with the SETA transport system. People would see a bus with no destination listed, only the SETA letters on the board. Called the Bus to Nowhere, the Wandering Bus, or Bus Zero — this bus is equal opportunity and will pick up anyone who is in a desperate situation.

Supposedly this bit of folklore was dreamed up by comedian Nicolas Mirra, who had lived in Philadelphia in 2011. He wrote and published a short story on his blog called “Philly Urban Legends: The Wandering Bus.”

Part of the allure of this legend is the references that shot through my head upon hearing it. Firstly was Danny the Street (who I discovered watching Doom Patrol). Danny is a gender queer sentient street that helps the down and out (very similar to Bus Zero). In the TV series, after being destroyed, Danny was reincarnated as a bus. Perhaps a reference to the Wandering Bus.

Penultimate Patrol Episode

When I read that you could ride the bus for months, or even years, the other idea that popped into my head was the Party Bus from The Regular Show. In this Halloween Episode (Terror Tales of the Park), the group gets onto a bus with a raging party on board. However, as the bus travels forward, they all age. The Regular Show crew is able to reverse the bus, but this only de-ages them until they are babies.

Terror Tales of the Park II

When designing the Bus to Nowhere I chose a 1930s style bus. Totally inaccurate to the myth, but I love the design of vehicles during this era. Thus, most of the buildings are 1930s style.

Despite possibly being created by Mirra, the Wandering Bus is not isolated to Philadelphia. People have reported seeing it in multiple cities. Who knows, perhaps the Bus really is going to those who need it most.

Stay weird.

Tim Kane

Teeny Haunts: Snail Hail

Although I’ve known about how storms can pick up critters and deposit them, rain style, across various swaths of landscape, I stumbled across this particular story in the 400th issue of Fortean Magazine. I was struck by the oddness of the account.

Most scientists attribute critters raining from the sky to tornado waterspouts. High winds create a tornado-like suction that picks up fish or frogs or even snails and carries them for miles. The Farmer’s Almanac lists the most bizarre items to have rained down on humanity including meat in Kentucky and spiders in Australia.

In the case of the snail encounter, the witness claims that when he exited the phone booth, the snails formed perfect circle. As if the rain were concentrated exactly on his locale.

Of course the best story about raining animals comes from Stephen King’s Rainy Season (a short story from Nightmares and Dreamscapes). In this, a couple move to a small town only to find that every seven years it rains frogs. However these amphibians have a taste for flesh.

There have been three short films made of this story (2002, 2017 and an Australian short in 2019). The story reads the best.

I have never personally experienced any strange fauna falling from the skies. However, I do know that the creepiness of the event would long linger in my memory.

Tim Kane

Teeny Haunts: Elevator to Another World

As a kid, I always dreamed of journeying to another dimension — the tagline of Twilight Zone Fresh in my head.

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into… the Twilight Zone.

Twilight Zone Introduction

The myth of the Elevator to Another World feels like it belongs smack dab in the middle of Rod Serling’s fictive playground. Despite seeming like it has been with us for years, the legend developed only in this century.

Lucia Peters, from The Encyclopedia of the Impossible, traced the story back to a malfunction with a Japanese elevator. In 2006, an elevator began to ascend with the doors still open (much like the incident in the Resident Evil film). A sixteen-year old high school student was killed in the incident. Investigation into the death showed that a certain brand of elevator had led to a string of deaths.

Elevator Scene from Resident Evil, 2002

The action of the evaluator lifting on its own accord parallels the ritual of the Elevator to Another World. And, though the faulty elevators were replaced, people were understandably nervous about riding on them. Thus the dangerous myth of our extra-dimensional elevator was born. It’s a coping mechanism for the fear swirling around a series of actual accidents.

