No. 43                                                                                                                     February 1998

                                                               ISSN 1026-1001







Asbjørn Dyrendal: Satanism in Norway

N. Constantinescu: Money schemes in Romania

Mare Kõiva: Human sausages in Estonia

Brian Chapman: Garage doors and penile implants



Accents on accents

Daniel VanArsdale: Update on chain letters

How not to get that job

Internet sites on virus warnings

"No va" won't go

Site for sightings

Web sites for legends

"Bad Day" Reports



Bricklayer story on screen?

More and more on kidney thefts

Designated decoy

Scunthorpe censored

Conspiracy rumours : Diana's death



Brian Chapman: Punning names

Barbara Mikkelson: bodies under beds

Yorkshire AIDS Marys

Baby atop car

Raptor frighted

Stolen kidney in Brazil



Gyno-glitter redux

Contraceptive jelly mis-taken

Ann Landers tells tale of a chocolate bar

That awful package got stolen

Ship and lighthouse, 1939

Gorsky~Yablonski: First words on the moon

1966 red tape & taxes legend

Free ride to the mental hospital



"Feeling better, sir?"

Plunging cows in the press

B. Mikkelson: Racist-designer legends:  Tommy-wrought

Unwedding party





1997 Buchan Prize awarded

1998 Buchan Prize rules

Call for Papers:  Innsbruck ISCLR:

Call for Papers: Organ Theft at AFS

New home page on the Web for ISCLR



New MUNFLA finding aid for legends






       This issue of FoafTale News comes seven months after the last one.   Blame for such a delay might be placed on the Canadian postal strike in November and December 1997, but at best that would be an exaggeration.  The real reason is that my workload allows less time than before for the compilation, editing and production of FTN.   All blame for lateness rests with me!

       Please continue sending news, queries, research notes, clippings, calls for papers, or notes about local rumour and legend cycles to me for inclusion in FTN

       The postal address is FoafTale News, MUN Folklore and Language Archive,  Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8 CANADA.   The email address is


                                    Philip Hiscock




Media Constructions of 'Satanism' in Norway 1988-1997

Asbjørn Dyrendal 


       The promotion of stereotypical images of "Satanism" in Norway started late in the 1980s.  For a short time, the Norwegian press followed examples from England and the US in pressing claims of widespread Satanism in ritual abuse, but this unleashed few of the same reactions.  But at the same time as reports of "survivors" peaked in the early 1990s, the phenomenon of Black Metal "Satanism" reached the public, and soon teenage arsonists and killers made new headlines, constructing a new media image. [A few words about references and sources:  my clippings are less representative from 1993 onwards than for the years 1989-92, as the number of articles exploded in all kinds of media.  For the first few years, therefore, the references are pretty much exhaustive as my files go.  After this, most of the references are of the "for instance" kind.  More could often be cited, from the around 250+ reports I have, and certainly more yet if my files had been anywhere near complete.  For the years 1993 onwards, my files from conservative Evangelical paper Dagen are extremely incomplete.  Important strands of conservative Christian discussions are therefore missing, as I did not want to rely on faulty memory based on sketchy reading.]

       While the Satanism scare was circulating in the United States during the latter half of the 1980s, in Norway such topics could only be found in a certain kind of men's magazine that stressed "just the right mix" of true crime and female (semi]nudity.  Such publishers had been discussing Satanism for a few decades, but even there it was a rare topic.  Confined to the fringes of the media, it was considered more of a mainstream problem only among the clergy.  The Bishops' Conference treated the growth of "the occult," new religious movements and Satanism as convergent problems for the first time in 1978 (case 3/78), and revisited the topic regularly through the 1980s (cases 15/81, 30/84, 24/85, 18/89). 

       The Bishops' approach was cautious; Conservative Evangelical publishing companies and the similarly inclined newspaper Dagen were less so.  During the 1970s and 1980s several books on "the occult" and Satanism were published, chiefly by Hermon Forlag, which converged with Dagen's stories on the brainwashing effect of rock music and Satanic influence among New Age adherents.  Some biographies by alleged previous Satanists and occultists were also translated and published in Norwegian.  The first of these was Briton Doreen Irvine's From Witchcraft to Christ, released by a Pentecostal publishing company in 1974.  Irvine claimed to have belonged to a London "black lodge" that practiced a diabolical form of Freemasonry; later she allegedly joined a coven and became "Queen of Black Witches" before her conversion and exorcism.   The publishing of such books, which often leaned heavily towards millenarianism, saw a sharp increase during the latter half of the 1980s and the first few years of the 1990s.

       Actually, the first reports about Satanism and ritual abuse, cannibalism, etc., surfaced in reports from the United States in 1988 in Norway's second largest newspaper, Aftenposten (10 December 1988), and in an AP report that was sold to several large regional papers (27 June 1989).  The first of these stories mainly concerned the infamous "Geraldo" program, while the other contained material about a large police conference in Connecticut, and linked the Matamoros case with Satanism and satanic ritual abuse (SRA).  Both contained skeptical comments:  in the second Robert Hicks and Ken Lanning were quoted extensively.  Neither report made much impact.

       Still, during this same period the topic of Satanism and "the occult" became more interesting for the Norwegian mainstream press.  As the semi-serious tabloids rose to staggering (for Norway) figures in publishing, they moved more and more into the topical domains of the slick weekly magazines.  "Satanism" was one of these areas.  Starting as reports from the fringes, it soon became a legitimate news item.  In the process "Satanism" was constructed in several different manners, but the themes of teenagers, sex, crime and music came to dominate.

       Reports of indigenous Satanism hit the front page for the first time on a slow news day, 2 June 1988.  Norway's largest newspaper proclaimed "Devil-worshippers threaten the town," a story about two brothers who were threatening people, stealing from the church and "worshipping Satan at midnight-dances" in a small town in the western part of Norway (VG 2 June 1988).  In November 1988 the next report arrived:  a "Satanic chapel" was discovered in the town of Halden, in the southeast of the country, during a drug raid.  Pictures of a "Baphomet" (a goat-headed image of the devil popularised by the 19th-century occultist Eliphas Levi) adorned an altar, along with "ritual" knives, a skull, Tarot cards and other occult paraphernalia.  The house was frequented by young adults ranging from 16 to 30 years of age.  Some were arrested for possession of cannabis.  The follow-up on the next day was concerned about the fact that the Satanic Bible was available from book stores, something that came up again and again (VG 1/2 November 1988).  Only one of the "Satanists" from Halden was ever mentioned again.  As a Christian convert, "Lucifer" warned about Satanists and their occult activity against preachers involved in a revival (Dagen 10 March 1989).

       "Occult" and physical threats/assaults by (mostly) teenagers claiming Satanic beliefs continued to play an important role in news reports from 1988-1992.  The threat of "the occult" was mainly limited to Dagen, whose main concern focussed on the perceived cluster of Satanism/New Age/Rock music/backward masking/teen suicide.  It was, however, among the first to publish reports about the danger of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA).  The first reference to SRA is in a report from England dated 22 March 1990, reported both in Dagen and Dagbladet (Norway's third largest newspaper), but the initial "breakthrough" came in Dagbladet on 11 August 1990, when British freelance journalist Fred Harrison published a long piece on the English Satanic Ritual Abuse claims.  In an interview with psychiatrist Victor Harris, which contained all the usual details about secret Satanic mind control cults among the powerful, Harrison disclosed that he and Dianne Core of the British organisation "Childwatch" were also following leads to Norway.  Their book was published late the following summer.

       But by this time a Norwegian policeman had taken the media spotlight, with Harrison confined to a sidebar commending his bravery.  A long interview with a lieutenant of the Oslo police vice squad appeared in Dagbladet on 11 June 1991, definitively introducing the SRA mythos as a Norwegian news item.  The interview, illustrated with photos of crude graffiti, was based on a long article by the lieutenant in the internal magazine of the Oslo police (OP-nytt [March 1991]: 22-26), with details learned from a Satanism seminar in the Netherlands.  In both article and interview, he gave detailed gory descriptions of "satanic rituals" as well as long "checklists" to identify abused children, translated from unnamed "English and American sources."  He also gave a historical background for this "satanic revival," linking Satanism to the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) and the Church of Satan.  The only organisation known to exist in Norway is the OTO, which subsequently was linked (falsely) with sex crimes in many of the reports.

       And the police lieutenant added something more significant:  a Norwegian "case."  An unnamed woman in her twenties was said to be "continually remembering more of her participation in the Satanic-ring" during therapy.   At least two Satanic "rings" were operating in Oslo, she claimed, which, the newspaper alleges, the police were about to uncover.  The story exploded into the media the following days, with headlines like the following:

"Sex and black magic in secret lodges" (Dagbladet (12 June 1991)

"Sadistic sex magic with 14-year-olds" (Dagbladet (12 June 1991)

"Police take action against Satanists" (Dagen (12 June 1991)

"Eva escapes from Satanic meeting" (Dagbladet (13 June 1991)

"Increasing interest for Satanism in Norway" (Dagen (15 June 1991)

"Satanism is hatred of life" (Vårt Land (19 June 1991).

The story also made its way into television but the material for developing the story further was sparse.  With few further disclosures, the papers soon were forced to rely on pictures of satanic graffiti, interviews and articles about "the occult," accomplishing a sort of linkage by assimilating any kind of "Satanic" activity to the lieutenant's story.  Teen Satanists' engagement in violence, discovery of alleged "ritual" sites, and the like were interpreted partly in the context of his claims for a while.

       This assimilation of Satanism into a generic threat composed of "the occult," drugs, brainwashing, and ritual human sacrifice almost made its way into popular culture as well.  The theme of Satanism had of course been used several time in crime novels, but remained unconnected with the 1990s SRA theme.  In May 1994, a movie thriller with the working title of "Set," including all these elements, was reportedly being cast (Aftenposten 6 May 1994).  The manuscript was said to be based on "available accounts" and sponsored by public funds.  (The movie has still not been released.)

       Reactions to the lieutenant and his "survivor" were mixed.  Shortly before the story broke, a group of Norwegian journalists and skeptics affiliated with CSICOP published the first issue of their magazine Skepsis, with "Satanism -- a media scare" as the front page theme.  They followed up with harsh criticisms of the journalists and experts involved in interviews, features and public debate (Klassekampen 13 June 1991, Dagbladet 17 June 1991, Journalisten 21 June 1991, Vårt Land 29 June 1991).  Nor were they alone.  Other skeptical voices were raised (Dagbladet 15 June 1991) among them one of Norway's most publicly active academics, anthropologist Jan Brøgger (Aftenposten 22 June 1991).  Many of the critical replies were based on knowledge of English and American developments, and also cited similarity to witch beliefs known from history and anthropology as a reason for more skeptical inquiry.

       Such criticism may have caused some doubts, but the theme of "organised Satanism" and ritual abuse continued as the dominant interpretative frame in the media (Dagbladet 3 August 1991, 20 October 1991, 23 February 1992).  More "survivors" came forward in response to the news, as Core/Harrison and the police lieutenant cooperated in their quest.  Interestingly, though, during Norway's only "ritual abuse" panic, the Bjugn kindergarten case of 1992 and beyond, news reports contained no mention of Satanism, though they did mention the influence of Kee MacFarlane on the therapy used and interviewed Bill Thompson, a British criminologist with several papers critical of SRA claims.

       As summer 1992 hit Norway, allegations started again, this time compounded by the sudden "explosion" of young "Satanists" involved in various kinds of criminal behaviour, including assault, assault with a deadly weapon, desecration of graveyards, and possession of illicit substances.  Arson was hinted to be a "Satanic" act, the first church-burning taking place on 6 June ("6-6") 1991 (allegedly at 6 am, thus providing the third digit of the devil's number "666").  Several arrests were made late in the summer.  This competed as the central issue after the first criminal arrests, and took over more or less completely after January 1993.

       For a long time there was nothing approaching consensus as to how this phenomenon was to be interpreted.  For instance, in June a "ritual site," a grotto containing  stolen crosses and graffiti, was found outside Stavanger.  Bishop Bjørn Bue, approached for comment, saw it solely as youth activity (Stavanger Aftenblad 15 June 1992).  In August, though, he linked the same grotto to widespread organised criminal Satanic activity (Dagbladet 5 August 1992).  Sexual abuse of minors (girls of 13-14) by Black Metal musicians in Bergen (aged 17+) was mentioned, but never substantiated, and the case seems never to have gone to trial.  (One 17-year-old arsonist in Stavanger was later convicted of raping a 15-year-old girl.)  These reports were linked to the OTO and the police lieutenant's claims from the previous summer, rather than to the Black Metal scene (Bergens Tidende 14 July 1992).

       As adolescent "Satanists" attacked young evangelists in the streets of Kristiansand, and others were arrested for one of the several church burnings this summer, public interest exploded.  Over twenty newspapers and journals published editorials, interviews and analyses of the phenomenon (Vårt Land 3 September 1991).  SRA claims for the last time became a main issue.  In a burst of activity from 10-15 October 1992, Vårt Land produced a series of articles on the topic.  Five pages were devoted to a long description of alleged SRA survivor "Astrid" and the context of her story (the Norwegian scene, described by anonymous police and therapists, and British "true crime stories").  Also included was a long interview with Black Metal band-leader and store owner Øystein Aarseth, a.k.a. "Euronymous," soon to become the victim of Norway's most notorious "Satanic murder."  The journalist carefully pointed out that these kinds of Satanism are separate issues, but the juxtaposition of stories implied a link.

       The next days were devoted mostly to general debate on "Satanism," mostly as a sign of cultural crisis.  But Astrid's story was followed up in Vårt Land (15 October 1992) where it was still believed four years later (Vårt Land 20 January 1997, 18 April 1997). It was also followed up in  the general debate (Holmgang, TV2, 13 October 1992) and in a journalists' magazine (Journalisten 23 October 1992).  Nevertheless, claims of secretive Satanic cults involved in horrendous crimes began to fade into the background.

       The SRA mythos resurfaced briefly when two books were published, one on black magic in contemporary occultism (Karl Milton Hartveit, Djevelen danser, Gyldendal 1993), the other on ritual abuse in general (Eva Lundgren, La de små barn komme til meg, Cappelen  Debate on this issue, however, was peripheral.   Reports of SRA surfaced a few times more in general accounts of "Satanism," mostly as part of interviews.  Two long interviews with Core and Harrison appeared in a Christian journal (Troens Verden March 1992 and April 1992). There were also some articles in Aftenposten (5 September 1993, 25 June 1994, 15 August 1994), some skeptical reviews of the book on ritual abuse, and a few radio-debates (I participated in two of these).  TV2 aired a British documentary from Britain which promoted claims of a conspiracy that included the royal family.  Even the announcer was embarrassed.

       By 1993, the main perception of Satanism in Norway was controlled by the sudden high visibility of teenagers, mostly aged 15-18 years old (but ranging from 14 to 25), who were playing with the identity of being evil.  Sometimes they would claim to be Nazis, sometimes Satanists, sometimes Odinists, and at other points they would refuse any label other than 'evil,' spouting statements such as:  "We're not Nazis.  The Nazis only hated the Jews, we hate everyone."  Or, "We're not racists, we want all people to suffer."  Or, "If our music causes people to commit suicide, that's good.  It weeds out the weak." 

       They got the opportunity to air this philosophy when some of them also acted on it.  Starting with the attacks on young evangelists late in July 1992, the majority of stories about Satanism were concerned with Black Metal "Satanists" and their crimes.  During the period of 1991-1993, several people were beaten, some stabbed, at least one girl (aged fifteen) was raped, allegedly by two seventeen-year-old arsonists one of whom was convicted of a lesser charge, and two people were murdered.  The first was an adult homosexual who apparently enraged a young "Satanist" by propositioning him.  The second was Øystein Aarseth, a.k.a. "Euronymous," a major figure on the Black Metal scene, killed by his best friend, Varg (Kristian) Vikernes a.k.a. "Count Grisnakh."

