THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR CONTEMPORARY LEGEND RESEARCH
No. 42 May 1997
IN THIS ISSUE
Bill Ellis: Heaven's Gate
John Bodner: Advertisers and rumours
Penpal virus warnings
Burglars' scam rumour
Neiman-Marcus cookie web page
Big ship at the light redux
HAVE YOU HEARD?
Human skin and fat in products?
EYE ON SATANISM
More penis thieves: sorcerers in Ghana
Bruce Mason: Magic Cards
LEGEND AND LIFE
Pull-tabs in Northern Canada
That alien insurance
Spiders loom large
Glued to a loo
The airplane toilet
Glove in zipper
Christmas tree snake
Lucky funeral guest again
The Arrest again
Dog and dynamite
Cybersex surpriser surprised
Jessica Mydek - a new Craig
ISCLR in Boulder
AFS session on medieval legends
THE CUTTING EDGE
FROM THE EDITOR
Please send news, queries, research notes, clippings, calls for papers, or notes about local rumour and legend cycles to me. The email address is email@example.com.
The postal address is FoafTale News, MUN Folklore and Language Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8 CANADA.
The Heaven's Gate cult
Penn State Hazleton
Hazleton, PA UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A number of people have asked me for information on the Heaven's Gate cult, which committed collective suicide in late March 1997 at their compound in San Diego, California. I find that I have a depressingly large amount of data on the group's history.
Marshall Herff Applewhite, the group's leader whose body was found with his followers, caused quite a stir in the mid‑1970s travelling around the American West with his associate Bonnie Lu Nettles as "Bo and Peep" or simply "The Two." They claimed to be in direct touch with extraterrestrial forces who were going to show how human beings could ascend into the next level of evolution. Their movement was called the "Human Individual Metamorphosis," and contained as part of their message the prophecies that Bo and Peep would be assassinated but rise from the dead within three and a half days, and that their followers would have to abandon family, friends, and possessions to devote themselves to the metamorphosis, a "chemical and biological change" that would render them indestructable. This change included denial of all sexual desires. If successful, a UFO would carry them physically to heaven.
In 1975 they were investigated thoroughly by the Oregon State Police after complaints arose that people who attended their meetings mysteriously disappeared from their home communities soon after. About the same time they were infiltrated by Robert Balch and David Taylor, sociologists at the University of Montana, who followed the group for several months, collecting data on their tactics and followers.
Overall, the cult appealed to young adults in their early 20s and initially had both high recruitment and attrition rates; even though people were continually getting frustrated and returning home, their places were filled by new members. By 1976, however, "Bo and Peep" had collected about a hundred "sheep" who were willing to commit to the movement for lifetime. Two members also received large inheritances that they turned over to the leaders; the money was used to set up two isolated camps, the specific locations of which were constantly changing. Little is known about their history from this point on, except that the compounds were run on a strict time schedule and in an increasingly authoritarian way, with thousands of cult rules to be obeyed without question.
"Peep" (Nettles) evidently died during the 1980s (or "returned to that next level" as a follower put it). When or how she died is a mystery. "Bo" (Applewhite) now became the sole leader of the cult. By the early 1990s, they had evidently absorbed some of the anti‑satanic‑cult rhetoric, as they were calling themselves the "Total Overcomers," a Pentecostal term referring to use of spiritual gifts to defeat demonic influence. Scattered contacts with the cult also indicate that they were increasingly preoccupied by the threat of "Luciferian" extraterrestrials.
There are informative (and, in retrospect, chilling) surveys of the "Bo and Peep" movement in Jerome Clark's High Weirdness: UFOs from 1960 through 1979 (Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1996) and in Jacques Vallee's cranky Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults (Berkeley: And/Or, 1979).
The research of Robert Balch and David Taylor appeared first in Psychology Today (Oct. 1976): 58 ff, then as "Seekers and Saucers" in American Behavioral Scientist (July/Aug. 1977): 839‑60. Balch later reworked his views of the cult several times, most recently in an article, "Waiting for the Ships," in James R. Lewis's The Gods Have Landed: New Religions from Other Worlds (Albany: SUNY Press, 1995): 137‑66.
For a detailed look at an earlier UFO contact cult's history, see Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken, and Stanley Schachter, When Prophecy Fails (Minneapolis: U. Minnesota Pr., 1956). "Marion Keech," (actually Dorothy Martin), the head figure of this cult, likewise prophesied the arrival of a UFO to take the faithful to heaven, and even when it did not arrive on schedule, she stayed on for decades leading small occult‑oriented groups as "Sister Thedra." Her work, prominent during the 1950s and 1960s (she lived into the 1990s) probably influenced Applewhite and Nettles.
As a bizarre rider to this affair, the "Bo and Peep" affair caused so much fear of "brainwashing cults" that for a while the standard "campus massacre" rumour panic probably was influenced by them. One version of the story held that someone dressed as "Little Bo Peep" would show up at YOUR college campus's Hallowe'en party and proceed to massacre everyone in sight.
It was easy to laugh at this "urban legend" ‑‑ until March.
Department of Folklore
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John's, Newfoundland CANADA A1B 3X8
A new computer virus scare is making the rounds of the Internet. This would not be worth wasting ink on except that I received an email concerning the virus on 2 April 1997 about the same time that a new IBM commercial hit a local television station, NTV, in St. John's. (The prime-time advertisement also ran on Newsworld and other Canadian television networks.) The two incidents point to the relationship between rumour as perceived threat and the ability of advertising to promote and banish threat. As Dégh and Vazsonyi have noticed, advertising actively constructs a world in which threat is ever-present, and then provides the answer to that threat in the form of a product (1979). The virus rumours and IBM's new advertising appear to be a case study in this process.
The new virus is not very different from the viruses rumoured to have come before it. Under its heading, "Deeyenda Plagues Internet," we are cautioned against reading any email message with the title "Deeyenda." The virus will perform "a comprehensive search on your computer, looking for valuable information such as e-mail addresses, passwords, credit card numbers, personal info, etc." The virus also has the ability to send your login and password to "unknown addresses." Like many virus rumour-legends this one contains a preamble by the person who forwarded the "information." The preamble attempts to reinforce its credibility: "This information was passed on to me by a senior member of the Ottawa informatics community (in case that adds credibility to the information)." A second tactic asks the doubting recipient to suspend disbelief in the danger: "I know that there are those who claim that some of these things are 'impossible' but can you afford to believe them?"
A confusion between Internet email and the Web calls the warning into question. At first we are told that this virus will infect your system if you read a certain email message. Transmitting a virus through email text messages has never happened and remains only a hypothetical possibility. We are then told that this virus "is most likely to attack those users viewing Java enhanced web pages." Viruses have been known to be transmitted through programmes and other applications downloaded from Web sites. This is, however, rare and can be easily safeguarded against by, among other things, using an updated virus checker -- which brings us to IBM.
In IBM’s new television advertisement a pathetic group of drones, in an office full of cheap wall dividers, is attempting to figure out what is wrong with their printer. After they follow an incredibly trite trouble-shooting regime (checking the cable to see it’s plugged in), a fellow worker bursts on the scene with the answer to the printer's inactivity: another worker has downloaded a virus from "The Net." Six seconds of rapid-fire images of the new IBM virus-scan programme follow.
Several important virus scares have swept through the Internet. Good Times Virus (about 1994-97; see FTN 39: 12) and Penpal (1996; see below in this issue for the text) are two examples which continue to circulate (Kornblum 1996). The issue is not whether the threat is real, but rather that an advertiser has identified the anxiety of Internet and Web virus threats to be sufficiently high to sell a product. Effective advertising has always been adept at tailoring a message to a specific audience. But rumour has resisted use in advertising since, as Victor writes, rumour "attempts to explain anxiety provoking or ambiguous situations"; additionally it tends to be "transitory [with] only local significance" (Victor 1993: 71). Rumours tend to identify a specific group as the focal point for the anxiety: like Satanists in Victor's work. Anxiety may be the driving force behind both rumours and advertising; nonetheless, because of their short lifespan, their political overtones, and their tendency to identify other people as the cause of that anxiety (rather than, say, body-odour), rumours have been infrequently used by advertisers.
In the case of the Internet as a media form and the virus as a rumour, some of these limiting characteristics do not apply. The idea of locality, both in geographic and group identity terms, is radically transformed by the Internet. Space is no longer defined geographically and virus rumours are of interest to everyone since they affect the medium itself. Although a specific rumour may die out, the existence of viruses in general remains constant leading to a steady recycling and updating of virus rumours.
The rumour’s tendency to focus and project anxiety is also different in the case of computer viruses. The difference follows not only from the specific medium in which the rumour exists, but also from the medical metaphor expressed in "computer virus." In biomedical discourse a disease is the result of a pathogen; a cure results from proper diagnosis based on the analysis of discreet symptoms leading to the right treatment to destroy the pathogen. The virus rumours mirror this model in that they refer to discreet symptoms and the pathogen which causes them. There is no indication of anyone (individual, group, or sub-culture) behind the virus. Because of this configuration of the tradition, the rumour lends itself to advertising, offering a specific threat with a specific solution neither of which involves the (political) problem of identifying a person or a group. The rumour can be easily consumed by anyone, be they Satanists or the police.
Shoemaker (1994) has looked at the use of Forteana in advertising, and Boyes (1989) has observed how rumour legends fit so happily in print media. Each addresses the ability of the media to use and transform a group’s collaborative tales into a consumable product. This particular rumour cycle may prove to be a new example of this process -- one that demonstrates the ability of a media form and biomedical discourse to transform the relationship between rumour and advertising. [Thanks to Jane M. Gadsy and Paul Cleveland for help and advice.]
Boyes, Georgina. 1989. "Women's Icon, Occupational Folklore, and the Media." The Questing Beast: Perspectives on Contemporary Legend, IV. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic P.
Dégh, Linda and Andrew Vazsonyi. 1979. "Magic for Sale: Märchen and Legend in TV Advertising." Fabula 20.1-3: 47-68.
