THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR CONTEMPORARY LEGEND RESEARCH
Double Issue: Nos. 40 & 41 December 1996
IN THIS ISSUE:
Bill Ellis & Henrik Lassen: A Danish Horse Ripper Panic
Bill Ellis: Satanic Panic in Pennsylvania
HAVE YOU HEARD?
Chupabolos: caveat potor
Migratory Maids of the Mist
Cannibals under the city
Insurance; rice; CL goes more commercial
Reporters of strange news
URLs for AFU FAQ, Blue Star, UFOs,
Warning chains on net
EYE ON SATANISM:
Satanic & Vampiric murders
Seduction or Hex
LEGEND AND LIFE:
Shergold's health and numbers
Legendary coyote gets real
College lore at Carbondale
Big ship, lighthouse
Virus hoax, really
Cocaine-filled baby corpses
mad (or drunk) cows
Bloody Mary redux
The Elevator Incident
More rings found
Ukraine: Pakistani rat
Bummed up and blooming
Commerce goes after legends & tellers
Elvis Presley's Cycle
The Terms of the Genre
1997 ISCLR conference: Boulder
Important poll: dates of 1998 ISCLR
conference in Innsbruck
What you missed at Bath
THE CUTTING EDGE
FROM THE EDITOR
For a variety of reasons beyond our control, this issue is almost four months late. A large amount of material accumulated during the time the newsletter has been compiled, so we've decided to make this a double issue, covering number 40 and number 41. We hope with the next issue to get back on a schedule more nearly quarterly.
Please send news, queries, research notes, clippings, calls for papers, or notes about local rumour and legend cycles to me. Mail early; mail often. Readers using email should note the address for FTN has changed since last issue. The new address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The postal address remains the same: FoafTale News, MUN Folklore and Language Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8 CANADA.
A New "Horse Ripper" Panic in Denmark
Penn State University,
Hazleton, PA 18201‑1291 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Henrik R. Lassen
Center for Engelsk, Odense Universitet,
Campusvej 55, DK‑5230 Odense M, DENMARK
This summer (1996) an animal mutilation panic occurred in Denmark after the mysterious death of a Arabian breeding mare, Monic Bint el Mocari. Monic was found dead in her enclosure on Thursday, 25 July by her owners, Lene and Finn Lorenzen. The mare, valued at 150,000 Danish Kroner [US$25,000] had died from a small hole made in its skull between the ear and eye.
But a detailed autopsy by veterinarian Bent Doenner could not determine what had killed Monic. In a television interview, Doenner stressed that he had had to cut the horse's head into thin slices before he could get a real view of the injury. No bullet was found, and he could not trace the wound to any conventional weapon: there was simply a neat little hole.
He had never seen or heard anything like it; nor had police any clues. "We are often informed when mysterious episodes occur in other districts," investigating officer Gunnar
Andersen told the Morgenposten Fyens Stiftstidende (MFS), "but nothing remotely like this has ever been reported." The Lorenzens were likewise baffled, as they knew of no enemies, and breeders they had contacted had never heard of such a case before. "The uncertainty is the worst part," they told MFS on Wednesday, 31 July. "Did our Arabian mare get killed by a madman, and will it happen again?" One rumour they recounted was that Monic had been shot by an archer's arrow from a considerable distance. After killing the mare, the mysterious archer simply retrieved the sharp‑tipped arrow.
Two other horses found dead on a field a month ago likewise had unidentifiable wounds 8 and 14 cm deep, which like the wound in Monic's temple suggested an arrow with a sharp tip. "It's an idea that I cannot dismiss offhand," said veterinarian Doenner.
Expert archers were deeply sceptical: while arrows with plain points are used for training, it is illegal to hunt with them in Denmark, and regular hunting arrows have a 2.5 cm double‑edged barb, which would not leave a small hole.
Jette Rasmussen, a member of an archers' organisation, explained: "In Denmark, we have about 500 people who have special permits to hunt with a bow and arrow. It takes a very moral attitude to join these ranks, and everybody knows everybody else. If we suspect the slightest irregularity, steps are taken immediately." An amateur, Rasmussen added, would be incapable of bending an archer's bow, much less hit a target from a long distance. "Personally," he concluded, "I've never heard of unstable individuals capable of using a hunting bow."
By Thursday, 1 August, MFS could report that "Horror and fear has spread among the many horse breeders on Hindsholm." Local police now reported that two other horses on a beach-front meadow a few km away had been wounded earlier in July. The two suffered stab wounds in their abdomens close to the region of the heart, but both survived.
The horses' owner said, "The holes looked man‑made, but the horses did not die, and we could not bring ourselves to believe that anyone could be so evil." But when the story of Monic hit the papers, he made the connection and contacted police. "The eerie thing," the owner concluded, "is that it seems to have been a purposeful operation."
Veterinarian Birger Ostergaard could not confirm that the wounds were man‑made, but he felt sure that a pointed instrument had been used. "It is a striking fact that the wounds are so identical," he told press. "That does not seem to indicate that the animals accidentally hurt themselves on a sharp object in the enclosure. And what would that have been, anyway? I have asked several colleagues, and none of them has ever heard of anything like this."
Police noted that these horses had been wounded in an enclosure near an area with many beach‑front holiday cottages, and they thought it likely that some vacationer might have seen suspicious activities.
But on Saturday, 3 August, the affair took a dramatic new direction when MFS published an article headlined "Theory of a German horse‑murderer on Hindsholm." Kerteminde Police had contacted the German criminal police headquarters (Bundeskriminalamt) in Wiesbaden, who replied that 89 horses had been killed and 229 found injured in Germany since 1992. German police called this epidemic of "Pferderippern"‑‑ horse rippers ‑‑"a new crime phenomenon."
According to the Bundeskriminalamt, flocks of horses grazing close to busy by‑roads had been particularly targeted. Animals had been cut or stabbed mainly in the head and chest area, with the eyes, heart, shoulder, stomach and genitals also injured. Experts cited by the German press agency, DPA, gave several possible motives for the attacks: sexual perversion, sadism, murderous impulses and revenge.
"This madness has got to be stopped!" said Wolfgang Apel, President of the German Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Deutsche Tierschutzbund), offering a reward of 50,000 Marks for information leading to an arrest. He also called for more severe penalties: so far the only horse ripper apprehended had received a suspended sentence and a mere 2000 Marks fine.
The DPA also informed the paper that a horse ripper had recently been in action close to the border. A few weeks before, a horse had been found severely wounded in the thigh on a field by Flensburg. The weapon ‑‑ a lance with a hand‑made point ‑‑ was later found in a haystack.
And in the southernmost part of Sleswig‑Holstein near Lauenburg a riding horse had its belly ripped open with a knife three weeks before. Two years ago, DPA recalled, a 15‑year‑old Flensburg girl had confessed that she had stabbed a horse because of puberty problems.
Because two of the horses on the Danish side were wounded in a fold surrounded by vacation cottages, German tourists joined the list of obvious suspects. Police in Kerteminde recommended that people keep an eye on fields with horses, especially if German cars stopped nearby. But a police spokesman urged the public to stay calm and warned about the possibility of "smear campaigns against Germans, such as we have seen them . . . . As it is, we don't really know that the holes are man‑made," he said.
Nevertheless, a veterinarian felt the German connection was a positive development: "The more information which might cast light on this murky case, the better," he said, adding that he could feel the anxiety among horse breeders intensifying. "Everyone's on their guard ‑‑ not just the breeders," he continued. "When I was in a fold yesterday to have a look at a horse, a car immediately stopped to see what was going on. People should be on their guard if they see cars with German license plates driving around in the vicinity of the horses."
The various leads, however, led nowhere and, on Thursday, 15 August, MFS reported that police had for all intents and purposes given up the case. "Not even the cause of the small hole in the horse's skull has been determined with any degree of accuracy," said Gunnar Andersen, "and even though it is striking that two other horses were mutilated almost at the same time, there has been no proof so far that there were people behind the incidents. . . . That is the situation today, and therefore I continue to regard the cause of death as a riddle."
The lack of evidence also led police to give up efforts to link the affair with the German mutilations. "It is unlikely that a German would all of a sudden start killing horses on Hindsholm," Andersen said. "A more likely scenario would be for this lunatic to operate in Southern Jutland, but we have no reports of that happening."
The Lorenzens, who had received a small insurance settlement for the loss of the mare, were disappointed. "There is a lot of talk, and quite a few rumours are making the rounds," one
said. "I have heard, for instance, that a farmer from the Mesinge area found a bow and four arrows without barbs last year. But whether or not that rumour has reached the ears of the police, I don't know."
Andersen said he had received no information about such a find.
The episode recalled the British "horse ripper" panic that panicked rural Hampshire in the summer of 1993, followed by a series of similar American incidents later that year in rural Maryland and Virginia. Both times experts hypothesised that a sex maniac or serial killer was responsible, and darkly suggested a link with "cults" or "black magic." Although some minor arrests were made in England, no official explanation for the attacks ever emerged (Fortean Times 66: 12; FoafTale News 29: 7‑8; People Magazine [9 May 1994]: 187‑88]).
It is interesting that the occult link did not emerge in the
Danish affair, since when a similar panic had occurred in
Dalsland, Sweden in 1992, a police task force spokesman had
assured press that he had discovered that members of Danish
satanic cults ritually drank horses's blood "to gain strength." (Fortean Times 64: 18, FoafTale News 29: 7). More recently, occult groups in neighbouring Norway have been held responsible for a series of murders and church burnings (Fortean Times 80: 33‑35).
But the only allusion even vaguely suggesting satanism came after the official closing of the matter, when on 24 August a short item on television told of a burglar who was stealing petty cash from poor boxes in churches on the island of Moen, the sort of thing that is "just not done" by normal criminals. In one place he wrote this message in the visitor's book:
Jeg hader alle kirker!
Braend dem ned!
Hade Hilsner - Spoonman
[I hate all churches! Burn them down! With hate - Spoonman]
The Danish horse rippings remain unsolved. For more on the
worldwide history of panics over mysterious deaths of domestic animals, see Bill Ellis, "Cattle Mutilations: Contemporary Legends and Contemporary Mythologies," Contemporary Legend 1 (1991): 39‑80.
POSTSCRIPT [HRL adds 16 December 1996]: The 6.30 pm Danish TV2 news reported on Monday, 16 December, that the night before one or more unknown persons had left a considerable mess behind them after a break‑in at a church in Grevinge, near Nykoebing Sjaelland, Denmark. This, by the way, is in the same general area where "Spoonman" operated. There could be a connection, as we don't get many such cases.
A largish crucifix had been torn off the wall and brutally smashed against the floor. Several lamps had been destroyed, and a large number of hymn books (a good supply of which is always available in Danish state churches) had been ripped apart ‑- there were loose pages everywhere, judging from the news footage. And a large brass candlestick with a kind of spike on the end of it had apparently been used, as the voice‑over put it, "for stabbing purposes." (There was no mention of anyone or anything actually having been stabbed, though.)
As the clergyman in charge explained, initially there was nothing to suggest other than what he called "ordinary vandalism," until someone noticed the loose numbercards, those stiff cardboard placards inserted into special wooden frames on the wall to announce the numbers of the hymns to be sung. In six different locations in the church, three cards bearing the number six had been lined up: "666." To the clergyman in question this seemed to be conclusive evidence that Satanists had been conducting some kind of eerie ceremony on the premises. His voice trembled with outrage.
I think most teenagers ‑- if they had transgressed that many written and unwritten laws already ‑- might have arranged any number cards that they happened to find (and there's really not that much else that you can find in a Danish state church after midnight) like that.
Although folklore is sometimes dangerous or evil, ostension is not necessarily very serious in its nature: after all, almost everyone knows the meaning of the number 666. Now, the presence of drips from black wax candles or strange signs and pentagrams scrawled on walls and floors with chalk or (dare I suggest it?) goat's blood might have convinced me; that would have meant that someone actually prepared for some sort of black mass in connection with the break‑in.
But that some bored, destructive person decided, on the spur of the moment as likely as not, to give the God‑fearing citizens a good scare by messing around with the number cards a bit does not, in itself, smack of Satanism per se, although it is, of course, a pretty good instance of an ostensive action.
Satanic Deja Vu in Northeastern Pennsylvania
Penn State Hazleton,
Hazleton, PA 18201‑1291 USA
In May 1987, Northeastern Pennsylvania experienced a rumour‑panic after a teenager from Panther Valley High School in Lansford committed suicide at his home. Rumours circulated that he had been a member of a satanic cult who had made a suicide pact. The panic came to a focus at the high school's Spring Prom, at which the other cult members were supposed to kill themselves or murder other teens. Originally limited to Panther Valley High, the panic also spread to schools in nearby Hazleton. Security measures were taken, including a metal detector installed at the door of one prom location, and no fatalities occurred.
In the wake of the panic, experts circulated around local schools and churches, giving workshops on alleged cult activities and danger signs for parents to observe in teens' behaviour: doodling heavy metal logos in notebooks, wearing black clothing, spending time in role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. One of the most active of these experts, Luzerne County Detective Gary Sworin, based his workshops on information gained from TV journalist Kenneth Wooden. Wooden became notorious in 1984 for directing a sensational exposé of satanism on ABC's 20/20 news series and subsequently was active in promoting prosecution of American cases of alleged satanic ritual abuse of children.
Detective Sworin headed a child abuse task force in Luzerne County that investigated claims of ritual abuse. Detectives in this group elicited horror stories of blood-drinking and animal sacrifice from the children of Larry and Leona Cottam, who were attending a church‑sponsored school. Terrified, the Cottams went into hiding, but Sworin used details from their case in workshops as evidence that child‑abusing cults were practising in this area.
The Cottams reappeared early in 1989; having run out of food and money, they allowed their 12‑year‑old son to starve to death rather than expose the family to satanism. The Cottams were eventually convicted of third‑degree child abuse murder, despite Sworin's testimony on their behalf, and in the scandal that ensued his child abuse task force was deactivated. The publicity that this case provoked largely cleared anti‑satanism propaganda from this area.
Nevertheless, as I noted in "The Devil Worshippers at the Prom," my study of the 1987 rumour‑panic (Western Folklore 49:1 (Jan. 1990): 27‑49), the event provoked disparate beliefs: some felt it confirmed the reality of cults; others, that parents were gullible and easy to scare. "Hence the event may carry the seeds of future panics," I concluded (48).
Indeed, after several years of dormancy, many of the same themes have emerged again in the area. The latest panic began again with speculation over a teenage suicide, this time the dual deaths of two Plymouth‑area adolescents, Stanley Szczupski and Shawn Zarcufsky. It escalated rapidly through rumour and public warnings about teenage satanism into the dubious therapy of "expert" advice.
The Suicides. On Sunday, 22 September, the bodies of the two youths were found near the West Side Landfill, a "party spot" frequently used for youngsters evading the state's restrictive laws against underage drinking. The discovery was at once reported by The Times Leader, a Wilkes‑Barre newspaper aggressively expanding its market throughout Northeast Pennsylvania. In contrast with older local papers that are often discreet about the stories they print, the Times Leader has sought out and publicized local scandals, often amplifying neighbourhood rumour in the process. This report was no exception: it alluded to a 1989 case in which one Jose Sanchez, "a Cuban national," murdered a local woman and dumped her body at the landfill, thus implying that the latest discovery was linked to violent crime caused by this area's growing Hispanic population.
But this ethnic dispute was quickly forgotten when the Times Leader's 24 September issue boldly announced "2 teens' deaths linked to satanic worship." Much of the article quoted and paraphrased the speculations of Luzerne County District Attorney Peter Paul Olszewski, who felt that alcohol and heroin use were the most immediate factors in the deaths. But use of drugs "goes hand‑in‑hand with the occult and the darker side of things," he said: in fact, heroin might be part of "satanic worship practices among teenagers in the area."
State Police Lieutenant Carmen Altavilla, who was in charge of the investigation, felt that the two might "have been at the primary edge of dabbling in this kind of thing." Olszewski agreed, adding "There are numbers of other children who are in similar states of the occult as these two were. . . . In Luzerne County, there are more children than we had thought involved in the preliminary stages of black magic."
In fact, the links were not much in evidence; in fact, even Olszewski conceded that signs of the teens' involvement with satanism were "not real obvious. . . . By all accounts they were disguising it very well." In fact, the only overt sign of behaviour change was that both had dyed their hair black, "one possible sign of satanic worship." Their high school's superintendent, Andrew Marko, told press that Zarcufsky and Szczupski were both good students and neither had shown signs of problems: "We had no signs of what the lieutenant and the district attorney are talking about."
Nevertheless, the crisis brought Detective Gary Sworin back into media attention. Sworin indicated that interest in occultism had been on the wane until recently: "It just seemed like it died down." But with the new affair in the news, he revived old theories about teens entering satanism through fantasy games such as Dungeons and Dragons and through interest in heavy metal music. One new wrinkle, he noted, was teenage swapping of regionally produced "death metal" cassettes with lyrics centring on suicide and self‑mutilation. Officials added that dressing in all‑black clothing was another danger sign.
Community Reactions. Initially, the youths' high school peers were sceptical about the occult links. A classmate conceded that role‑playing games like "Magic: The Gathering" were among the teens' favourite hobbies. Still, he added, "It's fantasy, it's strategy, it's just fun. Anyone who is weak‑minded enough to actually let a game control them shouldn't play. And neither Shaun or Stanley was weak. They were smart, strong and intelligent." Superintendent Marko agreed: "These kids were not devil worshippers." A group of students even attended classes dressed in black with white face paint to protest the claim that the high school was hosting satanic worship.
Among the items found at the scene of the suicide were two cassette tape players and several cassettes including one by a regionally popular heavy metal band, Type O Negative. Several more tapes of death metal bands were found at the teens' homes. Carmen Ambrosino, CEO for Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services, said he had suggested to one of District Attorney Olszewski's task forces the possibility of banning or restricting sales of death metal recordings at local stores. Joe Nardone, head of a local chain of recording outlets, said such a ban would not hurt him financially: "I can't pay the light bill with the stuff I sell on that anyway." Nevertheless, he said he would not consider halting sales of death metal unless authorities "go to the libraries and the book stores to also clear their shelves."
Specifically, Sworin learned, one of the youths had asked his mother to listen to a tape by a local group named Ossuary. The tape, whose cover depicted a dead man, included such song titles as "Man of God" and "Judgment from the Dying." But the band's guitarist, a cousin of one of the victims, reacted vehemently to the idea that the recording was linked to the suicides. "I've gone to church all my life," he said. "I believe in God and I believe in Christ. Nothing we've ever talked about has been Satanic or suicide‑driven." Rather, he explained, the band's numbers dealt with social issues such as AIDS and homophobia. One song on the tape criticized TV evangelism and its corrupting effect on the Catholic church. Another tape owned by the teens came from a group named Broken Faith who presented explicitly Christian messages in a heavy metal style.
In a side box, the Times Leader printed a warning from the Committee for Scientific Examination of Religion that most claims linking satanism to crime are unwarranted: "Satanism is a symptom, not the cause." (Nevertheless, to cover all bases, the same box continued with a standard list of "danger signs" of satanic cult involvement.) District Attorney Olszewski acknowledged that there was no evidence that any occult ritual had been performed, despite finding a Bible and a "headless religious statue" on the scene, and said that drugs were now the "prime focus" of the case.
Another sceptical response came from drug treatment program director Don Williams of Clear Brook Lodge. Heavy metal, fantasy games and satanism, he said, "totally miss the issue that's killing our kids. It's drugs killing our kids." He noted that 85% of teens who kill themselves commit the act when drunk or high, and he linked an area rise in suicides to a parallel rise in Luzerne County drug use. "To chase after a satanic (cause for suicide)," he said, is a way of avoiding something more serious that needs to be addressed. Even the drug link grew tenuous, as revised lists of items found at the scene included no evidence of hard drugs but only a pipe similar to those used to smoke marijuana and several bottles of correction fluid, frequently used by youths to produce a brief high.
But the satanic link would not die. On Friday, 27 September, the mother of a disturbed 15‑year‑old girl from Wyoming Valley West told press that she had learned that her daughter and others had made a suicide pact to die with Zarcufsky and Szczupski. "Without that part of my child's covenant fulfilled, my daughter's life is in danger," she said, adding that there were ten other serious devil worshippers at the high school. She had the girl committed to a local mental hospital, the fifth time she had been there for drug use and threatening suicide. "It is not drugs alone," the mother said. "It is satanic. . . . She told me her spirits would visit her during the night." This time, she told the press, she would not allow her to return home for fear that she would carry out the suicide part.
The story sparked new inquiries among the teens' classmates, some of whom now said that their interest in the occult "was deeper and of a longer duration" than first thought. But Lt. Altavilla expressed frustration: most students were "reluctant" to tell what they had heard. "Everybody's afraid to say anything," he concluded. New improved lists of evidence found at the scene replaced references to soft drug paraphernalia with "empty liquor bottles," but now referred to the religious statue as "decapitated," implying some kind of anti‑Christian ritual had in fact been enacted.
A weekend commentary article held both ideas in tension. The article's leader included assurances from a local pastor that concern over satanism was "missing the point . . . a secondary issue." Deep on p. 14, however, was a notice that authorities had contacted Alan Peterson, founder and director of a coalition of police, clergy and private investigators specializing in "satanic crime." True satanists, he told the press, practise the creed of "Do what thou wilt," meaning that any crimes such as drug use and human sacrifice are "forgiven by Satan as long as you worship him." How common such satanists were in Pennsylvania was not made clear.
Vigils and Workshops. On the evening of Sunday, 29 Sept., the Luzerne County District Attorney's Committee on Youth and Violence sponsored a vigil on the county courthouse steps. Olszewski gave brief remarks, followed by a series of local psychologists and counsellors who offered advice (often contradictory) to students, parents and police on how to detect signs of satanism. Bishop Timlin, head of the local Catholic synod, closed the meeting with prayer. Several parents remained behind to ask experts questions, and more lists of trouble signs ‑‑ including collections of animal bones and occult jewelry such as pentagrams ‑‑ were distributed. One young woman was photographed by the *Times Leader* wearing a spiked dog collar around her neck, accompanied by a heavy chain and a pentagram.
