No. 45                                                                                                                 November 1999

                                                                                             ISSN 1026-1001





Whence "foaftale"

Format for submission



Siporin: Scholarship rumours



Poetic justice in ancient Greece, perhaps in Avebury

Recent text variants

Some newspaper clippings

Corpus Christi: play protest



The "modem tax" warning revived



Contemporary Legend:  status of the journal

Special Section on ISCLR Conference, in St. John's, May 1999









18th Perspectives on Contemporary Legend Meetings in Edinburgh, Scotland



The next annual meetings of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research (the eighteenth Perspectives on Contemporary Legend conference) will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland where it will be hosted by the School of Scottish Studies. 


The conference will be held from the 11th to the 15th of July, 2000.  Paper, session and panel proposals are welcome.  


For more information on the conference contact:


Paul Smith,

Department of Folklore,

Memorial University of Newfoundland,

St John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8 CANADA

Telephone 709-737-8410 ( or -8402)





Status of Contemporary Legend


Would all readers please see the notice regarding the status of Contemporary Legend on page 9 of this issue?





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

The majority of this issue is devoted to abstracts  of papers given at or prepared for the ISCLR conference at St. John's, Newfoundland, in May 1998. For the members and subscribers who were unable to attend, this will no doubt be useful.



For Contributors: style & form

In an effort to speed along future issues of FoafTale News, I pass along to readers some guidelines for contributions.  Contributions to FoafTale News should be in a format that will easily be slotted into the newsletter.  Queries, acknowledgements, observations, "sightings" and bibliographic references are all welcome.  They should be written as textual notes in a form that will need little editing for publication.  Contributions should include the writer's name and address;  an email address can be included if one is available.

The editor reserves the right to cut or change for brevity, clarity and the newsletter's style, but published text will remain as close as possible to the author's text.

Electronic forms are welcome but keep in mind that the most modern version of a popular software is not usually the most convenient.  WordPerfect 5.0 and 5.1 are the most convenient forms, but older versions of MS Word (version 5.5 and earlier) are also fine.  If you are using a more recent version of any software, use your "Save As" function to save the file as an earlier form (like WordPerfect 5.0).    Emailed text can be sent as straight ASCII or (if attached as a file) in an early form of WordPerfect.

Please do not embed footnotes and endnotes in your text.  FoafTale News can handle (rare) footnotes but, if citations are necessary,  the preferred method is short in-text citations with a full bibliographic citation at the end.


What's this newsletter called?

When I took over the production of this newsletter four years ago, I played with the idea of suggesting a name change for it.   I didn't like the name's coy insiderishness and I thought a more straightforward title should be used.  But I soon found the name had become ingrained and was practically unchangeable.  Since then, I have produced more than half a dozen issues under the title, and I've come to appreciate it as benign at worst. 

But I have dealt with the question of how to write the name.    My predecessor, Bill Ellis, always spelt it (indeed, still spells it) FOAFtale News;  others have spelt it FOAFTale News and Foaftale News.   I chose a compromise candidate,  FoafTale News, on the grounds that "foaf" is a pronounceable acronym, no longer requiring through capitalisation (a rule applied in Great Britain and sometimes in Canada, but hardly ever in the USA).  No doubt the capital T offends some sensibilities but I find it useful for the abbreviation FTN which distinguishes us from, say, Fortean Times which uses the abbreviation FN.

Regarding the name itself, in the last issue (number 44),  I went so far as to institute what I thought might be a permanent, or at least recurrent paragraph on the last page, trying to explain the newsletter's title. That paragraph repeated some of the traditional knowledge I had picked up over the past ten or fifteen years. During most of that time I was out beyond the edges of the central group of participants in the early development of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research.   I heard this version of the origin of "foaftale" from David Buchan about 1983.  My last-page paragraph read:

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."

I thought that it would stand thus for some time.

But, soon after publication, Véronique Campion-Vincent (of the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, Paris) wrote me with the following:

I wasn't present at the Sheffield legend conference you mention (the first one I attended was in 1988, and Foaftale News already existed then) and did not know the paper you mentioned.  I am not suggesting this meeting or this paper may be legendary, but the first person to use the acronym FOAF was Rodney Dale in 1978, in his book The Tumour in the Whale: A Collection of Modern Myths"  This is mentioned by Jean-Bruno Renard in his book Rumeurs et légendes urbaines (1999, p. 29), and earlier by Jan Harold Brunvand in his book The Choking Doberman (1984, p. 51).

And of course you are right, Véronique!  Despite what I had written, "foaf" predates the Sheffield conferences.   Dale used "foaf" throughout his book, though never did he go the next step to using "foaftale" to refer to the stories — instead he coined the abbreviation "WTS" (from "whale tumour stories," a term he borrowed from George Melly).  It might be of interest that Melly's term survives on the Internet as one of the minor popular terms for such stories.  Dale of course attended at least one of the Sheffield conferences and mentions the fact in his preface to a later edition of his book.