Kornblum, Janet. 1996. "Virus Hoaxes Infect Net." http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,6214,00.html.
Shoemaker, Michael T. 1994. "Charles Fort - Salesman: A Look at Forteana in Advertising." The INFO Journal 70: 35-36.
Victor, Jeffrey S. 1993. Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend. Chicago: Open Court.
The Penpal warning
Thanks to Irina Ozernoy we have this text of the "Penpals virus" warning that has been circulating through computer networks since late 1996. In reprinting it here we have removed all the chain-letter-like headers that show the many hands through which it has passed. We have retained the "signature" which presumably suggests some authority. [See John Bodner's note about rumour and virus warnings, above, in this issue of FTN.]
Subject: VERY IMPORTANT VIRUS ALERT!!!!!!! PLEASE READ!!!!!!!!!!!
IMPORTANT PLEASE READ
If anyone receives e‑mail entitled: PENPAL GREETINGS! please delete it WITHOUT reading it. This is a warning for all Internet users. There is a dangerous virus propagating across the Internet through an e‑mail message entitled "Penpal Greetings!" This message appears to be a friendly letter asking you if you are interested in a penpal, but by the time you read this letter, it is too late. The "trojan horse" virus will have already infected the boot sector of your hard drive, destroying all of the data present. It is a self‑replicating virus, and once the message is read, it will AUTOMATICALLY forward itself to anyone who's e‑mail address is present in YOUR mailbox. This will destroy your hard drive, and holds the potential to destroy the hard drive of anyone whose mail is in your Inbox, and who's mail is in their Inbox and so on, If this virus keeps getting passed, it has the potential to do a great deal of damage to computer networks worldwide! Please delete the message entitled "Penpal Greetings!" as soon as you see it. And pass this message along to all of your friends, relatives and the other readers of the newsgroups and mailing lists which you are on so that they are not hurt by this dangerous virus. Please pass this along to everyone you know so this can be stopped.
Library Automation Services.
More tricky burglars
Penn State Hazleton
Hazleton, PA UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Here's an interesting note I found on my mailer in late December 1996. It sounds credible and certainly worth heeding, but it also contains elements that remind me of contemporary legends I've run across in the past, particularly the old scam of sending theatre or sports event tickets as a "grand prize" so that the crooks could come by and strip the empty house/apartment that night. Jack Paar ‑‑ remember him? ‑‑ told a version on the pre‑Carson Tonight Show. [See also FTN 39: 8.]
Date: Fri, 20 Dec 1996
Subject: Scam Info
I received this info and thought that it was worth passing on:
A Canadian scam that's found it's way to the US: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! If anyone calls you at home and asks if you'd like to get/receive a Corel Suite for FREE, tell them you don't have a computer. One individual at AMC just got robbed after agreeing to participate in a Corel's give away program.
The AMC individual was kind enough to tell them, over the phone, what kind of computer he had and when he would be home, or when he wasn't, so he could receive his FREE package. They cleaned him out the next day. Be careful, though this an interesting warning all should be aware of.
Univ. of Ca. Santa Barbara PD
Neiman-Marcus addresses cookie on the Web
The Dallas-based department store, Neiman-Marcus, has a web site with several recipes from their restaurants. The expensive cookie story is told and denied: http://www.neimanmarcus.com/cookie.htm.
Big ship: Your call
The purported transcript of a radio conversation between a large American naval ship and what turns out to be a lighthouse (FTN 39: 15) has been circulating through informal Canadian federal government channels. On 19 March 1997 one such mailing was sent to 101 email addresses within the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). Substantially the same as versions circulating in June 1996, it names the ship the USS Missouri, dates the event at October 1995, and places it off the coast of Newfoundland. [Thanks to David Moores at ACOA.]
Biscuit Bullet text
In mid-April Jane Gadsby, Memorial University, received the folllowing text in her email. Punctuation and spelling (including two spellings of Pil[l]sbury) are as received. It is titled "Pillsbury Dough Boy Wanted for Attempted Murder."
A lady named Linda went to Arkansas last week to visit her in-laws, and while there, went to a store. She parked next to a car with a woman sitting in it, her eyes closed and hands behind her head, apparently sleeping. When Linda came out a while later, she again saw the woman, her hands still behind her head but with her eyes open. The woman looked very strange, so Linda tapped on the window and said "Are you okay?" The woman answered "I've been shot in the head, and I am holding my brains in." Linda didn't know what to do, so she ran into the store, where store officials called the paramedics. They had to break into the car because the door was locked. When they got in, they found that the woman had bread dough on the back of her head and in her hands. A Pilsbury biscuit cannister had exploded, apparently from the heat in the car, making a loud explosion like that of a gunshot, and hit her in the head. When she reached back to find what it was, she felt the dough and thought it was her brains. She passed out from fright at first, then attempted to hold her brains in.
[See FTN 38:6, 39:8, 40/41: 24 for earlier references to this legend.]
HAVE YOU HEARD?
Human corpses in products
Cercle d'histoire contemporaine
45/3, route de Vourles
69230 Saint-Genis-Laval, FRANCE
I am interested in receiving stories about human corpses coverted into glue, fat, lubricant, soap, lamp-shades, etc. All countries and times are concerned. If any reader has information or texts to contribute, please write me.
[PH: See Frank de Caro's note on the pistaco tradition in Peru, FTN
AN EYE ON SATANISM
Uses of belief and legend
"Mobs have beaten to death at least 12 'sorcerers' in Ghana for allegedly making men's penises shrink or vanish. Police dismiss the claims as a ploy by thieves to cause a crowd to be formed, enabling them to rob people more easily." [Guardian Weekly, 26 January 1997, "This Week" brief news notes, p. 3.]
Playing Cards with the Devil
Department of Folklore
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St John's, Newfoundland CANADA A1B 3X8
“Magic: The Gathering” is a card game invented by a mathematician in 1993. Sold by a small company called Wizards of the Coast, it quickly became a big hit with role-playing game fans. Each player has their own set of cards (called a “deck”) representing a book of spells and magic items, and uses their cards to try to “kill” the opponent by knocking their “Life Points” down to zero. Conceptually very simple, Magic has become something of a juggernaut in the gaming industry with Wizards of the Coast having sold over two billion cards to date. Odds are that if you walk into a university cafeteria or hobby shop you will find groups of players hunched over tables playing Magic.
The game’s success lies in how it has combined several different genres of games and hobbies. Each card features a piece of stock fantasy art (fireballs, dragons, occasionally scantily clad women) drawing on most of the same sources that Dungeons & Dragons did. However, while an average game of Dungeons & Dragons may take three to four hours, a game of Magic rarely takes more then ten minutes, making it a popular lunch-time activity.
In addition, Magic was the first successful trading card game. Packs of Magic cards are sold in random starter decks containing 60 cards or booster packs containing 15 cards. The basic set of Magic contains over 400 different cards of which over 100 are “rare.” For example each starter deck will contain only three rare cards; each booster only one. In order to collect a complete set of cards one must purchase about 120 boosters. Each booster costs about three dollars so it costs about $360 to complete a set. In theory, you trade with friends to get the cards you want; in practice, players sink a lot of money into the game. The game has become serious enough that over $1,000,000 in prize money is available at the U.S. national championships. As Wizards of the Coast continue to publish more and more new cards, top players have needed to invest massively in order to stay competitive.
But what does this have to do with Satan?
Magic appears to be the latest target of fundamentalist Christians and the Web provides a new forum for them to express their beliefs. Recently there was quite a furore on the Usenet trading cards game hierarchy (rec.games.trading-cards.*) when the Web address for an attack on Magic was posted. The site in question is run by the “Logos communication consortium” (http://www.execpc.com/~dlbrown/logos/) and contains articles on a range of issues from “exposing The New Age,” to “doctrinal positional definitions,” and why “Christian music is the Devil’s music." According to the maintainer of this site, Pastor David L. Brown, “It is our intention that you may find the information collected here to be useful in seeing through the deceitful practices of this world by shedding on them the light of Jesus Christ.” In a folder named “Timely Topics” Brown deals with Magic:
After reading two books about the game, watching the game being played, reading numerous news articles and reading scores of Internet E‑Mail messages on the game, there is no doubt in my mind that Magic cards promote the occult and violence. Just a word about God's view of violence ‑‑ GOD HATES THOSE WHO PROMOTE VIOLENCE. Look at Psalms 11:5: "The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.”
According to Brown:
The best thing you can do, in my opinion, with Magic: The Gathering is to follow Acts 19:19‑20: “Many of them also which used curious arts (occult materials) brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. " (http://www.execpc.com/~dlbrown/logos/magicard.html)
Pastor Brown is not the only person worried about the Devilish nature of Magic cards. Parents in New York have recently brought a lawsuit against a school that allows their children to play Magic on the premises. "'It's straight from Satan,' said Mary Ann DiBari, a plaintiff who has 11- and 13‑year‑old granddaughters in the schools. 'Human sacrifice, devil worship, spells.'" (Wisconsin State Journal 17 March 1997; see the Web page at http://web.idirect.com/~beshars/art1_mag.html.)
Wizards of the Coast appears to be very sensitive to these charges. Newer editions of the game have had cards like “Demonic Tutor” and “Demonic Attorney” removed from the set while the card “Unholy Strength” has had the burning pentagram, which appeared in the background in early editions, removed. Among Magic players these changes are widely believed to have been spurred by accusations of demonic imagery, something that Wizards of the Coast deny.
These accusations appear to be merely the latest in a long line of legends linking the devil with card playing. In discussing examples of from Ireland and Newfoundland, Deirdre Nuttall claims “the implication from the Irish legends of card-playing and the Devil would appear to be that card playing in and of itself is a dangerous and ungodly act” (34). Similarly, Gary Butler recounts several local legends of the card-playing devil in Franco-Newfoundland traditions. Combine this with a series of legends about satanic influences in role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, which have a close relationship with Magic, and you clearly have a rich seam of material.