       As the case went to trial, the murderer got plenty of attention.  His statements provided good copy, and gave Vikernes a perfect opportunity to promote his image as the prototypical "Viking-Satanist," although he had long ago abjured the label "Satanist," preferring "Odinist" and later "Nationalsocialist."  Vikernes seems to have been at least modestly successful, as he is still the subject of a lot of attention, and quite a few of the "Satanists" have cut their hair and joined the ranks of the growing neo-Nazi movement (Aftenposten 20 February 1995).  (Interviews with Aarseth and Vikernes may be found on the World Wide Web at

       Although people were attacked, it was mainly property that was damaged:  desecration of graveyards and burning churches.  Over the next three years around forty churches were set ablaze, most of them by young people identifying themselves with the anti-Christian image of Black Metal "Satanists" and inspired by the actions taken by others.  Initial doubts were dispelled, as churches continued to be burned, and "Satanists" down to the age of fourteen were arrested (Aftenposten 3 September 1993).  In some places, interest in alleged ritual sites approached panic, and anything unusual could be interpreted as signs of Satanic activity.

       The drive towards action was even larger among some church-goers.  Police and congregations several times kept nightly watch over churches with variable success.  Some of these churches were burned down at later dates, when watchfulness declined.  Not all were as conscientious as 67-year-old Victor Anderson, priest in the Trinity church in Oslo.  According to Aftenposten (8 June 1993) he armed himself with an axe and kept watch in the sacristy at night:  "If we are to survive as a cultured nation, society has to strike back at these Plebeians ("pøbelveldet")," said Anderson, a veteran in the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation's religious radio. 

       As in all such cases, media coverage varied widely in aims and quality, but as the interest approached panic-level, many of the papers delved deeper into the issue, and provided some genuine understanding by printing in-depth interviews of individual "Satanists" (Vårt Land 22 September 1993, 23 September 1993, Klassekampen 16 April 1994).  In addition, some provided calming statements:

"Satanism is no large problem" (Aftenposten 11 February 1993),

"The accused strengthens the church" (Dagen 23 February 1993),

"Arson sets congregation alight" (Aftenposten 3 April 1993),

"Exaggerated fear of Satanism among Christians" (Vårt Land 18 November 1992).

Music journalists hastened to separate the different genres of Heavy Metal from the extreme Death Metal subculture.  The majority of those involved in the Black Metal scene, they said, did not hold such extreme views, and of those few who did, even fewer acted them out (Dagbladet 29 January 1993, 1 September 1993).  For some of these papers, such depth served as a contrast to other parts of their coverage. And papers not selling on a subscriber base preferred headlines like:

"14-year-olds into Satanic groups," (Dagbladet 23 January 1993),

"Razzia at Satanist-Central," (Dagbladet 28 May 1993),

"Murdered by Swedish Satanist,"  (Dagbladet  11 August 1993),


"Worships Evil" (VG 22 January 1993).

           The number of church-burnings eventually declined and public attention dwindled, but the image of Satanism as a "youth problem" seems to have been firmly established.  During the phenomenon, two main interpretations were in competition.  The first consisted of cultural criticism directed towards either secularisation, the church, or both.  Some of these interpretations saw several factors, like rock, fantasy novels, role-playing games or several sorts of occultism as causing the trend of adolescent Satanism (VG 29 July 1992, 30 July 1992, Vårt Land 14 October 1992, Aftenposten 21 September 1993).

       Others were more interested in the poverty of experiential dimensions in the mainstream of the Lutheran church.  A priest on the conservative, pro-symbolism, liturgical wing of the church (Norway has a national, Lutheran church) wanted to bring back the church office of exorcist (Vårt Land 4 August 1992, Dagbladet 5 August 1992).  This sparked a semi-separate debate within the church on how to meet "Satanism." Most agreed that exorcism was not the answer (Dagbladet 5 August 1992, 16 August 1992, Vårt Land 6 August 1992, Stavanger Aftenblad 7 September 1992, Klassekampen 8 October 1992).

       Some Christians used (and still use) adolescent Satanism as proof of the failure of secularisation.  This was one of many strands of thought also covered by Karl Milton Hartveit, one of the most widely cited experts.  He stressed the religious dimension of Satanism among adolescents, and connected it closely to the ideologies of Crowley and LaVey.  But he also saw adolescent Satanism as connected more broadly with the secularisation of church and social life, and condemned the church for closing its doors to the brighter side of the occult (VG 6 August 1992, 23 September 1993, Dagbladet 23 September 1993, Hartveit 1993).

       Hartveit also expressed the second main interpretation:  that Satanic symbols and violent actions were used as signs of rebellion in a society where all other effects had been "used up" by previous generations.  Music journalists also favoured such an interpretation (Dagbladet 16 April 1994, Arbeiderbladet 22 January 1993, Skepsis  April 1994).  This interpretation is not necessarily opposed to the cultural criticism offered by clergy and occultists like Hartveit, but it was often offered as an antidote to the assimilation of Satanism with rock and fantasy genres, and located Satanism more narrowly as an extremist part of adolescent subculture.  Attempts to frame "Satanic" extremism within a larger perspective were often connected to other problems of adolescent extremism like the growth of neo-Nazism.

       While larger societal trends are rarely mentioned from this perspective, one trend was commented on:  as many of the people interpreting Black Metal Satanism narrowly were journalists, there was a tendency to frame extremist acts of arson and murder as part of a dynamic involvement with the media.

       One journalist wrote me: "Rock'n'roll Satanism existed as a peripheral subculture.  With the reports about 'bourgeois' Satanism [SRA, murder, conspiracy etc.], a picture of Satanists as dangerous was constructed.  Disturbed souls such as 'Count' Vikernes then got a free ticket to publicity."  With publicity and the first crimes, a spiraling process was started, the hypothesis goes, with different people competing for "street credibility" and being the "real Satanists," i.e., the most evil.  The media happily assisted in creating new headlines.  He concludes:  "To turn Jerry Rubin's saying around, 'We create reality wherever we go by living our nightmares.'"

       Other centrally placed observers seems to agree.  Attention begat action, and once the snowball was rolling, it became impossible to stop.  The stories became scripts for actions and created reality.


Postscript, December 1997:  The same police lieutenant  and former head of the sex‑crimes unit that brought SRA allegations into Norwegian headlines in 1991 had his own demons to grapple with, it seems.  This man was perhaps the primary source of the credibility of SRA‑allegations in the early 1990s, and a valued patron of the budding "Save the Children" movement in Norway.

       He is now under arrest for indecently exposing himself to his neighbours' daughter ‑‑ while her parents were videotaping him.  This led to a small avalanche.  The police found missing and stolen weapons at his place, dating back as far as 1977. Several other women came forward, and other investigations for indecent exposure were uncovered ‑‑ dating back to the 1970s in his home town up north.  The reason for his being removed from the sex‑crimes unit finally surfaced as well, as the police reopened the case in which he was alleged to have attempted rape on a handicapped woman (in a wheelchair) who came to his office to report abuse from her partner.

       In other news, a Swedish teen‑satanist is being investigated for at least one case of murder, supposedly inspired by Norway's infamous "Count Grisnakh," the murderer in turn inspired by news items about what "real satanists" did.

       So it goes.


Big Money, Great Expectations, Huge Delusions

Nicolae Constantinescu

U of Bucharest,

Blvd Metalurgei, Nr. 6

R-75576 Bucuresti


       Regardless of philosophical or moral standpoints, wealth has dominated human history from the early beginnings to the modern times.  In the old, traditional society, people's dream of getting rich found expression in beliefs, practices and legends concerning hidden treasure.

       Successful or not, "digging for gold" makes a stable point in treasure-hunting legends, functioning to give people good advice, and to help maintain moral standards (temperance, confidence in others, sharing good fortune and wealth with one's fellows, etc.).  The legends also worked against the disappointment of not reaching the gold, leaving a tiny window for new attempts to catch the "golden hen" (Constantinescu 1995, 107-111).

       This almost natural desire of overcoming poverty and getting rich took special shape in the new Eastern European democracies after the collapse of communism and the beginning of the free-market economy.  The "pyramid system" or "mutual aid games" spread at a fantastic speed throughout Eastern Europe, reaching a peak in Romania.  This financial "game" is based on a chain of depositors who contribute an unlimited amount of money and expect to receive in a short period of time (three to six months) the deposit multiplied a number of times.

       Known in Romanian as "Caritas," it originated in Cluj-Napoca, the main city of Transylvania, and attracted millions of Romanians from all over the country dreaming of overnight riches.  The prospect of quick riches found fertile ground in an impoverished population hoping to escape quickly from the poverty of forty years of communism and Ceaucescu's "golden epoch," and to enter in triumph the long-awaited and highly praised capitalism.

       The National Radio and Television service, with very few exceptions, took no stand in the debate.  But the private media immediately took stands for and against the Caritas system including on the front page of many Romanian newspapers.  Adevarul, an independent daily newspaper from Bucharest (the only one that regularly came to the Romanian department in Turku, Finland, where I held a teaching position) included at least one article almost every day for the whole month of March 1994 on the Caritas system.  The international media also showed some response.

       Caritas and its offspring ("Gerald," and "Norocul Zilei," for instance) were rapidly exploited for political reasons.  The media discovered or simply invented secret connections of party leaders, parliamentarians and other public figures with these fast-money enterprises.

       As expected, after a while (some six months or so) the "pyramid" collapsed to the disappointment of thousands of depositors and to the satisfaction of those who had consistently campaigned against it.  Its organiser, Ioan Stoica, became a hero, a quasi-legendary  character, a new Messiah, a Saviour of poor Romanians.  Some more radical critics directed their attacks against the new government:

We must conclude that guilty [of this phenomenon] are not the millions of people who, victims of a psychosis, stayed in line days and days at Caritas, but the power installed in country after December '89.  The state of public depression is, to a large extent, the 'oeuvre' of the administration which did not perform its duty toward the individual, its property, and its prospects of a new life."  (Ionescu 1994, 8)

          Two main channels reflected the process:  the private press and oral, person-to-person communication.  But these influenced each other to such an extent that it is very difficult to determine which mirrored which.

       The titles of newspaper articles about Caritas indicate the efforts of the newsmen to catch readers' attention, especially as the news overlapped with orally transmitted rumours.  Sometimes the "mutual aid game" was put in medical terms:  "The Caritas Syndrome" (Adevarul 1205, 12-13 March 1994), or "The Caritas Psychosis" (Adevarul 1215, 24 March 1994; see also Ionescu 1994, 8).  When the system collapsed, the main idea was that of death, of irreversible failure:  "Caritas -- A Dead Body, Stoica -- A Profiteer" (Adevarul 1196, 2 March 1994);  "Caritas Is Dead, Long Live Norucul Zilei" (Adevarul 1214, 23 March 1994);  "Gerald Breathless" (Adevarul  1219, 29 March 1994);  "Caritas in Deep Coma" (Evenimentul zilei 502, 17 March 1994).  There were also journalistic tricks such as the quick connection of other hot topics to the Caritas system, for instance, the crash of Soviet-made MIG fighters: "Caritas Crashes More Often Than MIGs," (Adevarul  1212, 21 March 1994).   The collapse of the Gerald game, based in Focsani, the capital city of Vrancea district, an area of seismic activity, was promptly presented as a natural catastrophe:  "Earthquake in Vrancea with Epicentre at Gerald" (Adevarul 1215, 24 March 1994) and "The Seism at Gerald Takes Size" (Adevarul 1216, 25 March 1994).

       An apocalyptic vision tangled with an atmosphere of mystery and despair.  A title like "The Day After Caritas" clearly alludes to the American thriller The Day After.  The idea of revenge was constantly repeated:  "Will the Other Depositors Take Revenge on the Happy Winners from Cluj?" (Adevarul 1210, 18 March 1994); "Gypsies Threaten to Abduct the Master of Caritas" (Adevarul 1206, 14 March 1994); "Uprising in Suceava against the Caritas Circuits" (Adevarul 1216, 26 March 1994); "Furious Depositors Besiege Caritas in Suceava" (Adevarul 1218, 28 March 1994).

       A first conclusion which can be drawn is that in every note, information, or short comment there is a narrative nucleus that can easily be transformed into a story.  On the other hand, all these press reports were preceded by and fed back into oral gossips and rumours.  The latter hold a privileged position in the "new paradigm of rumours among Romanians."  This type of rumour seems to be threefold.  Some assume that the circuit will last forever, giving reason for hope and optimism by the participants.  Others assert that the scheme will suddenly collapse -- a reason for fear.  The third category stressed that people working within the scheme (maids, doormen, bodyguards) were making more money than "honourable" professions -- teachers, for instance, thus suggesting reason for moral (and social) conflicts, as traditional social status and roles were disturbed (see S_ulean 1994).

       Rumours about people who cashed their original deposit eightfold were eagerly spread by the organisers of the system, who launched an aggressive defense by constantly reinforcing the main argument and raison d'être of the game -- hope.  The train transporting depositors from Bucharest to Cluj was named "The Hope Train."  The propaganda machine of Caritas enrolled sociologists, historians, writers, and journalists, who faithfully served the cause.  Special magazines and newspapers appeared, and even a whole book (Zamfirescu-Cerna 1993) was dedicated to it.  The authors use a very emphatic style characterised by an awful mixture of rhetorical clichés, totally unsuitable to the content  (see Zafiu 1994).  The title speaks for itself -- translated it reads, "The Caritas Phenomenon of the Salvation of the Romanians by Themselves."

       The great expectations of getting rich overnight kept the game alive for quite a while.  But eventually disappointment and deception took the place of unrealistic hope, and most of those who dreamt of getting their deposit back eight times increased, feared losing everything.  Mass deception was a more effective mode of narrative than individual gains.

       The reports of big winners were very few (except for the first depositors, who happened to be the organisers of the game, their relatives and close friends -- a rumour later confirmed by press reports), while the tragic stories about people who took their lives as they lost their money and property were carried more often both on written and oral channels.  The reports of those who committed suicide have never been officially confirmed, but such stories continued to circulate on a large scale.  Here is a sample:

Dumitru Calistu, 65 years of age, from the village of Roma, Botosani district, hanged himself in a barn behind his house.  The villagers assert that his suicide was a result of the fact that [he] had deposited at Caritas in Cluj 1.2 million lei [about US$750], which he could not retrieve.  (Adevarul 1197, 3 March 1994.)

In another case, a businessman who tried to kill himself had deposited no less than twenty million lei (about US$12,000) which he had borrowed from a bank.  Some other stories appear as personal narratives: 

After over 20 years of work in a mine, I managed to buy an apartment in Deva.  'Cause I'm ill and all my relatives live in Cluj, I decided to go to Cluj, to take care of my health.  So, I sold my flat for nine million lei (and deposited in Caritas), but now housing is so expensive that I cannot buy an apartment here....   I'm starving with my wife and my six-year-old daughter.  All I want is to retrieve my money, the nine million.  (Ion Papita, Cluj-Napoca.)

Some other people claim they mortgaged their houses or sold their property, hoping to multiply the sum eight times:

I sold my furniture to make a deposit in Caritas, but good fortune only strikes for rich.  Mr. Stoica was our God; now he is the devil on Earth. (Pauna Bisonescu, Evenimentul zilei 27 January 1994.)

           As can be seen, narratives of this type belong somewhere between reports, rumours and legends, their legendary character being provided by their function of informing, warning, and moralising the readers/listeners about the tragic consequences of the unwise act of playing Caritas.

       It is perhaps too early, and the items collected are too limited, for any definitive conclusion to be attempted; but the four classes of variables that, as Gary Allan Fine argues, inform legend and its use ("social structure, personal imperatives, situated dynamics, and narrative content":  Fine 1992, 5) seem to apply, in large measure, to the fortune-making stories generated by the Caritas phenomenon in Romania.