Several teens told a reporter that they often wore black clothes, dye their hair black, and use black lipstick with white pancake makeup. "We're just different," one 15‑year‑old girl said, complaining that she had been expelled from Wyoming Valley West for showing up for school in "satanic" dress. "It's just a phase," her mother said, agreeing that the school had over‑reacted. "And black is a slimming colour," she added. The outfit, her daughter explained, was just a protest against her classmates' fad of wearing expensive clothes "from the Gap," an clothing chain specializing in pricey youth attire. It did not signal suicidal or satanic tendencies, she continued, and denied that she had ever practised any form of occultism. "I can vouch for that," her mother said. "I searched her room."
A more frightening problem, one of the girl's friends said, was the way in which other students were targeting those who wore such protest clothing. One student who dressed in black had received an anonymous hate letter saying "Die, freaks!" Other teens using the paper's 30‑second anonymous phone in editorial service addressed other problems. One noted that when his parents forced him to attend church, he noted that the priest and most of the congregation were wearing black. "Are these people disguised, are they really devil worshippers? . . . You people should learn what you're talking about before you report things. You're really making yourselves look like fools." Another suggested, "If you expect us kids not to do drugs, smoke or drink, then have some classes for our parents on how to listen and understand us. All they do is fight and watch TV and lie to us about everything. . . . We need love and understanding and someone to talk and listen to our problems."
Initially, these exchanges of opinion seemed to conclude the panic. But on Sunday, 20 Oct., Penn State University's Wilkes‑Barre campus announced a day‑long workshop on "Dealing with Satanism and the Occult" for police officers and public safety officials, to be held on 29 October. The person assigned to offer the course was one Daniel Sheats, "a Harrisburg area educator" with no publications on the topic, no academic training in the area, no affiliation with Penn State and only limited part‑time community college teaching experience.
Local authorities had no knowledge of what Sheats would present. A Courtdale officer said only that she and other police were curious and interested in getting some training: "As officers, we really don't have the knowledge." An assistant to District Attorney Olszewski also indicated lack of familiarity with Sheats's presentation, but added, "Obviously it is a good idea for law enforcement officers to become more familiar with issues involving satanism and the occult and their impact on violence or cases they're investigating." In a brief advance notice, Sheats stressed that police need to be aware of "symptoms of satanic activity," and neatly tied in the concern over drugs by affirming, "Satanists use drugs, alcohol and sex to recruit teens."
"We link the resources of the university to public needs," said a campus continuing education specialist in announcing the course, for which academic credit was promised.
Vocal Opposition. On Tuesday, October 22, I sent a fax expressing concern over this workshop and asking for Sheats's credentials. "The occult," I cautioned, "particularly as it relates to law enforcement, is a controversial topic that is plagued with a high level of amateurish and pseudo‑scientific misinformation. To study it objectively requires a background in anthropology, adolescent sociology, folklore, and/or comparative religion." I also warned that such a workshop might contain slurs on legitimate religious groups like the Wiccan/Women's Spirituality movement and even encourage law enforcement abuses. Knowing nothing about the content of the workshop, I urged that it be refereed by experts with training in the field and offered to provide contacts.
Philip Jenkins, Penn State's Director of Religious Studies, was less charitable, calling the workshop "nonsense" and "idiocy." He had already heard of the workshop from colleagues in England, where, he observed, "courses of this kind are regularly reported in the UK as a humorous comment on American gullibility and 'witch‑hunt' mentality." Cautioning that the course might discredit Penn State internationally, he concluded, "There is NO excuse for undertaking the proposed course."
This and a number of other protests mobilised the administrators at Penn State, and by Thursday the Dean ultimately responsible for the decision to hold the workshop was able to report on Sheats's and the course's credentials:
This is a NON‑CREDIT one day workshop, taught to the police officers of a specific department by an instuctor [sic] for the Pennsylvania Division of Public Safety in Harrisburg. He has a doctorate (which is not relevant for this course) from the University of Maryland. He is also a D.A.R.E. Instructor for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
The training he conducts has been approved for police officers and deputy sheriffs in the commonwealth through the Commision [sic] on Crime and Delinquency, and this particular workshop, which again is not academic and not for academic credit, has been approved through the proper state and university channels.
Meantime, as word of the approaching workshop circulated by email, a number of American experts were starting to check in with protests. On the same day, Phillips Stevens, Jr., author of "Satanism: Where Are the Folklorists?" (now reprinted in Garland's anthology Contemporary Legend: A Reader ), asked the Continuing Education Director to reconsider the advisability of the workshop. For some time now, he advised, "anthropologists and folklorists have known that satanic cults do not exist. They are a variant of a standard legend type that crops up from time to time throughout history and all over the world."
Stevens referred to the huge U.S. study, funded by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, on claims that satanic cults were engaged in kidnapping, murdering, and sexually abusing thousands of children. Such allegations, he noted, often panicked communities, split families, and led to unjustified prosecutions. After collecting some 12,264 allegations from over 11,000 psychiatric and police workers, the researchers could not substantiate a single case. Similar findings came from expensive national studies in Great Britain and The Netherlands. By 1995, he said, researchers had hoped that the business of satanism "experts" had died down. By allowing the workshop to go on, he concluded, Penn State might waste money, misinform police, and perform a public disservice.
This letter, entering the Penn State administrative conduit, brought a response from The Dean on Saturday, 26 October:
Dr. Stevens, I agree totally with your conclusions that such cults do not exist. I am from the west where such legends abound. However, I also know, as do you, that often individuals ‑‑ usually juveniles, commit acts ranging from vandalism to genuine atrocities, imitating what they think a "Satanist" might do.
I believe that a police officer at a crime scene, or trying to anticipate what s/he may encounter on the beat on a given night, should be aware of such feaux satinist [sic] attempts. That is the purpose of the seminar ‑‑ not to hunt down and burn witches wherever they may be imagined.
In short, I do not believe in the Occult nor in Satan nor in Satanists. But I also know that if we let our black cat out around Halloween, it will be killed ‑‑ probably stoned or soaked in gasoline and burned. This is a widespread and well‑known phenomenon.
There are others that are less well known, and I believe that police officers can benefit from being aware of them.
The Workshop. The 29 October programme was limited only to public safety officers, so I could not be present. However, one of the campus's security guards attended and passed on the handouts and notes to me. Daniel Sheats began the workshop with the following theme:
When confronted with satanic information, individuals usually react by either denying it exists entirely, or there is an attempt to hide it. Unfortunately, this does not change the reality of the existence of satanism, or of its potential devastating effects on society or individuals.
Sheats then told the group that many satanists are involved in illegal activities such as child abuse, kidnapping of both adults and children, animal mutilation, rape or sexual mutilation, and murder. "Main satanic cult groups," he continued, include adult groups who use children for sex and sale of drugs, adult/adolescent groups who also use children to sell drugs, and adolescent groups with an adult leader. Such "devious cults" are the most dangerous; they believe that the supernatural is real and that "illegal activities must occur to achieve that level."
A discussion of "main levels of involvement" followed. The first two are "Fun and games" and "Dabblers" who are tempted into satanism with sex, drugs, and alcohol. "Beyond this stage," Sheats warned, "it is difficult to turn individuals away from Satanism." The next stage is "Serious involvement" which includes acquisition of "satanic books" and "serious attempts at learning satanic activities," followed by "Criminal involvement," in which, Sheats reiterated, the participant "believes that criminal action must occur in order to reach the reality of the supernatural."
The workshop went on to list classic "signs of involvement," including involvement in Fantasy/Role‑playing games, collecting of "occult books," owning objects used for spells and rituals (including mainly Neo‑Pagan paraphernalia such as candles, bells, ritual knives), and wearing symbolic jewelry such as pentagrams. A list of "Signs of Satan" to help decode graffiti included the 6‑pointed Star of David ("one of the most powerful symbols of the occult") and the Islamic Star and Crescent ("primarily Satanic") along with the logos of rock bands AC/DC ("Antichrist/Devil Child") and the Blue Oyster Cult ("Cross of Confusion"). For good measure, Sheats also included the "Italian horn," an amulet commonly worn in this area to ward off evil eye, or simply as an ethnic marker.
A sheet giving warnings of "Satanic Involvement" gave a typical profile of the adolescent most likely to become involved in satanism: "a bright teenager, bored and under‑achieving, looking for forbidden excitement. Often gifted and talented, these children may have a low self‑worth." A list of warning signs follows, including changes in friends and usual activities, secretive behaviour, loss of a sense of humour, obsession with popular culture themes of violence and demonism, doodling and wearing satanic symbols, drug use, and "erratic" grades.
Robert Hicks, author of the study of police satanism lore In Pursuit of Satan (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1991) kindly reviewed this material and identified the "Signs of Satan" and "Satanic Involvement" sheets as having been photocopied from materials circulated by Dale Griffis, who is also listed (falsely as "chief of police") as an informational source. Griffis, one of the most active of the 1980s satan‑hunters, began as a police detective in Tiffin, Ohio, then retired to operate a private consulting practice. His role in networking anti‑cult propaganda is discussed extensively in Hicks's book, as well as in William Guinee's "Satanism in Yellowwood Forest" (Indiana Folklore and Oral History 16:1 (1987): 1‑30), and my "Legend‑Trips and Satanism," now also reprinted in Garland's Contemporary Legend: A Reader. Griffis's "Signs of Satan," Hicks notes, is a common photocopylore item that was "first authored by a fundamentalist Christian group and, in fact, simply made up."
The discussion of "Satanic Involvement," he was amused to find, is still circulating among law enforcement trainees. Now, however, the sheet focusses on "organized gang involvement" rather than satanism, but it continues to link symbolic jewelry and fear of discussing involvement with drug use and criminality. Likewise, the psychological profile is now recycled to describe the prototype gang member. Hicks found it puzzling that "bright underachievers can carry out murderous orders with military discipline, never leaving evidence and never telling anyone of their activities." Hicks also recognised a listing of "Common Signs of Preschool Abuse" as one that was repeatedly used in investigations of ritual child abuse cases in preschools during the 1980s.
The workshop also circulated a bibliography of "recommended reading material," none more recent than 1986. It included Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible and Satanic Rituals and the Time‑Life coffee‑table book Wizards and Witches. Serious discussions of the topic began with Jules Michelet's 19th‑century survey of the witch trials, Satanism and Witchcraft, and ended with Jacob Aranza's Backward Masking Unmasked (1984), a widely referenced evangelical "exposé" of satanic messages on rock music recordings.
Also recommended was Mike Warnke's The Satan Seller (1972). Warnke, whose address and phone number were also provided, generated much notoriety during the 1970s and 1980s with his books and recordings detailing his pre‑conversion experiences as a member of a high‑level satanic cult, where he learned that world politics and finances were being controlled by a diabolical groups known as the Illuminati. His own financial affairs, however, generated so much criticism within the evangelical community that he was finally exposed as a fraud in the fundamentalist Christian magazine Cornerstone.
The "Informational Sources" also included BADD, a now‑defunct group that used to circulate propaganda against fantasy role‑playing games, and the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), a fundamentalist group that attacked a variety of unconventional religions for "brainwashing" youths. Starting in 1991, the Church of Scientology filed a series of legal suits against CAN, calling it "a hate group in the tradition of the KKK and the Neo‑Nazis." After losing one such suit, CAN declared bankruptcy, and, in a bizarre sequel, its assets were purchased by a Scientologist, who has announced that the organisation will reopen to spread "the truth about all religions" [Laurie Goodstein, "Critics, Scientologists Behead Foe Some Called the 'Serpent'," Washington Post (1 December 1996: A1, A22).]
No academic sociologist, anthropologist, folklorist, or religious studies expert was represented.
The Aftermath. Once the contents of the workshop became known, a series of protests descended on the Dean. I conceded that a workshop on teenage ostensive pranks based on satanism would have been valuable, "But this was not the workshop's purpose. Penn State's name has been used to preach an extreme faction's philosophy of religious and civil intolerance. The community deserved better." Robert Hicks agreed that police should investigate crimes with a ritualistic component but, he added, persons who commit crimes in the name of Christianity far outnumber those linked to alternative religions. He characterised much of Sheats's information as "bogus" and "outdated" and said that the conspiracy of satanic adults recruiting kids for sex and drug trafficking "has no basis in fact."
Hicks was especially critical of the "Common Signs of Preschool Abuse" that Sheats circulated. "You should know," he warned The Dean,
that this checklist (features of which I and others have strongly condemned) is not endorsed by the American Prosecutors' Research Institute, a national organization that devises the curriculum for and teaches child abuse investigation nationally. APRI is THE source of reliable information on investigative protocol.
This point was underscored by Professor Jean S. LaFontaine, who wrote the British Department of Health's critical report on The Extent and Nature of Organized and Ritual Abuse (London: HMSO, 1994) in the wake of the U.K.'s Rochdale and Orkney Islands scandals. She suggested that:
Penn State dissociate itself from the disinformation presented by the conference. This case shows that universities must be careful lest they allow their concern for freedom of speech to be exploited in order to disseminate material of this dishonest and misleading kind. I am sure that Penn State would not wish to be seen as endorsing it, even unawares.
Finally, Phillips Stevens, Jr. admitted disappointment:
Many of us have given a lot of time and effort, for no remuneration, to countering the dangerous sensationalism propagated by people like Sheats over the past 15 years. To learn that he has been given carte blanche to profess this nonsense, all over again . . . is discouraging. . . . For a respected state university to sponsor such an event, with ‑‑ apparently ‑‑ no exposure to the several other sides of this demonology, its history, anthropology, and social implications, is shameful.
The Dean, after a decent interval, acceded, informing all participants that he had now
requested that those in the path of approval for the course not approve another without first verifying the nature of the content and the approach to it. I have also asked that if we approve such workshops in the future we invite one of the vocal opponents to present their side.
Receiving this message, Stevens commented: "We, as they say, shall see."
Voodoo Coda. When the action moved to Penn State, the situation that had triggered it at Wyoming Valley West High School had disappeared from the papers. Luzerne County prosecutors found no further links with the occult, and a rationale for the two teens' suicides never emerged.
But devil worship did reappear briefly in the press. On 22 October, a 16‑year‑old girl was expelled from the high school when a search revealed a small black‑handled knife and a homemade doll in her purse. Rumours soon emerged that the girl, who made a hobby of making the dolls from napkins and straw, was practicing voodoo and casting spells on other students. The girl countered that she had been harassed by other students, and carried the knife for protection while jogging alone. Her attorney added that no pins were found in the doll. In the end, she was allowed to return to classes under supervision, but when the case came to court on 13 November, the Times Leader, characteristically gave the occult tie considerable column space.
An area teen phoned up the paper's "Say So" line and offered the following summation:
You think that after last month's teen town meeting, you'd get the picture from area youth, that one of the biggest problems they faced recently is the paper's sensationalizing the issue of occults and such. It had to be the teens' biggest gripe that night. But there you have it again, a full‑length front page article on voodoo.
You people are missing the mark once again, and making it harder and harder for young people to get help with the real issues they face. This sensationalizing is turning young people against each other in fear. It breeds paranoia, it stereotypes them, and it dilutes the real issues. All the while your paper is making money off of it.
Times Leader is talking out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to helping young people. This amounts to using them and adding to their confusion about who to trust.
Think about it.
Sources: Brian Malina, "2 bodies discovered near West Side Landfill," The [Scranton/Wilkes‑Barre, PA] Times Leader [TL] 23 Sept 96: 2A; Anthony Colarossi, "2 teens' deaths linked to satanic worship," TL 24 Sept 96: 1A, 12A; Dave Janoski, "Satanism, heroin in evidence at WVW, investigators say," TL 24 Sept 96: 12A; Renita Fennick, "Death probe turns to drug sales," TL 25 Sept 96: 1A, 12A; "Satanism often just symptom of other problems, experts say," TL 25 Sept 96: 12A; Mark E. Jones, "Expert: 'It's drugs killing our kids,' " TL 26 Sept 96: 1A, 16A; Dave Janoski, "Satanism a factor in deaths, says mom," TL 27 Sept 96: 1A, 14A; Ibid, "Reluctant students slow probe," TL 27 Sept 96: 1A, 14A; Alan K. Stout, "Local band mentioned by suicide victim," TL 28 Sept 96: 1A, 12A; Cece Todd, "Satanism a symptom of unmet teen needs, experts say," TL 29 Sept 96: 1A, 14A; Mary Therese Biebel, "A vigil for troubled youth," TL 30 Sept 96: 1A, 12A; "Say so" [30‑second call‑in editorials], TL 30 Sept 96: 2A; Bonnie Adams, "Area police to study satanism," TL 20 Oct 96: 1C, 7C.; Sanjay Bhatt, "Girl victim of vendetta, lawyer says," TL 12 Nov 96: 1A, 12A; Sanjay Bhatt, "Expelled teen to be supervised," TL 14 Nov 96: 3A; "Say So" TL 17 Nov 96: 2A. Thanks to Corey Wetzel, PSU Security, Hazleton Campus.]
HAVE YOU HEARD?
National Film Board
Box 6100, Station Centre Ville
Montreal QC H3C 3H5 CANADA
Telephone: 514‑283‑9518; fax: 514‑283‑5487
I am a NFB documentary filmmaker doing preliminary research for a film about Springheel Jack and other related folktales. I am looking to find out as much of the legend as possible: sightings, anecdotes, descriptions, or drawings. Any critical analysis, or social or historical background which would place the sightings in context would be informative as well. At this very premature point, the film is focusing on legends that develop as a result of people's fear of the unknown/wilderness, but really I am still just gathering information, so it could all change as a result of the research.
[PH: The October 1996 issue of Fortean Times (91: 20) included a report, credited to the UPI wire service 26 June 1996, of a spring-heeled character in Uttar Pradesh, India. The story originated in the newspaper, The Pioneer, the previous day. "Villagers say that at least 20 children have already fallen prey" to the bouncing, bulb-eyed creature that eats them. Fortean Times 92: 15 had a little more news.]
Timothy J. Lundgren (Lundgren.email@example.com) asks:
My wife Tess's sister works in a hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and heard this from a nurse, to whose husband it allegedly happened. It has the ring of legend to me ‑- anyone else heard this?
This fellow was out deer hunting and fortunately (for him, not the deer) got a good shot at a buck, which dropped immediately. Elated, he ran over to it, and sure enough, it wasn't moving. So he tied his gun to its antlers (SOP? [Standard Operating Procedure]) and whipped out his knife. When he stuck the deer, however, it suddenly leapt to its feet and ran off through the woods carrying his rifle. It turns out that the bullet had only grazed it and knocked it unconscious, but did not otherwise impair it. He lost both the deer and his rifle.
The telling is, of course, followed by the inevitable and irresistible remarks about watching out for armed deer in the woods this fall.
Bill Ellis replies:
This is reminiscent of "The Revenge of the Kangaroo," a well-travelled contemporary legend. Tourists motoring through the Australian outback accidently hit a kangaroo with their vehicle. They stop and find the animal apparently dead. Seizing the opportunity for up‑close snapshots, they take turns posing with the kangaroo. Eventually, one of the tourists takes off his/her name‑brand jacket and puts it on the animal for humorous effect. At this point, the animal, which had actually been stunned but not killed, revives and bounds off into the wilderness.
The tourists think this is hysterically funny and imagine the shock of others who see the overdressed animal hopping around in the outback. Until the owner realizes that his wallet, identification papers, and/or passport were in the jacket pocket.
The story is discussed by Jan Harold Brunvand in Baby Train (1993) pp. 233‑36. It was famous enough to give titles to two collections of contemporary legends, Amanda Bishop's The Gucci Kangaroo & Other Australian Urban Legends (Hornsby, NSW: Australasian Publishing, 1988) and Peter Burger's De Wraak van de Kangoeroe: Sagen uit het moderne Leven (Amsterdam: Prometheus, 1992).
There are also many other legends dealing with animals victimizing hunters in unlikely ways: one widespread story (often accompanied with a tape recording that allegedly authenticates the event) is "The Hunter's Nightmare," in which a deer revives within the hunter's vehicle on the way home (Baby Train, pp. 270‑72). Another common complex describes killed gamebirds who manage in unlikely ways (e.g., advancing rigor mortis) to discharge the triggers of loaded hunting rifles and so revenge their deaths.
See also the common gag postcard that shows a deer apparently driving a convertible with a dead hunter tied to its rear. One version, still in print and commonly available in racks here, is captioned "Hunting is great here in Northeast PA" and titled (on the flip side) "Poetic Justice."
The Lucky Mourner
The following was posted on the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban on 5 October 1996 by Maggie Newman (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the University of Chicago:
From the Chicago Sun‑Times, 3 October 1996
"Eduardo Sierra, a Spanish man visiting Stockholm, decided to stop in a church and pray. The church was empty except for a coffin with a man in it. Sierra stopped and prayed for the man's soul. He then stopped at a condolence book and wrote his name and address. He noticed he was the first to sign the book. He soon received a letter saying the dead man, Jens Svenson, stated in his will that 'whoever prays for my soul gets all my belongings.' Eduardo Sierra is now a millionaire."
In my recollection, this story has not appeared before with details such as name and country, particularly with the specifics involving the Spanish tourist in Sweden. I recall the story taking place in the U.S. southwest. Any memories better than mine?
[PH: The appearance of this story in the news media in October 1996 was discussed on the FOLKLORE discussion list (email@example.com) and several posters noted that the story was carried by the Associated Press wire service as well as the American National Public Radio programme Morning Edition. Some of the newspapers noted to have reported it were Bild (of Hamburg), The Times (of London), the Herald (of Everett, Washington state), and the Boston Globe. Arthur Goldstuck noted that Jan Brunvand had reported it as current in 1986-87 in Curses! Broiled Again! (1989), pp. 267-268 ("The Will"); Brunvand notes a correspondent's memory of having heard it in Honduras in the early 1970s. Arthur Goldstuck himself heard a South African version:
A couple of years ago I heard a similar story. The father of a colleague of my father's (is this more, or less reliable that a FOAF?) was taking a longish walk and found that he had to relieve his bladder. It so happened that the only "public" building in the vicinity was a crematorium. Not wanting to piss out in the open, the elderly man went inside and used the gentlemen's room. Afterwards, he noticed that a cremation was in progress and poked his head around the corner to have a look. He saw that no one was attending and decided to take one of the empty seats and rest a bit. When the cremation was finished, some kind of official (notary?) came up to him and said that the deceased had had no heirs and had put in his will that his possessions should be divided among the people attending his cremation. Since my father's colleague's father was the only one there, he received a considerable amount. At the time, I had my doubts about the veracity of this tale, and seeing this now on AP, it does not increase my respect for AP.]