The emergence of computer-mediated forms of communication have also added new possibilities for the transmission and discussion of such material. The World Wide Web provides various forums in which viewpoints can be propagated. There are several Web pages promoting Satanism (most of them tongue-in-cheek, for example, the “Satan: Fun with Eternal Damnation” home page, http://www1.minn.net/~gargoyle/satan/DIABLO.html on which observant users will notice subliminal messages in the graphics [“Worship Me”] amongst other jokes) as well as Fundamentalist pages denouncing them. The Usenet (the network of computers that post news messages around the Internet) provides a place in which raucous discussions about legendary material can take place; alt.folklore.urban is well known for its Brunvandian attempts to debunk legends. When the address for Logos’s Web page denouncing Satanism was first posted (to rec.games.trading-cards.magic.misc) it led to over fifty responses. Most were fairly straightforward denials until one person got a little too enthusiastic in his condemnation of “Fundies” (fundamentalist Christians).
After a couple of days, parody messages started to appear. On 1 November 1996 someone posted to two card-games newsgroups, "if you're playing Magic >backwards<, you get satanic messages...." And someone else responded, "Oh, oh, oh! You mean like Lunatic Druid from Antiquities? Actually, the sdrawkcab cinatas stuff is in Netrunner (MIT West Tier much?)." In response to a message from a Christian that Magic is only a game and therefore could not possibly be corrupting, another player wrote, "I certainly hope so. I've got a starter deck of Redemption. I wouldn't like to be turned into a raving Fundie after playing that!" As a postscript he added:
PS ‑ yes I know it's a shit game, but it really is unintentionally hilarious. To quote from the rules: "If you find that a Redemption card and the Bible are in conflict, the Bible is _always_ correct." (my emphasis)
(One of several trading card games that were marketed following the success of Magic, Redemption is a Christian game in which players must rescue lost souls.) On another tack, the maintainer of a famous contemporary legend page focusing on the Blue Star Tattoo legend wrote a parody of the legend that claimed that Magic cards were impregnated with LSD, only to find his parody being disseminated as true on the Usenet (http://www.lycaeum.org/drugs/other/tattoo/).
In contrast to the scare over Dungeons & Dragons, which resulted in legends of teenagers committing suicide or trying to summon the devil using ideas from the game, fundamentalist concerns about Magic: The Gathering have so far focused on the “demonic imagery” and concepts in the game. Whether the game’s popularity will lead to further legendry along the Dungeons & Dragons line, or maybe even resurrect some of the older card-playing devil legends, only time will tell.
Butler, Gary. Histoire et Traditions Orales des Franco-Acadiens de Terre-Neuve. Sillery, Québec: Septentrion, 1995
Nuttall, Deirdre. “The Card Players and the Devil: A Comparative Study.” Culture & Tradition 18 (1996): 33-47.
[See also FTN 39: 6, and 38:7-8 for clippings regarding Magic in New York, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.]
LEGEND AND LIFE
Pull tabs in the North
A Canadian Press wire story by Duane Wilkin appeared in the Victoria, British Columbia Times-Colonist 8 March 1997, "Pull tab collection yields little." (Thanks to Brian Chapman for sending it.) Wilkin outlined the problem of seven-year-old Mary Jane Uquqtunnuak of Taloyoak in the Canadian North, who has been collecting aluminum pull tabs for a wheelchair. She has been unable to walk since birth. The local community health centre coordinated the effort of raising eight million tabs and reached the one million mark when they realized shipping the tabs to a southern recycling plant might yield little profit.
Five days later, under the headline, "In addition," the Globe and Mail (of Toronto) reported the following, 13 March 1997, p, A4. (Thanks to Martin Lovelace for pointing it out.) The Globe and Mail credits the Canadian Press wire service.
The task of moving a mountain of pop-can pull tabs halfway across Canada to help buy a wheelchair for a girl in an Arctic community has been undertaken by John Hake of Elora, Ontario. Seven-year-old Mary Jane Uquqtunnuak of Talayoak, Northwest Territories, has collected more than a million tabs, but no one had figured out how to get them to a recycling centre that will buy them. Mr. Hake, president of the Elora branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, read about the girl's plight last week. The branch often arranges for tabs to be shipped to a Guelph plant. It takes about 2.3 million tabs to make a tonne of aluminum, worth about $500.
Brian Chapman (firstname.lastname@example.org) send along this follow-up to the story, reported in the Times-Colonist [Victoria, B.C.] 21 March 1997, p. A10. It is entitled, "Arctic girl needing wheelchair gets help from thousands of miles away" and is written by Mary Jo Laforest (Canadian Press).
IQALUIT, N.W.T.‑‑The story of a little girl unable to walk and her arctic community's efforts to collect millions of pop can tabs for a wheelchair has grabbed the attention of several groups who want to help.
A child's refurbished wheelchair is on its way to Taloyoak in the Northwest Territories where Mary Jane Uquqtunnuak and her family live.
And a firm that builds wheelchairs in Stoney Creek, Ont., has offered to custom‑build a wheelchair for the Grade 1 girl.
"We couldn't stop smiling when we heard she was going to get one," Julia Uquqtunnuak, Mary Jane's mother, said Thursday.
The seven‑year‑old, who hasn't been able to walk since birth because of malformed legs, keeps her only wheelchair at school because it tips in the snow.
The Uquqtunnuak household has been deluged with aluminum pop can tabs collected by communities across the North.
They collected more than one million, but then realized they had no buyer and no way of moving them to a recycling centre. Taloyoak is 2,000 kilometres north of Montreal.
Stories that showed up in some Ontario newspapers inspired groups like the Royal Canadian Legion in Elora, Ont.
Air Canada has offered to pay to get the wheelchair part way to its destination ‑‑ either Yellowknife [Northwest Territories] or Ottawa.
[PH: At about the same time as this was happening in the Northwest Territories, Pat Parsons in Gander, Newfoundland, reported in February 1997 that her eight-year-old son and his friends were collecting softdrink pull tabs for a neighbour who intended to redeem them -- somehow -- for a wheelchair for someone.]
As well as one of the previous clippings under the headline "In Addition" in the Globe and Mail, 13 March 1997, A4, was the following item, likewise credited to the Canadian Press.
The possibility of a dognapping ring is being investigated in the disappearance of as many as 25 pet dogs since November  in the Renfrew area west of Ottawa. Ontario Provincial Police speculate that the dogs, mostly large breeds, are being stolen and sold to research laboratories or used for breeding in what are known as puppy mills.
Jeff Mazo, Hisarlik Press
4 Catisfield Road
Middlesex EN3 6BD UK
The last Foaftale News (40/41: 12) included an item on alien abduction insurance. The following is from my local weekly freesheet, the Enfield Advertiser, 15 January 1997, p. 15:
Sunday Times exposes 'alien insurance' hoax
Advertiser vindicated over story
A man selling alien abduction insurance policies who claimed to have made a £1,000,000 payout has admitted that he himself was the beneficiary.
Enfield‑based Joe Tagliarini contacted the Advertiser in the summer claiming he was selling the alien abduction policies at £17.99 a time.
We declined to publish the story, but a downmarket Enfield freesheet did.
Mr Tagliarini was then joined by by an insurance broker called Simon Burgess. They decided they needed to pay out £1 million to a policy‑holder to boost its credibility.
The story was widely reported around the world.
The payout was apparently made to a 23‑year‑old electrician from Edmonton [North London ‑‑ JM] called Joseph Carpenter.
But an investigation by The Sunday Times has revealed that Mr Carpenter and Mr Tagliarini are one and the same person.
In the newspaper Mr Tagliarini claimed he deserved the £1 million payout because he had been abducted by aliens for 40 minutes.
However, his wife told us on Tuesday: "It was just a silly joke that got out of hand."
Knowledge of legend makes spider loom larger
Am Neuen Teiche 5
Here is a short extract from our local paper the Hildesheimer Allgemeine Zeitung, 4 January 1997. In the original German there is more irony than may be apparent from my translation. The story shows the degree to which contemporary legends have penetrated daily life. It is good to know that policemen also know contemporary legends, particularly, Professor Brednich's "Die Spinne in der Yucca-Palme."
Police hunt crawling insect - Spider from the Yucca plant?
An allegedly poisonous spider of tropical origin caused a fifty-one-year-old Hildesheim woman to panic on Friday night. The woman discovered the crawling insect of five cm length (about two inches) in her living-room in which her recently puchased yucca plant was also located. She drew conclusions and supposed that the plant had been the hiding place of the spider.
Excitedly she called the Hildesheim police for help. But when the officers arrived at the place of operation, they did not discover a tarantula or any other kind of poisonous spider, but just a particularly large specimen of the common house spider.
Nevertheless the policemen took care of the animal. Unfortunately the spider did not survive transportation back to the duty room -- the cold spell took another victim.
Glued to a Loo
Acording to a story in the The Sun (London), 6 November 1996, "Superglood," Gary Foxley found himself stuck to a toilet seat at a McDonald's restaurant in Knightsbridge, West London. Someone had smeared it with superglue. It took firemen five hours to undo him. (Via Gillian Bennett.)
Also via Gillian Bennett comes a clipping from the Weekend Telegraph, 1 February 1997, p. 38. In a column "Parish Pump" is "If he can't burn in hell, Shepton Mallet will do." Before Roger Vickery's death he told his wife that of all the places in the world, he did not want his ashes to end up in his former hometown Shepton Mallet, in Somerset. But after he died, she unlocked his secret room and found hundreds of pictures of him with three different girlfriends. He had told her he kept government secrets there. She made a special trip to sprinkle his ashes in Shepton Mallet.
Airplane toilet suction
Penn State Hazleton
Hazleton, PA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
[The case of Nwabisa Lusu, a nine-year-old girl injured on a South African Airways (SAA) flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town was detailed in a series of articles distributed by SAPA, the South African Press Agency between 7 and 9 January 1997, and posted to alt.folklore.urban by F.F. Jacot Guillarmod (Jacot@ru.ac.za). Flying on an Airbus A300 airplane, she sat on the rim of the malfunctioning toilet with both covers upright and found herself stuck. The pilot had to reduce the plane's altitude to reduce the pressure differential and get her off the toilet. After landing in Cape Town, she underwent surgery including a skin graft. SAA and Airbus officials were investigating why the pressure valve had stuck. So said the wire stories....]
