No. 44                                                                                                                     May 1999

    ISSN 1026-1001







Hathaway & Doyle: Parking lot attacks

Wyckoff: Turkish shampoo legend flyer

Smith: Definitional Characteristics



More virus warnings

Gates, Disney and Nike

Lover tested

Cancer child

Needles in vending machines

Which tire?



War legends

Cactus avenges death

1906 legend: immigrant family freezes



That doggy in the drier

Uttar Pradesh cobras have friends, too



Machine translation legends

Punning names redux

Another kidney thief story

Glue set

Another Gay Christ

The credulous academy



Report on Innsbruck meetings (July 1998)

Skeptical conference held

St John's, Newfoundland conference (May 1999)





    This issue continues the unfortunate trend of lengthening periods between issues of FoafTale News.  This is a result of the editor's having too many demands on his time.  I am still in hopes that a new editor, whose free time is greater than mine, will soon appear.  In the meantime, sadly, FoafTale News will continue to be published as my time permits.

    Please continue sending news, queries, research notes, clippings, calls for papers, or notes about local rumour and legend cycles to me for inclusion in FTN.  The postal address is FoafTale News, MUN Folklore and Language Archive,  Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8 CANADA.   The email address is   Philip Hiscock


* * *



Terror" (?) at Tuttle Mall, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Rosemary Hathaway (University of Northern Colorado) and

Larry Doyle (Ohio State University)


In mid‑ to late April, 1998, a story began circulating around Columbus, Ohio about a local woman's "near miss" abduction ‑‑ or potentially worse:  the would‑be victim, on leaving the toney new Tuttle Mall on Columbus' northwest side, discovers her car has a flat tire.  A man in the lot offers to help her repair it, and when the tire is fixed, he asks her for a ride to his own car on the other side of the mall.  The woman balks (having the same kinds of doubts about the man's intentions as the legend‑teller or listener might), and wisely bluffs that she has to return to the mall to pick something up.  Inside, she alerts a security guard, who returns to her car with her to discover the sham Good Samaritan gone, but his briefcase ‑‑ with butcher knife and rope inside ‑‑ stowed in the woman's car trunk.

The first accounts of this story appear to have been oral, though most people familiar with the story encountered it via the local news media or the Internet.  In late April, the Columbus NBC television affiliate, WCMH, aired a late‑night news story about the Mall's attempt to quash the legend.  The legend was given a cursory treatment as the news report focussed only on rumour control, mentioning the safety of the shopping area and management's commitment to finding the perpetrators of the legend and to bring them to justice.  Complete with shots of the parking lot, the reporter said mall officials felt "the only way to kill the rumour is to kill it."

Notably, the television media did not report the story as an actual event, but instead attempted to "debunk" it, thus suggesting that it was already in wide circulation.  And in fact, most accounts of the story within Columbus seem to have circulated electronically, as in the following message, posted on the Ohio State University folklore listserv on 27 April 1998:

   This was sent to me by a woman I used to work with at The Midland on Broad Street. It is NOT a joke...Please share with everyone you know.

  "Okay, girls, I've got a story for you:

   "A woman that I work with told me about this. It happened to someone she knows last week.

   "The lady was at Tuttle Mall around 2 in the afternoon. When he [sic] went out to her car, her tire was flat. She started changing it and a guy in a business suit walked up and offered to help her. They changed the tire and then he asked her if she would drive him to his car on the other side of the mall. She asked him why he came out that door if he wasn't parked there and he said he had been talking to some friends. She told him she didn't feel comfortable giving him a ride and he kept pushing for her to do it.

    "Finally she told him she still had a couple of things to buy, so she closed her trunk and went back in the mall and he left. She reported it to the security guy, then went back to her car. He was gone and so she drove to a garage to get her tire fixed. They told her there was nothing wrong with it and that someone had let the air out.

    "Later she opened her trunk and noticed he had left his briefcase in there, where he laid it while he was helping her. She opened it and the only things in it were some rope and a butcher knife! She turned it into the police.

    "Holy crap! Isn't that scary? Be careful out there in case he tries this scam again. I go to Tuttle all the time at lunch, so it freaks me out.  These guys are nutcases! Just think about that girl that disappeared from Marianne's old complex a few weeks ago, and stay on guard."


The story eventually gained much wider circulation on the Internet (see below), which is a bit surprising, given that persons outside Columbus would be unfamiliar with the kind of coded local cultural messages this version of the legend transmits.  Tuttle Mall only opened within the last year in a developing area of Columbus that, just ten or fifteen years ago, was generic "farmland" located somewhere between the more established communities of Hilliard and Dublin, once rural communities now stretched to their limits by intensive development.  The mall was designed quite deliberately to give residents of these new developments more upscale shopping choices on their own end of town.  To adapt Gary Alan Fine's argument, then, Tuttle may have become the "target" of this legend merely by virtue of its newness and self‑promotion.  However, the fact that both the mall and its target shoppers are located in an area that is shifting culturally also suggests that the legend may serve as a warning to potential Tuttle‑Mall shoppers to remember that not everyone in the area is "like them." 

There is a more important piece of local cultural context in the version cited above, though, that also helps explain the legend's wide circulation and importance in Columbus.  The "teller" above makes a cryptic (but crucial) reference to "that girl who disappeared from Marianne's old complex a few weeks ago" ‑‑ a detail that notably almost never appears in versions of the legend circulating outside a specific local audience.  Yet in the local context, this was perhaps the most crucial detail, since it quite probably refers to the disappearance of a young Columbus woman, Stacey Colbert, in late March 1998.  A recent Ohio State grad and former sorority member, Colbert lived in a presumably "safe" part of town near the wealthy suburb of Upper Arlington, but was nevertheless apparently abducted from her own apartment; a neighbour later reported having heard screams coming from Colbert's apartment (  Despite exhaustive search efforts and a police investigation, Colbert has not yet been found.

When the Tuttle Mall legend first appeared, then, the disturbing "real" news about the sudden (and presumably violent) disappearance of a local woman from an apparently safe part of town was very much on people's minds;  in fact, a discussion in April with introductory Folklore students at Ohio State University about the Tuttle Mall legend immediately elicited connections with the Stacey Colbert incident.  One female student who works at a store in the City Center Mall (the upscale downtown mall that Tuttle was designed to emulate and rival) said that her coworkers at the Tuttle Mall branch first told her the story, and related it to the Colbert disappearance.  Another student, currently a member of OSU's "Greek system" (of fraternities and sororities), said the legend had been told in her sorority house and was also related to the Colbert disappearance there.

Notably, the version above is directed specifically toward a female audience ("Girls, I've got a story for you"), and many other electronic versions of the legend direct their warnings specifically toward women, even when the Stacey Colbert reference is missing;  a 9 August 1998 posting on ‑‑ of all places ‑‑ alt.religion.christian.pentecostal ends with this very specific advice: The moral of this story...learn to change your own tire, call someone you know and trust to help you or call mall security in the first place to assist you.  Please Be Safe....and not sorry. Although this happened in Columbus, it could happen anywhere there are NUTS around. Just a warning to always be alert. Pass this along to every woman you have access too [sic]. Never let your guard down.  Good story for women to know about.

What is fascinating about this kind of gendered performance cue or message is its relation to the text of the story itself.  In the Tuttle Mall legend, the would‑be victim does everything right:  she is suspicious of her "hero," despite his professional attire and friendly demeanor; she refuses to return his favor (thus violating standard "manners"); and she consults several "real" authorities to confirm her suspicions and to protect her (the mall security guard, the auto mechanic). 

In many ways, this legend is more of an "anti‑legend," in that its action is only potential action:  the threat is purely hypothetical, and the would‑be victim's refusal to abide by standard female legend‑victim behaviours derails the story's denouement before the legend even gains any momentum.  Nothing happens.  This "near‑miss" plot device is present in other legends, of course (e.g., the Hook, the killer in the backseat, the roommate's death, and so forth), but the use of the device in the Tuttle legend seems different in nature.  In those other legends, there is a definite and specific threat:  the radio announces that the hookman is a homicidal maniac, and he clearly attempts to open the would‑be victim's door; the killer in the backseat is actively brandishing a knife, preparing to do his worst, and so on.  But the "weapons" in the Tuttle legend are not only locked in a briefcase, but in a car trunk ‑‑ not exactly readily accessible.  Additionally, the "bad guy"  never makes any active threat, aside from being pushy about getting a ride, and disappears without having done anything, and


  1.  From a discussion in Rosemary Hathaway's English 270:  "Introduction to Folklore" class at  Ohio State University, Spring quarter 1998. 

sans weapons.  Yet the potential for what could have happened had the heroine not been so savvy makes the legend both compelling and tellable, even if it ultimately makes it more of a cautionary tale than a full‑blown legend. In Columbus, and specifically on campus, the connection between this inversion of standard legend action ‑‑ where something terrible does happen ‑‑ and the Colbert disappearance suggest that the story may function as a way to advise young women that operating against dictates to repay kindnesses may save their lives.  If Colbert had behaved as the woman in the legend does, perhaps she, too, would have a survivor's tale to tell.