First goats; now drunks
A Reuters wire story, "Drunks report 'love bites'," datelined Managua, Nicaragua, appeared in the St. John's Evening Telegram, 31 August 1996, p. 48. It describes the terror among drinking men in Matagalpa, a northern town, over the "chupabolos" or "drunk sucker."
"Enraged drunks and street people . . . have organized a search for the culprit who . . . preys on men who have passed out in the streets." The chupabolos leaves "hickey-like 'love bites' on various parts of their bodies."
See also a short note in Fortean Times 93 (December 1996), p. 10, reporting on that and another drunksucker a few weeks earlier in Honduras.
Department of Drama
University of Exeter, Exeter
A couple of weeks ago [perhaps mid-October 1996] there was a report on tv about a new investment scheme/advice that was being offered. It revolved around the idea that come the Millennium there will be a shortage of champagne due to the whole world wanting to toast in the 21st century. A financial killing is waiting to be made. Indeed the big corporations are already putting in their orders for fear of being left high and dry when the time comes. However, the report maintained that there is unlikely to be a shortage and, even if there were, in order to get anything like a decent return on your investment, you would need to purchase the stuff in impossibly large quantities.
At the time I didn't really pay any attention to it -- I think the tv was just on in the background at the time -- and I can't say when it was broadcast or on which programme. I can't even say whether this advice was coming from a bona fide investment advisor or whether the source was unconfirmed. To be honest, I had forgotten all about it until this morning [4 November 1996].
Half-asleep, as the radio-alarm came on, there was a report on BBC Radio Four about exactly the same piece of advice. Again the thrust of the report was to debunk the story and say that this was poor advice since Millennium champagne in not even drinkable yet.
I'm afraid on both occasions of hearing the story, my brain was not fully in gear, but it has made me wonder whether the story of the Millennium champagne is a new legend in the making? Are we on course for a whole cycle of new legends concerning the Millennium?
[PH: There has been a great deal of interest in the media in the Millennium, besides the recurrent and growing estimation of what the costs will be to computer owners regarding their date switchover. There is abroad in the media a mechanistic view of humankind that has a kind of strange religious and millenarian activity like that said to have happened a thousand years ago. Following from this belief is a series of debunking reports suggesting that the reported activity never happened. Nonetheless, it makes sense that a whole series of these predictive stories might come into being. Does this stretch the definition of what is a legend: a story told as truth and happening in the near future?]
Migratory Maids of the Mist
[Jackie Laderoute (firstname.lastname@example.org) posted this to the Usenet group alt.folklore.urban on 13 September 1996. She begins with a quote from another poster, Ken West, who reported something he had heard on a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation programme. Laderoute continues with information about Kakabeka Falls, near Thunder Bay, Ontario. -PH]
Ken West (email@example.com) writes:
CBC AM radio this morning (9 September) had an article about the operators of the Maid of the Mist boats at Niagara Falls agreeing not to repeat the legend of the "maid of the mist" on their tours of the base of the falls, as they have been doing for 50 years or so.
The issue was apparently pressed by the Cayuga tribe. A spokesperson for them was heard to say that the legend is false, and was never in fact told as a legend within the Indian community. He traces it to a promotional pamphlet written in 1851 by one Andrew Burke who in turn claimed that the legend was told to him by "an Indian," no specifics.
The legend, for those who have not had the tour, goes something like, "Every year a maiden was put in a canoe with bountiful provisions and sent over the falls as a gift to the gods. It was thought that her spirit then rose with the mist. On one occasion, the chief's daughter was chosen, and the chief, in trying to save her, went over also."
Hmmm . . . I have no knowledge of the "maid of the mist" legend, but I do live close to the other major waterfall in Ontario, Kakabeka Falls. While not as spectacular as Niagara (much narrower, although higher), it does have a legend attached to it. Interestingly, the legend also involves a "maid of the mist."
The legend is Ojibway in origin, and tells the story of "Greenmantle," the daughter of an Ojibway chieftain. The story goes that Greenmantle was captured by a Sioux raiding party and forced to lead them to her people. Cunning Greenmantle, knowing the topography of the area, led them down the Kaministiquia River. By the time the Sioux realized what was happening, they were caught in the current and swept over the falls. That the river takes a sharp bend before plunging over the local diabase into the river gorge lends minor credence to the story, as does the rock hump midway down the falls, which "resembles" (with a liberal dose of imagination) a person.
This legend was a "real" one, in that it was indeed told by the Ojibway in the area. Basil Johnson (despite his name, an Ojibway historian ‑‑ both by specialization and ethnicity) chronicled it in his book on Ojibway legends. . . . It's one of a family of legends involving Sioux raiding parties, which inevitably end up with the war‑like Sioux being slaughtered en masse by the "peaceful" Ojibway (as a plaque at the town of Sioux Narrows informs the tourist, apparently with no conscious irony). A similar legend is attached to the naming of the town of Sioux Lookout, built on a height of land where an Ojibway hunting party spotted a Sioux raiding party in time to warn their people who, once alerted, mounted a valiant defence and slaughtered the invaders to a man.
But I digress . . . . Given the thematic similarity of the "false" legend attached to Niagara to the "real" legend attached to Kakabeka, I have to wonder if Burke borrowed from the Ojibway. Personally, I prefer the noble sacrifice angle of the Greenmantle story, but Sioux raiding parties obviously never made it that far down the Great Lakes.
[PH adds: The motif of the local leader's daughter being chosen by lottery for sacrifice is also central to the St. George and the Dragon legend, at least as promulgated in the medieval period by the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine.]
Reported in November on the Folklore Discussion List (folklore@TAMVM1.TAMU.EDU) was the following. The first query was posted by K. Kuzawski (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 20 November 1996.
Subject: capitol cannibals/ plaza people
This week I heard a (hopefully) urban legend concerning a group of homeless people in Albany, NY.
Underneath the state capitol building complex here, there is a kind of mini‑city, with barber shops and restaurants and post offices and all that. Below this there is a level through which run heating ducts, electrical wires, etc.
A friend of mine works for the Homeless Action Committee, which provides shelter, food, and services for the homeless population of the city. She claims that several of her homeless acquaintances fear a group of people who allegedly live in this sublevel of the plaza and survive by practicing cannibalism. She says that they will not go near the plaza at night, and that certain street people, who are believed to belong to the cannibal group, are avoided when they are seen.
This bothered me -‑ it seems to contribute to the dehumanization of the homeless (like we don't have enough of that already) ‑- but it is supposedly being told by the homeless themselves. It sounds like a huge urban legend to me (maybe I'm biased ‑- I find myself alone near the plaza at night occasionally, and don't welcome the idea of being feasted on).
Are there stories like this told in other areas with large homeless populations?
On the same day Michael Partie (email@example.com) replied:
K. Kuzawski asks about cannibalistic homeless rumors. Yeah, these abound and were even the basis for a movie C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers), although these were mutants feeding on homeless people living underground.
Are these legends circulating elsewhere, too?
Rebuilding the Temple
In November Dan Goodman (firstname.lastname@example.org) reported, to the Folklore Discussion List, a rumour that had appeared in the Usenet newsgroup misc.survivalism to the effect that the President of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu had just approved the secret rebuilding of the Temple of the Mount in Jerusalem. The rumour touched off an exchange about the meaning of such a move and its relationship to Armageddon. The misc.survivalism discussion was dated 19 November and in turn reported discussion at another public access site (a "message wall") through the week of 12 - 17 November 1996.
No Fraud in Weeping Icon
The East York (a suburb of Toronto), Ontario, parish of Mother Portaitissa Saints Raphael, Nikolaso and Irene, of the Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece and Diaspora has had a weeping icon of the Virgin Mary since August 1996. The icon is a copy of a 1200-year-old painting; since rumours began of its weeping, it has attracted gifts of money to the church by believers. Counter rumours included the claim that the church pastor had been excommunicated for working in a brothel. Within five days of the first reports of tears, the Toronto police fraud squad received complaints and began investigating. In mid-November they determined there to be no evidence of fraud. (Canadian Press story, "No fraud in claims of weeping church icon," St. John's Evening Telegram, 19 November 1996, p. 8.)
Buildings built backwards
Many campuses and other public buildings have had attached to them the legend that a certain building was built backwards. Memorial University of Newfoundland built a new library in the early 1980s and ever since has had that legend. In a regular column, "MUNsolved Mysteries," The MUN Gazette(the official campus weekly newspaper) dealt with the legend (28 November 1996, 12). "Consider that urban myth shattered," said the story. Interviewing the campus director of buildings, it pointed out that the building was not designed for passive solar heat and mis-oriented away from the sun (as the legend has it), but instead designed for maximum use of northern light (an even, non-glaring light) in the study rooms.
Winnings not wanted
The following was clipped from the Guardian Weekly24 November 1996, p. 11. It is titled "Widow turns down £2m." The first paragraph seem to suggest a legend-like buzz about Hull.
No pensioner in Hull [England] was safe last week after the bizarre revelation that a £2.1 million National Lottery jackpot ticket was lying uncashed on an elderly local widow's front room table, writes Martin Wainwright .
Reporters, treasure hunters and officials of Camelot, the Lottery organisers, began a systematic attempt to persuade the reluctant winner to break cover -- at least to the modest extent of claiming the prize.
The strangest twist yet in the unpredictable history of lottery oddities followed an unsigned letter to the Hull Daily Mail. The woman's letter said the winning ticket, from May 24, had been bought by her husband shortly before his death. "It was a grand feeling to win, but too late."
The woman then gave her age, courteously blanked out by the newspaper, and added: "Sorry, I don't wish to give my name. I am sure the fuss would finish me off. The ticket is on the front room table. I keep looking at it -- if only I could have my life over."
The six-month deadline for claiming the jackpot runs out this week, and Camelot warned that the money would go automatically into the good causes pool if the woman failed to contact them.
Rice Advice: For the Birds?
In early October 1996 the Rice Millers' Association and the USA Rice Council issued a press release calling on the widely syndicated advice columnist, Ann Landers, to stop advising wedding organisers to avoid throwing rice. Apparently Landers has recently said (again) that rice is harmful to birds. The press release, as reported by "Snopes" (David Mikkelson, email@example.com) on alt.folklore.urban, 4 October 1996, read:
"This silly myth pops up periodically and it is absolutely unfounded," said rice expert Mary Jo Cheesman at the USA Rice Federation, an association which represents the U.S. rice industry, including rice farmers who take exception to this urban legend because many of them are working hard alongside conservation groups to provide habitat for migratory waterfowl and other species. In fact, many migrating ducks and geese depend on winter‑flooded rice fields each year to fatten up and build strength for their return trek to northern nesting grounds.
Cheesman said uncooked milled rice is no more harmful to birds than rice in the field. Landers previously published this myth in her column back in 1988, and later printed an apology along with a letter from a Cornell ornithological expert saying "rice is no threat to birds."
"With all the good advice she's given since then, I guess Ms. Landers forgot," Cheesman said. .
America Online gets into the Business of Contemporary Legend
Again thanks to "Snopes," we have a press release, this issued in late October 1996 by the American Internet service provider, America Online (AOL). The press release, as AOL provided it on their Web Page, reads as follows.
Urban Legends The Greatest Stories Ever Told Launches on America Online - Kicks Off with Launch Party at Le Bar Bat in New York City
Dulles, Va., October 28, 1996: Have you heard the one from your friend's friend, who heard it from their cousin's cousin? Chances are, you've heard an urban legend ‑‑ a compelling story which is more or less believable, but always amazing. Alligators in the Sewer. Kentucky Fried Rat. Spider eggs in bubble gum. Stolen or severed body parts. Now, people around the world can share their stories and browse through a rich collection of legends past and present. America Online, the world's most popular Internet online service, today announced the launch of Urban Legends, available on America Online on The Hub and at Keyword: Urban Legends.
AOL will celebrate the launch of Urban Legends on November 4th at the Urban Legends Launch Party at Le Bar Bat in New York City (311 West 57th Street). Starting at 7:00 p.m., AOL and Urban Legends will play host to AOL members and others and will emcee an Urban Legends open mike, debut the Urban Legends drink and more! AOL members can send the Urban Legends Launch Party invitation to a friend by going to Keyword: Urban Legends on America Online.
Urban Legends, a service of The AOL Greenhouse, is executive produced by Wendy Dubit of New York‑based Outhouse Productions. Urban Legends is filled to the brim with hundreds of quirky, unexpected, humorous and vivid stories in dozens of categories, including everything from crime to love and pets to products. Through a wealth of stories, contests, trivia, message boards and chat rooms, members are encouraged to rate, debate, create, prove and spoof urban legends of all shapes and sizes.
"Urban legends appeal to all people in all places, and we're excited to be part of the phenomena where people around the world can share their own stories and rate the believability of others in an environment that's fun, witty and sometimes shocking," says Ted Leonsis, President of AOL Services. "It's like playing the world's biggest game of 'Telephone.'"
Adventurers can follow and interact with Urban Legends' own Legs Urbano, as he gambols around the globe in search of legends old and new. A true man of legends, Legs combines the sex‑appeal of Indiana Jones with the game‑playing allure of Carmen Sandiego. In any night, he may be carousing with the criminally insane, preventing pets from being microwaved, investigating celebrity legends and more. In any event, he is dedicated to deciphering Urban Legends fiction from fact, and getting AOL members involved in proving, disproving and submitting legends of their own.
Also, a new Send to a Friend button makes it unbelievably easy for members to send legends to friends, causing these stories to replicate quicker than DNA, as only possible via the Internet. The lucky recipient of the fascinating legend gets a direct link back to the Urban Legends area, or to the AOL web site, if they're not already an AOL member.
Still unclear about exactly what an urban legend is? According to Legs, it's "a story that captures our imaginations and gets told again and again until it has strayed far from the provable truth. It's always believed to be true, and often we say we know someone who knows someone who knows it's true."
The three main online areas within Urban Legends include:
* Today's Urban Legend ‑‑ Every day, this area showcases a compelling tale from the Urban Legends' ever‑expanding library. Members can rate the story using the Believe‑o‑Meter, an animated voting feature, debate the story in message boards and chat, and create their own stories, which leads to
* File an Urban Legend ‑‑ The place where members can "Be Wise -‑ Legendize!" A simple form enables members to submit their own urban legends ‑- and pictures. One never knows their story could end up being the talk of the town, the topic at parties everywhere, or a tale to be passed down through generations!
* Report from the Field ‑‑ This feature profiles Legs Urbano, the thrill‑seeking, never‑sleeping, tale‑telling, legend‑listening, fact‑finding, truth‑grinding reporter, whose mission is to prove and spoof existing urban legends, and to create his own. He'll do anything and search anywhere. Suffice it to say, he is NOT above sewer‑crawling in search of alligators. Legs will also join in on numerous Urban Legends chats. If you've got a tale that needs proof or spoof, he'll get on your case.
Additional features found on Urban Legends' main screen are: What's an Urban Legend? The who's, what's, where's, why's and how's. Library of Legends ‑‑ Fifteen categories of legends from animals and automobiles to celebrities and work.
Also (it's just chock full of fun stuff), members can hear and tell wild tales in the Urban Legends chat room, post in the message boards, enter contests, and test their knowledge and retention with legend trivia. Urban Legends serves as the campfire, water cooler, cocktail party and quilting bee of AOL, where the only thing common members must share is their quest for interacting with the greatest stories ever told.
Urban Legends is brought to you by the creative minds in The AOL Greenhouse. Their mission is to create a whole new online realm in which words spread like wildfire. As with other Greenhouse partners, The AOL Greenhouse has provided Urban Legends with online production support including full utilization of AOL's publishing tools, marketing resources, online promotion, and an audience of more than 6.2 million America Online members.
A Reuters London news report in the St. John's Evening Telegram, 24 August 1996 (p. 28),reports that a British insurance broker has a plan for those worried about the costs incurred by contact with aliens. The broker, Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson, will take a policy for a hundred pounds a year and it will cover you against both alien abduction and impregnation. Both men and women are eligible for the plan which will pay £100,000 for abduction and £200,000 for impregnation. Chuck Shepherd included the same report a few weeks later in his "News of the Weird" syndicated column and quoted Goodfellow director Simon Burgess: "I personally would not buy [this] policy."
Alone or Not?
A Reuters news story by Danielle Bochove, "Earthlings can't believe they're alone," was carried by the St. John's Evening Telegram, 15 October 1996, p. 30. It reported on a "recent meeting in Chicago" where "UFOlogists" spoke of the need to welcome aliens who are already among us. Bochove noted an August 1996 poll by the Harris polling company that found 40 percent of Americans believe in the existence of intelligent life within the solar system. Another 13 percent believe such life exists elsewhere in the universe. [Via Lara Maynard.]
[PH: I wonder how these figures compare to recently compiled figures on belief in angels. . .]
Starting with this issue we will set aside a space for Web site addresses (URLs) that might be fruitfully consulted by legend researchers. We will also include references to, and a few texts, of "Frequently Forwarded Messages" that have some bearing on legend studies.
Legends as Product
Via Larry Doyle (firstname.lastname@example.org‑state.edu) and Bill Ellis (email@example.com) comes a report of legendary matters broadcast on the American Internet company America Online's daily programme of odd news, "Today's Other News." The date was Sunday 30 June 1996.
Larry writes: "These sound like legends to me, especially the last one about peanut butter (except my hairdresser's cousin said it happened to a woman). Note the editor's introduction in which s/he says the sources can't be found after an exhaustive search. Hmmmm . . . "
Note: As our loyal readers [on AOL] know, it is the policy of Today's Other News to attribute each item we publish to a newspaper, magazine, wire service, or other media source. The following stories, which were sent to us by a correspondent, contain no such attributions ‑‑ for which we apologize. Not that we didn't try. Young Nexis‑fluent staffers tried, without luck, to track down the original sources. Ordinarily, we do not publish stories we cannot substantiate. But because these particular items are such fine examples of their type, we have decided to run them. If you happen to know where they came from ‑‑ or if you know them to be untrue ‑‑ please post the information on our message board. Thank you . . . and happy reading.
Kennett, Missouri ‑‑ Paramedics rescued a man who had lodged his penis in his bathroom sink drain. The man had been trying to change a light bulb above the sink when he slipped on the lip and fell. His penis sustained heavy bruising and abrasions and swelled so much that he was unable to remove it from the drain. A neighbor, hearing his screams, called police. They broke the door down, despite the victim's fevered pleas that he was fine and in no need of assistance.
Paramedics arrived and administered an injection, causing the swelling to drop so that the penis could be removed before it, or the sink, sustained any further damage.
Los Angeles, CA ‑‑ Attorney Antonio Mendoza, was released from a trauma ward after having a cell phone removed from his rectum. "My dog drags the thing all over the house," he said later. "He must have dragged it into the shower. I slipped on the tile, tripped on the dog and sat down right on the thing."
The extraction took more than three hours due to the fact that the cover to Mr. Mendoza's phone had opened during insertion. "He was a real trooper during the entire episode," said Dr. Dennis Crobe.
"Tony just cracked jokes and really seemed to be enjoying himself. Three times during the extraction his phone rang and each time, he made jokes about it that just had us rolling on the floor. By the time we finished, we really did expect to find an answering machine in there."
Portland, Oregon ‑‑ A man was admitted to an emergency clinic with severe bruising and lacerations on his penis and testicles, sustained in an accident involving a hand held vacuum cleaner. The man had been vacuuming, wearing only a bathrobe, when he tripped, having been distracted because his robe fell open. "It always does that," he said. "I keep meaning to rig up some kind of tie for it, but I never do. I guess I'll get around to it now."
He fell on the vacuum and the small beater bar of the device caused enough damage to require fifteen stitches to his penis and an overnight stay at the clinic.
Bremerton, Wash. ‑‑ Christopher Coulter and his wife, Emily, were engaging in bondage games when Christopher suggested spreading peanut butter on his genitals and letting Rudy, their Irish Setter, lick them clean. Sadly, Rudy lost control and began tearing at Christopher's penis and testicles.
Rudy refused to obey commands and a panicked Emily threw a half‑gallon bottle of perfume at the dog. The bottle broke, covering the dog and Christopher with perfume. Startled, Rudy leaped back, tearing away the penis.
While trying to get her husband, by now mercifully unconscious, to the car to take him to the hospital, Emily fell twice, injuring her wrist and ankle. At the time, Christopher's penis was nestled safely in a styrofoam ice cooler.
"Chris is just plain lucky," said the surgeon who spent eight hours reattaching the penis. "Believe it or not, the perfume turned out to be very fortuitous. The high alcohol content, which must have been excruciatingly painful, helped sterilize the wound. Also, aside from its being removed, the damage caused by the dog's teeth to the penis per se is minimal. It's really a very stringy piece of flesh. Mr. Coulter stands an excellent chance of regaining the use of his limb because of this."
Fortean Times URL with Links Galore
Fortean Times has redesigned its main web site which has dozens of links to web pages and search engines useful to students of "Fortean phenomena" and by extension of contemporary legend. It can be found at http://www.forteantimes.com/.
A similarly rich site for "Fortean" links is at http://alpha.mic.dundee.ac.uk:80/ft/ft.cgi?-1,ft_links.
Danbury Hospital and Blue Star Tattoo
One of the most common attributions of the Blue Star Tattoo warning is to a "Danbury Hospital" and sometimes to the "Chemical Dependency Unit" of that hospital. (See, for example, FTN 38: 9; 39: 10.) Danbury Health Systems of Danbury, Connecticut, in the United States, has large web site and part of it is devoted to the debunking of the warning. It includes the text of a press release the hospital issued in September 1993. The site address is http://www.danbury.lib.ct.us/org/hospital/bluestar.htm.
Want UFO News?
UFO Roundup is an email-distributed weekly collection of news about UFO sightings, mainly in the United States. Back issues can be seen at http://www.ftech.net/~ufoinfo/roundup.hts. At http://www.wic.net/colonel/ufopage.htm you can find links to that archive as well as to many other UFO-related sites.
Want to know what the AFU crowd knows?
The Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban ("AFU") keeps a series of "FAQs" -- files of "Frequently Asked Questions and their net-authoritative answers. FAQs are usually accepted as the last word on their particular topics, but are often contested and thus evolve from one form to another. For a quick net-view of some sixty topics, most of which are either legends, popular beliefs or scams, see http://www.urbanlegends.com/misc/. Since most of the activity on AFU is debunking, these are mainly discussions of plausibility and historicity.
Among the messages being "frequently forwarded" around the Internet, and finding their way into photocopies and faxes, is one warning readers of a "new twist on an old scam." The version we have was forwarded to FTN by Mikel Koven who received it in late October 1996 from a friend who sent it, chain letter fashion, to 43 people in one posting. She introduced it by saying she got it "from my computer-son." The text warns of returning calls from messages left on pagers or telephone answering machines when the calls originate in area code 809, a code for the Caribbean. According to the text several people have naively returned the calls and even though their own calls lasted only a short time, their bill at the end of the month was excessively, and incontestably, high.
Where there's smoke, there's a buyer
[The following was posted on the Pennsylvania State University (Hazleton Campus) General Topics Conference (HNFAC‑G@psuvm.psu.edu) by David Orbin (firstname.lastname@example.org) 4 September 1996.]
I used to work in a computer store and one day we had a gentleman call in with a smoking power supply. The service rep was having a bit of trouble convincing this guy that he had a hardware problem:
Service Rep: Sir, something has burnt within your power supply.
Customer: I bet that there is some command that I can put into the Autoexec.bat that will take care of this.
Service Rep: There is nothing that software can do to help you with this problem.
Customer: I know that there is something that I can put in. . . some command. . . maybe it should go into the Config.sys.
[After a few minutes of going round and round:]
Service Rep: Okay, I am not supposed to tell anyone this but there is a hidden command in some versions of DOS that you can use. I want you to edit your Autoexec.bat and add the last line as C:\DOS\NOSMOKE and reboot your computer.
[Customer does this]
Customer: It is still smoking.
Service Rep: I guess you need to call MicroSoft and ask them for a patch for the NOSMOKE.EXE.
[The customer then hung up. We thought that we had heard the last of this guy but NO. . . he calls back four hours later]
Service Rep: Hello Sir, how is your computer?
Customer: I call MicroSoft and they said that my Power Supply is incompatible with their NOSMOKE.EXE and that I need to get a new one. I was wondering when I can have that done and how much it will cost. . .
Comments by: Kathleen R. Sands and, in brackets, by Bill Ellis who says, "This looks like a logical extension of the 'student howlers' and 'inept housewives' genres ."
Compaq is considering changing the command "Press Any Key" to "Press Return Key" because of the flood of calls asking where the "Any" key is.
[Bill Ellis notes: Cf. the woman whose house burned down because she had been taught to dial nine‑eleven (the US universal emergency phone line) and couldn't find eleven on her phone dial.]
AST technical support had a caller complaining that her mouse was hard to control with the dust cover on. The cover turned out to be the plastic bag the mouse was packaged in.
Another Compaq technician received a call from a man complaining that the system wouldn't read word processing files from his old diskettes. After trouble‑shooting for magnets and heat failed to diagnose the problem, it was found that the customer labeled the diskettes then rolled them into the typewriter to type the labels.
[Bill Ellis notes: This has an ethnic joke analogue. Did you hear about the Polish pharmacist who came to the US to figure out how to get those little bottles into the typewriter?]
Another AST customer was asked to send copies of her defective diskettes. A few days later a letter arrived from the customer along with Xeroxed copies of the floppies.
A Dell technician advised his customer to put his troubled floppy back in the drive and close the door. The customer asked the tech to hold on, and was heard putting the phone down, getting up and crossing the room to close the door to his room.
Another Dell customer called to say he couldn't get his computer to fax anything. After 40 minutes of trouble‑shooting, the technician discovered the man was trying to fax a piece of paper by holding it in front of the monitor screen and hitting the "send" key.
Another Dell customer needed help setting up a new program, so a Dell tech suggested he go to the local Egghead. "Yeah, I got me a couple of friends," the customer replied. When told Egghead was a software store, the man said, "Oh, I thought you meant for me to find a couple of geeks."
Yet another Dell customer called to complain that his keyboard no longer worked. He had cleaned it by filling up his tub with soap and water and soaking the keyboard for a day, then removing all the keys and washing them individually.
A Dell technician received a call from a customer who was enraged because his computer had told him he was "bad and an invalid." The tech explained that the computer's "bad command" and "invalid" responses shouldn't be taken personally.
An exasperated caller to Dell Computer Tech Support couldn't get her new Dell computer to turn on. After ensuring the computer was plugged in, the technician asked her what happened when she pushed the power button. Her response, "I pushed and pushed on this foot pedal and nothing happens." The "foot pedal" turned out to be the computer's mouse.
Another customer called Compaq tech support to say her brand‑new computer wouldn't work. She said she unpacked the unit, plugged it in, and sat there for 20 minutes waiting for something to happen. When asked what happened when she pressed the power switch, she asked, "What power switch?"
[Bill Ellis comments: I heard about one woman who was so concerned about computer viruses that she put her diskette into the drive with the plastic cover still over it.]
Alan Mays comments: This collection, "Urban Computer Legends" is an excerpt from a 1994 article that's been bouncing around the Internet for the last two years: Jim Carlton, "Computers: Befuddled PC users flood help lines, and no question seems to be too basic." Wall Street Journal, 1 March 1994, B1. There is also a Web site or two devoted to similar "stupid (or clueless) user stories," as they've been called in online discussions in the alt.folklore groups and elsewhere. A recent stupid user story involves an alleged call to a tech support line by someone who allegedly mistook the CD‑ROM drive load drawer for a cup holder, broke it off, and called to ask for a replacement. The story spread across various groups and was quite widespread after it appeared on rec.humor.funny.
And about that Hallowe'en party. . .
Mikel J. Koven
Department of Folklore
Memorial University of Newfoundland
I received the following manifestation of a contemporary legend as a dirty joke from a family member 24 September 1996. Any interest for FoafTale News? It comes from humour‑email@example.com operated by Steve Willoughby (firstname.lastname@example.org). It was originally submitted by Mickie Boyer. The list is archived at the web site: http://www.synapse.net/~oracle/Contents/HumorArch.html.
A married couple was invited to a Halloween party. That night, as they were getting ready to go out, the wife said she had developed a migraine headache and had to stay home. She told her husband to go to the party without her. "Don't let me spoil a good time for you," she said. After further discussion, the husband put his costume on and went to the party. The wife took some aspirin and went to bed.
After sleeping for a while, she woke feeling much better and decided to go to the party and surprise her husband. As she was getting ready, she thought to herself, "I wonder what my husband really does when I'm not around." She then got into a different costume, so her husband wouldn't recognize her, and went to the party. Getting there, she stood off to the side and watched.
There was her husband dancing with one girl after another and getting very physical with them. She decided to see just how far he would go. She went up to him and started dancing with him, got very close and whispered that they should go outside. Going to one of the cars, they made love. Prior to the midnight unmasking, she left and went home to wait for her husband to return so she could confront him.
He arrived home about 1:00 a.m. and climbed into bed. She sat up and asked "Well, how was the party?" He replied, "It was no fun without you honey." She said, "I don't believe you. I bet you had lots of fun!" He replied, "Really, Honey. When I got to the party, some of the guys and I got bored and we went downstairs and played poker all night. But you know, that guy I loaned my costume to had one hell of a great time."
[PH: Alan Dundes and Carl Pagter have a version of this in their When You're Up to your Ass in Alligators: More Urban Fokllore from the Paperwork Empire (Detroit: Wayne State U P, 1987), pp. 125-126. In his syndicated column 29 October 1987, Jan Brunvand wrote about the story.]
The Oracle Service Humor Mailing List recently passed along the story about the two men in sexual play with a gerbil:
"In retrospect lighting the match was my big mistake. But I was only trying to retrieve the gerbil," Eric Tomaszewski told bemused doctors in the Severe Burns Unit of Salt Lake City Hospital. Tomaszewski, and his homosexual partner Andrew "Kiki" Farnum, had been admitted for emergency treatment after a felching session had gone seriously wrong. "I pushed a cardboard tube up his rectum and slipped Raggot, our gerbil, in," he explained. "As usual, Kiki shouted out 'Armageddon,' my cue that he'd had enough. I tried to retrieve Raggot but he wouldn't come out again, so I peered into the tube and struck a match, thinking the light might attract him.
At a hushed press conference, a hospital spokesman described what happened next. "The match ignited a pocket of intestinal gas and a flame shot out the tube, igniting Mr. Tomaszewski's hair and severely burning his face. It also set fire to the gerbil's fur and whiskers which in turn ignited a larger pocket of gas further up the intestine, propelling the rodent out like a cannonball."
Tomaszewski suffered second degree burns and a broken nose from the impact of the gerbil, while Farnum suffered first and second degree burns to his anus and lower intestinal tract.
[This text, as presented here, was submitted to the Oracle Service by Tina C. Greenwald. For an alternative version of the gerbil story see Fortean Times 90: 10, reporting on an item in the BMA Journal, May 1996. See also our notes about that issue of FT, below in this issue. - PH]
Subscription to the Oracle Service is available free of charge. Send a message with the one word "subscribe" in the body to email@example.com (spelling as shown). The Oracle Service has recently (8 October 1996) posted, for instance, "Stupid People" reports apparently from news services: criminals and would-be criminals, mainly. Some of its postings can be consulted at its archive web site (spelling as shown), http://www.synapse.net/~oracle/Contents/HumorArch.html.
Privacy and the Net
The private company Lexis-Nexis got into trouble in mid-1996 when, through its P-Trax service, it sold information about individuals, including maiden names and US social security numbers (according to Mitch Wagoner, "Rumors fuel privacy angst," Computerworld 30:39 (23 September 1996, pp. 1, 15). After an outcry, they stopped selling the S.S. numbers, but this did not stop a fax and email campaign alerting people to the possibility of their privacy being infringed, suggesting that mothers' maiden names (used for verification of card holders over the phone) were being sold. The fax includes instructions on how to get off Lexis-Nexis lists.
AN EYE ON SATANISM
A news story carried across Canada by the Canadian Press and published in the St. John's Evening Telegram 16 October 1996 ("Day care bans Halloween") reported that a Fredericton, New Brunswick, day-care chain has told its client parents that it would allow no signs of Hallowe'en or its celebration this year. The operator of three centres sent a letter to parents noting the rising presence in the Fredericton area of witch covens and satanic groups. She said she learned of the links between the holiday and Satanism from a videotaped speech by a witch, but the story did not say what that tape was. The news story noted that "at least one child has been removed from the centres because of the letter."
And now, new evidence
A story ("Satanic angle raised in slay trial" [sic]) written by Paul Langner in the Boston Globe 5 November 1996, is datelined Cambridge, Massachusetts. It recounts the fourth attempt by prosecutors to convict James Kater of a murder committed in 1978. New evidence to be presented at the trial will include that of witnesses to "satanic rites" and activities around the same time as the murder. In particular a large cross was found by police, and people in the area had seen a torchlight parade not long before.
An Associated Press wire story circulated 30 November 1996 and was printed in the St. John's Evening Telegram, p. 31 as "Teens linked to US vampire cult arrested." Datelined Eustis, Florida, it tells of five "self-described vampires" arrested on murder charges after the parents of one of them were murdered in Eustis. According to police reports, the teenagers are part of larger cult of blood-drinkers called the Vampire Clan which has groups in western Kentucky.
Seduced or Hexed?
An Associated Press news story, datelined Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA, and printed in the St. John's Evening Telegram, 22 August 1996 (p. 7), detailed testimony of witchcraft in a statutory rape case in that city. A 28-year-old woman, "a follower of Wiccan" and school bus driver, was found guilty of statutory rape of a fourteen-year-old boy. A witchcraft charge was levelled against her, but dismissed by the judge, on the grounds that her blood had been used in signing notes to him, and in love-making.
LEGEND AND LIFE
Toronto SkyDome Games
34032 Montpellier Cedex 1 FRANCE
In June 1996, the French weekly magazine Paris Match published a few photographs of a naked man and woman apparently having sexual intercourse in a private box of the Toronto SkyDome stadium (Paris Match 27 June 1996: 74-75). The pictures show them through the window of the room and are probably taken with a telephoto lens. The text beside the photos translates as follows:
Photo of the Week: Forbidden Games. In the luxurious boxes of the Toronto SkyDome, a boring game of baseball turns into sport for two.
When passion for sports joins mere passion, it doesn't matter much whether a private box is appreciably more expensive than an ordinary hotel room. The boring game, pitting the Toronto Blue Jays against the Boston Red Sox, may never make its mark in the annals of baseball. But at least we can suppose that it will be well-remembered by this couple of spectators, even if they barely look at the field.
Laid out at the base of the concrete dome that gives a name to the big stadium -- one of the most prestigious in Canada -- the luxurious boxes are generally rented by supporters richer than those huddled together on the bleachers below. Richer, but no less fervent. It is now proved that excessive comfort may incite some to play a game not yet ratified by the sports leagues.
On the field, the game drags. In box number 43, provided with tempting armchairs, a man and a woman are bored. They are not long in forgetting the match. They don't draw the curtains, but the occupants of the next box, staying at their own window, notice nothing.
Contemporary legend scholars will remember a story circulating since 1990 about "the amorously demonstrative couple staying at the SkyDome Hotel who forgot to draw the curtains during a game" (FoafTale News 21 [March 1991], 10). That story may have been based on a real event, but the June 1996 Paris Match photographs (photo credit: Ponopress-Rex-Sipa) very likely have been taken at a later date.
So what is the matter? We can make three suppositions. 1. A man and a woman, without a lurking thought (!), were photographed without their knowledge by a "voyeur" spectator. 2. A man and a woman behaved by ostension, following the rumour story. This is possible. 3. But the most likely explanation is double ostension: not only the couple but also the accomplice photographer knew the story. What, they might ask, is better to sell dear than photos of a legend?
Two bits of evidence support my assumption. The first photo in the Paris Match series shows the couple dressed and normally and sitting in separate chairs: why would a photographer have taken this picture of little account? Why photograph room Number 43 instead of anything else? The only reason can be that he knows what will happen later.
The second bit of evidence is the place of the armchair used for the revels: the chair was obviously and complaisantly put in the middle of the window, between the two curtains, as if to set a theatrical scene!
However that may be, these photos published in a best-seller magazine will back up stories about lecherous couples in the Toronto SkyDome.
Animal in the appliances
While the ISCLR met in Bath in late July 1996, many of us heard on the BBC radio news of a badger that spent the night in a washing machine. The following day it was reported in The Times, in a story by Robin Young ("Black and white washload survives overnight soak," 31 July 1996, p. 3). Mrs Mignon Muldoon of Petersfield, Hampshire, had the left the door of her washer open for a few minutes as she fetched more clothes to go in an overnight, 60-degree soak. [The Times says sixty degrees Celcius, but this must be an error.] Apparently the badger crept in then, but Mrs Muldoon noticed nothing until the end of the eight-hour wash cycle the following morning, when she found "a battered and very clean badger inside." Upon opening the washer, she noticed her washing smelled. She saw some movement among the clothes and then the badger jumped out of the machine. A local wildlife centre checked the animal out and found it to be quite healthy and applied the name Zanussi, after the washing machine brandname. [via Judy Brunvand.]
Legend as healer?
Last Saturday night (1 am, Sunday, 21 July 1996, actually), the syndicated US television programme Sightings included a two- or three-minute update on Craig Shergold, in which the reporter mentioned that Craig has so far received more than 100 million get-well cards according to the Children's Wish Foundation. Business cards were not mentioned. The focus of the report was that perhaps all those good wishes and prayers played a role in Craig's healing. The programme features stories on UFOs, the paranormal, etc. The reporter said Craig was twelve years old -- it seems to me he should be older than that now and, if he is, then I'm not sure the child they showed was really Craig.
[See the next item...]
Thirty more million in two years?
Via Paul Smith, we have a clipping from the Atlanta [Georgia] Constitution, 28 February 1994, which gives the figure of seventy million get-well cards received by Craig Shergold [cf. previous item] by early 1994. The figure is mentioned in the column "Peach Fuzz: Talk Of Our Town," by Maureen Downey and Bo Shurling (p. E2). The item about Shergold is, "Those Cards Keep Coming and Coming" and suggests that the Atlanta Children's Wish Foundation had endorsed the project. "But somehow a chain letter was started that solicited business cards as well. And even though Craig is now 14 and doing well, the business cards persist. Children's Wish Foundation receives 50 to 100 calls a day about Craig," says the Foundation's Christy Chappelear, who added that their Craig mail is sorted and recycled.
The Guardian 12 June 1996 included a story by Paul Robinson, "The postmans always rings," dealing with the present state of Craig Shergold and the mails. No recent figures are given but a recent photograph shows a healthy sixteen-year-old. Some authoritative-looking figures are given: 16 million cards by May 1990
Live as Life
Through the 1980s, there were persistent reports of coyotes and large cats being sighted on the island of Newfoundland. The reports were accompanied either by legend-like accounts of "American hunters" who brought in the animals for recreational hunting and allowed them to slip away and breed, or by sceptical poohpoohings. A clear photograph of a dead coyote appeared in The Express, a St. John's weekly newspaper, 20 November 1996, p. 3. The animal was trapped in a snare near the Winterton, Trinity Bay, town dump on 2 November. A porvincial government wildlife officer was quoted to the effect that the coyotes had crossed over from mainland Canada on ice floes in the mid-1980s and now appeared to have populated most of the island.
Joel Best, Professor and Chair
Department of Sociology
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Carbondale, IL 62901-4524
Campus Voice is a monthly poster carrying information and advertising designed to be posted in student unions, recreation centres, etc. Volume 8, Issue 2 (Tall Tale Issue) appeared in the fall of 1995; it focussed on campus "myths and legends." Noting that "a diligent attempt has been made to either debunk or substantiate some of the more popular myths," the poster offers four categories (what follows is quoted from the poster):
* Having overslept, a student arrives late to his math class and only has time to copy the homework problems from the board. Upon turning in his assignment in the next session, the student finds out that he had erroneously copied a famous and unsolved math problem -- which he solved along with his homework problems.
* A student earned his tuition by asking for a penny from everyone who read a newspaper advertisement.
* Students found a rolled-up carpet and, upon unrolling the newfound rug in their dorm room, discovered a dead body.
* After eating at a restaurant that served chili with peanut butter as its secret ingredient, a student died due to an allergic reaction to peanuts.
* A New York car thief actually stole a college laboratory delivery vehicle that was, unknown to him, filled with cadaver heads.
Based in Truth
* Tunnels beneath college buildings have been a long-time fascination of students. It is well-known that there are numerous colleges with tunnels systems. Contrary to popular belief, the tunnels were built for piping between buildings by design, not as secret passageways as is often speculated.
* Practically no school has a policy of permitting students to leave when a professor is late. Only one, Tennessee Tech, has [a] 15 minute "okay-to-leave" policy.
* Many out-dated laws may still exist in some localities that make houses with more than a certain number of unrelated females (i.e. sorority houses) officially illegal. Although unenforced in this day and age, they were originally on the books at the turn of the century as a preventative measure against brothels.
* Cow-Tipping, the sport of tipping a sleeping cow over, has always been bragged about on campuses. Although the tipping of cows is possible, it is highly unlikely to be accomplished since cows sleep lying down.
* When grad students were working on an aeronautic project at one college, their professor supplied them with a stack of signed purchase orders for supplies. A student, peeved at the professor, used one to purchase a Cessna.
* A group of students in one of B. F. Skinner's lectures decided to try to "condition" Skinner into speaking while standing in one spot of the classroom. They accomplished this by pretending not to pay attention whenever he moved too far away from the particular spot.
* A student, learning that he could take any kind of aid into his exam, reportedly carried in a graduate student who answered the questions for him. No report exists of what grade was achieved.
* There is an unsubstantiated report that a professor gave an "announced" test after having put an advertisement stating the exam date in the newspaper.
* Research has turned up no known college which has a policy of granting a 4.0 to a student whose roommate commits suicide.
* Princeton students did not riot in celebration of the solution to Fermat's Last Theorem.
* Many schools claim to fit the description of a catastrophic event (usually a murder) prophesied by Nostradamus. This prophesy is not known to exist.
* There has never been an official report of a student (usually female), after a late night out, awakening to a murdered roommate and finding a note that says, "Aren't you glad you didn't turn on the light."
* There is no known school that required a prospective graduate to pass a swimming test due to the drowning death of a bereaved benefactor's daughter.
Kidney Thief Legend in Denmark
Henrik Lassen in Denmark sends the following, translated by him from a local newspaper, Morgenposten Fyens Stiftstidende (p. 9 in 2 Sektion, "Taet Paa," 3 August 1996.) The original is entitled "Historien om Nyren" ("The Story about the Kidney") and takes the form of an inquiry to a medical information column written by Dr. Erik Münster. The inquiry reads:
I heard a terrible account of a Danish family who were on vacation in Turkey. The man disappeared at some time and was later found befuddled with anaesthetics and with sutures on his back. One of his kidneys had been taken out for use as a transplant. It was said that the police knew about this practice, but could do nothing. -- M.G.L.
Dr. Münster replied:
It is a contemporary legend ("en vandrehistorie") which I have heard several times before about different vacation countries. If bandits who would do that kind of thing really existed, they would, of course, take the other kidney too, along with other usable organs and then let the man die.
Henrik Lassen comments, "Dr. Münster's cynical remarks strike me as precise. The legend itself has been a great favourite in Scandinavia in the last couple of years as a development from the earlier out-and-out abduction legends, where it used to be white slavery in Paris or Madrid. Now it would seem that the striking motif of choice is organs in Turkey. New York is another favourite locus for this legend."
Melded Motifs: Lipstick and Kidney
Jeff Mazo, Hisarlik Press
4 Catisfield Road, Enfield Lock
Middlesex EN3 6BD, UNITED KINGDOM
I wonder if the following version of the kidney thief legend is a new subtype. Unlike others I've heard, it carries the motif of a message written in lipstick (as on the mirror in the AIDS Mary legend). It came to me in early December 1996 from a friend in California who (from a reading of the headers) got it from another friend, who got it... The introduction seems to attribute it utimately to the newspaper mentioned at the end.
