GTA 3’s Scariest Urban Legends and Myths

20 years after its release, Grand Theft Auto 3's scariest myths and urban legends haunt the nostalgia of a generation of gamers.

Grand Theft Auto 2
Photo: Rockstar Games

Much has been said about GTA 3 in the twenty years since the open-world PS2 helped change gaming overnight, but one aspect of the title you won’t always hear people discuss are the times the game’s various myths and urban legends genuinely scared them.

In the early internet age, it was easy enough to believe that just about any urban legend that someone told you about GTA 3 could be real. In a game where anything seemed possible, the scariest and strangest rumors felt like they could exist somewhere in GTA 3‘s digital vast world. There’s something to be said for the way that they contributed to the larger-than-life status of the GTA series.

Were any of those urban legends actually true, though? Well, most of them were indeed little more than playground myths, but the truth behind some of GTA 3‘s scariest and most famous urban legends either remain unknown or are somehow more mysterious than the urban legends themselves…

The Haunted School Buses

Go to 8-Ball’s compound in Liberty City and you’ll find a small collection of what appear to be out-of-service school buses. While there’s nothing inherently weird about school buses in a junkyard, these happen to be the only school buses in GTA 3. For that matter, there are no children in GTA 3.

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So what are these school buses doing here? Well, some players think that they’re either simply haunted or are perhaps remnants of some dark event in Liberty City’s past that could help explain why there are no children in GTA 3.

Is It True?

There is a surprising element of truth to this urban legend. One popular theory is that Rockstar was playing with the idea of putting children NPCs into GTA 3 but reportedly nixed the idea early on. Of course, that idea is something of a rumor itself as nobody has ever found concrete data files or artwork that suggest the developers seriously considered putting children NPCs into the final game.

However, it does seem that an early version of GTA 3 did feature school buses that would roam the city. While those drivable school buses were removed from the final game, these “junked” buses appear to be leftovers from that time.

Salvatore Leone’s Ghost

One of GTA 3’s most memorable campaign moments sees you assassinate crime boss Salvatore Leone and seemingly rid the world of him for good. However, some fans say that’s not exactly what happens.

GTA 3 players have reported that Leone’s mansion has an oddly “lived in” nature to it even after you’ve killed him. There are cars in the driveway, the piano still echoes through the house even though nobody is playing it, and some fans even say that they’ve seen Leone’s ghost roam the grounds. 

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Is It True?

Most of the “evidence” associated with this myth is easy enough to explain. For instance, the cars in the driveway and the music that plays throughout the house can likely be attributed to the developers simply deciding not to (or forgetting to) remove those design elements after Leone’s death. 

As for the ghost…that’s a bit stranger. While nobody has ever shared definitive proof of the ghost’s existence, the house does “behave” strangely in terms of how it interacts with other aspects of the world, and there are a lot of large shadows and other visual cues people could easily confuse for a “ghost.”

The Bermuda Triangle

Not only can GTA 3’s protagonist not swim, but he dies as soon as he tries to jump into most bodies of water deeper than a fountain.

I say “most” because there are actually some spots on the map where you’re able to survive jumping into the ocean. Rather than simply float or swim, though, jumping into these spots will cause you to be instantly teleported back to a random spot on the land. This unexplained effect has caused some to label these spots as the “Bermuda Triangle” of Liberty City. 

Is It True?

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Well, these portals certainly exist, but as you may have already guessed, there is nothing supernatural about them. They’re simply the result of a strange glitch that causes specific areas of the ocean to not “register” properly when the player tries to interact with them. 

The Liberty City Serial Killer

GTA 3 players have long insisted that there’s a serial killer that roams the game’s Liberty City map. While that seems like the kind of random thing you could say about any open-world game, some fans have gone so far as to suggest that GTA 3’s serial killer isn’t a vague rumor but rather a specific NPC who wears a fedora and trenchcoat. 

In fact, some say that this NPC will attack players if they get too close to them and will even pull out weapons (which most NPCs shouldn’t be able to do). 

Is It True?

The NPC in question obviously exists, but there is no indication that they’re meant to be a serial killer. In fact, there’s no indication whatsoever that this particular NPC behaves more aggressively than any of the others. At the very least, he certainly doesn’t pull out weapons. 

The Demon Voices

Stand close enough to the apartment complex in Hepburn Heights, and you’ll likely hear a combination of voices and music coming from the quarters within. 

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Listen really closely, though, and you might realize that there seems to be at least one voice that doesn’t sound like it quite belongs there. It’s tough to describe, but there’s almost something…demonic about the sound emanating from this building located in the middle of territory controlled by none other than The Diablos.  

Is It True?

It’s difficult to say what’s actually happening here. There does seem to be a strange sound coming out of this building, but the most likely explanation is that it’s the result of some issue with the audio mixing or, perhaps, an extra audio file that just shouldn’t be there. 