While discussing legends involving aircraft with with Stephan Wilkinson (of the Smithsonian Institution magazine, Air and Space Smithsonian), we happened on the story of the woman who went into a jetliner bathroom and flushed the toilet while still on the seat. According to a well-known horror story, the suction of the flush sucks her insides out. (Those who saw the BBC's infamous 1994 docu-drama W.S.H. will recall this scene being dramatised.) Wilkinson told me that he had assumed this story legendary, but then had authorities, including representatives of the airline mentioned, assured him that it had really happened. As proof, he received a SAPA wire story datelined Johannesburg, South Africa, 10 January 1997.
Faulty Valve Caused Child to Stick to Toilet Seat
A leaking valve on an Airbus 300 caused a young girl to be sucked down onto the rim of a toilet on Tuesday night, South African Airways said in a statement on Friday night.
The child, Nwabisa Lusu, 9, suffered internal and external injuries to her genitalia and had to undergo surgery after her ordeal.
Friday's SAA statement said preliminary investigations indicated that a leaking valve in the aircraft's toilet system created an abnormal vacuum which sucked Nwabisa onto the rim of the toilet.
Maintenance of the part in question had been done in accordance with procedures specified by the manufacturers, Airbus Industrie, and approved by South Africa's civil aviation authorities.
Airbus Industrie had on consultation described the accident as a freak and the first of its kind to occur.
SAA said that as result of the accident the Transport Department had issued an emergency airworthiness directive, ordering a check of all similar valves on Airbus 300 aircraft in South Africa.
SAA had already run these checks and had found the valves aboard its Airbus 300 fleet to be functioning normally.
The statement conveyed regrets to Nwabisa and her family for the suffering the incident had caused.
Nwabisa, who went unaccompanied on a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town, was heard screaming from inside the toilet by a flight attendant after she became stuck.
When efforts to prise her free failed, the pilot reduced altitude to equalise the pressure between the inside and the outside of the Airbus.
Once this had been done, the stricken child was lifted free by cabin crew with the help of a doctor who was aboard.
Another legend come true? Wilkinson did some further checking with representatives of Airbus and South African Airways and found that although the case was genuine, it was somewhat less dramatic than the press had made it seem.
The little girl had gone into the toilet and found the seat up. Not understanding how it worked, she sat directly on the unit's rim and slipped partly down the hole. There she did not have the leverage or strength to hoist herself back out.
When she screamed, cabin attendants came to help her out, and the pilot did in fact descend to 12,000 feet to "raise the cabin pressure" or something of the sort, but Wilkinson suspects that this was more a case of "Seemed like a good idea at the time..." than anything that had any effect on the actual situation. In fact, he learned, the toilet in question was a relatively old‑fashioned type that flushed entirely by the swirling of disinfectant and water. There was no vacuum or pressure differential involved anywhere.
Newer ones, he also discovered, are vacuum‑flushed, but his sources said they generated far too little negative pressure to have real effect on anybody sitting atop them. Even if they did, the insertion of even a pencil between the body and toilet rim would solve the problem.
The airline took the girl to a Cape Town hospital for observation, since there apparently was some sort of injury. They also may have wanted to put in place the a defense against a suit, which indeed is being mounted against them by the angry parents. From this grew details about surgery, disembowelment, genital mutilation, etc.
Another interesting case of the uses of ostension by press and corporations trying to put the most dramatic face on an embarrassing but otherwise non‑legendary accident.
Glove Caught in the Zipper
[ Alan E. Mays: These two texts contributed by Brian Chapman are variations of "Caught in the Zipper," a legend about a man accidentally getting a piece of clothing -- usually a woman's dress, chiffon skirt, or fox fur-piece -- stuck in the zipper of his pants (see FTN 33‑34: 4, 26: 11, 17: 5). These versions, however, feature a man who inadvertently tucks a woman's glove into his pants as he zips up.]
1. Dear Ann Landers: That letter you printed about the woman whose fox fur got caught in a man's zipper [from a "favorite column" reprinted on 29 August 1996 while Landers was on summer vaction; the letter also appears in her recent book, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!: Advice, Wisdom, and Uncommon Good Sense (New York: Villard, 1996), p. 373] reminded me of something that happened to me back in the '30s.
I took a plane trip home to visit my mother. In those days, we traveled in our best clothes, with hat and gloves. I happened to be seated next to a man who had had a few too many drinks. When he returned from a visit to the bathroom, I noticed his zipper was open. Being extremely shy, I didn't say anything.
I finally decided to take my gloves off. When I pulled the right one, my left hand slipped and my right glove flew into the man's lap and landed right on his open zipper. I was too embarrassed to reach over and get it, so my glove sat there all the way to Chicago. When the flight attendant instructed us to fasten our seat belts for the descent, the man must have thought the glove was his shirttail. He tucked it into his pants and zipped up. I almost died.
When we deplaned in Chicago, a woman greeted the man affectionately. I assumed she was his wife. It's been 60 years since this happened, and I still wonder what she thought when he took his pants off and a lady's glove fell out. I still laugh thinking about it. Betty Hawley, Van Nuys, California. [Victoria [B.C.] Times‑Colonist, 21 Nov. 1996.]
2. The Flying Glove. The Vancouver city bus had a full standing load. Every available space was occupied with people coming home from work or returning from the downtown shopping areas. One particular lady was forced to stand up since no more seats were vacant. She had several bags in her arms. She was also holding a pair of white gloves in her hand. When the bus hit a bump on the road one of her gloves slid out of her hand and fell down on the lap of a sleeping passenger. This in itself would not have been so amusing, except that the glove happened to land in an awkward location ‑‑ right on a man's fly. Here again, no big deal, you say. Here's the clincher: the fly happened to be wide open and the passenger was sleeping.
The lady, of course, was too embarrassed to reach down and remove the glove from the sensitive spot. A person sitting right next to him had witnessed the mishap, and elbowed the man in order to wake him up. He pointed to his lap without saying anything. At once the man realized his fly was open. Assuming the white glove was part of his shirt, he just tucked it in and zipped up his fly.
How do you tell a man that he has a white glove inside his fly? Nobody knew, and the unsuspecting gentleman eventually left with his 'loot.'
It would be interesting to know how his wife reacted when he pulled his pants down and found a white glove. How would he get out of that one? [Heinz Hammer, Routes: The Lighter Side of Public Transit (Surrey, B.C.: Hignell Printing, 1989) pp. 155‑56.]
Those South African cleaners
Last issue (FTN 40-41: 21) we discussed the wide spread of the legend that had run in the Cape Times in June 1996 to the effect that a cleaner was causing the death each week of another new patient by unplugging the patients' life-support system in order to plug in the vacuum cleaner. Thanks to Irene Zadnik we have clippings from New Scientist about this story. The first is dated 28 September 1996 (p. 104) in which the story is reported as
apparently true. We are passing it on for the unenlightened so that they may reflect on the fickleness of the hand of fate that shapes our destinies.
The second clipping is dated 30 November 1996 (p. 92) and is an apology for "unwittingly participat[ing] in an urban myth." Arthur Goldstuck contacted them and pointed the editors to his web page devoted to the explication, if not the debunking, of this legend: http://www.web.co.za/arthur/cleanfaq.htm. The story ends with the question:
Is the story really a complete myth? Or is there, somewhere, a grain of truth in it? Not even Goldstuck can give the final answer to that one.
Another Hairy-Handed Hitchhiker
Department of Drama,
University of Exeter, Exeter UNITED KINGDOM
My attention in the latest Foaftale News (40/41: 19) was immediately drawn to Derek Froome's variant of 'The Hairy‑Armed Hitchhiker' (p.19). I can confirm that this particular variant was indeed in circulation around June ‑ July 1996 in England.
The reason I know is because when I was at last July's Bath Legend Conference (ironically enough), I telephoned home to see how the family were getting on without me. My partner told me that my mother had just called in a panic with an almost identical version of the same story. This time the incident was supposed to have happened outside Tescos Supermarket in Bristol and it supposedly happened to the daughter of a friend of my mother. In this case the would‑be assailant was also well‑dressed in a suit and was standing guard over the car after having chased away a group of young vandals. As a result he had missed his bus and requested a lift back into the City Centre. At the last moment the young woman had second thoughts and asked the man to help her back out, since her wing mirror had been broken by the vandals. She drove straight to the nearest police station with the man's briefcase still on the passenger seat. Inside it were a noose and a knife.
My mother was so worried by the story because we have friends in Bristol and are regular visitors there. She was simply concerned for our safety. I explained that it was a contemporary legend and there was no need to worry. And the thanks I got for putting her mind at rest? ... "Are you calling my friend a liar?" Well, some you can't win.
Kidney theft reports
MUN Folklore & Language Archive
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St John's, Newfoundland CANADA A1B 3X8
The kidney theft ring stories have continued unabated. In December 1996 and January 1997 they were most likely to be seen as a "Travel Warning." Passed around from institution to institution, the version that appeared at the MUN Folklore & Language Archive at the end of January (via Lorraine Jackson of the MUN Library) had header attachments like some recent chain letters. The headers showed a trail leading through Ohio and Indiana in the previous few days. A very similar text was posted to the Folklore Discussion List in mid February by Harper Russell (email@example.com) of Birmingham, Alabama. The central part of the warning (after the headers) reads as follows (punctuation and spelling literatim):
FYI ‑ Following is a E Mail message that outlines an unusual new crime targeted towards travelers. As always, it is best to play it safe when your traveling by being careful.
I wish to warn you about a new crime ring that is targeting business travelers. This ring is well organized, well funded, has very skilled personnel, and is currently in most major cities and recently very active in New Orleans.