Some people passing along the legend seemed to resist the gender‑specific message of earlier versions, however, and cautioned that this was an important tale for both men and women to hear;  one version posted on ends with the suggestion that  while this is a "Good story for women to know about," "with the danger in today's world, everyone needs to be careful ‑‑‑ not just women" (22 July 1998).  A male discussant on the group alt.fifty‑plus.friends chose to undermine the sexist implications of the legend's scare tactics while jokingly working the paranoia it might inspire to his own romantic advantage; he followed up a discussion of the tale with the comment,

    Be careful out there people ‑ I need you around cause someday you might buy something from me.  Women can rent me for a week for $49.95.  I can't do much but I can tell you a lot of jokes and if you get frisky I can make you laugh in other ways. :)   (21 July 1998)

So it seems the legend's potential as an aphrodisiac (cf. Ellis) might account for its circulation not just among women, but in mixed‑gender groups as well.

Too, the story probably gained wider circulation because of its similarities to other mall parking‑lot legends, notably that of the attacker waiting underneath the woman's car who cuts her Achilles tendon to disable her.  The motif of the butcher knife, of course, recalls the "killer in the backseat" legend.  The need to localize the legend persists, however:  in one notable electronic version (posted on on 23 July 1998), the mall is located in Columbus, Georgia (note that the text cited above does not name Ohio specifically), and independent versions have been described as happening in California and Connecticut (as reported by discussants Alice Faber and Jo Ann Malina on alt.folklore.urban in late July).

Not everyone took the Tuttle Mall legend seriously, though.  On the same day he posted the "original" text on the OSU folklore listserv (27 April), Don Yarman posted a parody of the legend he received from a friend, written by another acquaintance, Dan Harrington:

     I heard this story from a very good friend of mine ‑ there's another stalker out there ‑ after sharing this story with me, she has since been forced to change her name and move to Saskatchewan. Well apparently, she knows a woman who had a sister who used to take art classes at the Columbus Museum of Art in Dayton. Well, one day, she was walking out to her car after class when this man approached her and said his car had broken down and needed a quarter to call Triple A. Well, she took pity on him and offered him the quarter. As she handed it to him, she noticed that his left hand was missing and he had a hook instead.  She also noticed that the hook was DRIPPING BLOOD!!!!!!! She asked what had happened, and he said that he was attacked by a mad cow at Ryan's steak house and had to defend himself. She thought that sounded good enough, she does watch Oprah after all.  Well, anyway, they called Triple A and the truck came and fixed his car and left. Well, the guy offered to pay her for her help, and she said no, she had to get home to her big empty house off by itself in the woods, where someone could get killed and not be found for days.  Well, she hopped in her car and drove home, but all the way home, she heard this scraping sound coming from the trunk. She thought it was just the wind, wouldn't you? Well, later that night, the phone rang, and when she answered, she heard that scraping sound again. She knew it was the wind this time, and hung up. The phone rang again, she answered, and heard the scraping sound again. She hung up and went into the kitchen, and saw blood on her good dish towel.  Now she was scared, and very angry!!! Well, she called the phone company, and they said the call was coming from her own house. So she grabbed her keys and ran out the door, and she heard the scraping sound coming down the stairs behind her. She turned around, and it was the MAD COW!!!!!!! It was scraping its nose ring on the wall !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She was lucky to get away with her life!!!!!!!!! Be sure and tell EVERYONE about this story, we must whip up the masses into a frenzy!! The cow is still out there!!!!!!!!!"


[PH:  This story, of the well-dressed, would-be attacker in the parking lot, was in hot circulation in mid-March 1999 in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.  The CBC radio morning show interviewed me 15 March about it.  The interview piqued the interest of the national radio afternoon programme produced out of CBC Ottawa, Ontario, and they interviewed me later that day.]


From Turkey:  "Health Alert!"?

Donna Wyckoff

Baskent University

Ankara, Turkey


    On October 17, 1998, while on a bus tour to Cappadocia in central Turkey, the wife on one of the local Turkish Rotary Club members showed me a flyer she'd received and had been sharing with other members of the tour group.  The flyer concerned a health warning she wanted us all to be aware of.  The notice began:

Check the ingredients listed on your shampoo bottle, and see if they have this substance by the name of Sodium Laureth Sulfate, or simply SLS.  This substance is found in most shampoos, and the manufacturers use it because it produces a lot of foam and it is cheap.  BUT the fact is that SLS is used to scrub garage floors, and it is very strong.  It is also proven that it can cause cancer in the long run, and this is no joke.

The language quickly moved even more noticeably into the sort of rhetoric we often find in contemporary legend photocopy lore.  The writer of the "Health Alert" flyer claimed to have called one company and

told them their product contains a substance that will cause people to have cancer.  They said "Yeah, we knew about it but there is nothing we can do about it because we need that substance to produce foam'" (emphasis added).  

Several products containing the chemical compound are mentioned as well as one that does not contain the foaming agent.  The writer also cautions:

Research has shown that in the 1980s, the chances of getting cancer is [sic] 1 out of 8000 and now, in the 1990s, the chances of getting cancer is 1 our [sic] of 3, which is very serious.   So I hope that you will take this seriously and pass this on to all the people you know, and hopefully, we can stop "giving" ourselves the cancer virus.

The writer concludes with an additional "This is serious," with another injunction to pass on the notice to as many people as possible, and with a disclaimer that "this is not a chain letter, but it concerns our health."

    Two names are listed at the bottom of the sheet.  One of the named persons is ostensibly an "Executive Secretary" in the University of Pennsylvania Health System;  the other name is Turkish and identified as a "Program Associate" with a major international corporation.  Phone numbers follow both names. 

    Interestingly, the second name is that of a well‑know and respected Turkish physician, but attempts to contact him (through a Turkish friend) were unsuccessful. 

    The flyer had become the subject of some argument on the bus because one of the group claimed to have seen a newspaper article the day before which had attempted to debunk the flyer.  The newspaper had, unfortunately, been discarded and, not surprisingly, later attempts to find the article proved unsuccessful.  No one knew that I worked on contemporary legends when I was first shown the article but, as the paper listed American products and one American name and institution as an information source, they thought I might know more about the matter.  As usual, I found myself having to walk the fine line between "debunking" what seemed obvious to me to be a legend flyer and showing respect for the real concerns and sensibilities of those involved in the argument.   A quick teaching session in legend processes followed. 

    When I raised the subject at school a few days later, one Turkish colleague also reported having seen the flyer;  it had been passed on to her by a friend who had downloaded it from the Internet.  The body of the text (dated 1 Oct 1998 and later forwarded to me)  was identical to the flyer I'd seen on the bus, while the names of sources claimed at the bottom were someone from  Marketing/Education Outreach at Clemson University and a PhD RN from the Department of Family and Community Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

    The subject header of the email was  "Health alert!" and the message was preceeded by indications of previous forwarding and claiming:

>"The following message was sent by someone who has her doctorate in public health nursing as a serious message.

    Please pass it on. >>>

Interestingly, the body of the message contained no forwarding arrows.  Had the sender had gone to trouble of getting the notice ready for easy photo‑copying and distribution by the receiver, or had the "forwarded" indicators been added? 

    Claims that product additives cause cancer are not new.  As Bill Ellis pointed out in a personal email contact, the "Health Alert" notice resembles the "Villejuif Flyer, which for many years  provided the masthead for FTN," and he suggests Jean‑Noel Kapferer's 1989 article, "A mass poisoning rumor in Europe" (Public Opinion Quarterly 53: 4 (Winter): 467‑481) as a good treatment of the issue.

    The notice seems to have captured only minor attention here;  enough apparently to gain a small counter‑notice in a local newspaper, but not enough to gain widespread interest.  That the newspaper article seems to have appeared almost simultaneously with the local receipt and circulation of the flyers, however, may indicate that the flyers had begun circulating earlier.  At any rate, I have heard little other mention of it since, and the Turkish colleague who forwarded the email to me didn't seem very concerned about the content of the notice.  Turkish worldview is perhaps too fatalistic and present‑oriented for such a notice to gain more than passing attention here.  That it does seem to have captured even some brief intense interest, however, seems to reflect what I see as changing Turkish attitudes toward the ability to control one's own situations in life ‑‑ at least among the social class of people circulating the flyer.

[PH: The same warning, with many of the same phrases started circulating by email, at least within Eastern Canadian universities, as a chain letter in March 1999.]



Definitional Characteristics of the Contemporary Legend

Paul Smith

Department of Folklore

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8


    At the 1995 Perspectives on Contemporary Legend Conference in San Antonio, Texas, I indicated that I would circulate part of my paper “Defining the Contemporary Legend: Trials and Tribulations” in FoafTale News in order to gather input from ISCLR members.

    This research had begun, without my realizing it, when I had agreed to contribute an entry (Smith 1997) on contemporary legend to Tom Green's Folklore: An Encyclopedia....   Having already made several attempts at such definitions, either for students in my classes, as part of my academic writings, or as background material for readers of my popular anthologies, I felt that this task would not take up too much of my time.  How wrong I was. 

    So what were the problems I encountered?

    First, we appear not to be able to agree as to how to define legend per se, so what chance does anyone have when attempting to develop a quintessential definition of the contemporary legend?  (And it must be the quintessential definition -- after all, I was writing for an Encyclopedia.) 

    Second, the mutability of the contemporary legend genre, as with the legend per se, is notorious (Georges 1971). 

    Third, not everyone embraces a common canon of material when employing the term "contemporary legend."  For example, some see contemporary legends as being just a collection of sensational blood-chilling stories, while others take a broader view as to what is embraced in the canon. 

    Fourth, not everyone chooses to employ the term “contemporary” when referring to legends of this type. For example, the same items are variously referred to as “contemporary,” “urban,” “modern,” “belief” legend, and the like (Bennett and Smith 1996). 