"Reason to not party anymore"
This guy went out last Saturday night to a party. He was having a good time, had a couple of beers and some girl seemed to like him and invited him to go to another party. He quickly agreed and decided to go along with her. She took him to a party in some apartment and they continued to drink, and even got involved with some other drugs (unknown which).
The next thing he knew, he woke up completely naked in a bathtub filled with ice. He was still feeling the effects of the drugs, but looked around to see he was alone.
He looked down at his chest, which had "CALL 911 OR YOU WILL DIE" written on it in lipstick. He saw a phone was on a stand next to the tub, so he picked it up and dialed. He explained to the EMS operator what the situation was and that he didn't know where he was, what he took, or why he was really calling. She advised him to get out of the tub. He did, and she asked him to look himself over in the mirror. He did, and appeared normal, so she told him to check his back. He did, only to find two 9 inch slits on his lower back. She told him to get back in the tub immediately, and they sent a rescue team over.
Apparently, after being examined, he found out more of what had happened. His kidneys were stolen. They are worth 10,000 dollars each on the black market. (I was unaware this even existed.) Several guesses are in order: The second party was a sham, the people involved had to be at least medical students, and it was not just recreational drugs he was given.
Regardless, he is currently in the hospital on life support, awaiting a spare kidney. The University of Texas in conjunction with Baylor University Medical Center is conducting tissue research to match the sophomore student with a donor.
Any information leading to the arrest of the individuals may be forwarded to the University of Texas Campus police, or the Texas Rangers.
Kimm Antell, Editor of the Daily Texan
University of Texas at Austin
[Jeff adds: I suppose the next version to look out for is one in which the victim is given his own kidney as a transplant.]
[Philip Hiscock adds: Most versions I have seen either give no indication of an explicit message (as in the Danish version, above) or say there is a note. For an example of the latter, here is a version I received by email from a Sacramento, California hairdresser in late July 1996:
[My co-worker] called me at home [a few months ago]. He said: you are not going to believe what I heard, it really gives me the creeps, it actually has me freaked out. I said: what? An aquaintance of his had a nephew or cousin that went to Las Vegas for a little fun. While he was there he met a very friendly and attractive woman in the bar. They really hit it off, and after many hours drinking and flirting, they went up to his room. He woke up some day/days later in the bathtub that still had some ice in it, naked. He found a note attached to him (how I don't remember) that said: If you are reading this you have managed to survive. Call 911 immediately, stay calm and don't move out of the tub. Your kidneys have been surgically removed and you are in critical condition.
My correspondent, whose first name is Glynda and whose surname I don't know, said her co-worker (who is also co-owner of their co-operative hair salon) has a "totally outrageous, really lawless," gay lifestyle. She believes only about a third of what he tells her in normal circumstances. She disbelieved this story enough to send it to a folklorist asking what I knew of the truth of it.]
The Cookie Thief
Department of Folklore,
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8 CANADA
I received this poem by way of a subscription I have to a social justice list in relation to East Timor. It was posted to the list by a member at Sir Wilfred Laurier University as a Christmas greeting to the other members, 9 December 1996. It presents in verse a story I have heard as a joke, a personal experience narrative and as a legend.
A woman was waiting at an airport one night,
With several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shop,
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to relax.
She was engrossed in her book, but happened to see,
That a man beside her, as bold as could be,
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between,
Which she tried to ignore.
She read, munched cookies, and watched the clock,
As the gutsy "cookie thief" diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
Thinking, "If I wasn't so nice, I would blacken his eye!"
With each cookie she took, he took one too.
When only one was left, she wondered what he'd do.
With a smile on his face and a nervous laugh,
He took the last cookie and broke it in half.
He offered her half, as he ate the other.
She snatched it from him and thought, "Oh brother,
This guy has some nerve, and he is rude too,
Why, he didn't even show any gratitude!"
She had never known when she had been so galled,
And sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate,
Refusing to look back at the "thieving ingrate".
She boarded the plane and sank in her seat,
Then sought out her book, which was almost complete.
As she reached in the baggage, she gasped with surprise.
There was her bag of cookies in front of her eyes!
"If mine are here," she muttered with dispair,
"Then the others were HIS and he graciously shared!"
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief
That SHE was the RUDE one, the INGRATE THIEF!
[PH: This reminds me of John McCutcheon's song ("The Red Corvette") about the jilted wife selling her husband's expensive car cheaply. He sings it on his album, Water From Another Time: A Retrospective, Rounder CD 11555 (1989).]
8, Waterloo Road
Nottingham NG7 4AU
Further to your item in FTN 39, "Rat Bites in the Cinema," I wonder whether you might be interested in this extract from a talk I gave about Graham Greene in Nottingham, entitled "Home from Home." This extract deals with a faded 1920s picture palace called the "Elite" on Parliament Street in Nottingham. I was always relatively convinced of the veracity of this story as I had heard it "direct" from a friend (not a foaf) who was at that time (1974) the trainee manager. Now I am not so sure and will try and track down the source.
As a screenwriter I found this item particularly intriguing and wonder if you or your readers could help me locate any other specifically cinematic legends.
Perhaps the nadir of this once-great palace of entertainment was attained in the middle 1970s, shortly before the Elite became a bingo-hall. It was then owned by the ABC chain and, somewhat surprisingly, was still a single-screener. That summer the latest cinematic novelty was Sensurround, which accompanied an otherwise unexciting disaster movie called Earthquake. With, I believe, a combination of an eerie, high-pitched whine that only dogs might hear and some electronically-devised shuddering of the seats, patrons would succumb to the thrilling illusion that tall buildings were falling on them. The cost of hiring and installing this equipment meant that the management could only see a profit if the picture played for some time, so Earthquake was booked for a six-week run.
The first doubts as to the sagacity of this investment were raised when at the opening afternoon show, which played to a half a dozen desultory spectators in that age before mass unemployment, the Sensurround set off the alarm system in the jeweller's next door. But the real disaster took place that evening in the auditorium rather than on the screen. The famous Louis Seize ballroom above the cinema had been long abandoned by human patrons but had become the domicile of an army of mice who used to feed upon the once-grand plaster work. Evidently startled by this latest desperate gimmick they fled the ballroom and scurried in one rodentine wave into the stalls. The Elite became a Hamelin without a Pied Piper as the terrified customers screamed, but not at the strained plight of Charlton Heston as he battled with the San Andreas fault.
[PH adds: A little too late for the last issue of FTN came a story in the St. John's Express (19 June 1996, 19): "Urban Legend Strikes: Ankle-Biting Rat Tale Strange, But not True." Written by Curtis Rumbolt of the Express, it delved into the truth of the city's rumour panic about rats in a local cinema, interviewing the cinema manager and two local folklorists, Philip Hiscock and Michael Robidoux. See FTN 39: 17 for more details of the panic.]
Big ship and the light
We reported last issue on a story making the rounds of a large American ship ordering a smaller ship to turn aside and then finding out the "ship" is in fact a lighthouse. Another publication of this story apparently appeared in The Guardian in its 17 June 1996 column entitled "Jackdaw." It had been contributed by someone named Derek Brandon and like some other versions, was set in Canada.
Would-be Assailant Frustrated
(In a letter to Paul Smith, Mr Froome reported the following. It is dated June-July 1996, presumably meaning that the legend was circulating in late June and early July 1996.)
This tale came directly to me from my daughter, and since it concerned our immediate locality it offered an opportunity to test its "truth."
My daughter was told, by a colleague at the school where she works, that a friend of this colleague had told her the following story, which had been told to this friend by a further informant -- a four-step sequence.
A woman shopping in our local Sainsbury's [supermarket] returned to the car-park (quite large and regularly frequented) to find a man standing by her car. This man was well-dressed and personable, carrying a brief-case. He reported that four boys had been interfering with the doors of her car, and that there had been some damage. He had chased them off and followed them across the car park, but they had escaped.
The woman found some damage to the locks, but opened up the car and found it driveable. The man then told her that as a result of chasing off the boys, he had missed his train, and would be glad of a lift. the woman agreed, but suggested that he put his brief case in the car, and "back her out" [that is, give her directions out] of the slot in the car park. This he did, but she drove straight off and went to the local police station and told her tale.
The police were initially sceptical, but were asked to open the brief case. Inside were two knives, a coil of rope, and a large stick.
The tale immediately suggested itself as a complete and characteristic contemporary legend, and my family were inclined to agree. To establish any bona fides I telephoned Sainsbury's, who were rather cagey, but who denied any knowledge of the event (it being assumed that their security people would be informed).
The police are more of a problem, since they are not happy with enquiries of this sort. Fortunately we know a local constable who is a friend of the local officer who would have been involved, and he established that nothing of this sort was reported to the local police.
[PH: This legend, with a well-dressed man as antagonist, resonates with recent rumours I've heard of a new technique by panhandlers to increase their take: dressing as a fashionable businessman, complete with briefcase, and standing outside commuter train stations asking for the price of the ticket home because their BMW has broken down.]
Good Times: Irina
In September 1996 a publicity stunt by Penguin Books escalated into a re-enactment of the "Good Times Virus" rumour panic (see FTN 36: 4-5). According to a story by Robert Uhlig ("Panic at Penguin Publicity Hoax") in the Electronic Telegraph, 23 September 1996, a new novel entitled Irina, was given "teaser" publicity by Penguin's sending out letters warning computer users of a virus called "Irina" that could erase all files and damage a computer's internal processor. This mirrored the "Good Times Cathy" virus alert of a couple of years ago. Although the letters went only to certain newspapers, the news spread internationally within hours, and before Penguin could release its ha-ha-fooled-you press release. Meantime the university attributed with discovering the new virus was flooded with phonecalls. By the time Penguin sent out their air-clearing press release, they had to make it an apology to all concerned.
Tom McGuire in Valencia, Spain, sends a clipping from The Independent, 6 June 1996, which reads, in its entirety:
Bad day for the penis-biter of Jakarta, who has been arrested after a police investigation lasting two years. The unnamed man, who is reported to dress like a woman and have long hair, has been wanted for biting the penises of "at least five" young schoolboys. The Antara news agency report says that he was arrested at a bus terminal "after he bit the penis of a bus conductor who thought he was a prostitute."
Baby's Corpse Stuffed with Drugs
Pennsylvania State University
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The following was passed along in early November 1996 on an email list.
I thought you all might find this interesting. It's actually very sad, but I thought you might like to know. I believed that I was doing my part in the war on drugs by just not using and sending contributions to those who are directly involved.
This is the story my sister told me that changed my mind and hopefully it will yours. Please send this E‑mail to as many people as you can, if you have a home PC send it out there too.
My sister's co‑worker had a sister in Texas, who with her husband was planning a weekend trip across the border for a shopping spree. At the last minute their baby sitter cancelled, so they were stuck taking their two year old son with them.
They had been across the border for about an hour when the baby got free and ran around the corner. The mother went chasing, but the boy had disappeared. The mother found a police officer who told her to go to the gate and wait. Not really understanding the instructions, she did as she was instructed.
About 45 minutes later, a man approached the border carrying the boy. The mother ran to him grateful that he had been found. When the man realized it was the boy's mother, he dropped the boy and ran himself. The police were waiting for him and got him. The boy, dead, in the 45 minutes he was missing, was cut open, ALL of his insides removed and his body cavity stuffed with COCAINE. The man was going to carry him across the border as if he were asleep. A two year old boy, dead, discarded as if he were a piece of trash for somebody's cocaine.
If this story can get out and change one person's mind about what drugs mean to them, We are helping. Lets hope and pray it changes a lot of minds.
Bengt af Klintberg, in his Rattan i Pizzan (also available as Die Ratte in der Pizza und Andere Moderne Sagen und Grossstadtmythen) has this as "The Heroin Baby" (No. 78) and traces it as far back as 1982 in Continental tradition. There it is a Turkish woman in an airport travelling with several children, the youngest being a baby asleep in her arms. When authorities investigate, they find the baby dead and its body stuffed with bags of heroin.
There's a sanitized but pointed reference to this story in the movie Three Men and a Baby, where (I forget how) a shipment of heroin and the aforesaid baby get dropped off at the same apartment. When the dealers come by for their "delivery," one of the apartment‑dwellers assumes they mean the baby, and the dealers, with a significant wink, carry the kid down to the street and put it in the trunk of the car. The baby is still alive (and survives the incident), but one assumes that its diapers would have been numbered if it had gone with the dealers.
Regular readers will also pick up the ways in which this legend echoes "The Attempted Abduction from the Mall" and "The Baby‑Parts Abduction," both current recently in Central America. In some versions of the latter, a Latin American baby is found stripped of its internal organs and with a hundred dollar bill left tucked inside with a note saying "Thanks" (in English!).
Norine Dresser (71204.1703@CompuServe.COM) reports:
My daughter who works for a Spanish‑speaking radio station in Sacramento, California almost had a falling out with one of her superiors who was adamant about the truth of this cyberlegend, supposed to have been distributed by the Dallas Police Department. She, well‑trained at home, figured it was an urban legend. But her boss became angry with her assessment. Her version came with the following authenticating header:
From: Helms, J SMSgt DPD
Sent: Friday, October 25, 1996 7:02 AM
To: DPD All DList
Subject: FW War on Drugs
This was sent to me by a friend. The article is not a good one to read, it's perhaps the most disturbing thing I've ever read! I can't imagine anything more horrifying than this. Please read and forward. We must get the message out about all the effects of drugs, drug use, smuggling, death, destruction ‑‑ and it goes on and on and on. . . . It effects us all in one way or another.
Roger C. Lightner, Msgt, USAF, Chief of Security
[PH: The warning was also circulating here in St. John's, Newfoundland, in early November 1996, being passed by email from friend to friend like a chain letter. Spelling varies from copy to copy.]
Chupacabra in California: A warning in the press
Via Bill Ellis, Terry Colvin, Bruce W. and The Forteana Discussion List, comes the following cautioning story from the Advocate Herald (place unnoted). Datelined San Diego, it was published 30 June 1996.
A monster has been terrorizing the local town of Poway, just a few miles north of San Diego and the Mexican border. Recent sightings and a reported attack have put the entire community on alert. City officials, however, claim to know nothing about the events that have the local residents locking their doors and closing their windows at night.
The source of this terror is a creature called the Chupacabra. It is described as three feet tall with bat like wings, fangs and large claws. Somewhat resembling a gargoyle, it is said to be nocturnal and very aggressive. It has been reported to have attacked both humans and livestock and is said to be carnivorous.
Various witnesses have reported seeing Chupacabras all the way from Puerto Rico to Texas to Tijuana. This wave of sightings has raised many questions about the origins of this new animal. Scientists with various research groups have been speculating that this is a lab experiment in genetic engineering which got loose, similar to the genetic experiments with killer bees that were released in South America and have now reached the United States [HUH?‑‑Bruce W.]. While the experiments with killer bees were trying to increase honey production, the reason someone would genetically engineer such a creature as the Chupacabra is still unknown.
Anyone encountering one of these animals should immediately contact local authorities. Do not approach it and move indoors as quickly and quietly as possible.
Cleaning up the Floors
According to a text floating from user to user around the internet in the summer of 1996, the following, purporting to be a press release from a hospital, was included in a story headlined "Cleaner Polishes Off Patients," in the South African paper, Cape Times, 13 June 1996. The same legend has surfaced in a variety of places during 1996. If you have other versions, please pass them along.
"...For several months, our nurses have been baffled to find a dead patient in the same bed every Friday morning," a spokeswoman for the Pelonomi Hospital (Free State, South Africa) told reporters. "There was no apparent cause for any of the deaths, and extensive checks on the air conditioning system, and a search for possible bacterial infection, failed to reveal any clues."
"However, further inquiries have now revealed the cause of these deaths. It seems that every Friday morning a cleaner would enter the ward, remove the plug that powered the patient's life support system, plug her floor polisher into the vacant socket, then go about her business. When she had finished her chores, she would plug the life support machine back in and leave, unaware that the patient was now dead. She could not, after all, hear the screams and eventual death rattle over the whirring of her polisher."
"We are sorry, and have sent a strong letter to the cleaner in question."
"Further, the Free State Health and Welfare Department is arranging for an electrician to fit an extra socket, so there should be no repetition of this incident. The enquiry is now closed."
How now, mad cow?
The following brief letter [received via Paul Smith] appeared in The Guardian, 20 June 1996. It is signed J. G. Mosley, Southwood, 10 Old Hall Lane, Manchester M28 4GG.
I recently heard a story from a farmer. He told me that if his colleagues want to get rid of a cow, they pour a couple of bottles of whiskey down its throat. Later, when the poor creature is swaying about, they call in the vet, who certifies that it has BSE. It is then taken away to be destroyed. the farmer then receives full compensation.
Two days later The Guardian published a follow-up letter from Mícheál O'Ghallachóir of Whitchurch, Shropshire SY13. His letter read:
You won't find the canny farmers in our neck of the woods pouring good whiskey down a cow's throat in order to secure a BSE diagnosis with full compensation.
A litre or two of methylated spirit has a similar effect and is far cheaper. Moreover, the smell is quite easily explained away, as meths is an old-fashioned rememdy for warble-fly lesions and ABA (aggravated bovine acne).
By whose direction foundst thou out this place?
Via Tom McGuire in Valencia, Spain, we have a clipping from the Independent on Sunday (14 July 1996, p. 41): Andrew Gumbel, "A Shrine to Love." It details the transformation of a building in Verona, Italy, into "the real-life Casa di Giulietta." Not only are tourists listening to the new Romeo and Juliette stories, but also correspondents: the post office delivers letters from all over the world to the site, each looking for romantic advice.
More on Bloody Mary
In last issue mention was made of the "Bloody Mary" legend/ritual at an elementary school near St. John's. Since then, we've received two reports of variants in the tradition and news of research into the spread of it.
Mike Wilson at the University of Exeter writes:
You may be interested in the following two variants that I came across in the course of my doctoral research into teenage narrative folklore. The first is from a twelve-year-old male from a youth club in Okehampton, Devon, and was collected 23 October 1992. He told me, "You crack a mirror, turn out the lights and say, 'Bloody Mary,' a hundred times, turn them back on and you see the future in the actual mirror. The second is from Dave, an eleven-year-old from Newton Abbott, Devon, and was collected 3 August 1993. He said, "You hold hands with your little fingers and go round in a circle saying, 'Bloody Mary, I killed your child,' three times and look at a curtain. You should see a figure of somebody."
These are similar to the ritual as reported from various parts of North America.
The other report is from Janet Kergoat, of St John's, Newfoundland, whose children have attended Bishop Feild School in St. John's. According to her eight-year-old son, now going to Feild School, the girls of the school (aged up to about twelve years old) talk about a dangerous hag-like creature named Bloody Mary who inhabits the girls' toilet on the lowest floor of the school. Girls are afraid to enter the room alone for fear of her. The boys pay little attention to the talk and her son has never heard anyone talk of Bloody Mary in the boys' toilet next-door. Janet originally heard the story from her older son who was at Feild in the late 1980s.
At California State University at Sacramento, Jeff Boyd and other students have started research on the legend/ritual of Bloody Mary. Their research is partly being carried on via the Worldwide Web: the "Bloody Mary Project" page is at Jeff Boyd's web site, http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/2084/mary.html. If you visit that site you will see the questionnaire they are distributing. Jeff Boyd has promised to post their results to interested newsgroups, and I will try to include a summary here.
Eddie Murphy's Elevator Incident
MUN Folklore & Language Archive
St. John's, Newfoundland
CANADA A1B 3X8
On 4 November 1996 I was telephoned by a reporter from the Saint John, New Brunswick, Times Globe. She was investigating a rumour/legend circulating around New Brunswick and which had been phoned into the paper by a reader who wanted it investigated. She faxed me the notes taken by the reporter who took the call. Dieppe is a suburb of Moncton, another city in New Brunswick. The notes read as follows.
A Dieppe woman was gambling in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago. She won $3000. As she got on the elevator, three black men joined her. They said, "Hit four," and she thought it was the beginning of a robbery and that they said, "Hit the floor." So she hit the floor alright -- so hard that she broke her nose. They helped her up, but by this time she was so overwhelmed by the moment (stunned by her contact with the floor and a little shocked since she thought this was a robbery, I would think). Anyway she was bleeding profusely from the nose and they finally convinced her to allow them to take her to her room. The following day, room service brought her a gift -- twenty-one roses, each one wrapped in a hundred-dollar bill. The card was signed ... Eddie Murphy.
I pointed out to the reporter several reports of this story going back at least to Jan Brunvand's 1986 report (Whole Earth Review 50: 134-136).
Another lost ring
An Associated Press wire story was distributed in late October. Datelined Oslo, Norway, in the St. John's Evening Telegram it was titled, "Lost ring turns up inside moose" (26 October 1996, p. 50). Evelyn Noestmo lost her gold ring, a gift from her husband twenty years before, while pushing a car out of the snow in 1993. She found it this year in a pot of boiling moose entrails she was preparing as dog food. The moose had been shot by her husband fifteen km from where the ring had been lost.
And another one, too
A Reuters wire story datelined Dublin, ran in the St. John's Evening Telegram, 14 September 1996, entitled "Diamond found in the rough." A woman lost her engagement ring when it fell out of the pocket of a jacket her dog was playfully dragging through fields and mud. Her prayers for its recovery were answered when her mother told the story of its loss on a television game show, and several viewers turned up at the family farm with metal detectors. The ring had been lost four months and it was found four days before her wedding.
Interested readers will want to check Jennifer Chandler's note "The Ring in the Fish" in FLS News: The Newsletter of the Folklore Society 23 (June 1996), pp.10-11. It carried forward discussion from FLS News 22 on the topic of rings, keys and watches found in fish stomachs. It includes a reference to one such story that turned out to be a hoax (as did the teeth-in-the-cod story that touched off our own discussions, FTN 37: 14), and "The Book-Fish contayning Three Treatises which were found in the belly of a Cod-fish in Cambridge market, on Midsummer Eue last, anno domini 1626."
Ukrainian Legend: Pakistani Rat
Larry Doyle (firstname.lastname@example.org) posted the following to the Ohio State University Folklore bulletin board, email@example.com, 18 August 1996.