       The narratives (press reports, rumours, personal experience stories, and contemporary legends) that accompanied the fast-money system speak very clearly of a new social structure different from that of the traditional, village-like society.  It is a structure of new attitudes and mentalities, of new aims and means which people, on a large scale, share in hopes of overcoming the problems of a society in transition:  poverty, unemployment, inadequate legislation, distrust and suspicion, and the changes in social structure and moral values.

       If these very new, genuine forms of folklore have any impact, for better or for worse, on the reality that generated them, it remains to be seen.


Constantinescu, Nicolae. 1995.  "Digging for Gold: The Legend's Way."  In Livets Gleder, Om Forskeren, Folkediktningen og Maten.  En Vennebok til Reimund Kvideland, Vet & Viten as,  107-11

Fine, Gary Alan 1992.  Manufacturing Tales:  Sex and Money in Contemporary Legends.  Knoxville:  U Tennessee P.

Ionescu, Gelu 1994.  "Psihoza 'Caritas'," in Jurnalul Literar, Serie Nou_,  V: 9-12,  8.

S_ulean, Dan 1994.  "Noua paradigma a Ivonurilor la români," România Literar_ XXVII: 2, 3.

Zafiu Rodica 1994.  "Leul na_ional _i osta_ii s_i," România Literar_ XXVII: 1, 14

 Zamfirescu, Dan, and Dumitru Cerna 1993.  Fenomenul 'Carita' sau mântuirea românilor prin ei în_i_i.  Bucure_ti: Roza Vânturilor.




Bloodsuckers and Human Sausage Factories

Mare Kõiva



       In the mid-1960s, I was a schoolgirl in a small town in Central Estonia.  Some of the smaller rural schools had just been closed down, so our school expanded and began to operate in two shifts.  Secondary level classes were not over until eight in the evening so we used to go home in groups. Our way through the dark town was creepy and thrilling.  On our way we had to pass an ancient castle in ruins since the Great Northern War;  mysterious humming and indistinct sounds were often heard from behind its ditches and walls.  "Sots," we used to think at that time, although other possibilities could not be ruled out.  Ghosts, for example.  Or something even worse:  black cars (Russian Pobedas, as I remember) were said to drive around Estonia to kidnap people and drain or suck all the blood from them.  The drained bodies were said to be thrown by the roadside. 

       It was a serious thing;  we believed the stories.  Or almost believed. They were not very different from the stories that adults, especially women, told at work and play -- a mother killing her children for her lover, the blockade of Leningrad during World War II, robbers, suspended animation, etc.

       There were other stories, too.  Fairy-tale-like thrillers that would make your flesh creep, which no one would believe, but which provided a good pastime -- about red and blue hands playing the piano.  Or shock stories, like the one about the man with a golden foot, where someone's cold hands grabbed you while you were listening.

       Stories and beliefs about sausage factories are obviously a type of contemporary or "urban" legend and circulated throughout the former Soviet Union.  These legends are interesting in that adults and children tell them in different stylistic versions and forms;  another remarkable feature is the longevity of such stories.



       Among adults, bloodsucker and sausage-factory narratives are belief accounts, memorates, and sometimes legends.  In the children's tradition they serve as belief accounts, with an important role played by children's thrillers, some of which speak about sausages, hamburgers, pies or cookies of human flesh.  Thrillers are completely different from legends. 

       The term "urban legend" was introduced in Estonia in the 1980s though, in Russian folklore studies, it has never taken root.  Instead the genre that attracted attention was children's thrillers, the first classifications being made in the 1980s.  Psychologist M. Osorina and folklorist O. Gretchina from St. Petersburg distinguished a class of children's narratives called strashilka (from strashnaya istoriya, 'frightful story') (Gretchina & Osorina 1981: 101).  These are special children's thrillers with elements of folk tales and legends, urban legends, modernised versions of older legends and pseudo-thrillers.  They can be briefly characterised as folktale-like narratives, having much in common with folktales in their structure and motifs, while being combined with typical features of legends.


From urban legend to thriller

       On the border-line between urban legends and children's thrillers are the post-World War II narratives about sausages made from horse or human flesh, and about the black cars of the bloodsuckers.  These stories are more diverse in form than the children’s thrillers.  At the same time, the differences between the traditions of children and adults are more marked, and it is easier to track the passage of the belief (or belief account, respectively) into the children's tradition.

       As has been found out, play and belief are so similar to each other that often a man cannot be sure whether his fear is real or a mere playful simulation.  I believe that the stories about bloodsuckers and sausage factories were very real and taken very seriously in their time.  That fear aroused suspicion towards all kinds of strange officials and is reflected in several narratives in the Estonian Folklore Archives (Kõiva 1995, 313 ff.).

       Between the 1940s and the 1960s, an extraordinarily large number of stories about infanticide and various crimes that were all assumed to be true spread all over Estonia.  Their action was localised in and connected with Estonia's new industrial towns established after the war and where the inhabitants were mostly aliens, including Russians.  (Before World War II 90% of Estonia's inhabitants were Estonians; now around 60% are Estonians.)  Most of such stories are based on ancient legends (for example: mother accedes to her lover's demand to kill her child; ties him naked to a tree; a passer-by saves the child and takes his mother to the police station).

       The adult thrillers are induced by various social tensions, lack of information, uncertainty about one's existence, numerous unwanted bearers of alien traditions in the neighbourhood, and many other reasons.  On the other hand, the stories reflect factual crimes: people reported missing, murders and robberies, of which there must have been many in the post-war period.  Together with the stories about war-time events, black cars for arresting people, human experimentations and human blood collection by Jews and others, which were propagated by the KGB, served as starting points for the stories about sausage factories.  This variety in the tradition is closely connected with folklore known probably all over the former Soviet Union.  These stories may have been partly inspired by night-time deportations in the 1930s and later.  People were quietly gathered into black cars, and disappeared.  The trials of physicians and geneticists could also inspire and propagate such stories.  Large-scale epidemics and wars bring forth stories of cannibalism, so the sausage-factory stories spread in the former Soviet Union together with the narrative traditions about the war and cannibalism during the blockade and famine.

       In the narratives collected from adults, the borders between real events and fantasy are elastic and the transitions smooth.  In quite a few cases the incident is made more concrete and truth-like by added belief stereotypes and facts:

It was told that after the war there had also been blood-takers, blood-suckers in Tartu.  They had been dark men, but they had also had some Estonians in their company.  A blonde girl danced with a young man at a party and started to try how her ring would fit on the boy's finger.  And finally she left it there.  But later she phoned and asked him to bring her ring back.  The boy went but did not come back.  His family started to search for him and found him when half of his blood had been removed from his body and he had fainted.  But he still survived. [Tallinn, woman, 74 years old.]

            In the adults' tradition narratives about sausage factories are in the style of seriously believed legends.  The story line and composition are very simple: people claim to have been lured to the sausage factory or near it and either miraculously escaped or remained lost.  They mention a town or ruined street in a town where that kind of factory has been situated;  in most cases these are Tartu or the capital city Tallinn.

       Often the mode of presentation is emphatic:  the incident is described as a first-hand experience.  So, for instance, a woman with a university degree told her children how she, a young and healthy girl with rosy complexion, had been entrapped in Tartu.  She even saw the dreadful place, but escaped miraculously.  The following is another narrative told in the first person:

That was also in Tartu.  We went to buy cheap things.  We took our onions and went to Tartu.  A girl came, a young girl.  We say that we would like to buy some saccharine.  She says, 'Come with me.'

'How far is it?' -- 'Not far, by the Emajõgi.'

We went with her.  We peeped in from a door.  God, there were heaps of heads.  They had a sausage factory there.  Many children had been missing there.  They wanted to make sausage out of us.  We called the militia.  Only then the militia found out about that factory.  It was underground, in a kind of cellar.  A father recognised his daughter from her apron.  It was after the war, when sausages were made from human flesh.  A man found only the head of her daughter: a pink ribbon was tied in her hair.  [RKM II 395, 131/2 (2) < Võnnu khk., Lootvina k.  < pärit Võrtsjärve äärest -- Kadri Peebo < Aleksander Molodost, üle 70 a.  vana (1986)] 

In another story a man lures a woman to take milk in a strange house; the woman again escapes miraculously:

In Turu Street in Tartu there was a sausage factory after the war.  A friend of a friend of mine who had been at hospital in Tartu together with a woman who had escaped from there told me about it.  She had come to Tartu with a horse and cart from the countryside to sell milk in the market.  A man walked up to her and said that he would buy the whole barrel of milk if she just drove with the horse into his yard.  The woman drove in through the gate, but the man closed the gate at once behind her back.  The woman then understood that something was wrong and ran out through the wicket.  The man threw an axe into her shoulder.  But people came to her help and took her to hospital.  Then those sausage manufacturers were caught. [Tallinn -- woman, 74 years old.]

            In some cases such narratives have been complemented with comments on what exactly was made from human bodies:

My aunt also told us that soap was made from bones, sausages were made from bowels and human flesh.  And fat was used for making some kind of paste.  Scouring paste.  And this paste was said to give rich lather.  [RKM, Mgn.  II 3568 (13) < Otepää khk., Pühajärve k.  -- M.  Kõiva < Harald Asor, s.  1968 (1982) Lit.: M.  Kõiva (1989)]

            Such stories were not only told about towns but also about remote village farms.  Similar stories can be found in older folklore as well.  Usually they deal with farmers who catch travellers and rob them;  sometimes the criminal landlord salts his victims in a barrel, and the meat is used for eating or for feeding the pigs.  Slaying of travellers is an old motif that can also be found in Aarne-Thomson's catalogue of folk tales (AT1536;  for Swedish parallels see for example Ljungström 1995, 285).  The experiences of occasional guests who have stayed overnight in a house form the basis of many traditional legends (e.g., devils trying on the skin of a corpse, Aa S104 -- asking advice from a witch), fabulates and jokes.

       Egomorphic presentation -- first person narration -- has been analysed in folk tales and found to be more frequently used in certain types of narratives and by certain narrators (Viidalepp 1985, 69-82, Peuckert).  In the case of legends, the narrator's participation in the supernatural event defines the text as a memorate.  According to a common view legends are narratives, the veracity of which is not doubted by the narrators.  And yet, even here one may find fiction, humorous presentation and story lines that are not held possible or veritable by the bearer of the religious tradition (cf.  the Irish story-teller's opinion of the truthfulness of the beliefs about fairies, Lysaght 1995, 303).  Egomorphic presentation is very commonly used in the bloodsucker and sausage factory narratives:

In the time of flax-pulling we went into a house to stay overnight.  We were given a place to sleep on the kitchen floor.  The kitchen cupboard was closed.  We heard something dripping in the cupboard.  The hosts all went to sleep.  My mates got up and somehow managed to open the cupboard.  In there we saw a man hung up by his feet, his throat cut.  Put ready so that sausage could be made out of him.  That was in Metsküla village.  We quickly put on our clothes and ran away from that house in great terror. -- [Võnnu, man]

            In the adult tradition these stories are in the style of seriously believed legends or memorates.  In their analogous repertoire children use egomorphism only in very rare cases;  in most cases the narratives are timeless.  Their whole body of tradition is more diverse than the adults'.  Contemporary children's thrillers partly copy the tradition of adults -- they hold what they have heard to be historical truth -- but a part of them are much different from those that the grown-ups tell, despite being sources of inspiration and influence.

       The majority of children's narratives are based on the same motifs, but they are adjusted to suit the structure of a thriller.  Their composition is again reminiscent of primitive folk tales.  The story begins with breaking some taboo (the child steps on forbidden ground), but the taboo may also not be present and the narrative may begin with the initial formula Once upon a time there lived...  that determines the characters.  A child, unsuspecting and innocent, but bearing some peculiar mark (a name written on the finger-nails, varnished nail, a ring inscribed with a name), is sent out to do some shopping and encounters the evil character, a man/woman/mother hating his/her family.  Less frequently the main evil character may also be White Hand or Black Hand or some other character typical of thrillers.  The characters are not numerous: mainly mother, child, and abductor;  only rarely there are three children.  The sausage factory narratives differ from others of their kind in that they consist of a single episode;  thus they are shorter than a common thriller.  Factories of minced meat, hamburgers, pies or cookies are prevalent in the children's narratives, which leads us to believe that the stories developed in urban environment in the late 1960s or the 1970s.

A mother had a daughter.  She gave her child a ring as a birthday present.  Soon she sent her daughter shopping.  The daughter went along an asphalt road and disappeared underground.  Mother waited and waited, waited but her daughter didn't come.  Mother went and bought some minced meat.  At home she began to fry the meat.  Suddenly she saw the same ring in the minced meat.  Then she realised what had happened to her daughter. [RKM II 324, 243/4 < Nõo khk., Elva Keskkool -- Merike Pille, s. 1959 (1976)]

             Fantastic elements like underground tunnels, suddenly opening armchairs and streets, or names on fingernails are abundant;  only small children are likely to identify the story with reality.  Tests made with three- and four-year-old children show that even they are intuitively prone to look for a realistic explanation and that magic explanations are learned only gradually (Ro­sen­berg et al.  1994, 69).  At the same time, some adults seem to falter in their convictions when it comes to the paranormal and magic, and believe in the possibility of what is beyond common sense.  This explains the great popularity of the urban legends and other tradition bordering on them.



       As a rule, children do not believe such stories;  they are equated with thrillers which everyone can invent at will and which have no connection with real life.  They do, however, offer tingling emotions.  People remember that adults used to tell such sausage-factory stories very often, that they were believed and presented for believing.  The stories made a deep impression on children.  A recollection describes the narrating situation:

I know, it was in the 'fifties, I went to Tartu with my mother, and she knew a hospital assistant, and they were just building a new cinema across the river.  And then she showed us several houses where sausage factories had been.  They were ruins, as a rule.  [man, 50 years old]

           Old narratives may revive unexpectedly.  For example, after the take-over of the security service building in Tallinn in 1990 there were rumours that an enormous meat mincer had been found from the interrogation block in the cellar of the house.  For making minced meat out of the detainees, to be sure.

       Each period adds its own areas of interest to urban legends: rumours about kidnapping fair-skinned (Estonian) women in the southern Soviet republics, fear of new foods and drinks (Pepsi-Cola), mishaps at forbidden activities (stealing meat/calves from collective farms), etc.  Stories induced by social tensions and subconscious fears do not remain in the repertoire for long; they spread quickly and disappear as quickly.  They are closely connected with urban gossip and rumours.  Among these we can mention the post-World War II stories about horsemeat sausage or factories where sausage was made from human flesh, and black cars in which blood-takers moved around.  These stories presupposed a serious belief in what happened, and they balanced on the borderline between belief and doubt.



RKM -- Manuscript folklore collection of the Estonian Folklore Archives, started in 1945.

RKM KP -- Manuscript folklore collection of the Estonian Folklore Archives, contemporary folklore from 1992.

RKM, Mgn -- Collection of analogue recordings of the Estonian Folklore Archives, started in 1953.

Grechina, O.  & Osorina, M.  1981.  Sovremennaya fol'klornaya pro­za detey.  Russkiy fol'klor.  XX.  Leningrad, pp.  96-106.  (Contemporary folklore prose of children.  Russian Folklore)

Kõiva, Mare 1995.  Ja tegi ukse lahti.  Kõiva, M.  (toim.) Lipitud-la­pitud.  Tänapäeva folkloorist, pp.  306-324.  (And opened the door.  Scratchy-patchy.  Contemporary Folklore.)

Ljungström, Å.  1995.  1995.  The Shepherd Turns into a Vanishing Hitchhiker.  M.  Kõiva & K.  Vassiljeva (eds.).  Folk Belief Today.  Tartu, pp.  283-288.

Lysaght, P.  1995.  Traditional Beliefs and Narratives of a Contemporary Irish Tradition Bearer.  M.  Kõiva & K.  Vassiljeva (eds.).  Folk Belief Today.  Tartu, pp.  242-258.

Melnikov, M.  1987.  Russky detsky fol'klor.  Moskva.  (Russian Children Lore.)