    Fifth, many existing definitions are based on readings and interpretations of a limited range of, if not a single type of, contemporary legend -- often focussing on a single topic.  Such definitions are, therefore, not necessarily universal statements, nor necessarily applicable to other contemporary legends. 

    Sixth, each of us belongs to our own group and, consequently, subscribes to the ideologies, beliefs, perceptions and practices of that group.  In turn, statements made by the members of a group tend to converge and so express a consensus about issues, ideologies, beliefs, perceptions, and practices of group members.

    Now, remembering that in no way are folklorists a unified group, and for that matter neither are the members of ISCLR, the consequence of this issue for our studies is that we need to consider that all definitions are spatio/temporal phenomena in that they are the products of their creators’ past, present, and perceived future experiences and expectations.  Each definition, therefore has a different perspective to offer.

    In short then, each of us is influenced by our interests and orientations, based on our formal and informal education.  This, in turn, creates manifest and latent biases which become apparent in terms of what we choose to include in, and what we choose to exclude from, our definitions.  And we all do it -- without exception.  Consequently, we are not just faced with the mutability of the contemporary legend but also the mutability of contemporary legend definitions.

    Armed with these realizations, which are not new or revolutionary but rather just frequently overlooked, my approach was to attempt to create a definition, not just based on my own biased opinions as to what constitutes a contemporary legend, but which also embraces the varieties of interests, orientations, and biases apparent in other proffered definitions.

    I must stress before I continue that my concern here is with identifying trends, spectrums, clusters, ranges, and continuums rather than absolutes.  I am not overly concerned with exceptions to the rule, of which I am sure there are many.  I am looking to identify those elements which appear to be central to a definition of contemporary legends -- thereby providing a holistic definition which should not demonstrate a major conflict with any one specifically focussed definition.

     Furthermore, when addressing the canon of contemporary legend definitions which have accumulated over the years, we find that many combine both academic concepts and ethnographic features -- adding yet more confusion.  For the purposes of this discussion, I have not directly incorporated my work on popular definitions of legend and contemporary legend.  Instead, this piece focusses on observations by folklorists and cognate academics which are, I hope, in turn based on "readings" of the narratives, as well as aspects such as form and content, the contexts those narratives were used in, user interpretations of those narratives, and on observations and discussions of issues such as belief, truth, and so forth.

    To turn to the nature of the beast, so to speak, contemporary legends share certain basic features with all other forms of cultural tradition in that

1:Contemporary legends do not exist as single, unique items, as do works of art.  Instead many examples of any one text will be in circulation at any one time.

2:Contemporary legends are highly mutable and are not static; consequently, no two examples of the supposedly "same" story are exactly alike.

3:Contemporary legends appear to be anonymous creations, although they may have discoverable sources.  On the other hand, it is not unknown for texts to have spuriously attributed authorship. 

Such observations, while significant, are very general.  In order to explore the trends as to what we choose to include in and what we choose to exclude from our definitions, I undertook a survey of the many definitions of “contemporary” / "urban" / "modern" legends already in existence.  I also looked to Robert Georges’ 1971 essay, "The General Concept of Legend: Some Assumptions to be Reexamined and Reassessed."  Georges presents a definition based on three multi-dimensional propositions deconstructed thus:

A legend is:

1: a story or narrative

  -  that may not be a story or narrative at all;

2: set in a recent or historical past

  -  that may be conceived to be remote or antihistorical or not really past at all;

3: believed to be true by some, false by others

-  and both or neither by most. (Georges 1971: 18)

Although limited in terms of the characteristics it embraces, Georges provides what has become a well-applied, baseline definition while offering a possible structure for the creation of a multi-faceted definition.

     What follows is a summation of the initial findings based on the definitional characteristics described in the literature as well as my own observation of the narratives and related contexts, organized using a structure similar to that employed by Georges.

    Over and above the three general criteria outlined above, which contemporary legends share with all other forms of folklore, approximately sixty-four persistently recurring definitional characteristics were identified, and there are probably more which have been missed, or yet await to be observed in the field.

    This initial corpus of definitional characteristics was then further sub-divided into the following two groups:

A:Characteristics which describe the nature of contemporary legends in terms of what they are or are not.

B:Characteristics which describe the nature of contemporary legends in terms of what they may or may not be.

These could be thought of as Primary Characteristics (Group A), and Secondary Characteristics (Group B).

    In both instances, further sub-divisions were made using the following headings:

    1:   Narrative Status

    2:   Form

    3:   Structure

    4:   Style

    5:   Dissemination

    6:   "Narrators"

    7:   Context of Narration

    8:   Content

        a: Themes

    b: Plausibility

    c: Temporality

    d: Contemporanity

    e: Principal Characters

    f:  Setting

    g: Events

    h: Secular / Sacred Status

    i:  Supernatural Status

    j:  Connotation

    k: Ostension

    9:   Truth

    10:  Belief

    11:  Selection

    12:  Meaning

    13:  Function

    Organizing the surveyed material under these headings gives us the following structured set of definitional characteristics of the contemporary legend -- in essence providing a multi-faceted definition of the genre.



A1:  Narrative status

  a: A contemporary legend is a type of traditional discourse.

  b: Contemporary legends appear to be  anonymous creations.

  c: Contemporary legends do not exist as single, unique items and many examples of any one text will be in circulation at any one time.

  d: Contemporary legends demonstrate a high propensity for mutability.  As such, all aspects of the contemporary legend are capable of change or prone to being changed.  As such, they are not static, and no two examples of the supposedly same story are exactly alike.


A2:  Form

  a: The contemporary legend is primarily a conversational genre.


A3:  Structure

  a: Contemporary legends vary in terms of structure.

  b: Contemporary legends, in general, comprise only a single episode or motif.

  c: Contemporary legends, in general, have no formulaic openings and closings.

  d: Contemporary legends have no definitive text and, consequently, their traditional nature is not always immediately apparent.


A4:  Style

  a: Contemporary legends, in general, do not have an artistically developed form, and no effort is made to polish the story.

  b: Contemporary legends, in general, use informal and/or colloquial language.


A5:  Dissemination

  a: Contemporary legends in general have a wide, sometimes international, distribution.

  b: Contemporary legends are communicated primarily by word of mouth, although they are also frequently disseminated through the mass media (eg., films, television, radio, newspapers), office communications technology (eg., fax, photocopiers, email), as well as novels and short stories.


A6:  Narrators

  a: In general, we are all potential narrators / communicators of contemporary legends.

  b: Contemporary legends require no specialist performers and so there is no dividing line between the narrators and the listeners.

  c: Contemporary legend narrators are, in general, unaware that they are telling a traditional narrative which has previously been told by others.

  d: Contemporary legends are not considered to be the property of any one individual.


A7:  Context of narration

  a: Contemporary legends have no specific context for performance but instead are performed in a wide variety of contexts.

  b: Contemporary legends are, in general, presented to the listener within the context of an existing group relationship.

  c: The "narration" of a contemporary legends is an interactive process.

  d: The "narration" of a contemporary legend stems from normal conversation rather than in response to a request for someone to tell a tale.


A8:  Content

  a: Themes:  Contemporary legends are the expressions of a variety of legendary themes, motifs, and allomotifs -- not a fixed body of material.  Contemporary legends are broadly related thematically, in that they emerge out of current physical and social contexts as well as social interaction, and they describe culturally proscribed behaviour (implied or explicit) of one kind or another.

  b: Plausibility:  Contemporary legends, in general, appear to be plausible, and even possible, in that they present descriptions and discussions of mundane and ordinary, rather than extraordinary and sensational, experiences and events (although often as having an unusual twist).

  c: Temporality:  Contemporary legends are set in the "here and now," as if they happened recently -- although the stories may have historical antecedents, roots in historical fact, or make reference to the past or reflect age-old concerns.

  d: Contemporaneity:  Contemporary legends are not simply traditional legends which have been modernized and/or "rationalized" and which are in circulation today.

  e: Principal Characters:  Contemporary legends are set in the real world and focus on ordinary individuals whom we encounter in the course of our everyday lives.

  f: Setting:  Contemporary legends are set in the real world and focus on familiar places we recognize and inhabit.

  g: Events:  Contemporary legends portray situations which we, or someone we know, may have experienced, are currently experiencing, or could possibly experience.

  h: Secular / Sacred Status:  Contemporary legends are primarily secular (as opposed to sacred).

  i: Supernatural Status: Contemporary legends are, in general, non-supernatural.

  j: Connotation:  - - -

k: Ostension:  - - -.


A9:  Truth

  a: Contemporary legends are presented as describing  true events, even when they are intended as "lies," "hoaxes," and "jokes."

  b: With contemporary legends, as often as not, the question of the truthfulness of the events described is overlooked because the tales sound so plausible and possible, even when they may have an odd flaw in the logic or story line.

  c: Verisimilitude:  Contemporary legends, although probably unsubstantiable, nevertheless appear to be substantiated through the inclusion of details such as names, times, and places.

  d: The fact that the participants in the events described are named is not validation that these individuals exist or that events ever took place.

  e: Rarely are the narrators identified as the participants in the story.  Instead they distance themselves, though not necessarily intentionally, from the events they describe by the inclusion of such phrases as " happened to a friend," thereby making themselves less accountable for the truth of the story.


A10: Belief

  a: Contemporary legends vary in terms of the level of belief in the story exhibited by the narrators or listeners.

  b: Contemporary legends, in general, do not require that the narrators or listeners subscribe to any new or special belief(s) or belief system, but rather they emerge out of the existing beliefs of a given group.

  c: Contemporary legends, in general, include some implicit or explicit, positive or negative "statement of belief" out of which arises "dialogue" and "debate" in the form of confirmation or challenge by participants.