Larry writes: I found this brief article in today's Columbus Dispatch in the Earthweek column (p. 7B). It sounds very similar to the Mexican Rat legend:
FALSE TERRIER - A newspaper in Kiev, Vseukrainskiye Vedomosti (All-Ukraine Gazette) reported a tale of mistaken identity that endangered a child and left its parents "thunderstruck." Victor R. returned from an unnamed foreign destination with what he thought was a bull-terrier puppy for his wife and son. At first, the animal ate normally and did not demand much attention. But the paper said that on the sixth day the parents were awakened by the screams of their three-year-old whose ear was being chewed off by the animal. The child was treated for minor wounds, and a veterinarian informed the parents that their pet was actually a rare species of Pakistani rat, which in its early stage of development resembles a bull-terrier puppy.
The cheeky daffodil
The following was originally posted (on an unknown site) on 21 November 1996 by someone calling him/herself "Dr. Blase" (firstname.lastname@example.org), and passed along to Bill Ellis by Tad Cook (email@example.com).
Ya gotta love this guy...
"In retrospect, I admit it was unwise to try to gain access to my house via the cat flap," Gunther Burpus admitted to reporters in Bremen, Germany. "I suppose the reason they're called cat flaps, rather than human flaps, is because they're too small for people, and perhaps I should have realized that."
Burpus, a forty‑one year old gardener from Bremen, was relating how he had become trapped in his own front door for two days, after losing his house keys. "I got my head and shoulders through the flap, but became trapped fast around the waist. At first, it all seemed rather amusing. I sang songs and told myself jokes. But then I wanted to go to the lavatory."
I began shouting for help, but my head was in the hallway so my screams were muffled. After a few hours, a group of students approached me but, instead of helping, they removed my trousers and pants, painted my buttocks bright blue, and stuck a daffodil between my cheeks. Then they placed a sign next to me which said 'Germany resurgent, an essay in street art. Please give generously' and left me there.
People were passing by and, when I asked for help, they just said "Very good! Very clever!" and threw coins into my trousers. No one tried to free me. In fact, I only got free after two days because a dog started licking my private parts and an old woman complained to the police. They came and cut me out, but arrested me as soon as I was freed. Luckily they've now dropped the charges, and I collected over 3,000 Deutschmarks in my underpants, so the time wasn't entirely wasted."
Bill Ellis comments:
Compare the following story from the "Humor in Uniform" column in Reader's Digest, April 1958: 134, as quoted by G. Legman in his Rationale of the Dirty Joke, second series, 10.V.6 ("The Ganymede Revenge"):
The first part of this I know is true; perhaps the rest could never be properly checked. But when I was a Red Cross hospital worker on Guadalcanal during World War II, Navy doctors and nurses gloated over the case of a certain admiral who, bedded snugly in a Navy hospital with nothing worse than athlete's foot and non‑critical complications, spent his time chasing nurses, "pulling rank" on enlisted patients, and harassing the overworked medical staff. This went on until the day an enterprising young seaman inmate borrowed a surgical gown, cap and face mask, swept into the admiral's room with a brisk "Good morning," glanced at the chart, ordered the patient over on his stomach and proceeded to take his temperature. Before he could finish the job, however, the man in white explained that he had another urgent case to attend to and left, gravely warning the grumbling seadog not to move until his return.
One hour later the nurse, making her rounds, froze in consternation on the officer's doorstep. "Admiral!" she gasped. "What ‑‑ what happened?"
"Taking my temperature," the admiral growled. "Anything unusual about taking an admiral's temperature?"
"N‑no, sir," the startled nurse managed to reply, "but, Admiral ‑‑ with a daffodil?"
Commerce bites back
According to a story in the Washington Post (23 September 1996, Washington Business Section, pp. 17, 19), businesses are paying people to read Internet newsgroups and to visit far-flung Web pages in order to catch rumours and misapprehensions about their corporate selves. The story, "An Ear to the Rumor Mill: PR Firms Sort Out the Facts On-Line," by Paul Farhi, notes that a set of rumours about Mrs. Field's cookies and Godiva chocolates had those companies celebrating the O.J. Simpson trial result with free products at a post-trial party. Each company posted denials to the Internet newsgroups where the stories were circulating and, according to Farhi, stopped the rumours dead.
Newsgroups: alt.folklore.urban, 15 September 1996
Anyone out there heard about the fellow that purchased the contents of a storage locker, sight unseen, for $500? The locker had been pre‑paid for 15 years and when the time was up the contents were sold at auction. When the man went in, he found mostly junk, except for an old Harley Davidson in back under a tarp. He called the company with the serial number and was told that he would receive a letter back within a month. The next day he received a call from the president of Harley Davidson offering him $100,000 for the motorcycle. The man said he would get back to him. Later that day he got a call from a representative of David Letterman offering $200,000! He called Harley Davidson back and asked what was going on! They told him that they had been looking for that motorcycle for some time. They told him to look under the seat. When he did, he say the inscription, "Happy Birthday, from Priscilla." It was indeed Elvis's motorcycle. The man ended up selling it to Letterman for $500.000!!!
This has all the earmarks of a classic UL. Anyone else heard it!!
[PH: The most recent issue of Letters to Ambrose Merton (7: October 1996, pp. 25-26) has a Dutch variant, attributed to de Volkskrant, 23 October 1995, and said to have been circulating "on the Internet." It places the motorcycle in new Hampshire and words the inscription, "To Elvis, Thanks. Harley Davidson."
The Ottawa, Ontario, television station, CBOT, of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast an item about the local versions of this story in the Ottawa area on the supper-hour programme, Channel Eight News, in late November 1996. The item looked at the spread of the story locally, and at its connections to Jay Leno and a motorcycle collector in Prince Edward Island. It included somewhat authoritative denials by persons close to Jay Leno and one of the motorcycle magazines, but closed with an it-could-be-true teaser by the reporter to the effect that one of Elvis Presley's famous motorcycles is indeed still missing. The Halifax, Nova Scotia, Chronicle-Herald (20 September 1996) likewise followed up local rumours. In a story ("Elvis's motorbike lives: So says revved-up rumor mill") by Nadine Fownes, and datelined Bridgewater, N.S., the paper traced them through several regions of that province. (Thanks to Mark Kilpatrick and Joyce Yates.)]
Another motorcycle story
Michael Wilson (Department of Drama, University of Exeter, Exeter, England) passes along a story heard in class in late October 1996 from one of his university students:
A young motorcyclist goes out with, for some unknown reason (fashion perhaps,or as a joke) his coat on back-to-front. He is involved in an accident and rendered unconscious, but otherwise is unharmed. That is until a passer-by comes to help. Thinking that the young lad has had his neck twisted in the accident, the good Samaritan attempts to rectify the situation by twisting the motorcyclist's head back round again and in doing so breaks his neck.
The student was unable to give me any other information such as when or where she heard this unlikely tale, and it's new to me. I wonder if anybody might be able to shed some light on the story.
Maybe it's a cautionary tale, about pranks backfiring? Certainly the motorcyclist must have been a bit crazy to put his coat on back-to-front, anyway. In fact you could say that he literally didn't have his head screwed on properly!
[PH: A hearer might also infer a caution against Good Samaritan acts, something that seems to be present in many current legends: drivers flashing lights, travellers taking on pets, and so on.]
C.L. and those other terms
Anyone interested in contemporary legend soon becomes aware of the variety of terms in use for the phenomenon and the variety of usages for the various terms. In the past five years or so the term "urban legend" and its sibling "urban myth" have become widely synonymous with what used to be called "popular misconception." At the suggestion of Tom McGuire, in Valencia, Spain, I will report on some of these vagrant usages. To start us off, Tom sends a clipping from the Independent on Sunday, 25 August 1996, p. 3. In a story by John Carlin in Washington ("For hire: a night between the presidential sheets"), the rumour is discussed that wealthy contributors to the Democratic Party are rewarded with overnight visits to the White House. A presidential spokesman is quoted as saying, "This has become an urban myth, like the alligators in the sewers of New York. It is just not true."
Internet Rumours and the News
There was a flurry of news reports in September 1996 about the role of the Internet in promulgating rumours about news events. See for example the Mark Hosenball story, "TWA: The Anatomy of a Rumor," Newsweek (23 September 1996, p. 43), and Leslie Miller's "How the Internet became Rumor Central/Trying to track down a rumor," USA Today (18 September 1996), p. 1A. The latter is accompanied by M.J.Zuckerman, "Anybody with a theory now has 'a megaphone'," USA Today (18 September 1996, pp. 1A, 2A). Zuckerman details some of the rumours surrounding a half dozen stories that were big in the American press, including the TWA Flight 800 crash, the Unabomber, and the Oklahoma City bombing. He notes the increased use of Internet resources by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to gather and track rumours as possible evidence.
Fifteenth International Perspectives on Contemporary Legend Conference, Boulder, Colorado, 21‑24 May 1997
The International Society for Contemporary Legend Research (ISCLR) is pleased to announce the Fifteenth International "Perspectives on Contemporary Legend" Conference, to be held at the Hotel Boulderado in Boulder, Colorado, Wednesday, 21 May through Saturday, 24 May 1997.
First held in 1982 at the Centre for English Cultural Tradition and Language in Sheffield, England, these annual seminars have provided scholars with a forum for the exchange of ideas and an opportunity to keep in touch with current research in all parts of the world.
Participants have discussed so‑called "urban" or "modern" legends, but also any legend or legend‑like tradition that circulates actively at present or has circulated intensively at any earlier historical period. Periods discussed have ranged from the ancient to the modern, as up-to-date as Internetlore; cultures worldwide, from Africa and the Pacific Rim, to those of our own academic worlds have been examined.
The 1997 meeting will be organised as a series of seminars, at which the majority of those who attend will present papers and/or contribute to discussion sessions. Concurrent sessions will be avoided so that all participants can hear all the papers.
If you wish to participate in the conference, please forward a title and a four‑hundred‑word abstract, along with a conference fee of US$60.00 for ISCLR members (US$85.00 for non‑members). For students currently enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate programme, the conference fee will be waived. Deadline for receipt of materials is 1 February 1997.
Participants are encouraged to propose special panels of papers, discussion sessions, and any other events. Facilities will be available to show videotapes relevant to the study of contemporary legend.
Send abstracts to:
Michael J. Preston
Department of English
University of Colorado at Boulder
Hellems 101, Campus Box 226
Boulder, Colorado 80309‑0226
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Dates of 1998 ISCLR Conference in
Innsbruck: A Poll
The 1998 "Perspectives on Contemporary Legend" Seminar has been invited to the University of Innsbruck, Austria where Leander Petzoldt and Ingo Schneider will be organisers.
The meeting will be coordinated with the meeting of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research (ISFNR), which has already been scheduled for Göttingen on 26 - 31 July. There are easy rail connections between Innsbruck and Göttingen.
The Council of the ISCLR felt that holding it before the ISFNR meeting was preferable to scheduling it afterwards. They have tentatively settled on 20 ‑ 24 July 1998. Nonetheless they also felt that ISCLR members ought to have an opportunity to approve or disapprove these specific dates.
Therefore we are polling members on this question: should ISCLR come before or after ISFNR?
If a majority of respondents oppose the tentative dates, alternative dates following the ISFNR meeting will be chosen. A simple majority of responses will rule so please vote even if you agree with the tentative dates.
Please send a postcard, note, fax, or email with your preference to Bill Ellis:
Penn State Hazleton,
Hazleton, PA 18201‑1291
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A capsule conference: Bath, July-August 1996
Folklore & Language Archive
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John's, Newfoundland
CANADA A1B 3X8
Veteran attendees of Contemporary Legend conferences and first-timers at the Bath conference alike expressed admiration for last summer's conference(27 July to 1 August 1996), its setting, and its organisation. The Bath meetings were the fourteenth "Perspectives on Contemporary Legend" conference of the ISCLR. With about three dozen participants, it was small enough to allow most people to meet and chat with everyone else, and varied enough to be a good view of the current work in the field. The two organisers, Donna Wyckoff and Marion Bowman, are to be congratulated.
On Saturday night, 26 July, Véronique Campion-Vincent showed two short-film versions of the legend of "The Eaten Ticket," one from Germany and the other from the United States. Later during the conference, Bill Ellis gave a showing of the recent British television programme "W. S. H." ("Weird Shit Happens") which featured real and imagined legend scholars arguing over the veracity and verisimilitude of legends.
The papers began Sunday morning, 27 July, with Jan Brunvand's investigation into the summer 1995 legend alternately known as the Biscuit Bullet and the Brain Drain: that of exploding biscuit dough in a hot car. Michael Wilson discussed the interplay of real life events in a well-known English West Country murder case and the legend of The Boyfriend's Death. Mark Glazer presented some thoughts on that which links many contemporary legends: our sense of risk and danger in the world. In a world with fewer obvious taboos, modern legends are about preferred behaviours gone awry.
The afternoon session, "Crossing Boundaries," began with Marion Bowman's "Contemporary Legend in Bath: Past and Present," a historical survey of how legend has operated in the development of Bath's self image, especially in the recent past when a modern sense that the ancient Celtic people were good stewards of the natural world has informed legend and belief in the city. Edward Chancellor spoke of the role of contemporary legend and rumour in the invention, growth and bursting of financial bubbles, drawing on historical evidence going back several centuries. J. B. Smith spoke of the mythological legend of the human midwife to the fairies (F372.1) and its transformation into a modern legend. Bill Ellis closed off the session with an exemplified discussion of the importance of the fifteenth-century collection of stories known as Poggio's Facetiae to the study of the history of contemporary legend.
The following day began with Nicolae Constantinescu's report on how contemporary legends fare in Romania, including the study of them as traditional folklore by some of the classic collectors of Romanian folklore. Among these past-into-present stories is a cycle of legends about imaginary towns. JoAnn Conrad followed with her study of 1980s "stranger danger" legends -- stories of child abductions by people other than family members. Building on traditional stranger fears and a media climate that did not reflect actual statistics of such crimes, the stories grew throughout North America, even bringing on new policies in department stores to combat the imaginary threat. Joe Feller followed with an overview of legend on the Internet (for example virus legends), showing their place in a constellation of electronic folklore that includes sham and proverbial addresses, compendia of good and bad manners, and personalized graffiti-like ".sig files." Sandy Hobbs presented his and David Cornwell's illustrated paper on how contemporary legends have been presented pictorially over the past decade or two in popular culture and scholarly collections.
The afternoon session on local legends and cycles began with Galia Shenberg's presentation of her and Rachel Ben-Cnaan's paper on the legends that have grown up around one of the founders of an Israeli kibbutz, Moshe Carmi. Faye Ringel followed with a discussion of how witch belief and legends of witches function in modern Salem, Massachusetts. Academic theories may fizzle out in academia, but they can catch fire and spread among the popular tellers of legends, the tour guides. Philip Hiscock closed off the afternoon with his discussion of how contemporary legends and tall tales worked together in the repertoire of a 1930s radio host in Newfoundland.
One of the highlights of the conference was being in the Bath area and having Marion Bowman's expertise in the field of modern and traditional religious belief close at hand. On Tuesday we took a break from papers and about two dozen of us went on Marion's guided tour of Wells and Glastonbury, both centres of British popular religion, and the latter a world centre for the expression of modern ("New Age" and other) religious belief. As Marion had told us with her paper two days previous, Glastonbury, like Bath, is filled with a popular sensitivity to its legendary past. We visited the ruined abbeys, and some of us followed up with a trip to the (alleged by legend) grave of King Arthur, and the mythic Glastonbury Tor. That night more of us ate (and drank) an English pub supper, in The George at Bathhampton.
On Wednesday we resumed the conference with Irina Ozernoy's historical and semantic analysis of variants of The Crushed Dog, with variants as far back as Afanas'iev. Shirley Arora followed with her analysis of the Llorona stories, noting the stories' utility to women who tell them. Brian McConnell discussed the legend of Detective Robert LeDrew, charged in a bizarre and legendary case of sleep-walking murder in LaHavre. Véronique Campion-Vincent closed the morning session with her paper on the transformation of a traditional tale into the modern legend of an incognito son, robbed and murdered by his own parents.
The afternoon session on Wednesday opened with Jay Mechling's thoughts on contemporary legend and the public sphere, part of his culture studies project to understand how folklore captures regional and national spirits. Gillian Bennett followed with a view of the possibilities of vermin-in-boil legends, suggesting that at least some of them are based in medical reality. Sigurd Schmidt closed the afternoon paper session with her discussion of three Namibian legends incorporating the motif of a coffin atop a car. The different legends represent different social meanings, with different kinds of humour embedded in them.
The last session of the conference was on Thursday morning. Paul Smith's paper addressed the issue of the mutability of the contemporary legend, and presented an approach which allowed for all permutations of individuals, communications forms and contexts to be taken into account. Pearl Gluck presented her research based on the testimony of holocaust survivors in modern Hungary. With an awareness of the role of generational distance, and the help of video, she has been collecting legends in an area previously thought to be unworkable. Donna Wyckoff found time from her managing the conference in all its intricacies to present her paper on the emergent and seemingly fleeting legend that someone at the Olympics in Atlanta could not understand that New Mexico was part of the United States. She showed how the legend, circulating in the North, resonated with generations-old beliefs about poor education in the South. And the entire conference was closed with a rousing performance by Mick Goss, filling the rest of us in on modern soccer folklore, in particular the wide spread and high utility of the migratory legend of gypsy (or New Age wizard) curses on soccer grounds.
The Bath conference was an enjoyable experience for all attendees. Its workable size gave it a pleasurable "workshop" tone in which every paper was tested and strengthened by the thoughtful and supportive comments of the audience. If there was one thing missing from the conference, it was a larger number of student contributors and participants. Clearly the expense of travelling a great distance from home or school was a limiting factor in this regard, as was the fact that the ISCLR conference was just one of three folklore conferences held in Britain in the summer of 1996. It is to be hoped that more students will be able to attend next year's meetings in Boulder, Colorado, as a result of Boulder's closer proximity to more departments of folklore studies.
THE CUTTING EDGE
Journals and Newsletters
Anomalies: l'Observateur des parasciences is a new glossy magazine from the producers of OVNI-Présence. Physically smaller (about 50 pp., 165x245 mm, about 6.5 by 9.5 inches) than OP, it similarly is dedicated "aux parasciences (ovnis, paranormal, animaux mystérieux, archéologie fantastique, etc.)." The inaugural issue (October 1996) has a cover price of 35 French francs or 9 Swiss francs. It includes articles on Roswell, Ray Bradbury, US Air Force plans after the Second World War, and the X-Files television programme. Subscription and editorial information can be gleaned at Anomalies, B.P. 57 - La Plaine, F-13244 Marseille CEDEX 01, FRANCE. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
FLS News: The Newsletter of the Folklore Society 23 (June 1996) has continued discussion (from the previous issue) by Jennifer Chandler on reports of objects found in the stomachs of animals and fish; notes on local interpretations and histories of "hill figures," drawings in chalk hillsides; and other items of interest to legend scholars.
FLS News 24 (November 1996) continues the ring-in-fish discussion; and has local legends of a witch's grave, two notes on secret tunnel legends and continued discussion of hill figures.
Fortean Times: The Journal of Strange Phenomena is published monthly. In recent issues there have been many items and articles of interest to scholars of contemporary legend. FT88 (August [July, inside] 1996) includes a report of a Bolton (England) woman who discovered the message "Ya-Allah" ("Allah exists") written in the patterns of seeds within an aubergine (eggplant); a pet dog who swallowed its owner's watch and coughed it up two months later (keeping good time); a Nashville, Tennessee, man who came in to a laundromat from the rain and climbed into a tumble dryer after putting the requisite coins in the slot; hoaxed rumours in Lucena, Philippines, that the volcano Banahaw was about to erupt and an ensuing panic; an escaped boa constrictor in apartment plumbing in Sweden; a detailed article by Paul Sieveking on alien cat sightings in Britain; a summary of Larry E. Arnold's book (Ablaze) on spontaneous human combustion; a note by Peter Darben on a recent spate of dog- repelling, plastic bottles in Queensland yards; and Bill Ellis's "Forum" piece on seeing images in photographs of random patterns and the preference people have to see "Forteana quicker than fortuity."
FT89 (September [August, inside] 1996) has a cover story by Scott Corrales on the Chupacabras or goatsucker; a recent rain of fishes in Hertfordshire; a report from Bulgaria that the story of the two cheating couples running into each other on holiday occurred there; a page full of "super-centenarians" -- people claimed to have ages from 113 to 150 years; news of a spate of UFO sightings in northeast Brazil in April 1996; and a poltergeist in Yorkshire.
FT90 (September 1996) has a note reporting "an ostensibly genuine version of the gerbil yarn" in the May issue of the BMA Journal (presumably the British Medical Association). The names of the participants are at variance from those in the version reported elsewhere in this issue of FTN: the BMAJ names are Devito Bistone and Koko Rodriguez. This issue also has a story on rumours in Brazil of an alien craft crash; references to 911-, 999- and 112-dialling dogs and cats; slow mail stories; a feline vampire in Plovdiv, Bulgaria; and a wallaby in Gloucester, England.
FT91 (October 1996) has Michael Goss's article on contemporary legends in British football clubs; see Recent Publications, below, for the full title. Also in this issue are: some Loch Ness sightings; a report from Bogotá, Colombia, that a rumour panic set in that the Antichrist would claim all unbaptised babies on 6 June 1996 (a date suggesting 666); a rumour in Egypt that aphrodisiac chewing gum was being given to young women; a report of the "biscuit bullet" legend; spring-heeled Jack in India; the fact that aliens are often coloured green; and crop circles getting fancier.
FT92 (November 1996) has a puppy carried away by an eagle; a yeti sighting in Kazakhstan; a rumour springing from a television movies in a Philippines town that asteroids were falling; more on the Uttar Pradesh spring-heeled Jack; and sightings of a maned lion in Washington state.
FT93 (December 1996) reports on: the "drunksucker" of Honduras and Nicaragua; the recent panic in Cameroon leading to the lynching of three men accused of snatching the penises of men they shook hands with; piranhas in freshwater lakes and rivers of France; the spread of chupacabras into the United States; pishtacos (white men who steal human body fat) in Peru (see FoafTale News 36: 2); the lifting of an official US warning about organ thieves in Guatamala; and Bill Ellis' column on why it is important not to be too sceptical of people's beliefs.