Rosenberg, K.  & Kalish, Ch.  W.  & Hickling, A.  K.  & Gelman, S.  A.  1994.  Exploring the relation between pre-school children's magical beliefs and causal thinking.  British Journal of Developmental Psychology.  Vol.12, Part 1.

Viidalepp, Richard 1985.  Minavorm muinasjuttudes ja nal­jan­di­tes.  Rahvasuust kirjapanekuni.  Uurimusi rahvaluule proo­sa­loo­mingust ja kogumistööst.  Tallinn, pp.  69-82.  (Egomorphism in fairy tales and jokes.  From Oral Lore to Manuscript.  Studies about narratives and field work.)


Garage Doors and Penile Implants

Brian Chapman

Victoria, British Columbia, CANADA

       An old joke told by Dead Pool stalwart Bob Hope concerned his neighbour who had had a heart pacemaker implanted. The neighbour was delighted with the results. "The only problem," groused Hope, "is that every time he makes love my garage door opens."  [See Allan Fotheringham, "Cellular Phone Scare is Good News," Financial Post 4 May 1995.]

       I was intrigued to see that a story in a recent issue of the Weekly World News features a related motif, but its emphasis has shifted and the garage door has now become the agent. It will suffice to quote the lead paragraph of what is essentially an over‑elaborated joke: "Frantic pastor Frederic Nussman got a newfangled electronic penis implant to cure his impotence. And now, every time the neighbor lady uses her garage door opener, the minister's manhood leaps to attention!"  [Joe Berger, "Neighbor's Garage Door Opener Turns on Man's Sex Implant." Weekly World News 5 August 1997, p. 58.]

        Fortean Times (68:13) tells of a hapless Californian outfitted with a penile implant pitching a tent in his pants every time his neighbours use their electronic car doors.

       These jokes could have been independently invented; but if, on the other hand, there is a genetic connection, the switch of the opening of the garage door to cause from effect is puzzling. I can suggest one possible explanation.

       Focussed on the pacemaker, the earlier joke successfully functions in only one direction:  the device triggers the garage door.  The alternative version -- the neighbour clutches his heart in agony when the door is used -- isn't funny and lacks the requisite sexual element.

       But when the now commonplace pacemaker is replaced by the "newfangled electronic penis implant," the joke can easily function in either direction: 1) erection opens garage door; or 2) operation of door produces erection.

       If version #1 exists, I would expect it to predate version #2. Unlike the Bob Hope joke, its potential for a humorous reversal would be obvious.





Accent on accents

       Appearing on the LINGUIST distribution list in March 1997 was a discussion of crossed-purpose attempts in English to use plain ASCII codes for the accented and non-ASCII letters of languages like French and Spanish.  It has since been (frequently?) forwarded among many humanities discussion groups.  According to the discussion English-speaking (or -writing) emailers confuse the artefact of their earlier technology with an international standard, using the form their accent-blind computers translate accents into as if it were a preferred means of indicating accents.  Thus a word like French "resumé" gets written as "resumi," "resum=OF2," or "resum<130>."  Whether such mistakes are actually being made became the topic of discussion separately on the FOLKLORE discussion List 9 March 1997) and alt.folklore.urban (November 1997).



Chain Letter Project Update

Daniel VanArsdale

1017 W. Lime Ave.

Lompoc, CA 93436


Tel.:  805‑735‑8323


         A research note on early sources on chain letters appeared in FTN 39:5, June 1996.  Please continue to forward to me any email that appears to have been frequently forwarded by others.  Even repetitions of the same message are useful since variations may be present (especially in the subject field), and the number of examples received provides a rough estimate of the total number circulating on the Internet.  Also please send any paper chain letters (with date and place received) to the above postal address.  Postage will be refunded for contemporary "prayer" or "luck" chains.  If you have any old paper chain letters I will pay up to $20 for datable originals.  All suppliers of chain letters are acknowledged in the data base unless they request otherwise.

       With assistance from Dr. Michael Preston (University of Colorado), over 275 dated paper chain letters have been collected and digitised.  They include 65 with a date before 1960.  An annotated bibliography on chain letters is maintained which currently has 285 entries.  Over 300 examples of chain email have been classified and saved, complete with all forwarding messages.  Many chain letter texts and comments have been distributed on the Internet, especially on the University of Colorado folklore list (  Russian and Polish articles on chain letters have been obtained, and some have been translated by Ianina Tichenko of Kiev.  Dr. Jean‑Bruno Renard (Université Paul‑Valèry, Montpellier, France) kindly provided several French chain letters and important references.  Dr. William F. Hansen (University of Indiana, Departments of Classical Studies & Folklore) is gathering sources on "Letters from Heaven" ("Himmelsbrief") and is studying Latin, German, Danish and other foreign language material.   A book on chain letters is planned to contain a chapter on the Himmelsbrief by Dr. Hansen.  A final chapter will discuss the Internet replicators.  An article on the amazing 1935 "send‑a‑dime" craze is also in preparation. This was the origin of the money chain letters, as well as pyramid schemes and exchange chain letters (for postcards, recipes, etc.).

       The Himmelsbrief claim divine origin, promise miraculous protection for those who possess a copy, and often use threats and promises to encourage further publication.  They have circulated for at least 1500 years and may all derive from a single Greek source.  Traditional "luck chain letters" usually claim a human author (a saint, missionary, or officer) and all have copy quotas and deadlines for compliance. They first appeared around 1900 and probably derive from the Himmelsbrief.  Lottery and charity schemes may also have had an influence.  Our large sample of dated English language luck chain letters for this century reveals a succession of major innovations (or translations?) that completely replace prior forms and predominate for a decade or more.  Minor changes in content, such as a new title or postscript, may also replace prior versions.  The rapidity and completeness of this replacement process are difficult to explain, considering that perhaps over a million luck chain letters are in circulation.  It is challenging but usually possible to explain why a proliferating variation has a replicative advantage.  Some of these variations are whimsical or even accidental.  Thus chain letter history can be viewed as an evolutionary process that is independent of human control or awareness.

       Chain letters, in number and variety, are exploding on the Internet.  Neither threat of prosecution, pillory nor vigilante hacking has deterred the posting of illegal money schemes.  A recent automated search of USENET content produced over 14,000 matches for "chain letter."  Denunciations and parodies, many of them chains themselves, are almost as numerous as the offending messages.  Many Web pages feature, and oppose, chain letters. New categories of chain letters have appeared, such as hoax warnings of email virus, and parodies of these hoaxes.   However most Internet chains have derived from paper sources.  Further, new variations rapidly replace prior forms, as in the paper realm.  For example a common Internet luck chain letter now has an ASCII graphic of a single spear man.  It used to have three ASCII spear men, but I have not seen one like that for many months.  The single spear man is less likely to be disrupted by wrap-around caused by the accumulation of quote symbols. Thus technical, and social, features of the Internet environment have prompted Internet adaptations of the paper originals.  Prevalent Internet luck and money letters have, in just a few years, significantly diverged from their paper ancestors.

       I plan to issue about quarterly a small email newsletter on chain letters and replicative communication in general.  This will be flagged by "RepCom" in the subject field.  There is no cost or obligation to receive this.   The first issue will document the perplexing "rapid replacement" phenomenon noted above, and attempt to explain it by self‑organising networks.  Future topics may include:  the political use of chain letters;  motivational evolution of the exchange letters;  advantageous ambiguity in chain letters;  origin and evolution of pyramid schemes;  speculations on the future of replicative communication on the Internet;  replicative aspects of graffiti ; chain letters and mimetics;  legal aspects of chain letters in the USA;  Internet adaptations of luck and money chain letters;  micro‑evolution of paper chain letters;  chain letter evidence for mass fantasies of uxoricide; and  abstract evolution from a sampling perspective.  If you would like to receive "RepCom" please let me know by email.  Please state if you have a particular interest in any of the above suggested topics for RepCom, or any not listed.  All comments and criticisms are welcomed.  Finally, if you would like to receive a sample of Internet replicators as I receive them let me know.     Daniel VanArsdale.


How to Avoid Getting Hired

       In recent months a text has been circulating through the Internet that is reminscent of such past bits of photocopylore as "Excerpts from High School History Exams," "Real Accidents Reports" and "Applica-tions for Welfare."  Entitled similarly to the version published in Fortune (21 July 1997, p. 117), "Stupid Resumé Tricks: How to Avoid Getting Hired," most are unsigned.  In the Fortuneversion a header note is signed by Anne Fisher and gives as source an employment agency in Menlo Park, California, Robert Half International.  The texts include such excerpts from resumés and job interviews as "It's best for employers that I not work with people,"  "Am a perfectionist and rarely if ever forget details," and "Fisnished eighth in my class of ten."  The full text, sometimes attributed to Fortune can be found at several Web sites, including‑ and www.sweet‑‑05_News/-Hum_hire.html.


Some Web sites about viruses etc.

       A short discussion of the Good Times "virus" warnings appeared in Ron Collins' "Bits & Bytes:  E-mail has its ups and downs," Newfoundland Herald (26 April 1997): 118.  Included were four sites with information about Good Times and other "Internet hoaxes": and




"No va" = "It won't go"?

       A letter from Gabor Megyesi of Trinity College, Cambridge, printed in the IndependentWeekend, Sat 20 July 1996 debunked the claim that had been published the previous weekend that the Vauxhall Nova was unsaleable in Spain due to the translation of its name as "It won't go."  As Dr Megyesi explained, Spanish "nova" (meaning "new" etc.) and "no va" (meaning "it does not go") are pronounced quite differently.  In fact the Chevy Nova sold well in Spanish America.  He suggested a URL for more information.  The current version of it is:


Site for Sightings

       The Web site is a homepage for UFO and related news.  A recent visit to it (mid-January 1998) resulted in the following table of contents.  Many of these topics are of interest to legend researchers:

New 1998 Phoenix Mass Sightings

Nazi Saucers Described In Atom Bomb Classic

Frances Barwood's UFO Campaign Promise

New Sightings From India To Netherlands To The U.S.

Former British Home Secretary Said Visited By ETs

Near Disaster At Hanford Nuclear Plant

World Was Minutes From Nuclear War ‑ UK Almost Nuked

A UFO "Fender Bender" In Chile...Pieces Recovered

ACC Posts Startling New Transcapacitor Revelations

The Complete ACC Data Page

Biblical References To UFOs and ETs

GIANT ET Craft Emerges From Sea Next To Oil Rig!

Mad Cow & Kreutzfeld‑Jacob Disease Prions Defined

The Complete Mad Cow Disease Data Page

UFO And Shuttle In Near Collision? Sightings Everwhere!

Pens Linked To Hospital Deaths

Bird Flu Virus As Virulent As Spanish Flu Of 1918

Phoney Medicines Kill And Maim In Poor Countries

Mystery Sky Gel Full Of Bacteria & White Blood Cells

CDC Says Bird Flu Virus Is Stable

Gay Leadership Calls For Tracking HIV+ People!

Implants Approved For LA Dogs And Cats

Astounding ET Artifacts Found On Moon?

TWA Flight 800: The Truth

Moon Base Photo Said Seen By Top Security AF Vet!

LIVE Cam Of Mt. Etna Eruption!

Freak, Extreme Weather Wreak Worldwide Havoc

Flu Rolls On In U.S...Hospitals Maxed Out

Pentagon Wants To Give Unproven Vaccines To Public!

Former JFK Advisor Links USAF To Net Disinfomation

British Scientists Demand Cell Phone Warnings

Scientist Predicts 200,000 Human Clones A Year

Balloon Crash: AF Allows Live TV Coverage This Time!

Area 51 Workers' Toxic Waste Suit Slammed By Fed Court

Brazil Pilot Circles Giant Mothership 3 Times!

Goodbye Stereo Speakers and Loudspeakers!

New Call For Electro‑Medicine Research

Remarkable Report From Navy MP Who Saw Too Much!

Eminent Scientist States Mars 'Face' Is Real

Stunning Israeli UFO Evidence Emerging

Study Shows How An Asteroid Could Destroy East Coast

Australians Try To Evict Ultra Secret Pine Gap Base

Chernobyl Reactor Shell In "Catastrophic Condition"

Cylinder or Rectangle: An ET Encounter



Sites for legend sightings

       Since mid-1997 Jan Harold Brunvand has been "hosting" a web site for the CNN news network devoted to contemporary legends.  It is in the area at -- drop to the bottom of the page and under "Fringe" you will find the link to the "Urban Legend" section.  Contributors post stories they've heard, and near-legend experiences they've had, while Jan Brunvand comments and annotates.  Emailers known around the contemporary legend universe, like David "Snopes" Mikkelson, are some of the regulars.

       Snopes's own site is likewise a good area of the web for legend discussion:  Snopes operates both a bulletin board and a very prolific mailing list.


"Bad Day" Reports

       For some time, texts very much like the following have been circulating through discussion lists, email (including informal joke circles), and web page promotion.   It speaks for itself.  This particular text was taken from a web page at in January 1998 but is very nearly identical to a piece circulated through an informal joke circle in May 1997 and sent to me by Jane Gadsby, as well as to other frequently forwarded pieces circulating through 1997.  It probably originated somewhat earlier than 1997 if the included events' dates are anything to go by.  Note especially the classic contemporary legend motif in the last item and the sitting-up-corpse of Mrs Carson in the sixth item.

Having a Bad Day? Think Your Day is Going Bad?

Check These Out....

• A fierce gust of wind blew 45‑year‑old Vittorio Luise's car into a river near Naples, Italy, in 1983. He managed to break a window, climb out and swim to shore ‑‑ where a tree blew over and killed him.

• Mike Stewart, 31, of Dallas was filming a movie in 1983 on the dangers of low‑level bridges when the truck he was standing on passed under a low‑level bridge ‑‑ killing him.

• Walter Hallas, a 26‑year‑old store clerk in Leeds, England, was so afraid of dentists that in 1979 he asked a fellow worker to try to cure his toothache by punching him in the jaw. The punch caused Hallas to fall down, hitting his head, and he died of a fractured skull.

• George Schwartz, owner of a factory in Providence, R.I., narrowly escaped death when a 1983 blast flattened his factory except for one wall. After treatment for minor injuries, he returned to the scene to search for files. The remaining wall then collapsed on him, killing him.

• Depressed since he could not find a job, 42‑year‑old Romolo Ribolla sat in his kitchen near Pisa, Italy, with a gun in his hand threatening to kill himself in 1981. His wife pleaded for him not to do it, and after about an hour he burst into tears and threw the gun to the floor. It went off and killed his wife.

• In 1983, a Mrs. Carson of Lake Kushaqua, N.Y., was laid out in her coffin, presumed dead of heart disease. As mourners watched, she suddenly sat up. Her daughter dropped dead of fright.

• A man hit by a car in New York in 1977 got up uninjured, but lay back down in front of the car when a bystander told him to pretend he was hurt so he could collect insurance money. The car rolled forward and crushed him to death.

• Surprised while burgling a house in Antwerp, Belgium, a thief fled out the back door, clambered over a nine‑foot wall, dropped down and found himself in the city prison.

• In 1976 a twenty‑two‑year‑old Irishman, Bob Finnegan, was crossing the busy Falls Road in Belfast, when he was struck by a taxi and flung over its roof. The taxi drove away and, as Finnegan lay stunned in the road, another car ran into him, rolling him into the gutter. It too drove on.  As a knot of gawkers gathered to examine the magnetic Irishman, a delivery van plowed through the crowd, leaving in its wake three injured bystanders and an even more battered Bob Finnegan. When a fourth vehicle came along, the crowd wisely scattered and only one person was hit‑Bob Finnegan. In the space of two minutes Finnegan suffered a fractured skull, broken pelvis, broken leg, and other assorted injuries. Hospital officials said he would recover.