A11:  Selection

  a: The selection of an appropriate contemporary legend for narration is generally based on the current context of the discourse taking place; that is, they are usually proffered in response to a preceding item of conversation.

  b: The selection of a contemporary legend for narration generally focusses on topics and issues which are perceived as important by the speaker and/or listener alike. 

  c: Some contemporary legends describe scenarios which are perceived to be more important to the narrators and listeners than others, and so cycles of tales will be circulating simultaneously.


A12:  Meaning

  a: Contemporary legends have no single meaning and so can have different meanings for different individuals.


A13:  Function

  a: Contemporary legends have a wide variety of functions for both their telling and narrative content. As such, any one contemporary legend may be informative and/or entertaining while carrying other messages, all at the same time.

  b: Contemporary legends have no single function and so can have different functions for different individuals.

  c: Contemporary legends provide an opportunity for speakers to introduce some statement or debate about a "contemporary" issue from his/her chosen perspective.



B1:  Narrative Status

  a: Although contemporary legends appear to be anonymous creations, they may have discoverable sources.

  b: Although contemporary legends appear to be anonymous creations, it is not unknown for texts to have spuriously attributed authorship. 


B2:  Form

  a: Although the contemporary legend is primarily a conversational genre, they may be found embedded in other types of traditional discourse (eg., joke, memorate, dite, rumour, gossip, personal experience narrative) and in diverse settings -- ranging from news-reporting to after-dinner speeches.

  b: A contemporary legend may or may not be an elaborate, underdeveloped or fragmentary narrative or find expression as a kernel narrative, a digest, or a statement of belief, or as a reference or allusion to a narrative or proto-narrative.


B3:  Structure

  a: Contemporary legends may or may not have the narrative structure of a traditional narrative.

  b: Contemporary legends may or may not have reflective descriptions added.


B4:  Style

  a: Contemporary legends may or may not be dramatic in their presentation.

  b: Contemporary legends may or may not use “politically correct” language.


B5:  Dissemination:  - - -.

B6:  Narrators:  - - -.

B7:  Context of Narration

  a: The telling of a contemporary legend may or may not include much interaction between the speaker and the listener.


B8:  Content

  a: Themes:  - - -.

  b: Plausibility:  - - -. 

  c: Temporality:  - - -. 

  d: Contemporaneity:  A contemporary legend may or may not contain specifically contemporary material.  Contemporary legends may or may not be updated narratives (historical and otherwise) which deal with contemporary issues, characters, settings, etc.

  A contemporary legend may or may not have historical antecedents in terms of plots and texts.

  e: Principal Characters: - - -.

  f: Setting: - - -.

  g: Events:  A contemporary legend may or may not describe what are perceived to be newly emergent events (threats, problems, and the like) that are in the physical and social contexts of the narrator and/or listener.

  h: Secular / Sacred Status:  - - -.

  i: Supernatural Status:  - - -.

  j: Connotation:  A contemporary legend may or may not be "politically correct."

  k: Ostension: A contemporary legend may or may not suggest or call for action on the part of the narrators or listeners.


B9:  Truth

  a: A contemporary legend may or may not, in whole or part, be true.  This may not necessarily be literal truth, but perhaps truth which comes from typifying life in the twentieth century.


B10:  Belief

  a: A contemporary legend may or may not be believed (in whole or part) to be true.

  b: A contemporary legend may or may not involve the suspension of disbelief.


B11:  Selection - - -.

B12:  Meaning - - -.

B13:  Function

  a: A contemporary legend may or may not be used to validate other aspects of culture -- for example collective beliefs.

  b: A contemporary legend may or may not provided justifications as to why we behave or should behave in particular ways in certain situations.

  c: A contemporary legend may or may not be used to integrate knowledge within a culture and so maintain group cohesion.

  d: A contemporary legend may or may not be used to compensate and to fill a gap in our empirical knowledge with suppositions about the way the world works.

  e: A contemporary legend may or may not reconcile us to the lives we are experiencing rather than the lives we would like to experience.

  f: A contemporary legend may or may not be didactic (eg., etiological and/or etymological) in that they may be employed to explore, explain, or illustrate a particular point.

  g: A contemporary legend may or may not be used to present a rational explanation of some issue or phenomena which is ambiguous or beyond our control. 

  h: A contemporary legend may or may not function to provide a forum for social control in that they may deliver meaningful moral, personal, and political messages.

  i: A contemporary legend may or may not function to substantiate something said in the current or a previous conversation.

  j: A contemporary legend may or may not function as an emotional response to a situation, in that it may allow us to express our fears and provide commentary and explanations of abnormal situations or strange behavior or be offered as a warnings against involvement in particular types of situations. 

  k: A contemporary legend may or may not function as an aesthetic response to a situation.



    This multi-faceted definition of the contemporary legend embraces many points of view and many options.  Because of the variety of interests and orientations it reflects, it is hoped that this may prove to be more universally applicable than many of the existing definitions.

    So what is left to do?  Well, perhaps this approach and the resulting definition could be further enhanced if we:

1:Check that we have not omitted any obvious (and not so obvious) characteristics from the definition.  Certainly in the second group of characteristics, those “which describe contemporary legends in terms of what they may or may not be,” we could expect a considerable number of additions (see for example the already- spiraling list of items accumulating under B13: Function).  But here we have to tread with care and assess which characteristics are “central” to the definition and which are not--perhaps instead just reflecting unsubstantiated theories.

2:Rework the whole schedule in terms of a comparative definition embracing other sub-genres of folk narrative. This would allow us not only to focus on the nature of the contemporary legend but also on how it relates to (and differs from) other traditional narrative forms.

To that end, I see this essay as not necessarily presenting a definitive solution, in terms of the ultimate definition of the contemporary legend, but rather as providing an opportunity for the reader to have some input towards an eventual definition.  If you would like to share observations about, or enhancements of, this set of definitional characteristics, please feel free to write me.




Bennett, Gillian and Paul Smith. 1996.  "Introduction." Contemporary Legend: A Reader.  New York: Garland, pp. xxi-xlvi.

Georges, Robert A. "The General Concept of Legend: Some Assumptions to be Reexamined and Reassessed." In American Folk Legend: A Symposium, ed. Wayland D. Hand (1971), pp. 1-20.

Smith, Paul.  1997. "Legend, Contemporary."  In Thomas A. Green (ed.), Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music and Art. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, pp. 493-495.





“Bogus” virus warning: Join The Crew

Philip Hiscock

MUN Folklore & Language Archive (MUNFLA)

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8  CANADA


    In mid-February 1998 the following was going around email circles.  Like warnings about other such emails, this one was taken seriously by thousands of computer users, but found to be quite unnecessary because viruses do not normally get transmitted by this method.  As in most of these virus warnings, the medical metaphor is strong and the parallel to modern campaigns against infections like HIV is clear.

    On the computer system I use everyday, the system managers have a standard two or three line advice against passing along these “warnings”;  the real virus, it says, it the snowball effect of the naive warnings across thousands of computer lines. 

Subject: This is important (fwd)

The attached message is self‑explanatory

FYI to all!


If you receive an email titled "JOIN THE CREW" DO NOT open it.   It will erase  everything on your hard drive. Forward this letter out to as many people as you can. This is a new, very malicious virus and not many people know about it. This information was announced yesterday morning from IBM; please share it with everyone that might access the internet.  Once again, pass this along to EVERYONE in your address book so that this may be stopped. Also, do not open or even look at any mail that says "RETURNED OR UNABLE TO DELIVERY" This virus  will attach itself to your computer components and render them useless. Immediately delete any mail items that say this. AOL has said that this is a very dangerous virus and that there is NO remedy for it at this time. Please practice cautionary measures and forward this to all users.



Gates, Disney & Nike:Somebody Slipped Us an Email Mickey

Wendy Welch



[The following article appeared in the Daily Times (Blount County, Tennessee, USA, Monday 15 March 1999.  It is reprinted here with the permission of the author, who is an American folklorist and storyteller living in Scotland.  She recommended her readers check out David Mikkelson's Web Site, from which some of the information came.]

    Whistle while you wait;  it's gonna be a long, long wait.

    Walt Disney Jr. is not sending 5,000 people to Disneyworld. Bill Gates is not giving $1,000 to those who "test" his email tracing software;  Bill Gates does not have email tracing software.  And Nike is not now, nor has it ever been, in the business of distributing free shoes.

    How these three companies got mixed together is a testament to the Western psyche:  we like fun, we like to run, and we like lots and lots of money.

On 21 November 1997, an email began circulating: 

Hello Everybody, My name is Bill Gates. I have just written up an email tracing program that traces everyone to whom this message is forwarded to [sic]. I am experimenting with this and I need your help. Forward this to everyone you know and if it reaches 1,000 people everyone on this list will receive $1,000 at my expense. Your Friend, Bill Gates.

    This little mishmash of bad grammar and great generosity went flying 'round the world;   estimates are it reached 1,000 people in a couple of hours. Another testament to North American psyches:  many people circulated the email with a disclaiming opener. "I doubt this is true, but just in case. . ."  "Too good to be true, probably. Still. . ." and so on. We knew it was fake, but we just had to wish upon a star.

