McDonald’s is the hallmark of family road trips, 3 am drunken food runs, and rushed college lunches. It might just be the most iconic fast food restaurant out there – a statement which is further supported by the fact that there are so many conspiracy theories tied to it. Only somewhere as popular as McDonald’s could generate this kind of buzz. Have you ever heard of a haunted Harvey’s? Didn’t think so. Prepare yourself for some of the creepy, fascinating, and downright weird urban legends that revolve around the home of the golden arches.
10. Mystery Meat
McDonald’s isn’t making the cut for anyone’s list of Top Ten Health Food Restaurants, but that doesn’t mean that it’s unreasonable to expect the food served there to be, well, actual food. However, one popular urban legend would have you believe that McDonald’s is taking the phrase “mystery meat” to a whole other level. The fast food chain advertises their burgers as 100% real beef. Cow’s eyeballs are technically part of the cow, right? Realistically though, that doesn’t seem like a technicality anyone would be willing to let slide. Even worse than eyeballs (yes, it gets worse), is the theory that the burgers contain earthworms. Now, earthworms might very well turn out to be a fantastic source of protein, but it’s probably not unrealistic to say that most people would rather get their nutrients from quite literally anywhere else. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but these types of allegations aren’t really the kind of advertising restaurants are looking for, since they do a great job at completely ruining people’s appetites.
9. AI Employees
It’s true that McDonald’s doesn’t shy away from technology; at many of their restaurants you can order and pay for an entire meal without interacting with another human. For the socially awkward among us, this has been a pretty nice alternative. However, according to myth, the fast food chain didn’t stop there when it came to technological advancements. It’s been reported that, in order to cut long term costs, McDonald’s has been taking steps to completely replace their human staff with robots. And there’s more. The story goes that these changes have actually already been implemented in a select few locations. Imagine walking into your friendly neighborhood McD’s for a burger and some fries only to find yourself in the middle of what looks like a low-budget sci-fi flick. To be fair, the idea of robots replacing people in the workforce isn’t all that unrealistic, it’s an inevitable by-product of modernization, but it doesn’t typically occur on this scale. It could potentially happen in McDonald’s restaurants one day, but it’s safe to say that the world isn’t ready for it quite yet.
8. Fries and Fertility
Okay, this one’s weird. Rumour has it that McDonald fries can get you pregnant. Not through immaculate conception or anything, but apparently, eating McDonald’s fries after sex causes your fertility rate to skyrocket, increasing your chances of getting knocked up. There’s no scientific evidence backing it up and no studies have ever been conducted on the topic, but many women have shared stories of struggling to conceive, only to find a solution in this glorified potato. The logic behind it is that the excessive levels of salt cause your body to soak up extra fluids, including those of the baby-making variety. This kind of makes sense if you don’t think about it too much. Some women swear by this technique, and, truth be told, if you’re struggling to get pregnant, there’s no harm in trying. On the other hand, if you’re not planning on getting pregnant any time soon, odds are you don’t actually need to worry about this, but it’s also understandable if you feel the need to avoid taking any unnecessary risks.
7. The Pink Slime Scandal
Time for more conspiracies about the McDonald’s menu! Chicken nuggets are a fan favorite, but they lost some love after the pink slime incident. A few years ago, images of a substance the color of cotton candy and with the consistency of a mousse went viral. Even without context, the substance, dubbed “pink slime,” doesn’t look super appetizing. It gets even less appetizing with the revelation that this slime is actually mechanically separated chicken…which was said to be used as the filling for the famous chicken nuggets. Just like in the urban legend of the burgers that may or may not contain cow’s eyeballs, there’s reportedly no waste when it comes to the manufacturing of pink slime. Meaning that it’s not just chicken breasts and thighs in there. We’re talking, eyeballs, intestines, organs of various kinds. Reducing waste is great, but the line has to be drawn somewhere, and this is taking it a bit too far. McDonald’s claims to have stopped using mechanically separated meat nearly twenty years ago, and denies allegations that chicken nuggets still contain pink slime, but the damage has been done. If you’re able to order nuggets without experiencing a flashback to the stomach-churning visual of the pink slime, please share your secrets.
6. The Girl at the Drive Thru
While some urban legends about McDonald’s revolve around the menu, there are some pretty creepy ghost stories out there too. This one has the makings of a horror movie. One day, a man drove through a McDonald’s drive-thru and paid with his debit card. He didn’t catch a good look of the girl who served him, just enough to be able to give a vague description of her. When she handed back his card, it burned his hand so intensely that he almost dropped it. It was weird, but the card quickly returned to its normal temperature, so he didn’t think much of it and continued on with his day, running errands around town. Later, he discovered a disturbing pattern. Everywhere he paid with his debit card after his visit to McDonald’s the employee who served him was involved in an unlikely accident and ultimately died. He began to wonder if the incident at McDonald’s wasn’t so meaningless after all. He returned to the restaurant and described the girl who had served him to the best of his ability, asking to speak to her. The manager informed him that no one fitting that description had ever worked there. Cue eerie music now. This maybe isn’t the most believable urban legend out there, but this list wouldn’t be complete without a supernatural element.