• While motorcycling through the Hungarian countryside, Cristo Falatti came up to a railway line just as the crossing gates were coming down. While he sat idling, he was joined by a farmer with a goat, which the farmer tethered to the crossing gate. A few moments later a horse and cart drew up behind Falatti, followed in short order by a man in a sports car. When the train roared through the crossing, the horse startled and bit Falatti on the arm. Not a man to be trifled with, Falatti responded by punching the horse in the head. In consequence the horse's owner jumped down from his cart and began scuffling with the motorcyclist. The horse, which was not up to this sort of excitement, backed away briskly, smashing the cart into the sports‑ car. At this, the sports‑car driver leaped out of his car and joined the fray. The farmer came forward to try to pacify the three flailing men. As he did so, the crossing gates rose and his goat was strangled. At last report, the insurance companies were still trying to sort out the claims.

• Two West German motorists had an all‑too‑literal head‑on collision in heavy fog near the small town of Guetersloh. Each was guiding his car at a snail's pace near the center of the road. At the moment of impact their heads were both out of the windows when they smacked together. Both men were hospitalized with severe head injuries. Their cars weren't scratched.

• In a classic case of one thing leading to another, seven men ages eighteen to twenty‑nine received jail sentences of three to four years in Kingston‑on‑Thames, England, in 1979 after a fight that started when one of the men threw a french fry at another while they stood waiting for a train.

• Hitting on the novel idea that he could end his wife's incessant nagging by giving her a good scare, Hungarian Jake Fen built an elaborate harness to make it look as if he had hanged himself. When his wife came home and saw him she fainted. Hearing a disturbance a neighbor came over and, finding what she thought were two corpses, seized the opportunity to loot the place. As she was leaving the room, her arms laden, the outraged and suspended Mr. Fen kicked her stoutly in the backside. This so surprised the lady that she dropped dead of a heart attack. Happily, Mr. Fen was acquitted of manslaughter and he and his wife were reconciled.

• An unidentified English woman, according to the London Sunday Express was climbing into the bathtub one afternoon when she remembered she had left some muffins in the oven. Naked, she dashed downstairs and was removing the muffins when she heard a noise at the door. Thinking it was the baker, and knowing he would come in and leave a loaf of bread on the kitchen table if she didn't answer his knock, the woman darted into the broom cupboard. A few moments later she heard the back door open and, to her eternal mortification, the sound of footsteps coming toward the cupboard. It was the man from the gas company, come to read the meter.  "Oh," stammered the woman, "I was expecting the baker." The gas man  blinked, excused himself and departed.




Bricklayer's story:  Laurel & Hardy?

Lars Hemmingsen

Department of Folklore,

University of Copenhagen

Copenhagen, DENMARK


Originally posted 27 April 1997 to the FOLKLORE Discussion List with the title, "Why Paddy's not at work" but slightly edited for FTN.

       While I was working with the (modern?) legend of "Why Paddy's not at work today," also known as "The Letter" (the up‑and‑down‑ with‑the‑rope accident so popular in modern Scottish and Irish ballads), an informant claimed to have once seen a Laurel and Hardy movie which used the story.  I have not been able to verify this.  If anyone can help me I will be glad to hear about it.

[PH:  Jan Brunvand (Curses! Broiled Again! NY: WW Norton, 1989, pp. 180-188) lists many published and recorded versions of the story, going back as far as 1918, with one tantalizing but probably fraudulent reference to the 18th century.  Brunvand does not mention a Laurel and Hardy movie and I don't know of one either.   But a similar scene appears in the 1930 Harold Lloyd movie, Feet First. The Lloyd character gets caught in the ropes of a window-washers' platform;  he goes up and down the outside of a high-rise building several times.

       A posting to the Folklore Discussion List by Eddie R McGuffin ( on 28 April 1997 pointed out the story is also used in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest:  A Novel (Boston & NY: Little Brown, 1996);  ISBN 0-316-92004-5.]



Evolving Kidney Theft

       In February 1997 the travel information column "Q & A" by Patrick Dineen in the Toronto Globe and Mail (8 February 1997, p. A13) carried a question from a reader wondering if kidney thefts really happened to people holidaying in "the south."  Dineen found it useful to check with the provincial organ exchange programme for their advice.  They debunked the rumour and he passed along the same advice to the reader.

       In July The Guardian (of London) included a short piece of four paragraphs about the recent flurry of "travel advisories" about kidney thefts.  The entire piece, entitled "Travellers beware" (10 July 1997, p. 10) reads as follows:

       There's a striking new example of an urban legend:  those terrifying stories, always happening to someone other than the teller, which prove to be fiction representing modern fears and what-ifs.

       A friend of mine who works for a big multinational was among the recipients of an e-mail to all employees travelling abroad.  It warned of the experience of a British businessman travelling in America who, after being bought a drink in a bar, wakes up naked in a bath full of ice with a mobile phone on the rim and the message written on his chest, "Call 911."  The emergency services, thus contacted, ask him if he can feel a wire behind his back.  Yes, he could.  In that case, the medics explained, his kidneys had been removed by professional organ-brokers.  The hapless traveller is now, apparently, waiting in intensive care for a transplant.

       Research reveals that this e-mail scare story is now rife in London companies with foreign operations.  Yet it is merely the latest version of an urban myth about the alleged risks of foreign travel, in which increasingly terrible consequences follow for a corporate whizzkid from a spiked drink. In the first (1950s-1970s) draft, the traveller wakes naked in the main square minus all his money.  In the second (1980s), plied with champagne by a beautiful woman, he wakes to find "Welcome to the Aids Club" scrawled on the mirror in lipstick.  In this (1990s) rewrite, he comes round to total renal failure.

       The stories simply dramatise the preceived dangers of abroad and the perils of success.  In the latest version -- in which the organ thieves are often identified as Mexican -- the tactics of the poor against the rich have even reached as far as body-pilfering.  The myth is interesting as an example of middle-class neurosis, but you would have to have swallowed quite a few spiked drinks in a foreign bar before believing that it really happened.   [Thanks to Paul Smith.]

The traditional broadside song, "The Dance on Peter's Street" (aka "Shirt and Apron," Laws K42) examplifies a nineteenth century version.  The recently-paid sailor in a foreign town meets a woman at a dance and spends the night with her.  He wakes up accompanied only by his hangover:  she, his clothes, his watch, and all his money are missing.  He walks back to the ship clad in her clothes. - PH



Kidney Theft on Television

Norine Dresser

       I was not alert enough to remember the exact title of the show  ("Weird _____" ) on American cable television, but about 15 April 1997  I saw an news item attempting to convince viewers about the realities of kidney organ thefts.  The patient was lying on his back in a hospital setting to show the scars where the organ had been surreptitiously removed.

       Naturally, I tuned in towards the end of the show and was thus caught off guard and away from some writing tools.

       Anyone else report seeing it?

[PH:  I received no other report of this show, but perhaps other readers saw it.  Please let us know if you did.]



Child Theft, Kidney Theft

Derek Roper

22 Lawson Road,

Sheffield, England S10 5BW



       Further to my "Shopping Mall Kidnappings" note in the last issue of FTN (42: 10-11), I heard more versions of the story in Belgium in early  April 1997.   In one, the story was set in a local, named superstore which has lost many customers as a result of the rumour.  My highly‑educated hostess completely believed the story when a neighbour rang her up with a "Have you heard . . . ?"   In another, it all happened at EuroDisney.   In some versions the child is found with a kidney or other organ missing.   My friends told me that Time had published a piece on stories of this type late 1996 or early 1997.



Designated Decoy

Philip Hiscock

MUN Folklore & Language Archive

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St. John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8 CANADA

       In North America it became popular about a decade ago for police officials and bar owners to encourage groups of drinkers to make one of their party the "Designated Driver" for an evening's activities.  The Designated Driver would not drink alcohol during the evening and would drive all the party home.  It became common in the mid- or late-1980s for bars to offer free non-alcoholic drinks to Designated Drivers.  It seems to have faded somewhat out of public consciousness since then and I haven't heard of publicity campaigns about Designated Drivers or free-drink programmes in some years.

       Then in September and October 1997 came a flurry of reports of drinkers using the designation as a way to allow drivers to drink.  Brian Chapman of Victoria, B.C. has sent two clippings from the Victoria Times-Colonist ("Snippets: stranger than fiction," 25 August 1996 and 21 September 1997, p. C2 ).  The later one gives as source the Waco, Texas, paper Tribune-Herald and places the event at "a particularly rowdy bar on the outskirts of Waco."  It seems likely to be the version that fostered the following flurry.  The earlier one, by more than a year, shows no skepticism and places the event at "a notoriously rowdy bar" in Vermont. It gives as source the Rutland, VT, Herald.  The Waco version (September 1997) reads:

       We don't know if this one's true, but we liked it anyway.  A police officer was staking out a particularly rowdy bar on the outskirts of Waco, Texas, for possible violations of the under-the-influence laws.  Watching from his squad car, he saw a fellow stumble out the door, trip on the curb and try 15 cars before finding his own and promptly falling asleep in the front seat.  As the evening progressed, the owners of other cars left the bar and drove away.  Finally the sleeper awakened, started his engine and began to pull away.  The police officer pounced, waved him to a halt and administered a breathalyser test.  The results showed a 0.0 blood-alcohol level.  The puzzled officer demanded to know how that could be.  the driver replied, "Tonight , I'm the designated decoy."

The August 1996 version from Vermont differs in interesting ways:

It was a sting with a difference. Police in Vermont were staking out a notoriously rowdy bar for possible impaired driving violators.  One policeman watched from the squad car as a fellow stumbled out the door, tripped on the curb and tried 45 cars before opening the door to his own and falling sleep on the front seat.  One by one, the drivers of the other cars drove off.  Finally, the sleeper woke up, started his car and began to leave.  the cop pulled him over and administered the breathalyser test.  hen the result showed 0.0 blood-alcohol level, the puzzled policeman asked him how that was possible.  "Easy," was the reply, "Tonight was my turn to be the decoy."

Versions of the story were posted to Internet newsgroups starting in the second week of October.  The earliest of these, dated 9 October 1997, bore the marks ("<<") of having been quoted from somewhere else, but the source is not given.  The text was posted to the Usenet newsgroup soc.culture.vietnamese under the subject title "It's Thursday" by Nga Ngo (nga@us.itd.umich).  The internal title and text were as follows, including the "smiley"  :) at the end, indicating a certain skepticism on the poster's part.


       Staking out a notoriously rowdy bar for possible drunken drivers a policeman watched from his squad car as a fellow stumbled out the door, tripped on the curb and tried 45 cars before opening the door to his own and falling asleep on the front seat.

       One by one, the drivers of the other cars drove off.   Finally, the sleeper woke up, started his car and began to leave. The policeman thought "Now I have my chance, I'm gonna get him.   He ran over to the car, pulled the driver out of the car and forced him to take a Breathalyzer test to determine the level of alcohol.   When the results showed a 0.0 blood‑alcohol level, the puzzled policeman asked him how that was possible.

       "Easy," said the man, as he smiled from ear to ear. "Tonight was my turn to be the designated decoy"!   :)

       No skepticism seemed apparent in the versions of the story that appeared the following week in newspapers and on radio "light news" reports.  A placename was given in most of these reports:  Dartmouth, Nova Scotia was reported by one, Bangor, Maine by another heard in the St. John's, Newfoundland area.  The number of cars tried by the staggering man has varied from report to report.

       Another version turned up as a joke contributed to The Newfoundland Herald (8 November 1997: 136) by N. Richards of St. John's, Newfoundland.  In it, no place was named and only five cars were tried by the stumbling driver.   A search of the WorldWide Web showed the story being used on at least a half-dozen personal pages in December 1997.



Scunthorpe's problem

Michael Wilson 

Drama Dept., Exeter University

Exeter, England UNITED KINGDOM


       This weekend [in April 1997]  I met up with a colleague from Scunthorpe and I told him the only story I knew about the place.

       A headteacher I know  at a primary school just outside Grimsby is a radio ham and has set up a transmitter at the school so that the children can communicate with people all over the world.  He told me that a friend of his from Scunthorpe had had terrible problems with his station name.  Apparently all his messages were getting blocked by the 'censor' who was identifying keywords to stop pornography being transmitted across the airwaves.  Scunthorpe, of course, has the letters C‑U‑N‑T consecutively placed in it.  The ham in question had to change his address to the hyphenated Scun‑thorpe.

       I told this story to my colleague, who said that he had heard the story several times himself within Scunthorpe, but relating to the Internet.  It seems that people had had email messages blocked for exactly the same reason.  His suspicions were immediately raised since, unless you are some kind of government organisation, town names are generally not included in email addresses.  There is, however, a well‑known local joke in the town about "who put the cunt in the Scunthorpe"!  It all sounds like a case for the legend‑spotter!

       [PH:  This question, of whether or not America On-Line and CompuServe were censoring messages that failed their text-filter tests, was a matter of discussion on various Usenet groups through 1995 and 1996.  The town of Scunthorpe was the main example (along with the apparent problems of breast cancer groups):  filters were looking for any naughty word in an effort to "protect" children and adults with sensitive ears or, rather, eyes.

       The local joke in Scunthorpe reminds me of a Newfoundland legend.  It is said to have taken place in a "woods camp" where men working for the big lumber and paper companies would be in residence for months at an end with little or no contact with the outside world.  The cooks were not known for their culinary ability, and neither for their friendly acceptance of criticism.  One of the responsibilities of the foreman in a camp was to keep his men in good will.  In the crowded camp one night the foreman heard someone call the cook a "cunt."  He immediately stood up and asked, "Alright.  Who called the cook a cunt?"  Someone else called out, "Who called the cunt a cook?"]



Conspiracy Rumours: Princess Diana's death

       An Associated Press wire story (printed in the St. John's Evening Telegram, 27 December 1997, p. 16, as "Conspiracy theories abound about Diana's death") claims the Arab world is seething with rumours of Diana's being murdered.   Two recent books are noted as being conduits for the rumours.   One is Ahmed Atta's Assassination of a Princess.  Another is Ilham Sharshar's Diana, a Princess Killed by Love.  A movie (The Last Supper) is being considered by director Khairi Beshera.  All three suggest that Diana was killed by British intelligence agents because she was about to convert to Islam.



            LEGEND AND LIFE


Punning Names

Brian Chapman 

Victoria, British Columbia



       You asked if I knew of anyone who had a punning name like Crystal Chanda Lear.  The following is taken  from "Remembering a great name in radio," by Allan Fotheringham, The Financial Post, 10: 76 (June 1997), p. 17:

As a hobby [long-time CBC radio host Clyde] Gilmour invented SVEFNAP ‑‑ the Society for the Verification and Enjoyment of Fascinating Names of Actual People.  He had high standards, as always.  Actual proof of the names had to be supplied.  Among a number of ridiculous names ‑‑ Sexious Boonjug, Addylou Ebfisty Plunt, Zilpher Spittle, Dunwoody Zook, Fice Mork, et al ‑‑ discovered by the members of SVEFNAP is Polly Wanda Crocker [who] lived at Shingle Springs, Calif.



The Body Under the Bed

Barbara Mikkelson 




       As much as this story of a smelly corpse hidden in a hotel bed shouldn't be based on anything other than fiendish imagination, there have been at least a handful of real life instances of it.  Far from being apocryphal, dead bodies get stashed in the box spring or the bed's pedestal more often than you'd want to believe.  What's more, a fair number of them are discovered days later... and only after the next tenant complains about a persistent and disagreeable odour in his room.

       In each of the following cases not only were bodies discovered under hotel beds, but it was investigations of the smell of decomposition that led to their discoveries.

       In July 1996, a woman's body was found under a mattress in the Colorado Boulevard Travelodge in Pasadena, California.  Apparently the motel's staff discovered her ten days after her demise and only after guests had complained for several days of a foul odour coming from that room.

       There were two stashed‑and‑smelly body cases in Florida in 1994.  In both instances the next tenants in those rooms were German tourists, further adding to the confusability of the stories.   In August 1994, in Fort Lauderdale, the hotel's staff discovered the body of 47‑year‑old Bryan Gregory tucked under a platform bed.  Though they themselves had noticed the strange smell for days, they only set about looking for its source after a German couple spent the night in that room and afterwards complained about the odour.