The crime begins when a business traveler goes to a lounge for a drink at the end of the work day. A person in the bar walks up as they sit alone and offers to buy them a drink. The last thing the traveler remembers until they wake up in a hotel room bath tub, their body submerged to their neck in ice, is sipping that drink. There is a note taped to the wall instructing them not to move and to call 911. A phone is on a small table next to the bathtub for them to call. The business traveler calls 911 who have become quite familiar with this crime. The business traveler is instructed by the 911 operator to very slowly and carefully reach behind them and feel if there is a tube protruding from their lower back. The business traveler finds the tube and answers, "Yes." The 911 operator tells them to remain still, having already sent paramedics to help. The operator knows that both of the business traveler's kidneys have been harvested.
This is not a scam or out of a science fiction novel, it is real. It is documented and confirmable. If you travel or someone close to you travels, please be careful. Regards,
Jerry Mayfield, Austin Ops Engineering Manager
The following was posted in February 1997 to the Folklore Discussion List (firstname.lastname@example.org) .
I heard about this story, too, when I went down to New Orleans, although it was slightly different [from that posted even earlier by another contributor].
One night a bunch of friends go out to a bar. One of the group decides he needs some fresh air and goes for a walk. He is intoxicated and soon stops off in [a] bar down the street. The bartender gives him a drink for free. The next morning he finds himself in a bathtub full of ice in a seedy hotel. There is a note that says, "If you want to live, call 911." He calls and gets through to the hospital. The person from th hospital tells him to check his lower back. He does so and finds a six-inch scar running down his back. A kidney was missing.
I am not sure if this story is true or not but it is worth noting. Supposedly, the bartender put in a drug that knocks out a person for several hours.
On 24 February 1997 Roger Taylor (email@example.com) posted a note to the effect that he had heard during the previous week a very similar story broadcast on the Salt Lake City television affiliate of the Fox network.
Alan Mays sends a story from the City & Region section of The Philadelphia Inquirer, 27 February 1997. Written by Douglas A. Campbell, of the Inquirer, it is titled, "Kidney snatchers? Tale on Internet dismissed as hoax. It tells of business travelers drugged by strangers. the message caused a stir." Quoting officials of the National Kidney Foundation and a spokesman for the American Society of Transplant Physicians, it debunks the story. [See also article in bibliography by John Makeig.]
The Snake in the Christmas Tree
Alan E. Mays
Two versions of this "snake story" posted to alt.folklore.urban during the holiday season in 1995-96 document the circulation of this Christmas-time legend. Jan Harold Brunvand discusses variations of the legend in The Mexican Pet (1986): 114-16.
1. A young couple bought a Christmas tree, one of those young ones that is meant to be planted in the yard after the season. The roots were bound up in a plastic bag, and there was a big label saying, "Do not open bag." (Can you see where this one is going?)
After bringing the tree home and putting it up, the young man goes to take a shower. The young lady (ah, the folly of youth!) gets curious to see what, exactly, pine tree roots look like. She opens the bag, and a SNAKE SLITHERS OUT!!! (AAAAAA!!!) The young lady screams, and her husband comes running out of the shower, buck naked, and starts to chase after the snake to catch it.
In his exertions, he slips, falls, and breaks his leg. The terrified wife calls an ambulance, who comes to pick up the husband. As they are carrying him out on a stretcher with his naughty bits all exposed for the world to see, the snake decides to make a break for it. The ambulance guys drop the stretcher in fear, and the nude dude breaks something else (the storyteller forgot what). [Pam Wesely, firstname.lastname@example.org, alt.folklore.urban, 18 Dec. 1995.]
2. My wife heard this at her office, and it sounded so UL‑ish I just knew I'd find it here, but didn't. If anyone's heard this or similar, the satisfaction would be tremendous. Here goes:
Guy and his wife go on annual excursion to cut down live Christmas tree. They return home, tree in tow, and stand it up in living room. Guy is all dirty and sappy and goes to take shower. Wife sees garter snake emerge from tree and stands on chair and screams repeatedly. Startled husband races out of shower in his b‑day suit, is relieved to hear wife is only frightened of snake. He is on all fours at base of tree, looking for snake, when family dog wet‑noses him from behind. Man passes out from shock. Woman calls 9‑1‑1. Paramedics arrive, placing man on gurney. Snake again emerges from tree, startling paramedic, who knocks over gurney, spilling and breaking leg of unconscious guy. [Robert Renfrow, email@example.com, alt.folklore.urban, 12 Jan. 1996.]
More mall kidnapping stories
22 Lawson Road
Sheffield, England S10 5BW
My daughter, Mrs Sophia Thomas, a barrister aged thirty-one, told me the following story in London on 10 January 1997:
Two parents were in the Lakeside Shopping Centre and missed their little boy. The Centre has automatic grilles at the exits to stop anyone leaving. The grilles were closed and the store was searched. The little boy was found in the toilet, with two kidnappers who had already shaved off his hair and changed his clothes.
Sophia, who has a one-year-old child, fully believed this story and found it "chilling." Her husband, also a barrister, believed it too and commented on how well the crime must have been planned. The occasion of telling the story was a family funeral and Sophia had just hear it from a cousin, Mrs Anne Cottam, who in turn had heard it from a neighbour in Hertfordshire.
The Lakeside Shopping Centre is a shopping mall in West Thurrock, Essex, north of Gravesend, and I was able to speak to the Security Officer by telephone. He told me that a story matching mine had been circulating in the area since before Christmas; he himself was credited with having arrested the kidnappers! The mall had many enquiries, and the management and the police put out statements explaining that there was no truth in the story, for fear that shoppers would be deterred. Automatic grilles are unknown to Lakeside and to other malls.
Out of curiosity I rang another large shopping mall, Brent Cross in North London, to see if any version of the story had involved them; but the security officer I spoke to refused to discuss the matter, as he "didn't know who I was" and it was "extremely sensitive." I would guess that they have been troubled in the same way as Lakeside, and suspected me of being a reporter for one of the tabloids.
Back home in Sheffield on 12 January, I told the story to my lodger, Mlle Gisèle Gourdon. She had spent Christmas at her home in Fayence, Provence, and there she had heard a similar story from her mother, a village housewife of about fifty. Gisèle is twenty-five, has two degrees and is working for her PhD. She too was kind enough to set the story down in a letter which, in my translation, follows:
[Having heard about it] I went to Mme Iehl to get the story of the kidnapped child. It's a true story, not a myth, and often happens in superstores, where security depends on closing off the exits immediately, because attempts at kidnapping take place very quickly without anyone being aware.
On 16 December 1996 Mme Iehl went to Nice Airport to buy tickets for her grandson, and then went shopping at Cap 3000 [a shopping mall] at St Laurent du Var, which is where it happened! A mother who had put down her purchases at the checkout noticed that she'd forgotten butter, and sent her little daughter back to get it, a child aged seven. Scarcely five minutes later, as the little girl hadn't come back, she became worried and reported it. The checkout girl gave the alarm, and all the exits were immediately closed. After a search, the little girl was found asleep in a changing-room, but with her hair cut short and wearing different clothes. The child was all ready to be taken away, but since the exits were closed faster than they had anticipated, the kidnappers didn't finish their work. It is not only in France that these kidnappings occur.
In a later telephone conversation Mme Gourdon said, additionally, that Mme Iehl had been in Cap 3000 when the incident occurred. Contacted by telephone, the security staff at Cap 3000 said there had been no such incident and they had never heard the story.
This account illustrates once more the power of myths (especially those which play on our fears) to make themselves believed, even by those with well-trained minds, and despite improbabilities: the benefit (never questioned) of locking the exits, when the missing child might have strayed outside; the seven-year-old who submits to the kidnappers' attention without creating a disturbance and then falls quietly asleep. Mme Gourdon has been more reluctant than the others to give up the story. My daughter was "very relieved" to be able to reject it.
Gillian Bennett tells me that such stories have been circulating for about twelve years, boosted by the case of James Boulger. The broad pattern of the story is much older. The kidnapping is often the work of groups perceived as alien, for example, Arabs, and Mrs Bennett believes the traditions go back to the stories told about Jews in the Middle Ages. It is interesting that the "privy" features in one such story, Chaucer's Prioress's Tale, as the "toilet" does in the story circulating today.
Goat-lore in South Africa
News of a talking goat was the main topic of conversation in the Township bordering on the city of Port Elizabeth in the south-eastern Cape. About 2000 people gathered at the local police station waiting for a goat to come out and speak to them.
When a reporter from the local newspaper spoke to Inspector Tulbagh Totshi, he said that on a Monday morning in late November 1996, he heard that residents of Seyisi Township were following a goat that could speak. Residents identified the goat as Xolani, originally a man who had not paid money he owed to traders from other African countries and on whom the traders had then cast an evil spell. Xolani turned into a goat.
Apparently, so the people said, the traders could do this. Some residents thought the story tobe a hoax while others claimed to have heard Xolani, the goat, speak.
Sergeant Linda Cimi from KwaZakele Police Station went to the house where the goat lived to try and settle the crowd. He spoke to the goat, but the goat did not reply.
Inspector Totshi said he was forced to take the goat into protective custody as people were throwing stones at it and the police feared for its life.
The people claimed that the goat was speaking Xhosa (the local language) and demanded to hear it speak. They continued to gather at the police station until after dark but the goat had already been removed by the poice to a place in Zwide where goats are bred. this was so that the goat might feel comfortable among its own kind.
[PH: There is a strong local legend in Newfoundland of "The Mobile Goat," supported partly by a popular song in the 1960s: "Are you digging 'em, Dillon? Are you digging 'em deep? -- I’d be diggin lots more if it wasn't for you, you rotten, stinking goat." The gist of the story is a man digging his potatoes thinking only a goat is nearby; the priest quietly comes on the scene, asks the questions, and gets the answer.]
Lucky funeral guest
Time magazine carried a journalistic inquest into the widely distributed story last fall of the guest at the Madrid funeral who later discovered he had inherited a fortune (FTN40-41: 9) under the headline, "Talk of the Town: Madrid: A New Urban Myth?" 21 October 1996, p. 10. Time notes the admission the previous week by a German journalist that she had changed some of the names to protect the anonymity of the people to whom the events really happened. Time sniffs its nose. [Thanks to Brian Chapman for copying the story.]