    It's enlightening (perhaps a little too enlightening;  do we really want to know how gullible we are about free money?) that so many people forwarded it when there was no means by which the money could have been sent.  How was Mr. Gates going to find our checking accounts with his email tracer?

    Phase II:  Somebody saw a good opportunity.  He/she/they sent a follow-up email, which didn't circulate quite so widely because it was a dead give-away and a really smooth piece of tongue-in-cheek text. (To read it in its entirety, check out

    The letter thanked everyone for breaking the 1,000 barrier "with a final push from the Boston area" and asked them to send their credit card numbers so their $1,000 could be paid in.  It explained that the "software" they had been testing was the computer equivalent of an inoculation, a virus that combatted emailed viruses.  On a healthy computer, it had the unfortunate side effect of erasing most of the stored files on the hard drive. The $1,000 was compensation.

    Ah well, nobody really believed these jokers anyway.  But the first email kept circulating.  More people have forwarded the Gates offer than the Afghanistan women's petition (encouraging people to sign in protest of Afghani women's subjugation, with no address for it to be sent registering these protests).  This is saying something, as the Afghan faux petition has made the top ten list of circulated emails.

    It's good to know that, while we are motivated by greed, we also respond to altruism.

    The Gates saga continues. In May 1998,  Nike came on board, unbeknownst to Nike, of course, offering free shoes to 500 listed people with this great opening line:   "Believing that a healthy body makes a healthy mind. . ."

    But the best was yet to come.  In August, Walt Disney, Jr. released an email offering 13,000 people on the list $5,000 cash or a trip to Disneyworld.

    When you wish upon an email, nothing happens.

    Folks, there is no Walt Disney, Jr. Two daughters and a nephew, yes;   Walt Jr., no.  Surely this should have tipped us off.  But it hasn't;  that email is still flying on its magic carpet ride.  Perhaps the lure of the Magic Kingdom is just too much for us.  The Bill Gates Free Money offer is still Somewhere Out There -- way out.


Net fable in circulation in early 1998: lover tested

David Mikkelson



    There's a piece of netlore currently [February 1998] making the rounds about an Army man who is supposed to meet a blind date at Grand Central Station.  The arranged signal is that his date will be wearing a rose on her lapel, and he is somewhat disappointed when he finds that the rose‑wearer is a frumpy woman in her forties.  He makes the best of the situtation and proceeds with the date anyway, only to discover that this was a test, and his real date is a gorgeous young woman. The details are at


Needles in vending machines and pay-phones

    There have been reports circulating by word-of-mouth and email for some months (since, I think, mid-1998) that one should be careful about putting one's fingers in coin return slots of pay-phones and vending machines as HIV-infected needles have been known to be found there, and they might stick you.  These reports came fast on the heels of a series of rumours about evil-minded dancers who stuck patrons at dance bars with similar needles.

    Thanks to Paul Smith we have the URL of the web page of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States of America.  The page denies the claim that the CDC has tested any such needles and it suggests the danger of such an event is very low.  "The  majority of these reports and warnings appear to have no foundation in fact,"  says the page.  Its URL is


Cancer child appeal

Judith S. Neulander

Folklore Institute, Indiana University

Bloomington, Indiana



    Here is something for FoafTale News.  The American Cancer Society disconfirms the claim, while at the same time encouraging the good will it generated.  Also included is a useful Web address they give that lists cancer and virus hoaxes.

    This is from the American Cancer Society web page at

    The American Cancer Society is greatly disturbed by reports of a fraudulent chain letter circulating on the internet which lists the American Cancer Society as a "corporate sponsor" but which has in no way been endorsed by the American Cancer Society. There are several variations of this letter in circulation, including one which has a picture of "Tickle Me Elmo" and one that is essentially a paraphrase of the letter [reproduced on the Web page].

    As far as the American Cancer Society can determine, the story of Jessica Mydek is completely unsubstantiated.  No fundraising efforts are being made by the American Cancer Society using chain letters of any kind.  Furthermore, the email address ACS@AOL.COM is inactive. Any messages to the American Cancer Society should be instead sent through the American Cancer Society website at

    This particular chain letter with its heartbreaking story appears to have struck an emotional chord with online users. Although we are very concerned that the American Cancer Society's name has been used to manipulate the online public, we applaud the good intentions of all who participated in this letter. We are pleased to note that there are so many caring individuals out there and hope that they will find another way to support cancer research. Jessica Mydek's story, whether true or false, is representative of that of many cancer patients who benefit daily from the efforts of legitimate cancer organizations nationwide.



Which tire?

Philip Hiscock

MUN Folklore & Language Archive (MUNFLA)

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8  CANADA



    In an email joke sheet I received in mid-February 1998 was the following story:

    Two guys were taking Chemistry at the University of Alabama. They were doing well in the class and thought that going into the final they had a solid "A". They were so confident that the weekend before finals week, they went to the University of Tennessee to party with some friends. They had a great time.  However, with hangovers and everything, they overslept all day Sunday and didn't make it back to Alabama until early Monday morning, the day of the exam. Rather than taking the final then, they found their professor after the final to explain to him why they missed the final. They told him that they went up to the University of Tennessee for the weekend, and had planned to come back in time to study, but that they had a flat tire on the way back, and didn't have a spare, and couldn't get help for a long time, so they were late in getting back to campus. The professor told them they could make up the final on the following day. They were elated and relieved. At the final, the professor placed them in separate rooms, handed each of them a test booklet and told them to begin. The first problem, worth 5 Points, was something simple about Molarity & Solutions. "Cool," they thought. "This is going to be easy." The next problem was worth 95 Points. It said: ‑Which tire ??




Renate W. Prescott (Geauga Campus, Kent State University, 14111 Claridon-Troy Road, Burton, Ohio 44021 USA) has inquired about a legend encountered in oral history research with Vietnam War veterans.  The jist is that a coffin, containing the body of a slain soldier returning home for burial, is attacked at the airport by anti-War protestors.  The Army investigates but officially finds the event did not happen, implying that the soldier who witnessed the attack was lying to keep from returning to the War.  Dr Prescott wonders if anyone has come across similar legends, or events. She can be reached at the above address;  alternatively, you can email her at or


Poetic justice: cactus murder

Roger Mongold <>


I am a biologist and for the past 15 years I have heard this story.  There was a ne'er‑do‑well around the Tucson, Arizona, area who continually shot up suguaro cacti in defiance of the law. (Shooting these giant cacti will eventually kill them via the entrance of disease and insects.)  The authorities were totally frustrated in their attempts to catch him in the act or to garner evidence to send him to jail.  Then one day they found the guy dead.  He had been crushed to death when he shot up a catcus with a disease‑weakened root system.  The force of the impact had been just enough to break the cactus free of its anchor and send its several thousand pound body down on him.  The question is:  is this based on fact or is it just an urban legend?  I have had wildlife people tell me both ways.  I would be grateful if anyone could clear this up.  


Immigrant family freezes; rumour acts against national policy

Joe Cherwinski

Dept of History

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St. John's, Newfoundland A1C 5S7 CANADA



     I am interested in a legend that began in southeastern Saskatchewan during the brutal winter of 1906‑07.  Not only was the weather especially bad but, because there had been a serious coal strike in Lethbridge, Alberta, the previous summer which produced the principal source of fuel for homesteads on the treeless prairie, and because of a shortage of boxcars to carry coal, fuel was in short supply. 

    Meanwhile, the Canadian government was actively promoting the country to the British as a North American garden abounded for settlement and investment.  There was numerous deaths that winter from exposure but in February of 1907 the worst possible thing happened as far as Canada's plans were concerned: the freezing to death of an English family (mother and three boys);  the father was reported to have met a similar fate while trying to transport coal home.

    The story spread rapidly, appearing not only in the Canadian press but overseas and also came to the attention of the Canadian government, the Canadian High Commissioner in London, Lord Strathcona, and the President of the Canadian Pacific Railways, Shaughnessey.  Over the next month the story appeared in a variety of forms in a large number of prairie weekly papers, even though the rumour was found by the RNWMP (precursor to the RCMP) to be false.  My sense is that the rumour began with fuel‑starved settlers concerned with their own plight and trying to bring public attention to the situation. 

    I wonder if the nature of the story, the circumstances, and the way it spread follow a pattern which have elements which are common with similar stories elsewhere.  Whatever light readers might be able to cast on this matter would be greatly appreciated.




Barking dog saves spinning cat

    The following news story, datelined London, was distributed by Reuters 22 January 1998. 

    If it had been a cartoon, Hudson the dog would have just grinned gleefully when he saw his arch rival Zoe the cat spinning around inside a burning hot tumble drier.

    In real life, Hudson saved Zoe's life by barking until their owner came to her rescue.

    "At first I thought Hudson wanted to go outside, but he just kept on barking and staring at the machine," said the animals' owner, Liz Beaumont, Thursday.

     When Beaumont opened the door of the drier, she had to wait several seconds before she could remove the badly‑scorched cat because she was too hot to handle.

    "Funny thing is, Zoe still hates Hudson and there's no sign of a reconciliation," said Beaumont.


Snakes are best friends too

    The 4 November 1998 edition of the Toronto newspaper Globe and Mail (p. A12) carried a story under the dateline of Agence France-Press, from Lucknow, India.  The headline read, "Deadly cobras have saved lives of villagers, witnesses report."

    One snake drove a family from their brick house in the town of Saikpurwa; the house then collapsed. Next day a baby was saved from three wolves by the appearance of a cobra that stayed to protect the child until the mother arrived. And a few days later still, would-be burglars were scared off by a cobra at the front door of a house. The story ends with, "The incidents have provoked widespread interest, even among wildlife experts." 