5. The Legend of the Vermont Fry Cook
When Prince said he was “gonna party like it’s nineteen-ninety-nine,” he probably wasn’t referring to this 1999 event. It was business as usual in the Vermont-based McDonald’s until the fry cook walked to the middle of the restaurant carrying a vat of boiling oil. He then proceeded to empty the contents of the vat over his head, not once reacting to the fact that the oil was severely burning him. It was as though he didn’t even feel it. This is bizarre enough on its own, but the events that follow are what make this story truly haunting. As if brainwashed, customers began rolling around in the oil that covered the floor. And to make things even creepier, they laughed as they did so. Someone eventually intervened and called an ambulance, which hurried everyone involved to the nearest hospital, but it was too late. All but one of the people involved in the incident died, and the sole survivor but was so badly burned that they completely lost the ability to speak. The survivor refused to give an account of the incident, meaning that the true details of what happened will likely never be uncovered. In a classic urban legend twist, the manager of this specific McDonald’s simply couldn’t remember ever hiring that fry cook and didn’t have any paperwork pertaining to him either. On top of that, there was no name on the fry cook’s name tag, only a series of hashtags. Clichés aside, this is genuinely one of the most unsettling urban legends surrounding McDonald’s.
4. The One with the Finger
In one episode of Friends, Phoebe finds a thumb floating in a soda can. In the sitcom, it’s a comedic moment, and various high jinks ensue, but if this were to happen in real life, odds are it would be a pretty traumatic experience. The people who have claimed to have found human fingers in their McDonald’s orders would probably testify to that. One of these reports states that a finger was found in a toddler’s happy meal. It’s probably safe to say that that’s not quite the toy they were hoping for. The mother only realized what was going on when she caught her kid sucking on it like some sort of demented pacifier. After that particular incident, the manager checked all the fingers of his employees and claimed that everyone had all ten fingers (and presumably all ten toes) accounted for, which casts some doubt on this legend, but doesn’t succeed in making it any less disturbing. Bet those earthworms are sounding pretty good right about now. Of course, McDonald’s isn’t the first fast food chain to be accused of something like this, and it certainly won’t be the last, but what the story lacks in originality it more than makes up for in gore.
3. The Haunted Bench
Many McDonald’s locations have benches outside, where customers can sit and enjoy the fresh air, chat with friends and potentially get attacked by a haunted Ronald McDonald statue. That last one doesn’t happen all that often, but it’s good to be on your guard. This particular tale originated in Mexico after two friends decided to pop by the restaurant after a night of drinking. You know, the classic. They chose to eat their burgers outside, on one of the McDonald’s benches. Next to them sat a statue of the iconic clown. After they finished eating, one friend turned to the other and told him he was tired, probably hinting at the fact that they should head home. What they claim to have seen next was likely the product of too much tequila. At that moment, the Ronald McDonald statue turned to look at them, smiled, and replied: “I’m tired, too.” This literally caused one of the guys to have a heart attack, which is an understandable reaction since inanimate objects are only supposed to speak in Beauty and the Beast, not in real life. The conspiracy gets deeper with reports that the whole episode was filmed by CCTV, but McDonald’s had the evidence destroyed and made sure everything was hushed up.
2. Ball Pit Brutality
This urban legend is quite possibly the most horrifying, simply because it’s one of the most believable. One of the reasons kids are always begging their parents to take them to McDonald’s is because of the fun zone. Crawling through plastic tunnels and lounging in ball pits that have been visited by hundreds of other children might seem pretty unsanitary to the adult mind, but, hey, the kids enjoy themselves. Plus, it provides a solution to the modern problem of getting your five-year-old to set down technology for longer than ten minutes. However, according to urban legend, germs might be the least threatening element of the kid’s zone. Apparently, deep in the depths of the ball pit is a delightful cocktail of knives and old heroin needles. When it comes to ball pits, there’s no knowing how often they’re actually cleaned, so there’s a good chance that some weird stuff has accumulated down there, but hopefully, it’s nothing more menacing than some lost shoes and half-eaten chicken nuggets. There are accounts online about toddlers who have come across hypodermic needles filled with heroin in McDonald’s ball pits and ultimately died because of it. The idea itself is heartbreaking, so hopefully, there’s no truth to it.
1. The Clown Craze of 2016
Remember those weeks in 2016 when clowns were running around, threatening people with knives? If you don’t, you’re not alone. It’s surprising how quickly everyone moved on from this one. Anyways, it was a big deal at the time. During that period, McDonald’s seemed to be riding the wave of the clown craze, releasing a series of Japanese commercials that features Ronald McDonald running through dark alleyways, creepily calling women from outside their homes like he’s in a Scream movie, and even hiding under a woman’s bed without her knowing. It’s a whole new level of creepy, and you probably shouldn’t watch these commercials unless you’re willing to risk some serious nightmares. Amidst the allegation that the fast food chain was encouraging, and even profiting off of the dangerous trend of psycho clown attacks, were accusations that McDonald’s was actually the mastermind behind the entire phenomena. After this, McDonald’s released a statement that they wanted to be respectful of the current climate, and therefore be reducing Ronald McDonald’s prevalence in promoting the restaurant until the situation calmed down. Now this doesn’t sound like a denial of involvement in starting the whole mess in the first place, but that one’s open to interpretation.