Letters to Ambrose Merton: A Quarterly Miscellany (formerly published under other names) regularly has contemporary-legend-related notes. Letters is available (at £7.50 p.a.) from David Cornwell, Psychology Section, Department of Educational Studies, University of Strathclyde, Jordanhill Campus, 76 Southbrae Drive, Glasgow, Scotland G13 1PP, UNITED KINGDOM.
Number 5 (March 1996) includes a note on the "seven hills" motif in various cities' legendry; a text of the Stolen Biscuits (see the song/poem elsewhere in this issue of FTN); an update on the Orkney satanic ritual abuse reports; a text and short investigation of the Bridegroom's Revenge; notes on the "Good Times" virus alert, the Bosom Serpent, the Vanishing Hitchhiker, and a legal legend about the responsibilities of police to stalled cars.
Number 6 (June 1996) includes Sandy Hobbs's essay on his categorization of legends and like things; and notes on chupacabros, condom sales increases near large meetings (separately) of scouts and clergy, Craig Shergold, the crocodile in the Paris sewers in 1984, and the legend "Want a Lift?" about a good samaritan bus-driver who mistakenly carries a drunken sports-fan a long way from home.
Number 7 (October 1996) includes legends of workers complaining about the overabundance in their diet of quails, or salmon, or whatever; a jilted lover's large mobile phone bill as revenge; "Eskimo words for snow"; the Elvis motorcycle [see elsewhere in this issue of FTN]; and the devil at the dance.
Books and Monographs
Regina Bendix and Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt, eds. Folklore Interpreted: Essays in Honor of Alan Dundes. New York: Garland Publishing, 1995. xiii, 534 pp. This festschrift for Alan Dundes contains several selections dealing with legend, belief, and photocopylore that will interest legend scholars. See, among other contributions, the following: Regina Bendix, "Dundesiana: Teacher and Mentor in Campuslore, Anecdote, and Memorate", pp. 49-66; Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, "From the Paperwork Empire to the Paperless Office: Testing the Limits of the 'Science of Tradition,'" pp. 69-92; Patricia A. Turner, "Liz Claiborne--Satanist or Racist? A Topsy-Eva Contemporary Legend Cycle," pp. 111-21; Gary Alan Fine, "Accounting for Rumor: The Creation of Credibility in Folk Knowledge," pp. 123-36; Kathleen Odean, "Anal Folklore in the Medical World," 137-152; and Barbara Rieti, "Guns and Bottles: Newfoundland Counterwitchcraft Measures as Assertions of Masculinity," 167-82. Also included is a list of 226 publications by Dundes, dating from 1960 to 1995.
Rolf Wilhelm Brednich. Die Ratte am Strohhalm: Allerneueste sagenhafte Geschichten von heute. München: Beck, 1996. 181 pp. Brednich's fourth contemporary legend collection contains 129 texts, many with variants, and an index to all four of his legend books.
Jan Harold Brunvand, ed. American Folklore: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1996. xviii, 794 pp. Preface, list of standard folklore indexes and classifications, contributors, over 160 illustrations, index. Jan Harold Brunvand has assembled an impressive cast of contributors for what is sure to become a standard folklore reference work. With a focus on the folklore of the United States and Canada, the book contains more than 540 entries by over 250 authors. Not surprisingly, one of the strengths of the encyclopedia is its attention to folk narrative. Contemporary legend scholars will want to turn first to entries on urban legend (written by Brunvand), legend (Timothy R. Tangherlini), legend trip (Bill Ellis), anti-legend (John Michael Vlach), rumour (Elon A. Kulii), folktale (Kay E. Stone), memorate (Richard Sweterlitsch), ghost stories (Elizabeth Tucker), anecdote (Thomas E. Barden), local-character anecdote (David H. Stanley), and personal-experience stories (Sandra K. Dolby). But many other topics also relate to contemporary legend. A sampling includes conspiracy theories, cults, nuclear lore, organizational folklore, Ouija, superstition, truckers' folklore, UFO lore, vampires, witchcraft, and Xeroxlore. [Alan E. Mays]
Gail de Vos. Tales, Rumors, and Gossip: Exploring Contemporary Folk Literature in Grades 7-12. Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1996. xx, 405 pp. De Vos presents a well-organized resource for educators and others who are interested in teaching or learning about contemporary legends and rumours. The book contains extensive and up-to-date bibliographies and draws upon many sources, including FoafTale News and Contemporary Legend, for examples of legends and rumours.
Henrik Lassen and Tom Pettitt. Modern Legends and Medieval Studies. Mindre Skrifter, nr. 16. Odense: Laboratorium for folkesproglig Middelalderlitteratur, Odense Universitet, 1996. 50 pp. This booklet is a working paper published by the Centre for Mediaeval Studies at Odense University. The text is in English, and the authors present three selections: "Introduction: The Contemporaneity of the Contemporary Legend," by Pettitt, pp. 7‑14; "Contemporary Legends and Traditions of the Past: The Regenerative Approach," by Lassen, pp. 15‑34; and "Alien Encounters: Medieval Perspectives on the 'Modern' Contemporary Legend," by Pettitt, pp. 35‑50. To request a complimentary copy of this publication, write to Thomas Pettitt, Associate Professor, English Department, Odense University, Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense M, Denmark, or e-mail Thomas Pettitt at email@example.com or Henrik Lassen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leea Virtanen. Apua! Maksa ryömii: Nykyajan tarinoita ja huhuja [Help! The Liver Is Crawling: Legends and Rumours of Nowadays]. Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Tammi, 1996. 282 pp. Virtanen's second collection of Finnish contemporary legends includes 196 texts and a survey of storytelling occasions and tellers.
We are interested in publications on any topic relevant to contemporary legends, especially those in journals or from publishing houses not usually read by academics in North America and the United Kingdom. Forward references or offprints (if convenient) to Alan E. Mays, Heindel Library, Penn State Harrisburg, 777 W. Harrisburg Pike, Middletown, PA 17057‑4898 United States of America. English abstracts of works in other languages would be appreciated.
For providing citations or forwarding material for this issue's bibliography, thanks go to Thomas E. Barden, Joel Best, Rolf Wilhelm Brednich, Simon Bronner, Erik Brunvand, Brian Chapman, Bill Ellis, Harry Farkas, Joseph P. Goodwin, Philip Hiscock, Sandy Hobbs, Harry Johnson, Henry Koretzky, Henrik Lassen, A. Earl Mays, Joan Mays, Willa Panvini, Allen Pasternak, Tom Pettitt, Jean Reherman, Martha Sachs, Yolanda Snyder, Jeffrey S. Victor, Leea Virtanen, Joyce Yates, Fay Youngmark, and Eileen Zagon.
Items starred (*) are housed in a file in one of the editors' office and can be made available to qualified scholars for reference. Books and articles from major publishers or standard journals are not starred.
* Alim, Fahizah. "Rumor Has It." Sacramento Bee (4 Oct. 1996): [Patricia Turner and Gary Alan Fine comment on rumours and legends among African Americans and whites and discuss the book they're writing (working title: Rumors in Black and White)].
* Allen, Angela. "Phew! It's a Cabbage Soup Diet." Columbian (14 May 1996): Food, 1.
* Allerton, Haidee. "True Tales of the Workplace." Training and Development 50 (April 1996): 79; (May 1996): 127. [Rodent tales: Roy Rogers fast-food workers kill a rat in front of horrified customers; a woman at another Roy Rogers restaurant found a batter-dipped mouse in her bucket of chicken.]
* Alvarez, Rafael. "Oh, Say, Can You See Ghosts at Fort?" Sun [Baltimore, Md.] (31 Oct. 1996): 1B, 6B. [Ghost sightings at Fort McHenry.]
* Anders, Smiley. ["So Much for the Power of the Press."] Advocate [Baton Rouge, La.] (21 Oct. 1996): 1B. [Debunks the Craig Shergold card appeal and complains about the frequent "boneless banana" advertising typos in grocery ads.]
* Anderson, Wayne R. "Blue Moons." Sacramento Bee (14 July 1996): F5. [Cites Philip Hiscock's research on the blue moon.]
Angell, Roger. "True Tales -- Well, Maybe: Hear about the dog in the suitcase? The reborn rabbit? The disappearing wife? Of course you have." The New Yorker 22 January 1996, 37-43.
* "Another E-mail Virus Scare Is Making the Rounds on the Internet." Chronicle of Higher Education (12 July 1996): A19. [Warning about a computer virus that will strike on the thirteenth of every month.]
* Anthes, Gary H. "Hoax Viruses Pose Threat." Computerworld (9 Dec. 1996): 71, 73. [E-mailed warnings about the Good Times, Deeyenda, and Irina viruses, the PKZ300 Trojan horse, and the Ghost.exe program are hoaxes or exaggerations that waste time and resources.]
Barden, Thomas E., and John Provo. "Legends of the American Soldiers of the Vietnam War." Fabula 36: 3-4 (1995): 217-29.
* Bash, Alan. "TV Gets in on Conspiracies." USA Today (24 Sept. 1996): 3D. [New U.S. television dramas, such as Majestic-12 and The Millennium Group, feature conspiracy theories.]
* Baumann-Bunke, Dawn. "Miracle: The Return of the White Buffalo." Fate 49 (Aug. 1996): 21-25. [Birth of a white buffalo in Wisconsin was foretold by American Indian prophecies.]
Beam, C. Richard, ed. The Thomas R. Brendle Collection of Pennsylvania German Folklore, Volume I. [Schaefferstown, Pa.]: Historic Schaefferstown, 1995. [A miscellany of Pennsylvania German legends, jokes, beliefs, proverbs, and other genres of folklore.]
* Beckerman, Jim. "Yo! Bozo! Are You Having Fun Yet?" Record (30 Sept. 1996): Y1. [Discusses "whether a foul‑mouthed little kid actually told Bozo the Clown to 'Cram it, clown' on national television."]
* Begley, Sharon. "You Must Remember This." Newsweek (15 July 1996): 64. [Possible biological basis for false memories.]
Bennett, Gillian. "'Camera, Lights, Action!': The British General Election 1992 as Narrative Event." Folklore 107 (1996): 94-97.
. Reply to "What Is a Belief Legend?" by Linda Dégh. Folklore 107 (1996): 47-48.
* Best, Joel, and Mary M. Hutchinson. "The Gang Initiation Rite as a Motif in Contemporary Crime Discourse." Justice Quarterly 13 (1996): 383-404.
* "Big Stampede Prompted by Search for 'Big Foot.'" Philadelphia Inquirer (7 March 1996): A4. [Search for China's "Big Foot" creature.]
* Blow, Steve. "These Stories Sound Great, Aren't True." Dallas Morning News (24 May 1996): 37A. [Mexican rats, Neiman-Marcus cookies, stolen kidneys, and other legendary topics.]
* Bogey, Dan. "There's No Magic to Building an Occult Collection." Library Journal 121 (1 Sept. 1996): 145-48. [Listing of books on the occult for library collections.]
Brackman, Harold. "Farrakhanspiracy: Louis Farrakhan and the Paranoid Style in African-American Politics." Skeptic 4:3 (1996): 36-43. [Conspiracy themes, numerology, and legends in the writings and speeches of the Nation of Islam leader.]
* Bradbury, Dieter. "Blue Moon: It Is Neither Blue nor All That Rare." Portland Press Herald (29 June 1996): 1A. [Philip Hiscock on blue moons.]
* Bray, Hiawatha "Helping Users 'Get a Clue.'" Boston Globe (20 June 1996): 44. [Story of clueless computer user who mistook a CD‑ROM drive for a cupholder.]
* Brenowitz, Stephanie. "Blizzard Begets Flurry of Deliveries." Philadelphia Inquirer (8 Sept. 1996): A1, A15. [An increase in births nine months after a blizzard in the eastern U.S.]
* Brodeur, Paul. "How the F.B.I. Left Jean Seberg Breathless." The Nation (25 March 1996): 15-16, 18. [Deliberate planting of rumors by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.]
Bruce, Alexander M. "Clearing the Air: Black and White Assumptions and Attitudes toward the Regal Crown Air Freshener." Southern Folklore 53 (1996): 25-40.
Brunvand, Erik. "The Heroic Hacker: Legends of the Computer Age." Paper presented at the American Folklore Society annual meeting, Pittsburgh, Pa., 20 Oct. 1996. Available at http://www.cs.utah.edu/~elb/folklore/.
* Burger, Peter. "Organ Snatchers." Magonia, no. 56 (June 1996): 3-7, 23. [Organ theft rumours and legends.]
Callahan, Tim. "The End of the World and the New World Order: Black Helicopters, Hong Kong Gurkhas, Global Conspiracies, and the Mark of the Beast." Skeptic 4:3 (1996): 44-51.
* Cassidy, Suzanne. "Ordinary Woman, Extraordinary Witness." Sunday Patriot-News [Harrisburg, Pa.] (15 Dec. 1996): B1, B14-B15. [Mary Ellen Lukas, a Catholic stigmatic in Hazleton, Pa.]
"Checking Out the Fertility Seats." Fortean Times, no. 88 (Aug. 1996): 20. [Chairs at supermarkets in Israel and the U.K. help women become pregnant.]
* Chiang, Sharline. "LSD Flashback: Tattoo Hoax Again Hits Schools." Press-Enterprise [Riverside, Calif.] (30 Oct. 1996): B1.
* Cleverley, Bill. "LSD Myth Resurfaces in Victoria." Victoria [B.C.] Times Colonist (23 Feb. 1996). [LSD tattoo warnings in the Greater Victoria School District.]
* Condon, Garret. "Cabbage Soup? Here's the Scoop." Hartford Courant (6 May 1996): A1. [The Cabbage Soup Diet.]
Corrales, Scott. "How Many Goats Can a Goatsucker Suck?" Fortean Times, no. 89 (Sept. 1996): 34-37. [Chupacabras.]
* Danard, Susan. "The Devil Door Gets Firesale Price." Victoria [B.C.] Times Colonist (22 April 1996).
* . "Knock, Knock, Who's There?" Victoria [B.C.] Times Colonist (21 April 1996). [Sale of a "devil door."]
* "Daughter Data: Robin and Chelsea." Time (9 Sept. 1996): 18. [Repeats apocryphal story about U.S. presidential daughter Chelsea Clinton; see FTN 30:10.]
* Davenport, Dale. "Misinformation Age." Sunday Patriot-News [Harrisburg, Pa.] (23 June 1996): B7. [Kidney theft rumours and humorous items, like lists of goofy literary analogies and "Top 15 Olympic Torch Problems," circulate via e-mail.]
Davies, Owen. "Healing Charms in Use in England and Wales, 1700-1950." Folklore 107 (1996): 19-32.
* Davis, Marcia, and John Schwartz. "Baby Formula Suit Settlement Is Fake." Washington Post (13 Dec. 1996): A6. [Bogus flier distributed via fax, photocopy, and email claims that parents can receive monetary settlements from baby formula manufacturers.]
* Davis, William C. "Tall Tales of the Civil War." Civil War Times Illustrated 24 (Aug. 1996): 48-55. [Legends, hoaxes, and unusual stories relating to the U.S. Civil War.]
* Day, Robert P. J. "No, the Woman Didn't Dry Her Poodle in a Microwave." Herald‑Sun [Durham, N.C.] (11 Nov. 1996): A8. [Apocryphal quotes, such as U.S. Patent Office Director Charles Duell's alleged statement in 1899 that "everything that can be invented has already been invented."]
Dégh, Linda. "What Is a Belief Legend?" Folklore 107 (1996): 33-46.
Del Greco, Lisa. "Cat's Phone Call to 911 Saves One of Its Nine Lives." Houston Chronicle (12 July 1996): A16.
* Dempsey, Laura. "Book Signing: Author Diagnoses Donor‑Abuse Ring." Dayton Daily News (12 Sept. 1996): 10B. [A story about Moscow orphans used as organ donors in the Middle East was the inspiration for Tess Gerritson's new book, Harvest.]
* deYoung, Mary. "Speak of the Devil: Rhetoric in Claims-Making about the Satanic Ritual Abuse Problem." Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare 23 (June 1996): 55-74.
* Dibble, Sandra. "Scary Specter Drives Baja Bats." San Diego Union‑Tribune (30 May 1996): A-1. [Chupacabras.]
* Diuguid, Lewis W. "Gangsta Rap Feeds into the Media's Image of Urban Despair." Kansas City Star (30 Oct. 1996): C2. [Rumours that murdered rapper Tupac Shakur is still alive.]
Doumenc, Colette. "Rumour and the Collective Psychosis: Enter the Werewolf." Letters to Ambrose Merton, no. 4 (Dec. 1995): 1-6. [Werewolf rumours in Mauritius.]
* Dowd, Gregory Evans. "The Panic of 1751: The Significance of Rumors on the South Carolina-Cherokee Frontier." William and Mary Quarterly 53 (1996): 527-60. [Rumours of war between Cherokee Indians and white settlers in colonial South Carolina.]
* Dowe, Tom. "The Netizen: News You Can Abuse." Wired 5 (Jan. 1997): 53-56, 184-85. [Paranoia and conspiracy run rampant on the Internet.]
"Driver with Dough for Brains." Fortean Times, no. 91 (Nov. 1996): 17. [Biscuit Bullets.]
Dundes, Alan, and Carl R. Pagter. Sometimes the Dragon Wins: Yet More Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1996.
* Ebbern, Hayden, Sean Mulligan, and Barry L. Beyerstein. "Maria's Near-Death Experience: Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop." Skeptical Inquirer 20 (July-Aug. 1996): 27-33. [Investigates the circumstances surrounding a widely cited NDE story.]
* Ebert, Roger. "Enough! A Modest Proposal to End the Junk Mail Plague." Yahoo! Internet Life 2 (Dec. 1996): 26. [Movie critic Ebert gripes about "Save Sesame Street" petitions, Good Times virus alerts, and other junk e-mail.]
* Edmunds, Steve. "Speak of the Devil." Internet Underground 1 (Aug. 1996): 56-60. [Satanist Web sites.]
Ellis, Bill. "Thinking about a Blue Monkey." Fortean Times, no. 88 (Aug. 1996): 47. [Miraculous photos.]
* Ezeh, Peter. "Headless Body Sparks Two Days of Riots." New African, no. 347 (Dec. 1996): 25. [Nigerian stories about children's body parts used in religious ceremonies.]
* Farhi, Paul. "An Ear to the Rumor Mill." Washington Post (23 Sept. 1996): Washington Business, 17, 19. [Companies monitor the Internet to counter online rumours about their products.]
Fine, Gary Alan. "Accounting for Rumor: The Creation of Credibility in Folk Knowledge" In Folklore Interpreted: Essays in Honor of Alan Dundes . Ed Regina Bendix, and Rosemary Levy Zumwalt, pp. 123‑136.
* Fineman, Mark. "Tales of Bloodthirsty Beast Terrify Mexico." Los Angeles Times (19 May 1996): A1. [Chupacabras.]
* Flam, Faye. "The Philadelphia Experiment." Philadelphia Inquirer (21 Nov. 1996): E1, E6. [Legend about a U.S. Navy experiment in 1943 that supposedly caused a warship to disappear from the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.]
* Flinn, Kathleen. "Assassination of Characters." Internet Underground 1 (June 1996): 58-60. [Web sites and Internet discussion lists devoted to assassination conspiracy theories.]
* Fownes, Nadine. "Elvis's Motorbike Lives." Chronicle-Herald [Halifax] (20 Sept. 1996). [Beat-up Harley-Davidson motorcycle turns out to a valuable bike once owned by Elvis Presely.]
* Frank, Robert. "Suspicious Minds: Some Doubt Tales of Memphis Mansion." Wall Street Journal (24 June 1996): A1, A6. [Claims of tunnels used by runaway slaves and a piano that lured hostile Indians out of the woods in an historic mansion renovated and opened for tours by Elvis Presley Enterprises.]
Frey, Kellie. "Supernatural Beliefs about Chretien Point Plantation." USL Folklore News [University of Southwestern Louisiana] 2 (March 1996). Available at http://members.gnn.com/rrhill/chretn.htm. [Ghost legends.]
* Friedrich, Ann M. "Is Your Dog Really a Rat or Merely a Legend?" Pittsburgh Post‑Gazette (2 Sept. 1996): A-8. [Mexican Pet set in the Ukraine with a Pakistani rat.]
* Gabler, Neal. "The Lure of Urban Myths: Heard the one about the dog that was a rat? Tall tales reveal more than you think." Playboy 43:8 (August 1996), 70-72, 78, 152-3.
* Gammage, Jeff. "JFK Killing Takes on Life of Its Own." Philadelphia Inquirer (24 Nov. 1996): E1, E4. [Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories crop up in films, television shows, books, and Internet discussions.]
* Garland, Ed. "Officials: LSD Medical Alert a Hoax." Florida Today (5 March 1996): B1. [LSD-laced tattoos.]
* Garland, Greg. "Inspectors Recall Unusual, Bizarre Incidents." Sunday Advocate [Baton Rouge, La.] (4 Feb. 1996): 9A. [Health inspectors relate food contamination stories, including rumours of dog meat served at a Chinese restaurant.]
* Garlington, Lela. "Chain‑Letter Plea Is Mammoth Urban Myth." Commercial Appeal (9 Sept. 1996): 1B. [Craig Shergold appeals.]
* Getz, Bob. "How Goofy Urban Legends Get Started." Wichita Eagle (9 July 1996): 6B. [Touching but apocryphal story about a Little League baseball umpire who was accidentally killed by a bat thrown by a player.]
* Gist, Bill. "Man Stops to Pray at Stranger's Coffin -- and Ends Up a Multi-Millionaire!" Weekly World News (29 Oct. 1996): 4. [Spanish businessman inherits fortune after being the only one to sign condolence book at Stockholm church.]
* Gleick, James. "Take My E‑Mail, Please." New York Times Magazine (1 Sept. 1996): 20, 22. [Jokes and stories circulating on the Internet.]
* Golden, Tim. "Tale of C.I.A. and Drugs Has Life of Its Own." New York Times (21 Oct. 1996): A1, A14.
* Gorbaty, Tim "Tall Tales Run Wild On The Internet: Legends Mix Humor, Irony." Times‑Picayune (9 June 1996): A1. [Scuba diver scooped up by a fire-fighting helicopter, Good Times computer virus, and other legends.]
Goss, Michael. "Curse and Effect." Fortean Times, no. 91 (October ["November" on cover] 1996): 26-28. [Gypsy curses on soccer fields.]
