Here in America, the most famous urban legends tend to skew on the grisly side (see: The Hookman, the hand-licking escaped mental patient). But in South Korean urban folklore, there's an ever better villain: the killer, breath-stealing electric fan.
As the heat rises in South Korea every summer, reports of people dying due to exposure to electric fans in enclosed spaces makes the news like clockwork. The death of a sleeping Seoul man yesterday is only the most recent "fan death" to rile up the press.
Explains The Korea Herald of this distinctly localized urban legend:
The 59 years-old victim, only known by his surname Min, was found dead with the fan fixed directly at him [...] One of Korea's best-known urban legends, the fan death myth is based on the idea that turning on electric fans in a closed room can cause people to die. Although professionals say the rumors are baseless, many Koreans are still worried about the safety of leaving a fan on during the summer. The theories which believers support include that fans "distract air respiration," "cause hypothermia," or "convert oxygen into carbon dioxide."
Fan or not, falling asleep in a sealed room on a hot day is a recipe for dehydration, and the victims of "fan death" tend to suffer from a preexisting condition like alcoholism or heart problems (the man who died on Monday had high blood pressure, but it's unclear if this was responsible for this death).
Hell, there's an exceedingly detailed Wikipedia page devoted to the topic, particularly the many ways in which a fan is said to kill you (my favorite — "an electric fan chops up all the air particles in the air leaving none to breathe").
Check out that gruesome graphic preceding that news report of a fan death from a few years back. Readers, are there any K-Horror movies about fan death? I would seriously love to know. I would definitely screen it in a triple feature with Death Bed: The Bed That Eats and De Lift.
Images via Jilliancat.