       In March, 1994, the body of 24‑year‑old Josefina Martinez was found underneath a bed at the Traveler's Hotel near Miami International Airport.  Again, the discovery was prompted by an aggrieved German tourist upset about a foul odour in his room.

       In Virginia in 1989, Jerry Lee Dunbar disposed of the remains of two victims this way:  27‑year‑old Deirdre Smith, who was discovered in May under the floor of a motel room on Route 1, and 29‑year‑old Marilyn Graham, who turned up in June under a bed in the Alexandria Econo Lodge. In Smith's case, the killer first kept her body partially hidden under his bed for two days, then subsequently placed it in the crawl space under the carpeted floor.  Her presence seemingly didn't bother him, because he didn't move out of that room until three or four weeks later.  Both girls' bodies were eventually found after other guests complained about the stink.

       In a Mineola, New York, motel in 1988, a body turned up in a boxspring.  The remains of 29‑year‑old Mary Jean DeOliviera were found at the Oceanside Motel.  Again, the body was discovered days later and only after other patrons complained about the smell.  At least two other guests unknowingly cohabited with the body before it was found, and at least one guest refused to stay in that room because of the smell.

       Here's a change of pace ‑‑ not a murder, but a death by misadventure.  In Rosedale, Maryland in 1987, an unidentified man died of a drug overdose after one of the thirty‑four balloons of heroin he'd swallowed burst.  His partner stashed the corpse under their motel bed, then split.  Three days later, the family the room was next rented to complained about the odour, and this led to the body's discovery.

       There are, of course, numerous other cases of dead bodies being left under hotel beds, but I've chosen not to report on these because I think one of the key elements of the legend is the presence of the horrible smell and complaints about it leading to the corpse's discovery.  What gives this contemporary legend its chills‑down‑the‑spine gruesomeness is the body's being found only after an unsuspecting traveller spends the night sleeping above it.  That clearly happened in at least some of the cases I've mentioned and perhaps in others where the news reports stated only that hotel guests had complained without specifically mentioning which guests.

       Urban legends tend to localise to where we believe they likely would have happened.  It's easy to understand how in each of the versions Brunvand relates in his 1993 Baby Train, Las Vegas was named as the city where the corpse reposed, for Vegas is indeed viewed as Sin City, USA.

       Much easier to believe that the unsuspecting traveller shared his room with a mouldering corpse in Las Vegas than it is to place the occurrence (rightly) in small‑town New York, Virginia, or Maryland.  Especially when dealing with a half‑remembered true story, it's natural for the "obvious" details to replace facts that have been misplaced due to ordinary fuzziness of memory.  One, after all, does not let a lack of facts stand in the way of a good story.

       Though a real‑life instance of this legend might have taken place in Vegas and I've just so far not found it, I think it more likely that the legend Brunvand started hearing in 1991 was based on a real happening in some anonymous little place and that the location of the tale was later changed to Las Vegas.  Keep in mind that the Deirdre Smith (1989, Virginia), Marilyn Graham (1989, Virginia), Mary Jean DeOliviera (1988, New York), and John Doe (1987, Maryland) cases antedate 1991.  Gruesome finds like these tend to get heavily reported on, and that certainly happened with Smith, Graham and DeOliviera.  (The cites listed on my web page at don't begin to do justice to the coverage these discoveries received ‑‑ each of these deaths was definitely reported on by more than a handful of papers across the USA.)  Because of that widespread coverage, I lean towards this legend's having sprung to life out of a true story whose location got shifted from Your Town, USA (where only nice people live) to Sin City (where both life and room rates are cheap).

       So, look ye under your hotel beds if there be a peculiar smell you can't account for....

       Some of the sources for the foregoing are:

                                                                                    Boccella, Kathy.  "Motel Murder Arrest,"  3 September 1988, Newsday (Nassau and Suffolk), News (p. 3).

                                                                                    Clark, Jayne.  "Attention‑Grabbing Highs, Lows of Year,"  1 January 1995, Pittsburgh Post‑Gazette, Travel Section (p. H1).

                                                                                     Davis, Kevin.  "Corpse Found Under Motel Bed,"  18 August 1994, Sun‑Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale),  Local (p. 3B).

                                                                                    Davis, Patricia.  "Man Pleads Guilty to Slaying at Va. Motel,"  28 November 1989, The Washington Post,  Metro (p. E5).

                                                                                    Logeman, Henry G.  "Hempstead Man Convicted of Killing Woman," 8 June 1989,  U.P.I.  Regional News.

                                                                                   Sharfstein, D.  "No Longer a UL!"  1 August 1996,  Pasadena Star News.

                                                                                    "German Tourists Unwittingly Sleep with Decomposing Body,"  19 August 1994,  Agence France Presse,  International News.

                                                                                    "Woman's Body Identified,"  19 March 1994,  Sun‑Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale),  Local (p. 3B).

                                                                                    "Hotel Guest Finds Body under Bed,"  13 March 1994, The Times‑Picayune,  National (pg. A2).

                                                                                    "Maryland News Briefs,"  4 August 1987,  U.P.I.  Regional News.


 Yorkshire AIDS Marys

       The 21 December 1997 issue of The Guardian Weekly ("UK News - In Brief," p. 10) carried the following short item.  Presumably the daily Guardian had a longer piece on the matter:

       Mass Aids tests are being carried out on soldiers at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire following fears that two women have been infecting soldiers with the HIV virus.



Baby atop car

       An Associated Press newsstory was distributed just before Christmas (and published in the St. John's Evening Telegram, 22 December 1997, p. 17 as "Baby survives tumble from top of moving car"); it is very similar to legends in circulation.  The story, datelined Tinley Park, Illinois, tells of a two-month-old child accidentally left in his car seat atop the car when the mother drove away.  The car travelled eight kilometres before the baby fell off, still unnoticed by the mother.  A passing truck driver (the only person named in the story) saved the child from the fates.



Another raptor story

       On 19 January 1998 the local Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television station in St. John's, Newfoundland, CBNT carried a news item in its supper-hour news programme, Here and Now, about a Notre Dame Bay man who had recently checked his rabbit snares.  He was carrying home a rabbit when he came upon an eagle flying towards a tree with a large fish in its claws.  Both man and eagle were about equally startled by the encounter.  But it was the eagle that dropped its prize, a codfish of about five or eight pounds.  Cod-fishing is almost entirely outlawed these days, so the man was pleased to have a few meals of a rare food.  [See stories in FTN36 (January 1995): 9;  37 (June 1995): 13-14.]


Stolen kidney reported in Brazil

       An Associated Press wirestory carried in the St. John's Evening Telegram, Weds 21 January 1998 (p. 20) was entitled "Parents accuse doctor of stealing kidney."  The same story was carried the same day in other papers, for instance the Victoria, British Columbia, Times‑Colonist.  Datelined Sao Paulo, it outlines the case of a 15-year-old girl who was discovered to have only one kidney ten years after undergoing an operation for the removal of kidney stones.  The parents have persuaded the hospital to launch an investigation of the doctor who performed the surgey in 1988.  The article notes, "Brazilians have long speculated about th existence of rings that sell human organs, but no proof has been found."




Gyno-glitter keeps moving

Philip Hiscock

Folklore & Language Archive

St. John's, Newfoundland CANADA A1B 3X8


       The gyno-glitter story ("Fancy!") that Kathy Roland and Alan Mays reported in FTN 39 (June 1996: 4-5) arrived in St. John's, Newfoundland in late summer or early fall 1997:  I heard it in mid-October 1997.  A friend of mine works in a small shop catering to the needs of parents of Girl Guides.  A co-worker told her the story (in late September or early October) as having happened to the mother of a friend's brother-in-law.  It varies from versions reported in FTN 39 only in the detail of what the doctor said: "My -- I must be special!"  As in the other versions, it puzzled the woman until she discussed it later with her daughter who told her the spray bottle wasn't what she thought...


Like a bowlful of jelly

Philip Hiscock

Folklore & Language Archive

St. John's, Newfoundland CANADA A1B 3X8


       In May and June 1997 reports were flying in the media and through Internet channels of a young woman who got pregnant despite being given contrceptive jelly by her doctor or nurse.  The story ends with the revelation that she'd been following doctor's  orders:  eating it before every sexual act, often smeared on a cracker.

       The tale was published in Weekly World News, 29 April 1997 p. 15.  It circulated on the Internet mainly as a third-person legend/joke.  As reported below ("More From Ann Landers"), it was included in an Ann Landers column in the Victoria, B.C., Times Colonist, 6 October 1997.

       In November 1997 a similar story appeared as a first-person narrative by a public health nurse.  I received it in a selection of jokes from a friend.  Although the story was signed with an email address (, my messages to the author were not answered.  This version was not about jelly but about self-foaming tablets:

       When I was a public health nurse, I had a young patient who was pregnant for the third time in less than 3 years.  I asked her if she used any birth control and she said that we [sic] took birth control pills.   I asked her to bring them to me so that we could talk about what she was doing, the dosage and whether or not she needed to change to another type of birth control.  With that, she went to the bedroom and came back with ... vaginal foaming pills (about the size of a Necco wafer).  She said, "I've been taking them just like the doctor told me - every time I have sex I take one.  They're hard to swallow but I manage."  I sat there for a moment trying to control the hysterical laughter that was rising and ready to burst out of me.  I had visions of those foaming tablets bubbling up out of her mouth.  I finally grasped onto my professionalism and said in a somewhat stifled (but controlled) voice said [sic], "You were supposed to insert those vaginally every time you had intercourse - not swallow them."  Her reply was, "Now I know why they didn't work."  Needless to say, I had some teaching to do and a new form of birth control to get for her!!


The Cookie Thief again 

       Thanks to Brian Chapman of Victoria, we have a clipping from the Victoria, British Columbia Times Colonist 11 November 1997, p. D3 of their regular Ann Landers column, entitled  "Biting tale on sea of slip-ups."  A reader in Quebec recounts the "real-life story" that happened to an employee of her aunt ("one of the women in her office") in Kamloops, British Columbia.  It took place on the car ferry from Victoria to Vancouver:  she sat to eat her chocolate bar and read her newspaper when the man sitting next to her picked them up, ate the bar and walked away with the newspaper.  She saw him later in the ferry cafeteria eating a sandwich which she righteously grabbed and took a bite out of.  Later she returned to her car only to find that she had left her chocolate bar and newspaper there.

       Earlier references to this legend in FTN include "The Cookie Thief" FTN40-41 (December 1996): 18-19.



More from Ann Landers

       In addition to the previous item, Brian Chapman sends the following legendish bits from recent Ann Landers columns as seen in the Victoria, B.C., Times Colonist.

       29 March 1997, p. C6: a letter from the man who sat next to the woman (Bettye Hawley) who on a plane trip in the 1930s had dropped a white glove into the open zipper of her neighbour:  him. He says his wife did not believe him and a divorce ensued, as did his permanent abstention from alcohol.

       6 October 1997: a letter from a man whose wife had recently read in the Memphis Commercial Appeal that a woman was suing a pharmaceutical company because she was not protected against pregnant after spreading her contraceptive jelly on her toast and eating it.  (See also the item, above, "Like a bowlfull of jelly."



Dog answers phone again

       Again, thanks to Brian Chapman in Victoria, B.C., we have an Associated Press wirestory dateline Oslo, Norway and published ("Dog answers phone and raises alarm") in the Victoria Times Colonist, 31 October 1997, p. C10.  Bimbo, a tiny Bichon Frise dog, was home alone when he answered the phone and whimpered into the receiver.  At the other end was Bimbo's owner's mother who thought it was her daughter in danger. The police were called and the fire department broke in to find the dog, alone.  The dog's owner is named: Unni Andersen. The last time this was reported here was"Dogs Dialling" in  FTN 39 (June 1996): 12.

       Brian also sent a copy of a CNN News Service ( story, 1 May 1997,  of a pet pig ransacking a room at its owner's residence and in the process dialling an emergency number. 



Those awful packages

       The Toronto newspaper Globe and Mail reported 20 September 1997 a story from Senegal, via the Pan-Africa News Agency and the Senegalese News Agency that a Kolda man was carrying the body of his baby son home.  After tying the package containing the body to his bicycle, he stepped back inside the hospital for something else.  While he was gone, the bicycle and its package were stolen.  A policeman stopped the thief and asked what was in the package;  he replied, "Goods."  When it was opened the thief "reportedly fainted at the sight of the dead child."  The Globe and Mail gives the URL of apparently as their immediate source.

       Readers will recognize the motif of the nasty package stolen formerly with motifs such as a urine sample (eg. J H Brunvand, Mexican Pet [1986], pp.89-90) and a dead pet (Mexican Pet, pp. 31-34).



Ships + Lighthouse: early version

Bill Ellis

HazletonCampus, Penn State University

Hazleton, PA USA


       Recently FTNhas carried versions of a story placed in various locales but frequently off the coast of Newfoundland (FTN 42, May 1997, p. 4;  40-41, December 1996, p. 19;  39, June 1996, p. 15).  In it a large American military ship mistakes a lighthouse for another ship and orders it to change course to avoid collision.  Here is a version that appeared in a 1965 compendium of jokes,and perhaps was included in its 1939 edition.

       The fog was very thick, and the Chief Officer of the tramp steamer was peering over the side of the bridge.  Suddenly, to his intense surprise, he saw a man leaning over a rail, only a few yards away.

       "You confounded fool!" he roared.  "Where the devil do you think your ship's going?  Don't you know I've the right of way?"

       Out of the gloom came a sardonic voice:  "This ain't no blinkin' ship, guv'nor.  This 'ere's a light'ouse!"

This is from 10,000 Jokes, Toasts, & Stories, ed. Lewis and Faye Copeland  (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965 [orig. 1939]), joke no. 6717, p. 692.

[PH: Meantime, the recent legend keeps moving along.  A colleague in the History Department at Memorial University sent me a photocopy received by her from a friend at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. Like most recent versions it placed the event off Newfoundland in October 1995.

       A good web page devoted to the legend, complete with alternate versions and opinions regarding origin, is]



First words on the moon

Philip Hiscock

Folklore & Language Archive

Memorial University of Newfoundland


       Following our coverage of the legend of what Neil Armstrong may or may not have said on the moon in 1969 and what it may or may not have meant (FTN [June 1996] 39:13-14), we have the following report from Martin Lovelace of what he heard from a friend in England in mid-1997.

       Following, as well as I can recall, is a story told me by my friend Mike, who is a professional photographer in southern England.  He had been on an assignment photographing, I think, high‑tech controls of some kind at a factory somewhere in England.  The manager, or whoever he dealt with, had recently returned from a business trip to the U.S. where he had heard the story, either at a conference, or in a business, which involved Neil Armstrong.  Mike stressed to me that it was told to him as actual fact, not in any way as a joke.  The story was that Neil Armstrong had been asked whether he had really said, as he stepped onto the Moon, "That's one small step for man..." "No," he said, "that was all made up.  What I really said was 'Go for it, Mrs. Yablonski.'"  Apparently Neil Armstrong had grown up in a poor section of a major U.S. industrial city [the Bronx, possibly], next door to a Polish couple.  They had an active sex life and their voices could be heard by Armstrong, as a boy, while he lay in bed.  One night he heard Mrs. Yablonski say, "There'll be a man on the Moon before I put that thing in my mouth!"  So what Neil Armstrong really said as he stepped onto the lunar surface was "Go for it, Mrs. Yablonski!"

As mentioned in a previous issue, the "Good Luck, Mr Gorski" text has been circulating during the past year.   I received the following version in November 1997 by email from a friend who regularly sends jokes along to a list of about a dozen people, of which I am one.  It begins with a traditional assertion:

       A true story:

       When Apollo Mission Astronaut, Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon, he not only gave his famous "One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind" statement, but followed it by several remarks, usual com traffic between him, the other astronauts and Mission Control.  Just before he reentered the lander, however, he made the enigmatic remark "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky."