So, who first put foaf to tale?  This does seem to be a product of the Sheffield conferences.  In any case, Paul Smith was the first editor of what is now called FoafTale News which appeared in September 1985.   He called it Foaftale News, with that spelling.  But perhaps one of our readers can tell the tale (excuse me, the legend) of how "foaftale" came into being.


Philip Hiscock          



* * *





County Football Scholarships

Steve Siporin,

English Department

Utah State University

Logan UT 84322-3200



The folklore of sports fans must be among the most frequently performed but least frequently collected and analyzed of contemporary kinds of folklore.  Alan Dundes (1978, 1993, and 1997, and Dundes and Falassi 1975) is the major exception, and even his studies tend to focus on the athletes' point of view rather than that of the spectators — though certainly the spectators are, literally, implicated.   The importance of sports in today's world and the powerful emotions sporting events elicit in various contemporary societies suggest fertile ground for the genesis and diffusion of legend and belief.  The presence of elements such as anxiety, lack of control over outcomes, issues of identity, sense of place, loyalty, tradition, and  rivalry, virtually guarantees a world rich in folk expression.

In this brief note, I present one example of a current sports-fan belief.  My sources are email texts from a popular Nebraska football fan listserv,, moderated by Mike Nolan in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The core of the belief is that the University of Nebraska circumvents NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) limits on football scholarships by awarding additional "county scholarships" to local football players.  The belief rationalises Nebraska's remarkable football success as the result of cheating — a conspiratorial form of cheating involving statewide collusion between Nebraska counties and the University of Nebraska football program.  Like many conspiracy theories, this one is an exoteric belief — i.e., something members of one group believe about members of another group.  Some members of the group castigated by the belief (Nebraska football fans and players) are aware of the belief (held by fans of Nebraska's rivals) and try to debunk it regularly.  But the belief arises repeatedly and, as is the way with folk beliefs and legends, no matter how often it is refuted, it seems impossible to put it to rest.  It may well be that the annual, recurring nature of the football season helps make the belief itself perennial, giving it life in a nearly organic way, alternating periods of dormancy with periods of flowering.

As background, it is important to know that the NCAA currently (and strictly) limits the number of football scholarship at any Division I school to 85 (National Collegiate Athletic Association 1997, 189).  Penalties for exceeding the limit are severe, and football recruiting itself is highly regulated.  To find a way to fudge on the number of football players under scholarship would be seen as gaining an enormous advantage on the playing field.

      Here is one typical instance in which the belief surfaced: 

Being that this will be my first post to the husker list, I would first like to commend Mike Nolan on the time and effort he has put in.  It's nice to have access to Husker information when you're misplaced in Texas where Husker info is usually found in the obituaries.

Anyway this afternoon I was asked a question about walk-on scholarships that I couldn't answer.  Do some counties in Nebraska provide scholarships for walk-on players and if so, who decides who is eligible to receive them, the university or the counties involved?

He was told that Nebraska is the only school with that kind of opportunity.  (Posted to November 14, 1997)

      Here is the response, sent within the hour on the same day:

Shawn, this one is a cinch.  'Walk-on scholarship' is an oxymoron, that is, a self- canceling term.  There ain't no such critter.

The so-called 'county scholarship' you're referring to is one of the oldest fabrications on the Internet football bulletin boards.  No such thing ever existed.

If your Lone Star buddies believe in the country scholarship canard, they're gullible enough to let you take them snipe hunting.  (Posted to November 14, 1997)

       Two months later, shortly after Nebraska's victory over Tennessee (that earned the team its third football national championship in four years) the belief surfaced again:

It was great listening to the local radio sports talk shows here in Memphis yesterday.  To summarize: Nebraska is the type of team that Tennessee would like to be.  The Huskers have the whole package; players, coaches, conditioning and recruiting.  Which brings up the point of this post.  Several callers were asking about the 'county scholarship program' in Nebraska and pointing out that the NCAA needs to look into this program.  I know this has been put to rest several times on the Huskers List but I would like someone to refresh my memory.  (Posted to January 6, 1998)

      The response?:

And the answer is: IT DOESN'T EXIST— IT NEVER DID!

It's an urban legend.  Period.  (Posted to January 6, 1998)


Again, on August 18, 1998, as football season was approaching and agitated fans sought signs and omens as they counted down to the opening kickoff, the belief reemerged:

Tony Barnhart (sp?), Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist and ESPN analyst, was on the local radio (Atlanta) today talking about Tom Osborne's [Nebraska head football coach for many years] retirement and mentioned all the 'advantages' Nebraska enjoys like county scholarships.  I know this is a bogus claim but can someone give me the facts again so I may contact him?  Everyone has biases but reporters are at least supposed to try to hide theirs — he does an extremely poor job of that.  (Posted to August 18, 1998)

      There were several responses:

Just once I'd like to ask these so called columnists who think Nebraska gets county scholarships what a county scholarship is.  If/when you get a hold of him, could you ask him so we could all get the correct definition of  a 'county' scholarship.  I'm sure we'd all like to know.  (Posted to August 18, 1998)


As others have said, this is a legend that has been debunked many many times over the past 3 decades, and seems to pop up once or twice every season...  (Posted to August 18, 1998)


One of these days I'm going to add this to the FAQ. :-)

There has never been a 'county' scholarship program for Nebraska athletes, purportedly for walkons.  There are numerous academic scholarships available to incoming students, plus Pell grants, but these are awarded on the basis of grades and test scores and are available to any qualifying student...