    And, it happens, among folklorists.





Machine translation legends

    Following up from the translation legends mentioned in an earlier issue of FTN, Brian Chapman (email: in Victoria, British Columbia notes the following.  It is an excerpt from Douglas R. Hofstadter's  Le Ton beau de Marot. In Praise of the Music of Language (NY: Basic Books, 1997, p. 342).

    I have often heard a couple of lovely stories about the "early days" of machine translation ‑‑ always the "early days," as if today's MT programs were way beyond such pitfalls‑‑in any case, lovely stories of back‑and‑forth translation. They are always told about English and Russian, for some reason. Maybe they're true, although I doubt it strongly. In any case, the stories are identical in structure. The first one goes this way.

    One time in the early days of machine translation, enthusiastic programmers fed the phrase "Out of sight, out of mind" into an English‑to‑Russian translation program. Then, to check the accuracy of their programs, they fed the Russian translation back into their Russian‑to‑English program. When all the gears has stopped churning and all the lights had stopped flickering, what they got back was quite a surprise ‑‑ just two words:

    "Blind idiot".

    The second story runs exactly the same, except that the alleged input phrase was "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" and the alleged output phrase was "The vodka is good but the meat is rotten".

    These humorous tales are often repeated in print as if they were the gospel truth, but I find them both far too cute and perfect to be true. But who knows?

Brian adds the following from "Feedback," New Scientist, 31 January 1998, p. 96:

    Schoolkids will be delighted to learn that labouring over their modern language homework could soon be a thing of the past. The AltaVista web search engine now offers a translation service. All you do is hit the right button and hey presto ‑‑ you go straight to the top of the class.

    Or perhaps not. Reader Ian Docherty decided to put the service to the test by running some classic English poems through it, translating them into German and then back into English. Here is how a well‑know poem of Wordsworth's came out:

    I was surprised lonely as a cloud,

    Swims on high o'er vales and hill,

    When in a course I saw a mass,

    A central processor of the golden Daffodils

    Docherty tells us that this reminded him of the old joke about earlier attempts at computer‑assisted translation. When "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" was translated into German and then back into English again, it came out as: "The whisky is OK but the meat has gone off."

Brian adds himself:

I asked my sister, Janet Chapman, a French‑English translator, whether she had heard any such translation legends, and she recalled that in 1981 her translation professor at the University of Victoria told a version involving "an interpreter at some international body...who translated 'out of sight, out of mind' as 'idiot invisible' in French."

[In a radio interview about 1980, Anthony Burgess spoke of the translation into Italian of one of his Malayan novels.   In the original, a character laments the fate of so many Englishmen banished to the tropics:  they  just get drunker and drunker.  He says something about "the Englishmen going down with the DTs."  Burgess reported he was glad he knew Italian because, when the Italian galleys came back, the phrase was rendered into Italian as something like "Englishmen performing fellatio on the Doctors of Theology."  [PH]]


Legendary & punning names

    Brian Chapman ( adds to the pile of legendary names an Ann Landers column with the following letter.

It was published in the the Victoria (B.C.) Times‑Colonist, 10 March 1998, p. E3:

    Dear Ann Landers: I'm a cemetery buff and spend many hours every week trudging though the cemeteries of Los Angeles County is [sic] search of odd names.

    During my many treks, I have run across scores of off‑beat names, including: Early Byrd, Watts D. Matter, Skinny Lasagna, Elda Berry and Anna Lovely Day.

    With all due respect to the deceased, I smile when I run across amusing names on grave markers and wonder if the people who had to live with those names enjoyed them or felt cursed. It's often said that a person is never dead till he or she is forgotten, so a lot of these folks with strange names are destined to live forever.

   R.H. in Los Angeles


Kidney Thief on Television Again

Jane Gadsby

3475 ‑ 11th St. South,

R.R. #1, St. Catharines,

Ontario L2R 6P7  CANADA


    Here's yet another incarnation of the stolen kidney legend, this one from the 19 March 1999 episode of The Pretender (a television series aired on NBC and Ontario Television, ONTV).   The title character (Jarod) helps a man (Luther) escape from a Mexican prison when he agrees to donate a kidney to save the son he didn't know he had.  Luther, however, never intended to donate the organ and instead takes off on Jarod.  But Jarod tracks him down and knocks him unconsious.  Luther is later found ‑‑ sedated, with a missing kidney, but in stable condition ‑‑ in a Mexican motel room.  He is returned to the prison and the boy miraculously gets a mysterious kidney that is a perfect match and it saves his life.



“Stuck on you”

Thanks, too, to Brian Chapman we have the following story reported in The Sun 23 February 1998.  With the byeline of Gordon Raynor, it went as follows, except for small paragraphing changes made for FTN.

    Randy mum Joanne Davies spent three hours with her hand superglued to her husband's willy.  Joanne, 25, grabbed John Jeffrey's manhood for a saucy romp on the sofa, unaware she had accidentally got adhesive on her fingers while mending son Luke's toy guitar. The glue stuck fast and the embarrassed couple had to be taken to hospital by ambulance ‑ with Joanne's hand down her common‑law hubby's  trousers.

    Joanne groaned yesterday: "Everyone in the hospital burst out Continued on Page Four Continued from Page One laughing when we walked in. I just didn't know where to look. "We'd had enough jokes from the ambulancemen on the way. One said, 'I bet we don't need to take a pulse, ' then suggested we lie on the stretcher bed!  "At the hospital, they put us in a treatment room with towels and a bowl of soapy water and told us to get on with it.

    "It took about three hours, but eventually, after a lot of rubbing, we managed to get free. "Afterwards we got out as quick as we could. I wanted the ground to open and swallow us."

    Hairdresser Joanne ‑ mum to Luke, four, and daughter Louise, two ‑ told how calamity struck after she began feeling frisky at the home she shares with John in Kempston, Beds. She said: "John was just out of the shower and was sitting on the sofa in his dressing gown after drying himself off.  "I was mucking about and put my hand in his robe and grabbed him.  "It never occurred to me I still had glue on my hands. But when I tried to move away I realised I was stuck."

    John, 36, said: "At first I thought she was joking, but when I tried to peel her hand off I found it was stuck for real.  We had to manoeuvre ourselves over to the phone together and dial 999. The operator giggled when I tried to explain.  I managed to put some clothes on before the ambulance arrived, but it was like playing a game of Twister.  You can't imagine how we felt walking into hospital. You didn't need to be a doctor to know what we'd been up to."

    John, an unemployed carpenter, added: "It might sound great to have a woman gripping your privates for three hours, but believe me it's not. I was pretty sore.  "To make matters worse, when a nurse gave me some scissors to cut out the clumps of glue stuck down below, they slipped and I nearly had a nasty accident."  Joanne added: "John left with his tail between his legs, but at least he still had a tail. He's still very tender so we haven't had a chance to find out yet if everything's working.  But hopefully we will soon. We're told he'll make a full recovery."

    A hospital source said: "This was a job in a million. The ambulance crew couldn't believe it."  An ambulance chief said: "They had to call us. There was no way they could have driven themselves to hospital."


Another Gay Christ play

    The Catholic League launched a series of protests during May and June 1998 over Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi.  The vitriolic debate over the play began with the information that the it was a retelling of the Christ story in which Jesus and the disciples are gay.  Following this, the Manhattan Theater Club (MTC) received threats ranging from arson to murder.  Reports circulated that the theater decided to drop the play.  This caused an even greater furor as the arts community condemned the theatre. 

    MTC then reversed its decision and announced that the play would proceed.  It was later discovered that most of the protests were based on a workshop version of the play.  The information about the contents, characters and context early into the debate were supplied to the media from The Catholic League.  The finished play is more about being gay in Corpus Christi, Texas, and uses the life of Christ as an allegory.  Of interest to folklorists is the way that information that resembles rumour, gossip, and lies is spread, used and manipulated.  This event is likely to spawn folklore of its own and when it does FTN will have it here.  Thanks to Brian Chapman who sent in email and newspaper stories -- this note is complied from these sources.  [JB]



The educated are credulous?

[The following New York Times story was posted to the Fortean List ( 15 December 1998 where it was said to have been printed that day in the San Jose (California) Mercury News The title was given as "Science has its urban legends, with mythical proportions."]

    Everyone has heard about the LSD‑soaked stickers given away to schoolchildren. The stamp‑size tabs are reportedly decorated with blue stars or pictures of Superman, butterflies or clowns.

    Or how about the story of the child who is dying of cancer and wants postcards sent to him? Or how about Neiman Marcus' $250 cookie recipe?

    They are all urban myths, of course, stories that refuse to die  matter how many times they are roundly debunked.

    Science is different, right? Study results become part of the annals, authenticated by weighty papers and validated by panels of experts. This is the usual route to credibility. Then there are the myths.

    Take the "Hawthorne effect," which is much embraced in social psychology. It refers to a study from 1927 to 1933 of factory workers at Western Electric's Hawthorne Plant in Illinois. It showed that regardless of the changes made in working conditions ‑‑ more breaks, longer breaks or fewer and shorter ones ‑‑ productivity increased. These changes apparently had nothing to do with the workers' responses. The workers, or so the story goes, produced more because they saw themselves as special, participants in an experiment, and their inter‑relationships improved.

    Sounds very compelling. "The results of this experiment, or rather the human relations interpretation offered by the researchers who summarized the results, soon became gospel for introductory textbooks in both psychology and management science," said Lee Ross, a psychology professor at Stanford University.