       Many people at NASA thought it was a casual remark concerning some rival Soviet Cosmonaut.  However, upon checking, there was no Gorsky in either the Russian or American space programs.

       Over the years many people have questioned him as to what the "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky" statement meant.  Some months ago, (July 5, 1995 in Tampa Bay FL) while answering questions following a speech, a reporter brought up the 27 year old question to Armstrong.

       This time he finally responded.  Mr. Gorsky had finally died and so Neil Armstrong felt he could answer the question.

       When he was a kid, he was playing baseball with a friend in the backyard.  His friend hit a flyball whch landed in front of his neighbor's bedroom window.  His neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Gorsky.

       As he leaned down to pick it up, young Armstrong heard Mrs. Gorsky shouting at Mr. Gorsky.  "Oral sex!  You want oral sex?!  You'll get oral sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!"



1966 Legend of tax and red tape

       Thanks to Paul Smith we have a clipping from The Denver Post of 29 January 1966 (p. 12), "Our Town:  Housewife Beats Pop Bottle Tax,"  by John Snyder.  The tale is recounted of how an (unnamed) woman was angered by having to pay an extra cent of tax due to her grocery total being pushed from one tax bracket to another by the inclusion of her pop bottle deposit (twelve cents).  On demanding her penny back, she was told she'd receive it when she redeemed the empty bottles.  But she was not given her cent back when she returned her bottles because, she was told, twelve cents was not a taxable amount.  A battle ensued, one that she personally won:  the store dare not charge her anymore, but it continues to charge other customers.  Not only the anonymity of the story, but also the fabulative flourishes suggest a legend-in-the-news:  "Outside again in the sun, our friend thought about that for a moment, then hurried to her car...." And, "'There's no tax on 12 cents,' the checker said, still smiling sweetly."




Feeling Better, Sir?

       Thanks to Brian Chapman, Victoria, B.C., we have a clipping from the Finacial Post (Toronto, Ontario), 23 December 1997, p. 51.  The article by Tim Wharnsby is "Junior Hockey: Canadians are learning to adapt" (p. 51).  It begins with the following:

       Let's start with an old story.

       A few years back, on a plane trip to Finland for the world junior hockey championship, a Canadian player was sitting next [to] a grumpy team official, who exercised his bad temper on a daily basis.  The grouch had the aisle seat.

       Shortly after takeoff, dinner came and they ate.  The team official quickly fell asleep.

       As the plane passed over Greenland, the flight got bumpy.  The player felt queasy, but he didn't want to disturb his grumpy neighbor.  So the player reached for an air-sickness bag, but accidentally threw up in the official's lap.

       The official woke up and was ready to blow his stack.  But before he erupted, the player quickly asked, "Feeling better, sir?"

Source and other details are not given.



Plunging Cow

       In April and May 1997 the world's newswires sang with the sound of wonder recounting the tale of a cow dropped from a Russian cargo airplane into the Pacific Ocean, knocking a fishing boat to the bottom;  the crew lived to tell the tale.

       Just as swiftly as the tale went around, the debunking wire stories followed.  Tom Morton of The Scotsman ("Flying cow story caught in net exposed as load of bull,"  The Scotsman, 1 May 1997) led the attack, tracing the story back through German and Russian papers, to a Russian television programme of some eighteen months previous.  In a Reuters story dated the day before ("Russia's flying cows make it to the newspapers" by Susanne Hoell, in the San Jose Mercury Mail), Morton is cited as source for information leading through the German paper Hamburger Morgenpost and the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda.  By Hoell's account the tale was popularised originally by the Russian television series, Osobennosti Natsionalnoi Okhoty ("Peculiarities of the National Hunt") but probably existed previously as a traditional explanation among fishermen for otherwise inexplicable losses of fishing boats.

       The story had evolved somewhat by July when it was carried as a Southam Newspapers feature in the St. John's Evening Telegram (in a column by George Jonas, "Of Hong Kong, and flying cows," 11 July 1997, p. 6) placing it in the Sea of Japan.  The fishing boat, now a somewhat-larger trawler, was from Japan.   Jonas's version came from "Flying, America's most venerable aviation magazine."

       Derek Froome in Altrincham, Cheshire, England, reported in early June 1997 that he'd just heard the following from his next-door neighbour:

       Dissident Russian airmen have been smuggling cattle from Siberia by air to the east.  While overflying the far east waters their smuggled cattle stampeded in the aircraft, and to avoid catastrophe the rear loading doors were opened and the beasts rushed out of the hold.  Tumbling to earth at high speed they fell on to a Japanese trawler, which was immediately sunk by the weight and impact.

[Thanks to Brian Chapman, Derek Froome and Bill Ellis for clippings.]




Barbara Mikkelson,



web site:

       Rumours that Tommy Hilfiger made a racist remark exploded onto the Net  in late 1996 after a news article purporting to be from the Philippines tabloid Isyu began making the online rounds.  These self‑same rumours had been in circulation at least nine months earlier, but Cristina Peczon's 13 November 1996, Isyu article brought them to critical mass.

       According to Peczon, the revealing remark happened on the CNN television network on Elsa Klensch's programme Style during an interview with both Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren on the latest fashion trends: 

       Hilfiger then supposedly butted in then with a comment, something like it is one thing for one's label to go popular worldwide, but there are some people who just don't look well in "their" designer clothes.  Hilfiger then allegedly named several Asian races,  apparently saying that he preferred if "these people" wouldn't wear their line ‑‑ particularly Filipinos! 

       Though many people were up in arms about this article and in the wake of it there were calls for boycotts of Hilfiger products, no one was ever quite sure what the designer had said, who he'd said it to, or even which ethnic group he'd said it about.  One version had him saying, "If I knew that Blacks and Asians were going to wear my clothes, I would have never designed them."  More colourful versions had him making his shocking revelation on national TV and Oprah Winfrey then throwing him off her show. (Oddly enough, the same story has been told about Liz Claiborne for many years, that Oprah threw her off the show after Liz claimed she didn't design for black women as "their hips are too big.")

       Quoting from the 1 April 1997, Los Angeles Times:

       In one cybermyth, Hilfiger supposedly told style reporter Elsa Klensch of CNN that he didn't think Asians looked good in his clothes.  Then, as the story morphed, he told Winfrey the same thing about blacks, at which point she threw him off the set.  Yet representatives of both shows deny Hilfiger ever appeared as a guest.

One cannot get thrown off a show one was never on.

       Both Hilfiger and his company have steadfastly denied all forms of the rumour. (Depending on who you hear it from, he slammed Asians, Filipinos or blacks, on Oprah or Ricki Lake or BET News or Larry King Live or CNN ‑‑ as a rumour, it's a marvel of non‑specificity.)  According to a company statement posted to the Internet in March 1997,

Tommy Hilfiger did not make the alleged inappropriate racial comments. [...] Hilfiger wants his clothing to be enjoyed by people of all backgrounds and his collections are put together with the broadest cross‑section of individuals in mind.  To reinforce this, he features models of all ethnic backgrounds in his fashion shows and advertisements.

       Cyberdenials or not, the rumour has legs.  Earlier, I mentioned it had been around for at least nine months before the Net explosion in late 1996.  From the 1 March 1995, St. Petersburg Times:

       Then there's the infamous disparaging "statement" the Parsons brothers and several others said they had heard that Hilfiger made about blacks, particularly poor blacks, wearing his clothes.

       As with all rumors, there are several variations, and no one can say where or when Hilfiger made the comments.  One woman said a friend heard him say it on BET News.  A clerk at Burdines said he heard it was on the Ricki Lake show. 

       Hilfiger being cast as a racist villain is especially unfortunate for his history as a designer portrays him as anything but.  Adding colour and movement to everyday clothes, his designs shot into popularity fueled by enthusiastic support from the black community which adopted his fashion statements as its own.  When Snoop Doggy Dogg wore a red, white, and blue Hilfiger rugby shirt on Saturday Night Live in March 1994, the word went out ‑‑ Tommygear was cool.  1994 was also the year the National Conference of Christians and Jews bestowed its National Humanitarian Award on the young designer.  In 1995 Hilfiger was named Menswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and from there he's gone nowhere but up.

       As immediately satisfying as it is to believe the old Liz Claiborne tale has updated itself by attaching to a newer, fresher designer, there's another likely explanation that must also be considered.  As Hilfiger's clothing became more and more popular, it increasingly became a target for the knock‑off specialists of the Pacific Basin.  Hilfiger's statements that people should foreswear Asian or Filipino bootlegs of his clothes because cheap copies don't look good on anybody could easily have been misheard or misunderstood so that they were later remembered as statements to the effect that Asians or Filipinos themselves should not wear Hilfiger designs as they would make his clothes look bad.

[PH: A report in the July 1997 issue of Internet World (8:7, p. 127, "The Surfboard: Rumors: All the Fashion") purports to trace all the Internet activity about Hilfiger  to a single mass poster, Van LIen.  The Internet World writer contacted her by telephone and was told she had "just reported something a friend told her."]



Unwedding party?

       Like many newspaper clippings, it is difficult to judge the following.  In a section of The Times called "The Times Diary," 24 March 1997, was the following short item, reprinted here in its entirety.

       Tired of Tupperware, chafed by charity work, the ladies who lunch have a new excuse to run up their platinum card bills.  In Langan's Brasserie, Mayfair, the other day a table of women with fixed hair and fixed tans sat surrounded by the rubble of a champagne lunch.  One of them was wearing a veil.  On inquiry it turned out they were celebrating the fact that their veiled friend had decided not to get married.  They called this event an unwedding party.



And while he yet spake, the cock crew

       According to a posting to the Forteana Discussion List (, 22 May 1997 by Martin Adamson), The Times ran the following story on 22 May 1997.  It was titled "Timely end to phantom cockerel."

       Twice a day, regular as clockwork, Basil Vandenheede heard a cockerel crowing.  He believed it was trapped somewhere in his house.

       So he called in the gas board to rip out his fireplace and check the chminey.  He then summoned friends to pull bricks out of the wall so he could examine the cavities.  He left out milk and bread.  He searched every inch of his garden.  But at 10:30 pm and 4 am, the cock still crowed.

       After six weeks of interrupted sleep, he contacted the council and two environmental health officers spent the night at his house in Rochester, Kent.

       "It always woke me up even though I slept with a blanket over my head," he said.  "At 4 am it started and we jumped up and put the lights on," Mr Vandenheede said.  Then realisation dawned.  "I put my arm up next to an officer's head and he said: "It's you, it's your watch.'"

       Mr Vandenheede, 74, has solved the problem by smashing the watch.





"Devil Companies?"

       Thanks to Brian Chapman in Victoria, B.C., we have a copy of the December 1997 issue (vol 97-12) of Flashpoint: A Newsletter of Texe Marrs.  The newsletter is published by Living Truth Ministeries, 1708 Patterson Road, Austin, Texas 78733 USA.  A photograph shows Texe Marrs a smiling, open-shorted man in his fifties. The lead article in the newsletter is called "Devil Companies, Devil Products, Devil Logos?" (pp. 1-2).  It begins with a discussion of Lucent Technologies and the rumours surrounding interpretation of its name ( from Lucifer's Enterprises, say some) and the name of its product "Inferno" software.   Using the reports of correspondents, the article discusses a half-dozen other companies showing the logos of Microsoft,  Procter & Gamble, and Disney, noting that some people see a stylised "666" in the Disney logo.  Marrs nowhere states that he sees these devilish connections but he writes that he is "convinced that Satan and his agents are very busy these days, conditioning men's minds and programming their senses with stunningly effective visual magic and sorcery."





1997 Buchan Prize for Study of Llama Meat Legends

Bill Ellis,  President,

International Society for Contemporary Legend Research

Penn State Hazleton

Hazleton, PA 18201‑1291 USA


       The International Society for Contemporary Legend Research (ISCLR) has awarded the 1997 David Buchan Student Essay Prize to Ms Clare Sammells for her submission, "Folklore, Food, and Seeking National Identity:  Urban Legends of Llama Meat in La Paz, Bolivia."  The prize was announced 23 May 1997 at ISCLR's annual meeting, held in 1997 in Boulder, Colorado.

       Ms Sammells, a graduate of Harvard University's Folklore and Mythology programme, is Assistant to the Dean of Executive Education at INCAE, a leading business school in Costa Rica.  She enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Chicago's Department of Anthropology in the fall of 1997.

       Her essay, based on her Senior Thesis at Harvard, discusses the taboo against eating llama meat held by middle- and upper-class Bolivians, which takes a form similar to those held in North America about eating dogs, reptiles and rodents.  Although llama meat is a nutritious food valued by the indigenous population, most ladinos consider it contaminated by parasites and diseases.  Many legends circulate about street vendors and restaurants who disguise llama meat to serve it to unwitting customers, just as Chinese and fast-food restaurants in the United States are often rumoured to serve up taboo items like rats and worms.

       Yet llamas, increasingly, are a symbol for Bolivia's national identity, and other indigenous foodstuffs such as quinoa have been accepted into the country's diet.  Sammells holds out the possibility that the legends show a process in which llama meat is becoming accepted by the middle and upper classes as a sign of pride in the country's distinctive traditions.

       ISCLR's prize committee remarked on the richness with which Sammells explicated this traditional belief/legend complex, which like all contemporary legends is largely symbolic rather than literal.  Her work, based on extensive fieldwork in La Paz, breaks new ground in identifying and explicating themes distinctive to South America's ethnic diversity.

       The prize honours the memory of Dr. David Buchan (1939‑1994), a leading international ballad scholar and a staunch supporter of contemporary legend research.  It is given annually to the best student essay combining research and analysis on some aspect of contemporary legend, or contemporary legend research.

       Ms Sammells receives a cash prize of $250, and her winning essay will be considered for publication in Contemporary Legend, ISCLR's scholarly journal.

       ISCLR also awarded honourable mentions to two other submissions that it felt were publishable contributions to the field.  One went to JoAnn Conrad of the University of California, Berkeley, for "Stranger Danger:  Defending Innocence, Denying Responsibility."  This essay describes the continuing social concern over child abductions in legend, media and public policy. She focusses on "The Aborted Abduction," a common legend in which a child is snatched from a shopping mall and taken to a washroom where the abductors try to disguise his or her identity.

       A second honourable mention went to Lara Maynard of Memorial University of Newfoundland for "Locked Doors: Bearer‑Centred Interpretation of 'The Roommate's Death' and other Contemporary Legends of Special Relevance to Females."  Critiquing traditional psychoanalytic readings of the legend of a college at which a student's roommate is murdered by an intruder, Maynard suggests a new methodology for eliciting comments and interpretations from those who pass on such legends.

       Both honourable mention essays will be forwarded to the editor of Contemporary Legend for consideration.



1998 Buchan Student Essay Prize for Contemporary Legend Research

       The deadline for submissions for the 1998 Buchan Award for student essays in contemporary legend research is 1 May 1998.  The prize will be awarded for the best student essay combining research and analysis on some aspect of contemporary legend, or contemporary legend research.   The winer will receive US$250, a year's membership in ISCLR, and an engraved plaque.  The winning essay will be considered for publication in the society's journal Contemporary Legend.

       The prize rules are as follows:

                                                                                     Essays should have been written within the previous or current academic year.  Previously published essays will not be considered for the award.

                                                                                    Two copies of the essay must be submitted by 1 May 1998.

                                                                                     Essays must be submitted in English, typed, double-spaced, and on white paper.  The applicant's name must not be included on the essay.  Instead, a cover sheet must list the title of the essay, the applicant's name, address, telephone number, school and programme attended, and year of the programme.

        Students or their teachers may submit essays.  Instructors are asked to encourage students with eligible essays to enter the competition.  Applications will be accepted from registered (post)graduate students, although undergraduate essays will be accepted for consideration on the advice of faculty members.

        Applicants can make only one application for each competition but students may receive the award more than once in their graduate career.  Members of the Selection Committee are ineligible to apply during their tenure.