Some recent versions of The Arrest
On 14 March 1997 a discussion was begun on the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban by an anonymous poster (firstname.lastname@example.org) about the story that Jan Brunvand called The Arrest (in Curses! Broiled Again, p. 101-103). Brunvand dates the story's burst of popularity to 1986 and has variants from Connecticut, Washington, Ottawa (Ontario) and Reading (England).
There were several follow-ups to the posting by email@example.com, including those included here. For those who would like to investigate it further, the thread title is "Drunk Driver Story."
I heard this years ago so it might be a bit sketchy. A man is pulled over by the police and given a sobriety test by the cop. He passes it, though he is drunk. He then gets back into the car and drives home. A few minutes later there is a knock on the door and the guy answers it to find a policeman standing there. The policeman asks if the man has been home all night, to which he replies "yes" to avoid any post-incident breathtesting presumably. "Could I take a look at your car ?" the officer asks. Not wishing to arouse suspicion the man agrees. When he opens his garage the original police cruiser is sitting there; he had got into the wrong car and driven off. Please confirm or deny.
Barbara Hamel Mikkelson (firstname.lastname@example.org) responded on 16 March with a bibliographic citation:
It's an urban legend, and a well‑loved one at that. You can find it in Brunvand's Curses! Broiled Again (pp. 101-103).
On the same day, Jim Cassidy (cassidy@Starbase.NeoSoft.COM) responded with another version:
I heard a version of this on [the American radio programme] "Paul Harvey" about 10‑12 years ago.
The incident happened on the New Jersey Turnpike. The guy was pulled over for drunk driving, and while the officer was questioning him, a traffic accident happened a short distance away. The officer told him to wait in the patrol car, while he went over to work the accident.
After about 15 minutes or so, the guy got behind the wheel and took off. He got home, parked the car in his garage, closed the garage door and went inside. He told his wife to tell anyone that asked, that he had been home all day, and laid down on the couch and went to sleep.
After about 2‑3 hours (I wonder what took them so long), the police showed up. He told them he had been home all day. They asked to see his car, and when the opened the garage door, there was the cruiser, with the lights still flashing.
Ichabod Crane (email@example.com) responded on 17 March:
I think I saw that as a plot line on a rerun of the Adam 12 television series, which would date the UL back to the late 60s or early 70s.
It's worth noting that Adam 12 was directed and produced by Jack Webb, who also produced/directed Dragnet. Dragnet had a great habit of using ULs as plot lines, I remember seeing several LSD ULs used as plot lines. At the end of each Dragnet episode, the announcer said "What you have just seen is true -‑ the names were changed to protect the innocent," furthering the vectoring potential. It's not surprising since Dragnet always tried to teach moral lessons to its viewers, and what better way to moralize than through an urban legend!
And on 19 March an anonymous poster (firstname.lastname@example.org) posted a version he seemed to place some faith in:
I think I can add to this thread though I don't know where one goes from here. [...] I talked to a local PI [private investigator] and he tells the same story [as Jim Cassidy's]. He says it happened about 7 years ago on the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge. The man was from Yonkers and was represented by an attorney named Lou Vigglotti from either Poughkeepsie or Wappingers Falls, NY. Also, it was a police agency from Jersey.
In turn, Zepherus99's response brought some a.f.u.-typical snickers, this one from Charles William Dimmick (email@example.com) on 22 March 1997:
Obviously a copycat crime from someone who heard it on Paul Harvey and decided to try it himself. Or, since you say it happened about 7 years ago (1990?) he could have read about it in Brunvand's Curses!, published in 1989 by Norton, where the whole incident is detailed under the title "The arrest."
Can't Keep a Good Dog Down
Floating around the internet in mid-April 1997 was the time-honoured story of the playful dog who fetches his owner's dynamite. It appeared in several place including on the Skeptics' Discussion List (firstname.lastname@example.org) where it was posted by Jonatan Colvin on 15 April 1997 (received via Bill Ellis). A few days earlier it had appeared on the Christianity Discussion List (email@example.com), posted by Tim Rolfe along with a story of life raft thieves caught when the automatic locator was activated when they inflated their prize; and another about a man who flew higher than he expected when he tied his lawn chair to a bunch of weather balloons. Rolfe writes he got them from a friend who got them from her son, and that he knew nothing of the attribution beyond that. The dog story, as posted by Rolfe:
A young couple buys a new Jeep Cherokee for Christmas and drives it to visit relatives in Michigan. The guys decide to go duck hunting. So they load up the Cherokee with decoys, food, beer, guns, warm clothes, etc. and head off for the lake. The lake is frozen solid, so they drive out on to the ice and prepare to use stick of dynamite to break a hole in the ice for the decoys. One guy lights the fuse and throws the dynamite out onto the ice. Their well‑trained Labrador Retriever dashes out onto the ice and, just as he's always done before, picks up the "stick" in his mouth and runs back to the group of guys. They start yelling at the dog but, as he's played fetch so many times before, he just keeps bringing the stick back to his master. One of the guys thinks fast and loads his shotgun, and shoots the dog. The bird shot doesn't hurt the dog much but he's confused. The guy shoots the dog again. The dog gets scared and runs, dynamite in his mouth, under the Cherokee. BOOM! The Cherokee is now at the bottom of the lake. The insurance company won't pay up because it was destroyed due to an illegal use of explosives. The first payment of $475 was due December 15. Only 59 more to go...
Bill Ellis with thanks to Jan Brunvand's Baby Train, p. 235 : This story is approaching its centennial celebration. An Australian author, Henry Lawson, wrote a short story titled "The Loaded Dog," ca. 1899, which the San Francisco author Jack London cheerfully plagiarised as "Moon-Face" (or perhaps they just heards the same oral story?). Both have the over obedient retriever and stick of dynamite.
Cybersex Surpriser Surprised
Bill Ellis passes along the following text received from Rosemary V. Hathaway (firstname.lastname@example.org) in late February 1997. Along with the text was an array of headers indicating it went through many other hands. [I have edited the text's spelling and punctuation to make it more readable It is quite long in the original, almost nine hundred words, and I have also taken the liberty of shortening it. If someone would like the complete text, please contact me - PH]
Subject: Just Imagine
Normally when I hear embarrassing stories about my friends I chuckle and let it pass. However when my friend at CU Boulder wrote me about her embarrassing experience, as sick as it was, I could not help but become hysterical. I know, with the sick sense of humour my friends have, that ya'll would appreciate this as well. I asked my friend if I could write it up and she didn't mind if I didn't use her name. -- Amanda.
An anonymous girl, Jen, is a college junior in Colorado. Like all students, she is wrapped up in the partying and the wildness college life offers. Jen is a computer science major so when she's not out having a good time, she's working her butt off designing programs and installing software.
After breaking up with her boyfriend, she was home alone one Friday night for the first time in three years. She was sad, alone, and depressed, so she decided to get onto a chat line. Being the wild psycho she is, she got onto a sex line where she met a guy who identified himself as Jeremy. She started playing with him saying her name was "Katie" and going into detail about what she would like to do to him with her tongue. He responded by telling her to picture being naked while his hands ran over every square inch of her body. Soon they were having cybersex and she agreed to meet him on the line the following night. They continued like this for a week. They became close, exchanging their lives. Jen didn't tell Jeremy she was in college; she felt guilty but she really liked this guy. This went on for a year after which they had exchanged the most intimate thoughts, but had never even spoken on the phone.
So they planned to meet in Vale, Colorado. Jen didn't want the hassle of having to find him, so she said, "Why don't you just get the room and we'll meet in the room? That way there will be no mistake."
Jen showed up first, and checked into the room, telling the desk lady to hold the key for the next party. She lit candles, put on music, and climbed under the covers to surprise Jeremy. Soon she heard someone walk in and she whispered, "Jeremy." Jeremy said, "Katie?" He turned on the light to see Jen naked on the bed. The next thing heard were two blood-curdling screams. Jen covered herself up, and with her most humiliating voice said, "Dad?" and Jeremy said, "JEN!!!" Think of what you would do in this situation ... Now realise this really did happen. Their lives will never be the same.
Bill Ellis: The only place I've seen this story is in an early twentieth or late nineteenth century "white slavery" propaganda tome that Bill Thompson had in his collection of moral panic literature at the University of Reading, England. In that version it's a Victorian epicure whose thing is sex with pre-adolescent girls, whom his contact provides him by kidnapping them off the street. One day he comes into the hotel room provided for the purpose and finds....
Philip Hiscock: I heard a similar story in the mid- to late-1970s when a friend, Gord Butler, passed on a story he had heard at work in St John's, Newfoundland, in a Canadian federal government department. I recently asked Gord to retell me the story. He said "an old guy" at work had a friend from Corner Brook (about 500 miles west of St John's) who had to visit St John's on business. When he checked into the Holiday Inn he asked the desk clerk to help him by procuring a hooker. "A short time later, someone knocks on his room door, and lo and behold, it was his daughter, who was going to University in St. John's (and of course did not know he was in town)."
A New Shergold: Jessica Mydek
In late January and early February 1997 a chain letter text was circulating by fax, photocopying and email to the effect that an imminently moribund seven-year-old girl named Jessica Mydek had asked the American Cancer Society (ACS) to sponsor her desire for a chain letter campaign. According to the chain letter the ACS agreed to give three cents for every name that appeared on the chain letter.
Much discussion regarding the invalidity of the appeal was sparked in alt.folklore.urban and news.admin.net-abuse. The ACS response is posted at http://www.cancer.org/chain.html and I reprint it here:
Fraudulent Chain Letter
The American Cancer Society is greatly disturbed by reports of a fraudulent chain letter circulating on the internet which lists the American Cancer Society as a "corporate sponsor" but which has in no way been endorsed by the American Cancer Society. This letter appears to have started on America Online but has now spread well beyond the online service. There are several variations of this letter in circulation, including one which has a picture of "Tickle Me Elmo" and one that is essentially a paraphrase of the letter below. The text of the original message reads as follows:
LITTLE JESSICA MYDEK IS SEVEN YEARS OLD AND IS SUFFERING FROM AN ACUTE AND VERY RARE CASE OF CEREBRAL CARCINOMA. THIS CONDITION CAUSES SEVERE MALIGNANT BRAIN TUMORS AND IS A TERMINAL ILLNESS. THE DOCTORS HAVE GIVEN HER SIX MONTHS TO LIVE.