    But only five workers participated in the study, Ross said, and two were replaced partway through for gross insubordination and low output.

    A psychology professor at the University of Michigan, Richard Nisbett, called the Hawthorne effect "a glorified anecdote."

    "Once you've got the anecdote," he said, "you can throw away the data."

    Myths happen in medicine, too. Dr. Robert Buckman, a cancer specialist at the University of Toronto, discovered an urban legend when he tracked the story of a spectacular cancer treatment to its source.

    Buckman first heard the story on June 25, 1990, in Toronto in a lecture given by Dr. Bernard Siegel, a doctor who has written popular books on the power of the mind over cancer. Siegel told of two oncologists chatting about a study they were participating in to test a combination of four chemotherapy drugs, which had the initials EPHO.

    One doctor's patients were doing spectacularly well; three quarters were responding to the drugs. But only a quarter of the other doctor's patients were improving. Then the first doctor explained that he had simply rearranged the letters of the drugs to spell HOPE.

    Siegel's audience was overwhelmed. "If hope did that, then it was the most powerful anti‑cancer agent the world had ever known," Buckman said.

    Still, he was skeptical. He knew by the initials of the drugs that the treatment must be for small‑cell lung cancer, which is very difficult to treat. Why had he not heard of the study before?

    Buckman asked Siegel for his source, which turned out to be a book by Norman Cousins, who had referred to an article published in a 1988 Western Journal of Medicine. Buckman telephoned the writer, a cancer specialist in La Jolla.

    The doctor told Buckman he had invented the story. It was a parable meant to tell doctors that there was more to treating cancer than merely doling out drugs, he said.

    Are scientists as credulous as the parents who worried about the LSD stickers? Perhaps urban legends take hold, Ross said, because "sometimes a story deserves to be true."



   * * *




The 1998 ISCLR Meetings in Innsbruck, Austria

Bill Ellis,

Hazleton, PA, USA



    The International Society for Contemporary Legend Research held its Sixteenth International Conference in Innsbruck, Austria, on 21-24 July 1998.  The conference was organized by Profs. Leander Petzoldt and Ingo Schneider and hosted by the University of Innsbruck's Institute for European Ethnology.  Sessions took place at the Institute and at a historic meeting hall at the Old Town Hall in the heart of Innsbruck's Altstadt.

    The meeting included thirteen papers discussing the history and nature of this still‑controversial topic.  Overall, the key themes addressed in this year's conference tended to address the following questions:

* Are contemporary legends and traditional legends distinct or part of the same genre?

* How do contemporary legends relate to other folk genres and to popular culture?

* How do subcultures use contemporary legends to create or express identity?

* What new theoretical approaches are needed to fully understand contemporary legends?


1. Contemporary Legends and Legends of the Past. 

    Three participants addressed this issue and all agreed that we should see legends of today in terms of the past. In "Contemporary Legends: The Continuity of Tradition," Bronislava KerbelytΘ (Vilnius, Lithuania) presented results of analyzing the structure of some 85,000 texts in her archive.  She found few formal differences between variants that included traditional or mythological elements, and those collected more recently that presented purely contemporary beliefs.  She presented several instances in which older legends, in which a character's actions provoked reactions from a variety of supernatural antagonists, with similar results.

    In  "Dangers in Drinking Pleasures: A Continuity of Attitudes," Oliver M. Haid (Meran, Italy), argued that many contemporary legends dealing with the alleged harmful nature of Coca‑Cola and other carbonated beverages in fact had antecedents in propaganda against beverages such as coffee, tea, and distilled liquors.  In particular, he noted, alcohol remedies often included elements such as drowning mice in liquor or claiming that the drink had been used to preserve a corpse.  Such legends often suggest that new beverages attract such legends as soon as their consumption begins to expand into new populations.

    Haya Bar‑Itzak (Haifa, Israel) presented "Contemporary Saints' Legends in Israeli Society," an analysis of narratives told by Jews who had emigrated from Yemen or Asia, leaving behind the tombs of their holy men.  She argued that these narratives, focussing on the creation of synagogues devoted to these saints' memory in Israel, occupied a similar position to that of Legende or "Saints' Legends" in Christian traditions.  They also commented on the culture shock suffered by immigrants who often find their own religious codes put into question by the overall tolerance practiced in contemporary Israel.


2.  Contemporary Legends and Other Genres.

    A number of papers addressed the ways in which legends relate to other genres, particularly to popular literature and the media.  In "Contemporary Legends in the Short Stories of Roald Dahl," Peter Burger (Leiden, The Netherlands) examined the British author's adult fiction.  Dahl, who often used nasty stories in social settings to shock his audiences, also often incorporated legends in his fiction.  Also, many of his original horror stories have legend‑like twists at the end that resemble the "urban" qualities that Daniel Barnes has said are central to oral legends.

    "The Fracture in the Fairy Tale: Discursive Space in Rupture," by Joann Conrad (Berkeley, CA, USA) began by discussing the pervasiveness of the Märchen "Cinderella" (AT 510) in Anglo‑American culture. Then she showed how it was deconstructed in popular culture dealing with the tragic fates of celebrities such as Princess Diana and Jon‑Benet Ramsey and with the mystery of the Russian princess Anastasia, who may have survived her family's execution to become a poor working girl.  The traditional fairy tale, she argued, affirmed male‑centred images of femininity, but their application to modern stories ruptures these stereotypes and creates discursive space in which alternative models can be constructed.

    "From Bavaria with Love: The Illuminati in American Conspiracy Lore," by Bill Ellis (Hazleton, PA, USA) gave a history of a story that provided much of the structure for the modern Satanism Scare in the US and Great Britain.  The Illuminati, originally a late‑17th‑century secret society of freethinkers, became a super‑secretive cult in Anglo‑American conspiracy lore.  Devoted to destroying religions and gaining world domination, the Illuminati were first identified as rogue Freemasons, then, in the early 20th century, as influential Jewish financiers.  The scenario entered the conduits of early cult hunters during the Red Scares of the 1950s and 1960s.  Ellis argued that this tradition, composed of both oral and popular culture elements, was best described as a subversion myth.


3.  Contemporary Legends and Identity.

    Four case studies focussed in various ways on how legends help provide identify for specific ethnic and regional cultures.  "We're Number One: Party School Rankings and Identity" by Barry J. Ward (Morgantown, WV, USA) dealt with the belief that West Virginia University had been named the US's Number One "Party School" by Playboy Magazine.  He gave a far‑ranging tour of stereotypes that had been applied to West Virginia and its citizens as ignorant and uncivilized, and he showed that, paradoxically, the title of "Number One Party School" gave the university a point of pride around which to cluster other positive images.

    In "Myth and Cult of the 20th Century: A Political Legend about the Presence of Benito Mussolini in Austria and Particularly in Verarlberg," Reinhard Johler (Vienna, Austria) analyzed oral and popular history reports that the Italian dictator had, early in his career, lived as a poor workman in Western Austria.  The stories varied in emphasis: some portrayed him as a vagrant who did not pay back his loans and fathered illegitimate children.  Others showed him lending prestige to emerging labour groups by delivering impassioned speeches.  Each, in some way, helped subcultures define themselves in terms of nearby Italy.

    Patricia Turner (Davis, CA, USA) presented "Shades of Ron Brown, Tupak Shakur and Tommy Hilfiger," a survey of her recent research into African American contemporary legends.  Tommy Hilfiger, a hot new fashion designer, is said to have made disparaging remarks about blacks on TV and also to exploit foreign workers in his factory.  Tupak Sakur's violent death was never solved; many fans, black and white, believe that it was faked so that he could retire in peace from his gangsta lifestyle and continue to produce recordings. Ron Brown's death from a plane crash included many still‑unexplained oddities, which may have been part of "The Plan," a government conspiracy to eliminate African American from influential positions.  Turner conceded that, after diligent research, she could not say for certain that the last story was no more than a legend.

    In "The Lost Colony of Roanoke Island as Metaphor and Means for Contemporary Legends of Celebrated Loss in Eastern North Carolina," Karen Baldwin (Greenville, NC, USA) connected the historical details of the first British colony in the New World with the metaphor it has become in her region.  She found that the Lost Colony story served to give the region primacy in the colonial history over the later, ultimately successful Virginia colony.  It also serves as a focal point for many other legends dealing with vanished towns and the isolating nature of the East Carolina wilderness.


4.  Theoretical Approaches to Contemporary Legend.

    Three major papers addressed key issues concerning legends' status as rhetoric, belief, and genre.  "Interstitiality in Contemporary Legend: An Alternative Analysis" by Sandy Hobbs and David Cornwell (Paisley, Scotland, UK; read by the former) returned to a useful theoretical concept introduced by William M. Clements at the 1989 ISCLR conference.  Clements argued that legends often focussed on situations where phenomena could not fit easily into accepted social categories;  hence they fell into a gap or interstices.  Thus for instance, a legend might show something defined as inedible (a rat, dog, or crematory ashes) being accidentally eaten. 

    Hobbs and Cornwell found Clements's term helpful in analyzing the rhetoric of legends, but showed that it needed refining.  In some cases, they found, the legend showed not a "gap" (or interstices) between categories, but an ambiguity created by blurring or overlapping of social categories.  They also stressed that the concept was not central to all legends or even to their social meanings.  Interstitiality, they concluded, was best understood as a means of creating an effective story, using a dramatic punch line to embody a category shift that makes the listener mentally reclassify previous events in the story.