       All applications are adjudicated anonymously by the Selection Committee.  The award will be made by the president of the ISCLR upon the recommendation of the Selection Committee appointed by him/her.

        The award will normally be announced at the annual meeting of the Society.  The winner will receive US$250 and a year's membership in the ISCLR.

        The winning essay will normally be submitted for publication in Contemporary Legend.  The Editor of Contemporary Legend shall have right of first refusal to publish the winning essay, and a version suitable for publication should be submitted to Contemporary Legend no later than six months after presentation of the award.

        The winning essay does not have to be read at the annual ISCLR conference, but entrants are encouraged to attend and present their essays.  If the winning essay is read at the annual ISCLR conference it will be identified as the winner of the David Buchan Student Essay prize.

        The Council reserves the right not to award the prize in a given year and it is the exclusive right of ISCLR to change the terms of the award for future competitions.

        Essays should be sent to:

       Dr Bill Ellis, President

       International Society for Contemporary Legend Research

       Pennsylvania State University, Hazleton Campus

       Highacres, Hazleton, Pennsylvania 18201-1291


Phone: 717-450-3026   (Fax: 717-450-3182)




Call for Papers:  Innsbruck ISCLR Conference

Perspectives on Contemporary Legend

The Sixteenth International Conference

Innsbruck, Austria

21 July ‑ 24 July 1998

       The International Society for Contemporary Legend Research (ISCLR) is pleased to announce that the Sixteenth International Perspectives on Contemporary Legend Conference is to be held in Innsbruck, Austria, 21 ‑ 24 July 1998. The Conference will be held at the Old Town Hall.  Accommodations will be available at the Central Hotel.  Registration will begin on 20 July 1998, 6.00 to 8.00 p.m.   The formal sessions will begin on 21 July 1998.

       First held in 1982 at the Centre for English Cultural Tradition and Language, Sheffield, England, these meetings have provided scholars working in this area with a forum for the exchange of ideas and with an opportunity to keep in touch with current research.

       Participants have discussed the so‑called "urban" or "modern" legends, but also any legend or legend‑like tradition that circulates actively at present or has circulated intensively at any earlier historical period. Periods discussed have ranged from ancient times to the Internetlore, and cultures from Africa and the Pacific Rim to our own academic worlds have been examined.

       The 1998 meeting will be organised as a series of seminars, at which the mayority of individuals attending will present papers and/or contribute to the discussion sessions. Concurrent sessions will be avoided so that all participants can her all the papers.

       If you wish to participate in the conference, please forward a title and a four hundred word abstract of your paper, along with a  conference fee of US$75 for ISCLR members (US$100 for non-members and US$45 for students) by 1 March 1998. Similarly, if you would like to propose any special discussion sessions or events, please do not hesitate to get in touch.  Send abstracts and advance registration fees to:

       Dr. Ingo Schneider

       Institut für Europäische Ethnologie

       Universität Innsbruck

       Innrain 52

       A‑6020 Innsbruck

       Telephone: 0043 (0)512 507 4433

       Fax: 0043 (0)512 507 3458





Call for Papers:  Organ Theft session at AFS

       The Folk Narrative Section of the American Folklore Society would like to sponsor two paper sessions at the 1998 AFS Meeting, each dealing with a single narrative type.  One panel will study tale type AT300 The Dragon‑Slayer, best known in the mythic narrative of Saint George but also prevalent in a myriad of folk and popular forms, including "Alien" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."  A second panel will focus on the contemporary legend motif of organ thefts as seen in "The Kidney Heist," "The Baby‑Parts Abduction," the West African "Penis Theft" panics, and many other international narrative/rumour forms.   If interested, please send a title and brief abstract to:

Bill Ellis,

Highacres, Penn State University ‑ Hazleton,

Hazleton, PA 18201‑1291

Phone:  717‑450‑3026   (Fax: 717‑450‑3182 )




ISCLR Home Page

       Courtesy of Mark Glazer, the new World-Wide Web home page for the International Society for the Study of Contemporary Legends is at




New Legend Finding Aid and Index at MUNFLA

Tammy Hynes-Lawlor

MUN Folklore & Language Archive (MUNFLA)

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St. John's, Newfoundland


       The Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA) in St. John's, Newfoundland, CANADA, has been collecting folklore of all kinds since the 1960s.  Although many indexes have been devised over the years, no index specifically for legend research was developed until the past two years.  A new legend index, including references to contemporary legend along with other legends as well, has recently been completed.   Contemporary legend researchers can now find legend material more easily.

       The index was conceived when it became apparent that a search for particular types of legend material took great time and effort for what was often a small reward.  I reviewed published works on legend classification and developed a list of subject areas and the legends are thus broken into forty-two subject categories.  

       After some debate I decided not to separate contemporary legends into a separate section.  While I recognise the differences among the legend types, their similarities seemed stronger.  Leaving the decision of what to call a legend to the user, I created an index in which the researcher would find legends of various types on any topic of their choice.  Many legends that would not be classified as contemporary legends are similar enough in motif and structure to be of interest to a contemporary legend researcher, and this information might be missed if the various types were separated.  For example, the many stories in MUNFLA regarding phantom lights:  seen in various places over the years, some are attributed to faires, Jack O’Lantern, and other mysterious creatures which exist in the folklore of Newfoundland.  Legends of these lights may be of interest to researchers of UFOs;   the index's header note at "Phantom lights" directs researchers to “see also 'UFOs'.”

       The index is aimed at both the professional researcher and those with little or no experience in an archive setting.   For this reason each category has an extensive, yet not exhaustive, header note to aid the research.   A full finding aid of the index is available on request at MUNFLA.   (A small copying and handling charge will be made.)



Journals and Newsletters

       Abduction Watch (AW) is a new newsletter devoted to information about UFO abduction claims and related phenomena like satantic ritual abuse.  It is edited and published by Kevin McLure who has been responsible for several other small, skeptical newsletters in the past few years.  I have seen only issue number 1 (August 1997) which is six A4 pages.  On page one is the statement,

AW's approach is that we are still waiting for the first hard, objective evidence that any single human being, of any age, has ever been so much as physically touched, let alone abducted or examined or bred with, by a single alien being.

You can subscribe to AW by sending £5 (for five issues in the UK, four in Europe, and three elsewhere) to Kevin McLure, 3 Claremont Grove, Leeds LS3 1AX England, UNITED KINGDOM.



       Dragonsphere: The Scrying Glass of Esoteric and Strange Publishing.  A periodic, free-of-charge compendium of publications, concentrating on small presses.   Published by Dragon's Head press, Box 3369, London SW6 6JN, UNITED KINGDOM.  The issue of May-August 1997 (two pages on a single sheet)  contains about fifty synopses and addresses.


       Letters to Ambrose Merton 11 (December 1997) contains Paul Screeton's article "Alcotots and Teletubbies: Two New Moral Panics" (about the outcries against "alcopop" drinks for young people and against a British television programme called "Teletubbies").  Also included are Princess Diana jokes from the period immediately after her death (August through October 1997) and items on the migratory motif of cities built on seven hills, virus alerts, penis snatching, and other legend-related items.





       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 the Editor.   English abstracts of works in other languages would be appreciated.


Bell, Jeff.  "Blizzard baby boom forecast premature."  Times-Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia) 1 October 1997, p. A1.  [Disputes the popular wisdom that there has been a spike in birth numbers in the current month, nine months after "the fabled Blizzard of '96." The following day, the same newspaper had a photograph of new parents with their baby "conceived during the blizzard of '96," p. A5.]


Bilodeaux, Jean.  "Death on the Range:  For 50 years cattle mutilations have linked three ranches in a morbid legacy."  FATE 50:8 (August 1997): 52-55.  [Written by a MUFON investigator, contains recent cases and a sidebar entitled "What to Do if You Find Mutilated Cattle."]


Bowden, Tim.  "Chatback:  Elvis spotted on a Harley."  The Australian Way, February 1997: 80.  [Elvis Presley's motorbike;  half-naked wife steps out of the van and husband blithely drives away;  Herr Burpas's painted, decorated buttocks;  drunk ambassador asks the Archbishop to dance;  historic "shark arm murder" of 1935; cashing in long fingernails or cicada wings;  uneven hang of human testicles.]


Casten, Thomas R.  "Can We Prevent Cult Deaths?"  Skeptical Inquirer 21:4 (July/August 1997): 20-21.  [Complaint about lack of skepticism in modern society.]


Collins, Tony. "Urban Myths."  St. John's Sunday Telegram 1 June 1997, p.1.  [Includes report of revenge-long-distance call to a Japanese weather service, the choking Rottweiler, the dead boyfriend scratching the car roof, the scuba diver in the forest fire, the stolen cat corpse in a bag, and the rumour that Mr Bean is dead.]


"Conspiracy theories abound about Diana's death." (St John's)  Evening Telegram, 27 December 1998.  [Mentions books and a movie that develop the Arab world rumour that British MI6 agents assasinated Princess Diana in 1997 to prevent her conversion to Islam.]


Cranford, Boyd.  Is Your Child Caught in the Web?  A Parent/Teacher Guide to Child Safety on the Internet.  Mount Pearl, Newfoundland: Publishing Solution, 1997.  ISBN 0-9682336-0-0.  Email:  [Includes selected "Satanic sites" including among them rightist and racist sites.]


Denisoff, R. Serge and George Plasketes.  True Believers: The Elvis Contagion.  New Brunswick, USA: Transaction Publishers, 1995.  [On fans who disbelieve the 1977 death of Elvis Presley and the role of the media in the phenomenon.]


Fabre-Vassas, Christine.  The Singular Beast: Jews, Christians and the Pig.  NY: Columbia U P, 1997. [Role of pigs and pork in Jewish and Christian beliefs, practices and interactions through the past 2000 years.]


Frasher, Steven.  "Stop the cards already:  Terminally ill British boy has achieved World Record of 33 million get well cards."  Esquimalt News(Esquimalt, British Columbia) 6 August 1997: 11.


Gonzales, Sandra.  "Inspired to Kill?  Three teenage 'death metal' band members are accused of killing a girl, believing Satan would advance their careers." San Jose Mercury News 4 April 1997: 1A, 14A.  [Prosecution charges in 1995 California case of murder, rape and torture.]


Harrington, Richard.  "On the Beat:  Long Live Paul-Is-Dead;  New Book Chronicles the History of the Hoax."  Washington Post 19 March 1994): C7.  [Reviews Andru J. Reeve's Turn Me On, Dead Man (Ann Arbor: Popular Culture Ink).]


Holt, David, and Bill Mooney.  Spiders in the Hairdo:  Modern Urban Legends.  Audiocassette.  High Windy Audio HW1212,  1997.  ISBN 0-942303-13-X.   [Contains 16 contemporary legend stories told for ages 10 to adult.  1-800-63-STORY for orders.]


Lewis, James R., ed.  the Gods Have Landed:  New Religions From Other Worlds." Albany:  State U of New York, 1995.  ISBN 0-7914-2330-1.   [Includes articles on aspects of organised UFO-belief, including the "Heaven's Gate" leaders "Bo and Peep," and with an extensive bibliography of "the flying saucer contactee movement, 1950-1994."]


Martin, Judith. "Miss Manners:  The salad story and other tall tales."  Eveing Telegram (St John's, Newfoundland) 20 June 1997, p. 19.  [Syndicated columnist reports and debunks story of some other etiquette writer caught at a grand dinner eating the wrong salad.]


Morton, Tom.  "Flying cow story caught in net exposed as load of bull."  The Scotsman, 1 May 1997.   [Traces the tale of a cow falling from a Russian airplane and sinking a fishing boat, from late 1995-early 1996 to a flurry of credulous reports in May 1997.]


Pettitt, Tom.  "Shakespeare's Urban Legend:  Caliban, Carnival, and Prospero's Sewer."  In S. E. Larsen, M. Nøjgaard and A. B. Petersen, eds.  Nature: Literature and its Otherness.  Odense: Odense U P: 1997, pp. 169-180. 


Poundstone, William.  "Mrs. Fields Cookies."  In Biggest Secrets: More Uncensored Truth About All Sorts of Stuff You Are Never Supposed to Know.  New York:  Quill/William Morrow, 1993, pp. 43-53.  [Mainly a study of the secret ingredients of the famous cookie of Mrs Fields, but including several versions of the chain letter/legend recipe.]


Randi, James.  An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. New York:  Griffin/St. Martin's P, 1997   ISBN:0-31215119-0, paper.


Reimer, Susan.  "Believe This:  Muppet Bert isn't dead, isn't dying."  Baltimore Sun 7 December 1997.  Text at [Folklorist Diane Goldstein on origin and development of the "Bert and Ernie are gay" rumour, eventually transforming into the rumoured deaths of each of them.]


Roche, Ken.  "Your Morning Smile."  Globe & Mail (Toronto), 19 September 1997, p. 1.  [Transcript of conversation between sub and lighthouse said to have happened October 1995;  see FTN39:15;  40/41:19; and 42:4.]


Schellhardt, Timothy D.  "Management:  Tales of Canceled  Job Offers Scare M.B.A.s."  Wall Street Journal21 May 1997: Section B.   [Rumours are rampant among MBA graduates about the danger of accepting job offers without continuing the job hunt.]


Schram, Sanford F. and Philp T. Neisser, eds.  Tales of the State:  Narrative in Contemporary U.S. Politics and Public Policy. Lanham, Boulder, NY and London: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997.  [Contains several articles dealing with stereotype and rumour, and the official response to them in government policy in the United States.]


Shepard, Frederick J.  "Bibliography of the Mary Celeste."  Bulletin of Bibliography 14:3 (Sept - Dec 1930): 48-50.  [More than thirty published items between 1872 and 1930 on the highly legendised loss of the crew and passengers of the Mary Celeste in 1872.]


Simons, Paul.  Weird Weather.  Boston & NY: Little Brown, 1996.  ISBN 0-316-79179-2.  [Strange showers, corn circles, UFOs, mirages, lights, noctilucent clouds, and much more.]


Sleveking, Paul.  "Strange but True: Headless railmen shining on the line."  The Sunday Telegraph(6 April 1997): 17.  [Writer for Fortean Times gives short accounts of local legends from Arkansas and North Carolina.]


Turner, Karla, with Ted Rice.  Forword by Barbara Bartholic.  Masquerade of Angels.  Roland, Arkansas:  Kelt Works, 1994.   ISBN 0-9640899-1-2.  [The cover blurb begins:  "Dr. Karla Turner, a former university instructor of English, came face to face with the alien abduction phenomenon in 1988 when her entire family experienced repeated encounters with non-human entities."]


Turner, Karla.  Taken:  Inside the Alien-Human Abduction Agenda. Roland, Arkansas, 1994.   ISBN 0-964-0899-04.   [See above item.]


Wojcik, Daniel.  The End of the World as We Know it:  Faith Fatalism, and Apocalypse in America. New York: New York U P, 1997.  ISBN 0-8147-9283-9.   [Wojcik teaches English and Folklore at U Oregon.]


Yemma, John.  "Science vs. fiction:  Aliens, auras, and the lost continent of Atlantis -- they're all part of pop culture these days.  But scientists are fighting what's been called the X-Filing of America."  The Boston Globe Magazine  13 April 1997: 13, 22-27, 30, 33-37.  [Apparent rise in credulity in America.]







       Thanks to Michele Hart for typing and Mikel Koven for editing some of this issue of FoafTale News.   Many of the references in the New Publications sections are thanks to Paul Smith's spotting them.   Thanks, too, to Brian Chapman, Jane Gadsby, Delf Hohmann, Lorraine Jackson, Martin Lovelace, Lara Maynard, Tom McGuire, Art Rockwood, Pat Parsons and Jeff Victor for references and clippings.







                          FoafTale News




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£15 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 Editor;  clippings, offprints, and citations are also encouraged.  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.


Editor:   Philip Hiscock,  MUN Folklore & Language Archive,  Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's,  Newfoundland, CANADA A1B 3X8. 



ISSN 1026-1001