AS PART OF HER DYING WISH, SHE WANTED TO START A CHAIN LETTER TO INFORM PEOPLE OF THIS CONDITION AND TO SEND PEOPLE THE MESSAGE TO LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST AND ENJOY EVERY MOMENT, A CHANCE THAT SHE WILL NEVER HAVE. FURTHERMORE, THE AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY AND SEVERAL CORPORATE SPONSORS HAVE AGREED TO DONATE THREE CENTS TOWARD CONTINUING CANCER RESEARCH FOR EVERY NEW PERSON THAT GETS FORWARDED THIS MESSAGE. PLEASE GIVE JESSICA AND ALL CANCER VICTIMS A CHANCE.
IF THERE ARE ANY QUESTIONS, SEND THEM TO THE AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY AT ACS@AOL.COM
As far as the American Cancer Society can determine, the story of Jessica Mydek is completely unsubstantiated. No fundraising efforts are being made by the American Cancer Society in her name or by the use of chain letters. Furthermore, the email address ACS@AOL.COM is inactive. Any messages to the American Cancer Society should be instead sent through the American Cancer Society website at http://www.cancer.org.
This particular chain letter with its heartbreaking story appears to have struck an emotional chord with online users. Although we are very concerned that the American Cancer Society's name has been used to manipulate the online public, we applaud the good intentions of all who participated in this letter. We are pleased to note that there are so many caring individuals out there and hope that they will find another way to support cancer research. Jessica Mydek's story, whether true or false, is representative of that of many cancer patients who benefit daily from the efforts of legitimate cancer organizations nationwide.
Reported in Chuck Shepherd's View From the Ledge 60 [February 1997], p. 4, is an undated clipping from an unidentified newspaper. Headlined "Crime Tip," it reads:
That stranger knocking on your door asking if someone lives there may be a burglar checking to see if anyone is home. Report this suspicious activity to the police. -- Courtesy of Binghamton [New York?] Police Bureau.
15th ISCLR Conference
The International Society for Contemporary Legend Research (ISCLR) will hold its Fifteenth International "Perspectives on Contemporary Legend" Conference at Hotel Boulderado in Boulder, Colorado, 21 to 24 May 1997.
First held in 1982 at the Centre for English Cultural Traditions and Language at the University of Sheffield, England, these annual seminars have provided scholars with a forum for the exchange of ideas and an opportunity to keep in touch with current research in all parts of the world.
Participants have discussed so-called "urban" or "modern" legends, but also any legend or legend-like tradition that circulates actively at present, or that circulated in an earlier historical period. Periods discussed have ranged from the ancient to the modern, as up-to-date as Internetlore; cultures worldwide, from Africa and the Pacific Rim, to those of our own academic worlds have been examined.
The 1997 meeting will be organised as a series of seminars, at which the majority of those who attend will present papers and/or contribute to discussion session. Concurrent sessions will be avoided so that all participants can hear all papers.
If you wish to participate in the conference, please forward the conference fee of US$60.00 for ISCLR members (US$85.00 for non-members) to the address below. The conference fee will be waived for students currently enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate programme.
For further information contact:
Michael J. Preston, Department of English
Hellems 101, Campus Box 226
University of Colorado at Boulder
Boulder, Colorado 80309-0226 USA
The following is a tentative list of participants/titles in the 1997 Boulder Seminar on Perspectives on Contemporary Legend.
Baldwin, Karen. "`Acid Park' Origin Tale Aesthetically Assaults Outsider Artist's Whirligigs and Dream Trees: Local Legend News at Eleven"
Bar‑Itzhak, Haya. "Contemporary Saints' Legends in Israeli Society"
Bell, L. Michael. "The Folklore of Suppressed Inventions"
Campion‑Vincent, Veronique. "The Tell‑Tale Eye"
Cunningham, Keith. "`Some of My Colleagues, Best Friends, and Stellar Informants May Have Been Schizophrenics for All I Know': A Case Study of Legend Formation, Legend Performance, Psychopathology, and Culture"
Dickison, Rowland. "An Historical Look at Contemporary Legends"
Ellis, Bill. "The `Femme Fatale' Side of 'The Kidney Heist'"
Fine, Gary Alan.
Glazer, Mark. "Legend, Risk, and Cultural Reality"
Goldstein, Diane E. "`Please Send Your Used Rolodex Cards to The Muppet Wish Foundation, c/o the Hon. Newt Gingrich': Folk Parody, Generic Sensibility, Literalization, and the Contemporary Legend"
Grider, Sylvia. "The Haunted House in Literature, Legend, and Popular Culture"
Koven, Mikel J. "`Buzz Off!': Killer Bee Movies as Modern Belief Narratives"
Langlois, Janet. "`The Sweeter the Juice': Some Thoughts on Narratives of Racial Passing"
Lassen, Henrik R. "Timeless Structures?: Medieval Texts, the Contemporary Legend, and Recent Trends in Narratology"
McConnell, Brian. "Hey, Judge, Tell Me Another!"
Ringel, Faye. "The New England Vampire Belief: No Revival in Sight"
Sawin, Patricia E. "The 'Personal' in Narratives of Personal Experience with the Supernatural, a.k.a. Memorates"
Smith, Paul. "`Almost Identical....': An Analytical Approach to Contemporary Legend Texts"
Thomas, Jeannie B. "Touch Her and You're Dead: Cemetery Statues, Gender, Alterity, and Legend"
Tremblay, Marc. "The Incredible Journey of the `Chasse‑Galerie': The Story of a Legend that Refuses to Die"
Victor, Jeffrey. "Contemporary Legends and Moral Panics"
Virtanen, Leea. "The Foreigners in Finnish Contemporary Legends"
AFS Panel on Contemporary Legends in Medieval Contexts
In addition to the previously announced panel on orality and literacy, the Medieval Folklore Section of the American Folklore Society is sponsoring the following panel for the society's 1997 meeting, to be held 29 October ‑ 2 November in Austin, Texas. It is co-sponsored by the Folk Narrative Section of AFS. The deadline for submission of abstracts (1 April) has passed; it is included here for your information.
CONTEMPORARY LEGENDS IN MEDIEVAL CONTEXTS
Medieval legend texts have long been ignored by mainstream legend scholars, who hold ‑‑ rightly ‑‑ that folklore's significance depends on an understanding of its dynamic life in performance. The most common assumption underlying this neglect is that the crucial contexts of medieval legendry are irrecoverably lost. Persistent research, however, can lead to assumption underlying this neglect is that the crucial contexts of medieval legendry are irrecoverably lost. Persistent research, however, can lead to remarkably broad and deep contextual reconstructions. Focused studies of medieval legendry reveal more about legends' lives in tradition than do many contemporary studies of tales told today.
Please send queries or abstracts to Carl Lindahl. Email is preferred: CL3P@Poe.acc.virginia.edu. Or write c/o Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 145 Ednam Drive, Charlottesville, VA 22903.
THE CUTTING EDGE
Journals and Newsletters
Anomalies: l'Observateur des Parasciences is a quarterly French-language magazine devoted to discussion of UFOs, the paranormal, weird archaeology, and mysterious animals. It is available from B.P.57 -La Plaine, F-13244 Marseille, Cedex 01, FRANCE with a subscription rate of 140 FF.
No. 2 (janvier - mars 1997) includes articles on Atlantis, telepathy, mammoths, and Roswell, as well as an interview with Jean-Bruno Renard about apparitions.
Letters to Ambrose Merton: A Quarterly Folklore Miscellany. Taking up where Dear Mr. Thoms left off, Letters to Ambrose Merton similarly focusses on "current legend and rumour, photocopied jokesheets, contemporary custom, and popular belief." Sandy Hobbs and Gillian Bennett edited Letters through issue no. 6; David Cornwell took over for Bennett beginning with the seventh issue. Subscriptions are £7.50 per year; send payment to David Cornwell, Psychology Section, Department of Educational Studies, University of Strathclyde, Jordanhill Campus, 76 Southbrae Drive, Glasgow, G13 1PP, Scotland. In the last issue of FoafTale News, we summarized legend-related materials in three recent issues; here are notes on the four earlier issues (1-4) and the most recent issues (8 and 9).
No. 1 (Feb. 1995): Mark Moravec reports on food contamination rumours and child sexual abuse claims in Australia; Brian McConnell describes pub stories about sexual escapades; and David Cornwell and Sandy Hobbs provide an update on panics over child-abducting clowns in Scotland. Bill Ellis writes about a "suicide skit" at a scout camp in Hazleton, Pa., and Hobbs and Cornwell explore the origins of the term "howler" and related expressions (blunder, bull, blooper, etc.). Other topics include curry thieves, Good Times computer virus alerts, mystery beasts, and photocopylore. The issue finishes up with book reviews and a partial index to Dear Mr. Thoms.
No. 2 (May 1995): Hobbs and Cornwell continue their discussion of howlers; and Michael Goss sends in examples of howlers reprinted on cigarette cards. Sandy Hobbs notes that the memo on the wordiness of U.S. cabbage regulations now circulates as a complaint over the length of the E.C. directive on duck eggs. There's a selection of recent jokesheets, plus Jean-Bruno Renard's analysis of a racist, anti-Arab item of photocopylore dating to the 1970s. Additional topics: newspaper memorial announcements; more examples of the Good Times computer virus alert; and a "Barrel of Bricks" variant involving a toilet paper dispenser and a sensitive part of the male anatomy.