The “Lemming” Pedestrians

There are a couple of places on GTA 3’s Liberty City map where you can watch pedestrians calmly walk off cliffs and presumably fall to their deaths. There’s an almost ritualistic nature to it that doesn’t really happen anywhere else in the world. 

While the creepiest urban legends suggest that these pedestrians are suicidal, some fans think this is simply a callback to one of DMA Design’s earliest games, Lemmings

Is It True?

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Well, the part about NPCs walking off the map is certainly true, but the popular explanations for this phenomenon aren’t entirely accurate. 

In most cases, these “lemming” civilians can simply be attributed to a pathing error that causes civilian NPCs to not properly recognize their environments. When those errors occur when an NPC is walking near a cliff without a barrier…well, you can guess what happens next. 

The Haunted Bathroom

There’s a bathroom in Belleville Park that GTA 3 players will need to visit several times during the course of the campaign. If you revisit the bathroom after those missions are done, though, you may find yourself in the middle of one of Liberty City’s most haunted locations. 

Along with being generally creepy, players may swear they can hear footsteps in the bathroom despite the fact that it’s impossible for NPCs to spawn there. What’s really creepy about this location, though, is that even players who aren’t trying to talk themselves into believing these urban legends will probably swear that they too hear people beside them in this bathroom that don’t appear to physically be there…

Is It True?

I’ve never heard an “official” explanation for this phenomenon, but fans have concocted a theory that seems to reasonably explain what’s happening here.  

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It seems like it’s actually quite common for NPCs walking through the nearby park to get stuck in the bathroom walls. When that happens, it’s possible for their audio to essentially “clip” through the walls, which would explain why it sounds like people are walking through the bathroom. 

The Dodo Plane and Donald Love’s Mysterious Fate

It’s nearly impossible to play GTA 3 and not walk away with memories (whether fond or otherwise) of the game’s Dodo plane. As the name suggests, this plane is incredibly difficult to get off the ground and keep in the air. 

While trying to fly this plane is scary enough, the truly creepy part about the Dodo is the long-standing rumor that its design was changed in response to 9/11. Those rumors not only suggest that Rockstar didn’t want players trying to “recreate” the 9/11 attacks within the game but that there was once a mission in the game that would have asked you to crash the plane into a building to kill Donald Love. 

Is It True?

While I was one of many members of a particular generation who grew up believing the Dodo was changed in response to 9/11, it turns out that rumor is simply not true. 

The GTA team has insisted over the years that they always planned to make the Dodo difficult to fly and that their decision wasn’t influenced by 9/11. As for the Donald Love rumors…well, those appear to be entirely fictional, though it is worth noting that Donald Love does mysteriously disappear from the game at one point, which is actually the source of quite a few Donald Love urban legends. 

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The Ghost City

One of the earliest GTA 3 rumors suggested that there is a “ghost city” located just outside the main map. For many, it sounded too ridiculous to be true, and because the alleged path to this ghost city involves expertly flying the Dodo, few GTA 3 players ever saw it for themselves. 

However, it turns out that the ghost city is very much real. This strange area is clearly modeled after Liberty City, but it’s devoid of people, drivable cars, interactive elements, and even appears to “glitch out” from time to time. Many gamers of the era had no idea what to make of this mysterious location, though some assumed it was a clearly haunted part of the world.

Is It True?

The ghost city itself is definitely real, and while there is nothing supernatural about it, the actual explanation for why it exists in the game is arguably more fascinating than the rumors. 

It turns out that this “island” is actually the setting for GTA 3’s opening cutscene. The GTA 3 team designed it separately from the rest of the map and just assumed that people would never find it. 

The Tunnel

Keep a sharp eye open during your GTA 3 adventures, and you might spot posters for a movie called The Tunnel. While The Tunnel is obviously a fictional horror movie, this particular myth is all-too-real to many GTA 3 players.

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See, there’s a tunnel in GTA 3 that is seemingly guarded by homeless men holding Molotov cocktails. The weapons are certainly unusual for non-aggressive NPCs, but the weirdest thing about them may just be the fact that they’re standing in an almost “scripted” way that seemingly ignores typical NPC pathing rules. It’s almost like they’re meant to be there, but for what purpose? 

Is It True?

This is kind of a strange one. The NPCs themselves are obviously real, but I can’t seem to find an official, definitive explanation for their existence. 

However, there does seem to be a logical explanation for their presence. See, it seems that early versions of GTA 3 featured a character known as Darkel who was essentially a homeless anarchist. While some rumors suggest that Darkel was cut from the game in response to 9/11, it was later revealed that he was cut well before that simply because the developers decided to cut most of the content associated with him. 

That being the case, it seems likely that these NPCs were associated with Darkel at some point and were probably his guards or associates. Of course, this is one of those myths that’s still kind of creepy even when you know the story behind it…

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