. "The Devil in an Early Victorian Ballroom." Letters to Ambrose Merton, no. 7 (Oct. 1996): 31-36. [A version of the Devil in the Dancehall from a short story published in 1847.]
Grider, Sylvia Ann. "Conservatism and Dynamism in the Contemporary Celebration of Halloween: Institutionalization, Commercialization, Gentrification." Southern Folklore 53 (1996): 3-15.
* Groutage, Hilary. "Folklore: The Study Of Things Ordinary." Salt Lake Tribune (10 June 1996): D2. [The annual Fife Folklore Conference at Utah State University celebrates the work of Alta and the late Austin Fife, who collected Mormon stories of the three Nephites and other genres of folklore.]
* Haarlander, Lisa. "Legendary Obelisk Turns 100 Today." Daily Collegian [University Park, Pa.] (6 Sept. 1996): 1, 2. [Virgin legend at Penn State's main campus.]
* Haddock, Vicki. "Gator Tips Galore Swamp the City." San Francisco Examiner (18 Aug. 1996): A-1. [Alligator sightings in San Francisco's Mountain Lake.]
Hall, Max. An Embarrassment of Misprints: Comical and Disastrous Typos of the Centuries. Golden, Colo.: Fulcrum Publishing, 1995. [Typos and bloopers, including some that are apocryphal.]
Halpert, Herbert. "The Devil, the Fiddle, and Dancing." In Fields of Folklore: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Goldstein, ed. Roger D. Abrahams, pp. 44-54. Bloomington, Ind.: Trickster Press, 1995. [Beliefs and sayings about the fiddle as the devil's instrument.]
Halpert, Herbert, and J. D. A. Widdowson. Folktales of Newfoundland: The Resilience of the Oral Tradition. 2 vols. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996.
Haunted Houses. Arts and Entertainment channel program, broadcast 27 Oct. 1996. [Halloween special featuring Bill Ellis. Video copies are available for purchase by calling 1-800-423-1212.]
* Hewitson, Jim. "Monkey Business." Herald [Glasgow] (29 June 1996):16. [Stories of monkeys mistakenly hanged as spies.]
Hill, Reinhold R. "Supernatural Belief Stories of Mormon Missionaries." USL Folklore News [University of Southwestern Louisiana] 1 (Nov. 1995). Available at http://members.gnn.com/rrhill/suprnat.htm#supernatural.
Hobbs, Sandy. "A Special Harley Davidson." Letters to Ambrose Merton, no. 7 (Oct. 1996): 25-26.
. "On the Fringes of Urban Legend: Homage to Brunvand." Letters to Ambrose Merton, no. 6 (June 1996): 1-11. [Selections from Hobbs' modern folk tale file.]
* Hood, Victoria. "Scary, Believable, and Totally Untrue." Post and Courier [Charleston, S.C.] (3 Nov. 1996): H1. [The Killer in the Backseat, "Urban Myth Cookies," and other legends circulating in Charleston and on the Internet.]
* Horne, Dan. "Not in the Book." Morning Star [Wilmington, N.C.] (1 Oct. 1996): 8A. [Rumours that the 1996 Farmer's Almanac predicted that three hurricanes will hit North Carolina.]
Hufford, David J. "The Experience-Centered Analysis of Belief Stories: A Haunting Example in Honor of Kenny Goldstein." In Fields of Folklore: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Goldstein, ed. Roger D. Abrahams, pp. 55-89. Bloomington, Ind.: Trickster Press, 1995.
Insana, Ron. Traders' Tales: A Chronicle of Wall Street Myths, Legends, and Outright Lies. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1996.
* Jackson, Tom. "Magical Mystery Tour." Tampa Tribune (27 Sept. 1996): Baylife, 1. [David Mikkelson snoops and snopes out legends and unusual facts on Disneyland and Disney World amusement parks.]
* Jones, Welton. "Tales of Local Wright Designs Are Right‑‑and Wrong." San Diego Union‑Tribune (1 Sept. 1996): E-3. [Legend about church allegedly designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.]
Joyce, Colin. "Hands of Fate and Other Urban Myths." Tokyo Journal (Dec. 1996). Available at http://www.japan.co.jp/tj/mag/index.html. [Examples of Japanese contemporary legends, with amusing and macabre illustrations.]
* Keelin, Pamela. "Decoding La Llorona: A Triptych of the Repression, Resistance, and Redemption of the Representation of the Chicana in Southwestern Folklore and Literature." M.A. thesis, California State University, Los Angeles, 1995, AAI1375030. [Legend of La Llorona, the weeping woman in white.]
* Kelley, Janet. "Man Is Jailed 2-5 Years for Killing Ephrata Teen." Lancaster New Era [Lancaster, Pa.] (26 Nov. 1996): A‑1, A‑4. [Man sentenced in shooting death of a teen who was out with friends on a legend trip.]
* Kelly, Dennis. "Prime Party Time for Math Mavens." USA Today (21 Oct. 1996): 1D. [Story explaining why there's no Nobel Prize for mathematics (Alfred Nobel's fiancée allegedly was romantically involved with a mathematician) is rendered in verse.]
Kick, Russ. Outposts: A Catalog of Rare and Disturbing Alternative Information. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1995. [Reviews books and periodicals dealing with fringe topics. Chapters include "Conspiracies, Cover-ups, and Hidden Information," "Beliefs," and "The Unexplained." The "Grab Bag" chapter contains a section on "Postmodern Folklore," which gives a favourable appraisal of FOAFTale News.]
* King, Bob. "Web of Deceit." Internet Underground 1 (June 1996): 26-32. [Hoaxes, conspiracy theories, scams, and legends on the Internet.]
Kitchener, Amy V. The Holiday Yards of Florencio Morales: "el Hombre de las Banderas." Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1994. [Mexican-American legends as inspiration for Halloween yard displays, pp. 11-13.]
* Lacayo, Richard. "Shot in the Dark?" Time (25 Nov. 1996): 44. [TWA Flight 800 rumours.]
* Lancaster, John. "Sabotaging Egypt, by Gum." Washington Post (10 July 1996): A12. [Aphrodisiac gum planted by Israeli intelligence is causing Egyptian women to sexually assault men.]
Landers, Ann. Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!: Advice, Wisdom, and Uncommon Good Sense. New York: Villard, 1996. [Includes legends originally published in Landers' newspaper advice column.]
* Lee, Thomas. "Undergrad Flooded by Greeting Cards in Net Aids Prank." Straits Times [Singapore] (31 Aug. 1996): 1. [A chain letter spread via the Internet requests birthday cards for Lew E‑Leong, a Malaysian college student supposedly suffering from AIDS, but E‑Leong denounces the letter as a hoax.]
* Lawrence, Keith. "Urban Myths Too Juicy to Be True." Messenger-Inquirer [Owensboro, Ky.] (19 Jan. 1995): 1D. [Rumour about a restaurant chain (unidentified here, but Taco Bell, which sells Mexican fast food, is often named) where employees are accused of placing excrement in food.]
* Leithauser, Tom. "Halloween's Darkest Fears Are Usually Unfounded." Orlando Sentinel (31 Oct. 1996):E1. [Joel Best comments on Hallowe'en candy tampering scares.]
* Lewis, Jim. "When the Nation Is Clueless." George (Dec. 1996): 128-131, 137. [Conspiracy rumours about the cause of the crash of TWA Flight 800.]
* Lieblich, Julia. "The Rumor and Religion." Patriot [Harrisburg, Pa.] (20 July 1996): R1, R3. [Madalyn Murray O'Hair's FCC petition to ban religious broadcasting in the U.S., Procter & Gamble satanism rumours, and other religious rumours.]
* "Little Girl's 'Death' Lingers as City's East Side Legend." Detroit News (31 Oct. 1996): D2. [The ghost of a child killed in traffic knocks on cars travelling along a street in Detroit's East Side. Richard Dorson discussed this legend in American Folklore (1959): 252-53.]
* Loblaw, Bob. "Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll?: The Subliminal Messages in Windows 95." The Computer Paper [BC edition] 8 (Aug. 1995): 26, 30.
* Lubrano, Gina. "If It's on the Internet, It Must Be True." San Diego Union‑Tribune (22 July 1996): B-5. [Welfare letter bloopers, news headlines, and other apocryphal lists that circulate on the Internet.]
* Lumenick, Louis J. "Cybersleuths Eyeing a Meteor, the Militia, and Hillary as Suspects." New York Post (25 July 1996): 4. [Conspiracy rumours and speculation over the cause of the TWA Flight 800 crash.]
Lynch, Aaron. Thought Contagion: How Belief Spreads through Society. New York: Basic books, 1996. [Beliefs as memes. For online information and a sample chapter, see http://www.mcs.net/~aaron/thoughtcontagion.html.]
* Macklin, William R. "Trying to Get at the Truth about UFOs." Philadelphia Inquirer (14 Nov. 1996): C1, C6. [African Americans and belief in UFOs.]
* Mathis, Deborah. "Truth Hard to Find, but Worth Search." Intelligencer Journal [Lancaster, Pa.] (16 Nov. 1996): A-10. [Rumours that rap artist Tupac Shakur is still alive.]
Mayer, Doug, ed. Cyber Jokes: The Funniest Stuff on the Internet. Kansas City, Mo.: Andrews and McMeel, 1996. [Jokes, humorous legends, and other amusing material culled from the Internet.]
McGrath, Daryl. "Hard Core Troubadour: Folklore Genres in the Music of Steve Earle." USL Folklore News [University of Southwestern Louisiana] 2 (July-Aug. 1996). Available at http://members.gnn.com/rrhill/searle.htm. [Legends in "Justice in Ontario" and other songs by Steve Earle.]
* McKenzie, Aline. "Tales of Tainted Treats a Trick." Dallas Morning News (21 Oct. 1996): 17A. [Joel Best debunks Hallowe'en tampering stories.]
* Miller, Sabrina L., and Steve Kloehn. "'Black Tax' Refund Rumor Spreads." Chicago Tribune (16 June 1996): 1N; reprinted in Columbus Dispatch (17 July 1996). [Rumours among African Americans of slavery reparations from the U.S. government.]
Moravec, Mark. "Australian Rumours and Incidents." Letters to Ambrose Merton, no. 1 (Feb. 1995): 6-10.
* "More Cat Flaps." Magonia, no. 56 (June 1996): . [Cat-theft panic in the Midlands has it that cat-skinners are sending kitty fur to Germany for use in hats and fancy goods.]
* "More Claims for Slavery Reparations Flood the IRS." Wall Street Journal (7 Aug. 1996): A1. [Tax claims by African Americans for slavery reparations.]
* Mulkins, Phil. "No Such Thing as 'Las Vegas Kidney Theft Ring.'" Tulsa World (22 Aug. 1996): A2. [Organ thefts in Las Vegas casinos.]
Narváez, Peter. "Increase Mather's Illustrious Providences: The First American Folklore Collection." In Fields of Folklore: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Goldstein, ed. Roger D. Abrahams, pp. 198-213. Bloomington, Ind.: Trickster Press, 1995. [Belief in the supernatural in seventeenth-century Puritan New England.]
O'Brien, Christopher. The Mysterious Valley. New York: St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1996. ["Astonishing true stories of UFOs, animal mutilations, and unexplained phenomena" from the San Luis Valley of Colorado and New Mexico.]
Orsi, Robert A. Thank You, St. Jude: Women's Devotion to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1996.
* Pae, Peter. "Blankets of Snow, Bundles of Joy." Washington Post (31 Aug. 1996): A1. [A "blizzard baby boom" nine months after heavy snowfall in the Washington, D.C., area.]
* Panvini, Willa. "Traditions." Vassar Quarterly 92 (Winter 1995): 20-23. [Folklore and legends at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., including a story about actress and Vassar graduate Jane Fonda, "who having been turned away from tea in the Rose Parlor because she was not wearing the customary pearls and white gloves, returned dressed only in pearls and white gloves."]
* Peyton, Dave. "Urban Legends: Telling and Verifying Tales." Philadelphia Inquirer (7 Nov. 1996): F2. [America Online's "Urban Legend" area is a new online forum for discussing contemporary legends.]
Pezdek, Kathy, and William P. Banks, eds. The Recovered Memory/False Memory Debate. San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, 1996.
* Pickel, Janet Sheaffer. "Club's Recipes 'Satanic,' Man Says." Press and Journal [Middletown, Pa.] (29 May 1996): A-12. [Claims that "Star Trek recipes" for "terran gin" and "bregit lungs" circulated by members of a school science fiction club are satanic and promote alcoholism.]
* Pinney, Lucy. "Diary." Times (28 Sept. 1996). [Eddie Murphy's film, The Nutty Professor, reminded Pinney of a version of "The Elevator Incident" in which Murphy figured. A reader then wrote in with a version featuring Lionel Ritchie; see Rebecca Simpson, "Phantom Attack," Times (12 Oct.).]
* "Polishing Off Patients." Phoenix Gazette (22 Aug. 1996): B4. [South African hospital patients inadvertently killed by janitor who unplugged life support system in order to use a floor polisher.]
Pope, Kenneth S., and Laura S. Brown. Recovered Memories of Abuse: Assessment, Therapy, Forensics. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 1996.
* Preston, Julia. "In the Tradition of Bigfoot and Elvis, the Goatsucker." New York Times (2 June 1996), sec. 4: 2.
* Quint, Barbara. "Another 'Mr. Gorsky' Story." Searcher 4 (April 1996): 37. [Tracks down the "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky" anecdote told about Neil Armstrong as an example of how to search for online information.]
* Reeves, Pamela. "Ghostly House Sale Spurred a Lawsuit." Sunday Patriot-News [Harrisburg, Pa.] (27 Oct. 1996): I1. [A home buyer in Nyack, N.Y., sued after learning that his new home had a reputation for being haunted.]
* Rem, Kathryn. "Folk Tales: Urban Life Generates Own Cautionary Legends in a Scary World." Chicago Tribune (26 Oct. 1996): New Homes, 12. [Jan Harold Brunvand comments on the exploding biscuit story and other legends.]
Remensnyder, Amy G. Remembering Kings Past: Monastic Foundation Legends in Medieval Southern France. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995.
* Rengers, Carrie. "Clues Abound." Arkansas Democrat‑Gazette (22 Oct. 1996): 8E. [A story attributed to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in which a man out frog-gigging "reportedly injured his intimate parts after using a .22‑caliber bullet as a replacement fuse for a headlight" is circulating on the Internet.]
* Robinson, Paul. "The Postman Always Rings." Guardian (12 June 1996): T5. [Craig Shergold doesn't want any more cards.]
* Roeper, Richard. "Hazardous Rumors Dot The Information Superhighway." Chicago Sun‑Times (29 Sept. 1996): 2. [TWA Flight 800 conspiracy theories, apocryphal quote attributed to Mariah Carey, and other rumours and misinformation on the Internet.]
Rosenberg, Neil V. "The Devil in the Back Seat." In Fields of Folklore: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Goldstein, ed. Roger D. Abrahams, pp. 245-52. Bloomington, Ind.: Trickster Press, 1995.
* Rosenblatt, Roger. "Dig, Must We?" Time (8 July 1996): 76. [Exhumation of the bodies of U.S. presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth, U.S. President Zachary Taylor, and other celebrities reflects a conspiratorial mind-set.]
* Rothenberg, Randall. "Area 51, Where Are You?" Esquire (Sept. 1996): 88ff. [Feuding factions in Rachel, Nevada, fight over the lucrative UFO souvenir business along the Extraterrestrial Highway near Area 51.]
* Saffian, Sarah. "Losing Their Heads over a Diet." Daily News [New York] (29 May 1996): Food, 3. [The Cabbage Diet, aka T.J.'s Miracle Diet and the Dolly Parton Diet, circulates via photocopies and on the Internet.]
* Sauerwein, Kristina. "Filipino Doctor Directs Focus Away from Fido." St. Louis Post‑Dispatch (24 June 1996): 3B. [Dogtown, a neighbourhood that was the site of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, was named after the Filipino tribe that dined on dogs while they were in residence at the fair.]
Seal, Graham. The Outlaw Legend: A Cultural Tradition in Britain, America, and Australia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
* Seward, Deborah. "Rumors Spread Like Wildfire in Russia as Election Nears." Patriot [Harrisburg, Pa.] (21 May 1996): A4.
Shepherd, Chuck. The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics. Kansas City, Mo.: Andrews and McMeel, 1996. [Shepherd's latest compilation of bizarre news items, including many with legendary themes.]
Sieveking, Paul. "Cool Cats." Fortean Times, no. 88 (Aug. 1996): 28-31. [Big cat sightings.]
* Simms, Pat. "Matthews Ran, Couldn't Hide." Wisconsin State Journal (10 August 1996): 1B. [Rumours that actress Alicia Silverstone is registered as a student at the University of Wisconsin.]
Simpson, Jacqueline. "Witches and Witchbusters." Folklore 107 (1996): 5-18.
Slater, Candace. "Breaking the Spell: Accounts of Encantados by Descendants of Runaway Slaves." In Monsters, Tricksters, and Sacred Cows: Animal Tales and American Identities, ed. A. James Arnold, pp. 157-84. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1996.
Spanos, Nicholas P. Multiple Identities and False Memories: A Sociocognitive Perspective. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 1996.
* Stewart, Richard. "A Fish Tale: East Texas Man Hunts Moby Dick of Catfish. "Houston Chronicle (25 Aug. 1996): State, 1. [Stories of huge catfish.]
* "Stowaway." Victoria [B.C.] Times Colonist (24 Nov. 1995): C1. [Photo of a scorpion that arrived in Victoria inside a shipment of Hawaiian papayas.]
Sutherly, Curt. Strange Encounters: UFOs, Aliens, and Monsters among Us. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1996.
Taylor, Ian. "Fear of Crime, Urban Fortune, and Suburban Social Movements: Some Reflections from Manchester." Sociology 30 (1996):317-37. [Discusses the role of legends in mobilisation of anti-crime movements.]
* "$10,000 Offered in Case of Cat Meat Canard." Arkansas Democrat‑Gazette (5 Oct. 1996): 12B. [Rumours that a Chinese served cat meat.]
* Terzian, Philip. "Not All Its Cracked Up to Be." Providence Journal‑Bulletin (13 Oct. 1996): 13D. [Accusations that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency sold drugs in black inner-city communities.]
Toelken, Barre. The Dynamics of Folklore. rev. and exp. ed. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1996. [Introductory textbook gives examples of contemporary legends and other narratives.]
* Torregrosa, Luisita Lopez. "Bye, Bye, Boo Boo, We Hardly Knew You." George (Dec. 1996): 123-27, 138-39. [Conspiracy theories involving the United Nations and its outgoing secretary-general, Boutros Boutros-Ghali.]
Tremblay, Marc. "La Legende de la 'Chasse-Galerie.'" USL Folklore News [University of Southwestern Louisiana] 2 (April 1996). Available at http://members.gnn.com/rrhill/legend.htm. [Canadian legend of lost settlers who make a pact with the devil. In French.]
* Tsang, Tinja and Alice Cairns. "1997 Facing Facts: Ripping Yarns." South China Morning Post (30 June 1996) Sunday Magazine, 6. [Rumours concerning the impending Chinese takeover of Hong Kong in 1997.]
Turner, Patricia A. "Liz Claiborne‑Satanist or Racist? A Topsy‑Eva Contemporary Legend." In Folklore Interpreted: Essays in Honor of Alan Dundes . Ed Regina Bendix, and Rosemary Levy Zumwalt, pp. 111‑121.
* Tutwiler, Mary. "Hot Cajun Boudin Is the Butcher's Art and Snack of Choice in French Louisiana." Times‑Picayune (31 Oct. 1996): F3. ["There are no cats, dogs, armadillos, nutria, roadkill, coydog, no loupgarou, no feu follet in boudin," according to this article about the spicy pork-and-rice sausage.]
* Van Matre, Lynn. "Gator Discovery in Sewer Proves to Be Quite a Tail." Chicago Tribune (2 July 1996): 1D. [Three-foot-long alligator found in sewer culvert in the Chicago area.]
* Vankin, Jonathan, and John Whalen. "How a Quack Becomes a Canard." New York Time Magazine (17 Nov. 1996): 56-57. [Chronicles the emergence of conspiracy rumours following the crash of TWA Flight 800 on 17 July.]
* Wagner, Mitch. "Rumors Fuel Privacy Angst." Computerworld (23 Sept. 1996): 1, 15. [Database provider LEXIS-NEXIS responds to Internet rumours alleging that its P-Trak service contains sensitive credit card information.]
* Wagner, Norma. "Lunar Lunacy: Full Moon Myths Fade under the Light of Scrutiny." Salt Lake Tribune (30 Oct. 1996): A1. [Strange behaviour, crime, and births don't increase at full moon.]
* Walker, Whitney. "Tales From The Cyber Side: A Guide To Urban Legends from A To WWW." Daily News [New York] (14 July 1996): City Smarts, 3, 5. [Jan Brunvand, Bill Ellis, and Patricia Turner comment on legends circulating in cyberspace.]
* "Wealth is the Answer to a Prayer." Evening Standard (2 Oct. 1996): 5. [Businessman inherits millions after stopping to pray at church; see also Gist above.]
Wood, Juliette. "The Supernatural Female as Carrier of Disease in the Medieval Welsh Tradition." Letters to Ambrose Merton, no. 5 (March 1996): 17-20.
* Yemma, John. "When Your Private E‑mail Goes Public." Boston Globe (2 Sept. 1996): C1. [Stories about misdirected email messages and the embarrassment they cause.]
* Zuckerman, M. J. "How the Internet Became Rumor Central." USA Today (18 Sept. 1996): 1A, 2A. [TWA Flight 800 conspiracy theories and other rumours circulating via email.]
Besides those who helped with the bibliography and who are thanked above, thanks this issue are due to Judy Brunvand, Bill Ellis, Mark Ferguson, Delf Hohmann, Cathie Horan, Tammy Hynes Lawlor, Mark Kilpatrick, Mikel Koven, Lara Maynard, Alan Mays, Jean-Bruno Renard, Paul Smith, Patricia Turner and Joyce Yates.
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$18.00 or UK£10 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.
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News Editor: Alan E. Mays, Penn State Harrisburg, 777 W. Harrisburg Pike, Middletown, PA 17057-4898, USA.
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