    Mark Glazer  (Edinburg, TX, USA), in "Contemporary Legend as Belief," reported on a questionnaire intended to assess the prevalence of traditional and modern pseudo‑scientific beliefs among a Mexican‑American population.  Surveying 2012 informants, Glazer found that a majority of informants believed in the devil and angels; nearly half believed in black magic, and 31% had seen it practiced.  By contrast, only 35% believed in the scientific theory of evolution.  Glazer's survey also addressed belief in UFOs (38%), vampires (23%), Big Bird (a cryptozoological entity seen in the Frontiera area about 20 years ago, 18%), and the chupacabra (23%).  In each case, he found a "critical mass" of believers, enough to ensure continued circulation of legends on these themes.

    The Conference's final paper, "Folk Legend, Urban Legend and Memorabilia: A Single Genre?" by Donald Ward (Los Angeles, USA) began by addressing the question of whether a distinction can be drawn between traditional and modern legends.  In fact, he argued, the characteristics that Gillian Bennett finds typical of the latter can be found abundantly in full collections of the former. 

    But principally Ward called attention to Andre Jolles's study Einfache Formen, in which he proposes a broad generic category called "Memorabile," or "memorable events."  This genre, which encompasses not only oral narrative but stall ballads, tabloid publications, and popular literature, comprises stories that help narrators see the contemporary world in a systematic way.  Ward notes that some of Jolles's examples, such as "The Liverpool Tragedy" in which a son is killed by his parents by mistake, could easily be defined as contemporary legends.  Conversely, many legends studied by subsequent scholars could more easily fit into this category than into traditional definitions of legend or Sage.

    A closing discussion arrived at the consensus that a generic distinction between traditional and modern legends was difficult to justify, if both were seen in terms of "news" rather than "tradition."  In any case, for non‑folklorists, issues of genre are often irrelevant because they are more interested in what legends do or why they circulate, not where they should be filed.  While there was interest in having Jolles's argument translated, or at least paraphrased in detail, there also was consensus that "contemporary legend" was clear enough as a term to justify its continued use.

    However, Bronislava KerbelytΘ made an appeal to international scholars to attempt to breach language barriers and find ways to share ideas with those fluent in international languages.  There was general agreement that discussions in only English limit research on both sides, and that more could be done to accommodate international scholars, particularly in meetings held in non‑English venues such as the present.

    The conference also included a guided tour  to the vicinity of Matrei, where participants in the Tiroler Bergsagen Festival had prepared exhibitions and performances of the legends characteristic of the area. The tour also included a visit to a historic inn, where regional food and drink could be sampled. 

    In closing the conference, President Bill Ellis expressed thanks to the organizers and hosts of the meeting for providing stimulating discussion in an atmosphere of Austrian Gemüthlichkeit.  The next conference will be held in St. John's, Newfoundland on 18-23 May 1999.



Friday the Thirteenth skeptical conference

    The Association for Skeptical Enquiry and the Manchester Humanists held a one‑day conference on paranormal and superstitious beliefs at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), Manchester, England.  The conference was sponsored by the MMU Dept. of Sociology and took place Friday the 13th of November 1998.   Speakers included:

Dr. Christopher French. Department of Psychology, Goldsmith's College, "The Psychology Of Superstition."

Dr. Michael Heap. Dept. of Psychotherapeutic Studies, University of Sheffield, "Ideomotor Movements"

Kevin McClure. Writer and Investigator, "Alien Abductions."

Dr. David Stretch. Dept. of Mathematical Psychology, University of Leicester, "Critical Thinking And Alternative Medicine."

Dr. Timothy Taylor. Dept of Archaeology, University of Bradford, "Graham Hancock and Pseudo‑Archaeology."

Dr. Richard Wiseman. Perrott‑Warrick Research Unit, University of Hertfordshire, "The Psychology of Luck."

Tony Youens. Conjurer, "Demonstration of pseudo‑psychic tricks."



St. John's, Newfoundland ISCLR Conference,  1999

The International Society for Contemporary Legend Research is pleased to announce that the 1999 Perspectives on Contemporary Legend Seventeenth International Conference is to be held at the Delta Hotel in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.  For those of you who have visited Newfoundland before, or those of you who have always wanted to visit, this conference provides an ideal opportunity to join with scholars from around the world in order to exchange ideas and to keep in touch with current research, in one of the most beautiful and rugged venues in North America.  Newfoundland is a location once described as “This Marvellous Terrible Place.”

    Proposals for papers on all aspects of “contemporary,” "urban," or "modern" legend research are sought, as are those on any legend or legend-like tradition that circulate actively at present or have circulated at an earlier historical period.  Previous discussions have ranged in focus from the ancient to the modern (including Internet-lore) and have covered diverse cultures worldwide (including our own academic world).

    The 1999 meeting will be organized 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.  Proposals for special panels of papers, discussion sessions, and other related events are encouraged.

    The conference dates include a Saturday night stay-over in order to take advantage of reduced air fares, and the schedule also includes time to do a little sightseeing.  Add to that the fact that the hotel has given us good room rates, and the Canadian dollar exchange rate is currently very favorable, this is a conference that you just can’t afford to miss.

    For further information or travel advice contact Paul Smith, Department of Folklore, Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland, CANADA, A1B 3X8.   Phone:  (office) 709-737-8410/8402;  (home) 709-895-3159.   FAX:  709-737-4718.  E-mail:

    The registration fee for ISCLR member is $75 US (or Canadian equivalent).  For non-members $100 (or Canadian equivalent) (includes ISCLR membership fee)   The registration fee for students currently enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate programme has been waived.




    We are interested in publications on any topic relevant to contemporary legends, especially those in journals or from publishing houses not usually read by academics in North America and the United Kingdom.  Forward references or offprints (if convenient) to the Editor.   English abstracts of works in other languages would be appreciated.



    Armstrong, Jane.  "Dangerous new gang initiation dismissed as classic urban myth."  Globe and Mail (Toronto), 24 December 1998, p. A8.  [Written from Globe's Vancouver bureau and based on press releases by Vancouver municipal police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.]

    "Barking dog saves spinning cat,"  Reuters news story, 22 January 1998.  [London dog barks until co-pet is saved from tumble drier.]

     "Deadly cobras have saved lives of villagers, witnesses report." Globe and Mail 4 November 1998, p. A12.  [Cobras save Indian villagers from various harms.]

    Milvy,  Erika.  "Cybertainment:  Click on Folklore Web Sites to Scare Up Some Weird, Creepy Urban Legends."  Los Angeles Times 8 October 1998, p. 48.  [Spiders under skin; hospital janitor;  Pop Rocks death;  Charlie Chaplin's remains stolen;  Wizard of Oz suicide: all trailers for,, and]

    Raynor, Gordon, "Stuck on you,"  The Sun 23 Feb 1998. [British woman's hand accidentally superglued to husband's penis;  separated at hospital.]

    Renard, Jean-Bruno.  Rumeurs et légendes urbaines.  "Que sais-je," no. 3445.  Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1999.  [Pocket-sized, 128-page booklet explaining contemporary legends in terms of their scholarship, history, and structure.]

  "Sick dog buried alive, digs way out of grave."  Associated Press news story distributed 12 March 1998.  [Jersey City, NJ, USA.]

   "Thieves snatch bag of trouble." Reuters news story distributed 5 March 1998.  [Sydney, Australia youths snatch bag containing two poisonous snakes.]







    Thanks to Brian Chapman for his many contributions of clippings and Internet gleanings.  Likewise, Lorraine Jackson and Bill O'Farrell have passed along numerous items.  Erin Columbus and John Bodner helped in organising some of the small items that appear in this issue and in next issue's lists of publications and Internet ephemera.  John Bodner edited some of these reports into small items.  Thanks especially to the long-suffering members of ISCLR for being so patient in waiting for this issue of their newsletter.




  FoafTale News




FoafTale News (FTN) is the newsletter of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research.  We study "modern" and "urban" legends, and also any legend circulating actively.  To join, send a cheque made out to "ISCLR" for US$25.00 or UK£15 to Paul Smith, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland CANADA A1B 3X8.  Members also receive Contemporary Legend, a refereed academic journal.  Most back issues of FTN are available from the Editor at a charge of US$3 each.

    This newsletter is called FoafTale News because of a joke made at one of the Sheffield legend conferences in the 1980s.  A paper was given on the fact  that contemporary legends always seem to be about someone just two or three steps from the teller:  a boyfriend's cousin, a co‑worker's aunt, or a neighbour of the teller's mechanic -- an anonymous "friend of a friend."  So, "friend-of-a-friend" became a bye‑word at the conference, and was eventually shortened to "FOAF." It was only a short step then to the pun "foaftale." 

    FoafTale News welcomes contributions, including those documenting legends' travels on electronic media and in the press.  All research notes and articles are copyright by the individual authors who reserve all rights.  For permission to reprint, contact them at the addresses given in the headnote of the article.  FTN is indexed in the MLA Bibliography.  Send queries, notices, and research reports to a maximum of 3000 words to the Editor;  clippings, offprints, and citations are also encouraged.  Text on disks is appreciated.  Emailed contributions are better sent as "attachments" than as ASCII files, but all methods of delivery are acceptable.

    The opinions expressed in FoafTale News are those of the individual authors and do not in any necessary way represent those of the editor, the contributing compilers, the International Society for the Study of Contemporary Legends, its Council, or its members.


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



ISSN 1026-1001