Yet the element of the lady who enters on the fifth floor doesn’t seem to fit entirely into the Japanese accident. For this, we can look to another source. A short story by William Sleator in 1993, called simply “The Elevator” introduces the idea of a disturbing lady entering the elevator car when you ride alone. The protagonist is a young boy who already has anxieties about riding the old, dilapidated elevator. In this instance, the creepy lady (dressed in green) enters on the fourteenth floor (not the fifth). Yet the other elements of the story and the idea that the lady might trap you are all present in the tale. Perhaps it had an influence on the myth.

But that’s all it is, right? Just a tall tale.

Or is it? The idea that when you try this experiment, you might not return allows the ritual to have no real evidence to back it up. After all, the folks who’ve tried it might have succeeded and just jaunted off to another world.

So the next time you’re in an elevator, maybe you might play the elevator game and see where it takes you. Just beware of the lady from the 5th floor.

Tim Kane

Teeny Haunts: Polybius

The myth of the cursed arcade game called Pollybius is legendary, but its history is a convoluted one. As a kid who grew up during the heyday of video arcades, I can attest to their allure. I recalled getting $20 from my mom to amuse myself for the afternoon. I ended up blowing it all on Space Ace. My mother wasn’t too thrilled to see me back at the office a hour later asking for more money.

Tempest was one of my favorites, and a contemporary game to the mythical Polybius machine. I admit, I had never heard of this legend until stumbling upon it at the Encyclopedia of the Impossible (run by the wonderfully creepy Lucia Peters). I do know, that if I had discovered such a machine in my local arcade haunt (Yellow Brick Road), I would have put a quarter on the screen to mark my place in line.

The story for Polubius involved some shadowy government agency setting up video games to experiment with mind-altering techniques on us poor arcade kids. This not too far fetched as the CIA ran a program called MK-Ultra to research mind control and to develop psychic powers. An excellent example of this is the movie Dreamscape with Dennis Quaid, where the government creates dream assassins.

Dreamscape, 1984

Another example is the much underrated The Fury by Brian DePalma involving the power of telekinesis.

The Fury with Amy Irving, 1978

From there, it’s just a hop skip and a jump to Stranger Things and the experimentation on Eleven.

Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in Stranger Things, 2016

Of course the Polybius experiment never seemed that successful. Players would say they heard a woman crying or see twisted faces in the corner of their vision. Nightmares, blackouts and insomnia also plagued those who dropped a quarter in the slot.

The name Polybius refers to a Greek philosopher (circa 208 BC) known for his affinity with puzzles and cryptography. His name means “many lives” possibly a reference to the three lives you get on a typical arcade game. The company that developed the machine was Sinneslöschen, broken German for “sense-deleting”. After four weeks, the game would vanish, the experiment over.

The legend of the cursed Polybius game really took off in the 2000s with listings on internet chat boards like Reddit. You can read the whole sordid history over at the Encyclopedia of the Impossible. Suffice it to say, there is ample evidence that this legend might have been manufactured after the fact. No testimony from the 1980s has emerged about the mind-altering machine.

However, if Polybius really did twist your thoughts, maybe those who experienced the game are not allowed to remember. Could the arcade unit resurface one day, in a swap meet or antique show? Who knows? But i you discover it, be warned. When you slide that quarter into the slot, it just might be the last thing you remember.

Stay creepy,

Tim Kane

Teeny Haunts: The Crows

I have always been attracted to birds, crows especially. Many of them flock around my house and in the mornings, I can see the crows “commenting” on the kids trudging to school. It’s like they are a bunch of gossiping people.

I am always polite to crows. I read about a study where scientists donned face masks (the plastic Halloween type) and one scientist was mean to the birds while the other was neutral. Well the crows didn’t the like mean one much, dive-bombing him constantly.

Here’s the catch. The scientists came back every year or so with the masks. Thirty years later, the crows still didn’t like the “mean-naked” figure. Despite the fact that the original crows who experienced this were long gone. So the crows have taught their children to recognize and attack people they don’t like.

Message: be nice to crows.

Happy haunting.

Tim Kane