No. 3 (Aug. 1995): Véronique Campion-Vincent provides an extensive review of recent works relating to satanism rumours and panics; and Bill Nicolaisen sends in Scottish news items about satanism. Pauline Glavin supplies a clipping about an "urban myth" involving an infant who roasts in the sun on the beach while its parents are off drinking. Other reports deal with crocodile sightings in Paris suburbs, the beasts in Bodmin and other locales, a Craig Richard (vs. Shergold) card appeal, more Good Times, newspaper memorial verses, and man-made features visible from outer space.
No. 4 (Dec. 1995): Colette Doumenc investigates werewolf rumours in Mauritius. Other legendary topics include child-snatching clowns in Honduras, Procter & Gamble satanism rumours, legends about a frog sculpture at a French church, tapeworm as bosom serpent, stolen eyeballs, and the "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky" anecdote told about astronaut Neil Armstrong. Michael Goss provides more info on man-made features allegedly visible from outer space, and there is the usual assortment of humour: "Actual Announcements from Church Bulletins," Essex Girl jokes, and Manchester City Football Club jokes.
No. 8 (Dec. 1996): Rat in the cinema; eskimo snow words; ineradicable blood stains; saving crisps (chips) bags; the gerbil accident; and computer-transmitted jokes (including "true facts" and alleged excuse notes).
No. 9 (March 1997): V. Campion-Vincent on the (mis)use of contemporary legend scholarship by French historical revisionists; the hospital cleaner's plug; TWA flight 800 rumours; cop kicks hamster; child explains political economy in terms of domestic roles; horny burglars caught; Penguin's publicity hoax; pelican tries to take chihuahua; bonfires and the the pope; Orkney ritual abuse case; paper in Kabul; St Disen becomes St Denis again; university ghost in Belfast; and Manchester legend-jokes about footballers.
Fortean Times: The Journal of Strange Phenomena is published monthly. Available on newstands it is also available through subscription: US$59.40 p.a. Information is available tol-free in the USa 800-221-3148. In the UK, call 01454 202515. They also have a web site at www.forteantimes.com.
No. 94 (Jan 1997): articles on horse rippings and spectral soldiers; shorter items on Malaysian girls who inadvertently start fires in all they look at; Henry Kissinger's froggy voice; the lucky mourner legend; a pilot who saw his own family's car accident 300 feet below him and called an ambulance; Spanish tv running ads for the movie "Independence Day" causing a Welles-type panic; a report of the hospital plug unplugged by cleaner; the Toronto weeping Madonna (see FTN 40/41: 10); eleven items about lost rings found; and the usual asssortment of other strange phenomena.
No. 95 (February 1997): short items on a ghost in the British Library; a man who staged his funeral to overhear what was said about him; a note on Indian rope tricks and tricks of memory; Romanians unable to become priests due to insufficient penile length; a cougar in Missouri; cannibalism; lake monsters; vanishing and shape-shifting hitchhikers; a cross in a Tennessee church window; and the legend of the Well of the Heads, an old murder site in Scotland; not to mention more.
No. 96 (March 1997): contemporary legends in Ethiopia and Uganda of baboons and monkeys ganging up to kill farmers who have killed one of them in his fields; a German couple whose home became uninhabitable because a long-lived musical greeting card fell behind a cupboard; TWA Flight 800; spouses who vanish once their previous death is uncovered; a talking, bleeding, healing tree in Delhi; a python found in an apartment bathtub; a man killed by his own anti-burglary traps; Christians with stigmata; and a review of Smith & Bennett's Contemporary Legend Reader (Garland, 1996).
No. 97 (April 1997): a Warwickshire man spreads panic after seeing a clip from "Independence Day" on television; once again, the Romanians whose penises are too short for them to become priests (see No. 95, above); Warminster, Wiltshire, now the "UFO Capital of Britain"; three recent deaths of millionaires who lived as paupers; a follow-up to the lucky mourner with a quote from Jan Brunvand's Curses! Broiled Again!; a follow-up on the Egyptian rumours of aphrodysiac chewing gum imported from Israel; a man who accidentally killed himself by suffocation after a steady duet of beans and cabbage made him very gassy; and Amazon fishermen's tales of river monsters.
Catalogues and suppliers
The 1996/97 catalogue, The Paranormal/ Mind, Body, Spirit, published by Gazelle Book Services contains 62 pages listing publications on diverse topics ranging from Alchemy and Analysis of Character to Unexplained Mysteries and Vampirism. The address for Gazelle is Falcon House, Queen Square, Lancaster LA1 1RN UNITED KINGDOM.
Books and Monographs
Gail de Vos. Tales, Rumors, and Gossip: Exploring Contemporary Folk Literature in Grades 7 - 12. Englewood California: Libraries Unlimited, 1996; 420 pp; ISBN 1-56308-190-3. US$32.50 (US$38.50 outside North America). According to the blurb issued by the publisher this resource and reference book is meant as a guide for teachers and others working with older children. It looks at the genre of contemporary legend, focussing on La Llorona and The Vanishing Hitchhiker in detail, while discussing many other individual stories and related genres. Both ostension and the role of mass media are discussed.
We are interested in publications on any topic relevant to
contemporary legends, especially those in journals or from publishing houses not usually read by academics in North America and the United Kingdom. Forward references or offprints (if convenient) to Alan E. Mays, Heindel Library, Penn State Harrisburg, 777 W. Harrisburg Pike, Middletown, PA 17057‑4898 United States of America. English abstracts of works in other languages would be appreciated.
Curtis, Malcolm. "There's gnome place like home." Times-Colonist [Victoria, B.C.] 15 March 1997. [Postcards arrive at B.C. home after lawn ornament is snatched.]
Dutton, Ian. "Don't buy kosher tax scheme, tax officials warn." Times-Colonist [Victoria, B.C.] 11 March 1997, p. A3. [A flyer circulating in the Victoria area claiming there is a kosher foods tax which goes to a Jewish religious group; it urges taxpayers to make appropriate deductions on the tax return.]
Edmonds, Scott. "Bad drivers say the funniest things." Times-Colonist [Victoria, B.C.] 16 February 1997, p. C12. [A Canadian Press wire story originating at the Manitoba Public Insurance Corpration: the twelve worst excuses for accidents.]
Gibson, Jim. "This Town": More from tourists asking the darndest things." Times-Colonist [Victoria, B.C.] 9 May 1995. [Apochryphal tales of stupid things tourists say.]
---. "And the envelope, please..." Times-Colonist [Victoria, B.C.], 23 September 1995. [More apochryphal tales of tourists.]
---. "This Town: Tourists say funny things in Hawaii, Times Colonist [Victoria, B.C.], 15 March 1997. too." [Ditto. See also Martin Hanlon's and Scott Edmonds's articles.]
Hanlon, Martin. "Tourists as the darndest things." Times-Colonist [Victoria, B.C.] 8 February 1997. [Apochryphal tales of tourist stupidity. See articles by Jim Gibson and by Scott Edmonds.]
Heokman, Theodore B. "Focus on research: Do you think you can fool the breathalyser?" St John's, Newfoundland, Evening Telegram, 9 January 1997, p. 11. [Medical professor discusses the invalidity of "urban myths" that you can beat a breathalyser by holding a copper under your tongue or by chewing a certain brand of chlorophyll gum.]
Makeig, John. "'Beware losing kidney' message on 'Net holds no truth, police say." Houston Chronicle 11 February 1997. [Houston and New Orleans authorities deny kidney theif story passied around on the Internet. Warnings spawned parodies. See also article in this issue of FTN on recent kidney theft reports.]
Pertman, Adam. "Amid UFO talk, tourists land." Boston Globe, 5 July 1996, p., 8. [Tourism is on the rise near "Area 51," site of UFO reports near Rachel, Nevada in American southwest. Photos, including of a restaurant bar called the A'Le' Inn.]
Popham, Peter. "Is Boris Yeltsin dead? And if he were, would we know it?" The Independent 23 August 1996, p. 13. [Rumour in the summer of 1996 in the financial markets of Moscow that Yeltsin was dead, dead official reports he was alive and undergoing heart surgery.]
"Vampire cult tied to deaths: 15-year-old Fla. girl sought in fatal beating of parents." The Boston Globe 29 November 1996, p. A39. [AP story about police suspicions of blood-sucking teenaged murderers in Eustis, Florida.]
Wessing, R. "Rumours of Sorcery at an Indonesian University." J of Southeast Asian Studies 27.2 (Sept 1996), 261 ff.
Wilken, Duane. "Pull tab collection yields little. Times-Colonist [Victoria, B.C.] 8 March 1997, p. A11. [Canadian Press wire story: a Taloyoak youngster's collection of pull tabs saved for a wheelchair is not valuable.]
Thanks to Gillian Bennett, Gord Butler, Brian Chapman, Bill Ellis, Cynthia Hind, Lorraine Jackson, Martin Lovelace, Alan Mays, David Moores, Irina Ozernoy, Pat Parsons, Derek Roper, Sigrid Schmidt, Mike Wilson, and Irene Zadnik.
FoafTale News (FTN) is the newsletter of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research. We study "modern" and "urban" legends, and also any legend circulating actively. To join, send a cheque made out to "ISCLR" for US$25.00 or UK£18 to Paul Smith, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland CANADA A1B 3X8. Members also receive Contemporary Legend, a refereed academic journal. Most back issues of FTN are available from the Editor at a charge of US$3 each.
FoafTale News always welcomes contributions, including those which document legends' travels on electronic media and in the press. All research notes and articles are copyright by the individual authors who reserve all rights. For permission to reprint, contact them at the addresses given in the headnote of the article. FTN is indexed in the MLA Bibliography. Send queries, notices, and research reports to a maximum of 3000 words to the General Editor; send clippings, offprints, and citations to the News Editor. Text on disks is appreciated.
The opinions expressed in FoafTale News are those of the individual authors and do not in any necessary way represent those of the editor, the contributing compilers, the International Society for the Study of Contemporary Legends, its Council, or its members.
News Editor: Alan E. Mays, Penn State Harrisburg, 777 W. Harrisburg Pike, Middletown, PA 17057-4898, USA.
General Editor: Philip Hiscock, MUN Folklore & Language Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland, CANADA A1B 3X8.