If such a program did exist, and the NCAA found out about it, it would be an 'extra benefit', which is illegal under NCAA rules.  Like all other schools, Nebraska undergoes regular audits by the NCAA, and has been put under the microscope more than a few times in the past 30 years, and nothing significant has EVER turned up, Nebraska has never been cited for a major rules violation or been placed on NCAA probation.  (Posted to August 18, 1998)

      I could provide more examples since the belief and its rebuttal form an unending pair — a combination likely to continue into the future, at least as long as Nebraska possesses an overpowering football team.  But the above examples should suffice to identify an exoteric sports fan belief.  It might be interesting, though — if readers would like to respond — whether the same "county scholarship" accusation is made against other leading football programs, like Alabama, Ohio State, or Florida and Florida State.

I think, as I suggested above, that the belief persists because it provides a way for rival sports fans to rationalise Nebraska's consistent football dominance as due to underhandedness.  Other major football programs, such as those of Notre Dame, Alabama, and Oklahoma, experience cycles of good years and bad years — but Nebraska has not had anything that could be called a bad year since 1961, the last time Nebraska lost more games than it won.  Many of Nebraska's records (such as "most consecutive winning seasons," "most touchdowns scored in a season," "most consecutive sellouts" [1998 Football Media and Recruiting Guide 1998, 228]) underscore the Nebraska phenomenon of consistently top teams winning all but a handful of games over a long period of time — now nearly forty years and counting.

How can this anomaly among football teams persist?  The belief provides an answer — but one we know is false.  Or is it?

Legends and beliefs that are apparently, or even obviously, false on a literal level often contain an underlying truth if understood metaphorically.  Thus, while Nebraska's counties cannot and do not provide extra scholarships for football players, fan support for the team is widespread and local throughout the state.  One of the records referred to above is "most consecutive sellouts," meaning Nebraska's Memorial Stadium has been filled to capacity for every game since 1962.  No other stadium comes near this record.  Nebraska fans also "travel well" (the phrase of bowl game promoters) meaning that many of them are willing to travel far beyond the state's borders to attend games.  Sometimes the visiting Nebraska fans overwhelm the local, home-team audience by their numbers, red and white clothing, and enthusiasm.  At a recent game at UC Berkeley in California (September 1998), for instance, the number of Nebraska fans in the stadium was estimated at 25,000 — roughly half the crowd.

The intangible but not illegal "extra benefit" of single-minded (some would say monomaniacal) fan support may in fact give Nebraska football teams an advantage.  The so-called "county scholarship" makes a fitting symbol for the grass roots interest and energy that people all over the state focus on their one outstanding (college or professional) sports team.  Notice that the belief does not speak of a secret state scholarship or a conspiracy of private donors; money comes from the counties, the governmental unit most closely identified with the local, the grass roots, the average (or perhaps idealised) citizen in a rural state.  A belief that is a demonstrably false rationalisation disguises within itself an even more disturbing realisation — disturbing, at least, for those who would unseat the champion.  One reason for Nebraska's success may come not from an underhanded way of getting more, talented players onto the team but from a remarkably enduring commitment of the local fans.

And, by the way, GO BIG RED!!!



Dundes, Alan.  1978.  "Into the Endzone for a Touchdown:  A Psychoanalytic Consideration of American Football."  Western Folklore 37: 75-83.

-----.  1993.  "Gallus as Phallus:  A Psychoanalytic Cross-Cultural Consideration of the Cockfight as Fowl Play."  The Psychoanalytic Study of Society 18: 23-65.

-----.  1997.  "Traditional Male Combat:  From Game to War,"  in From Game to War and Other Psychoanalytic Essays on Folklore. U P Kentucky, pp. 25-45.

Dundes, Alan and Alessandro Falassi.  1975.  La Terra in Piazza: An Interpretation of the Palio of Siena.  Berkeley: U California P.

National Collegiate Athletic Association.  1997.  1997-98 NCAA Division I Manual.  Overland Park, Kansas:  National Collegiate Athletic Association.

1998 Football Media and Recruiting Guide. 1998.  Lincoln: Nebraska Sports Information.

* * *




Poetic justice: the murder of Mitys of Argo

William Hansen

Departments of Classical Studies & Folklore

Indiana University

Bloomington, Indiana 47405




In FTN 44 (May 1999), p. 11, biologist Roger Mongold recounts a story about a certain ne'er-do-well from around Tucson, Arizona, who delighted in shooting at saguaro cacti, the large slow-growing cacti that can resemble a human being standing up with raised arms.  One day such a cactus, weakened by having been shot up, fell upon the man, crushing him to death.  Mongold has heard the story for the past fifteen years and wonders if it is true or legendary.

I point out that the story was known in ancient Greece.  Aristotle, discussing the qualities of good and bad plots in his Poetics (Ch. 9, sections 11-13), holds that tragic dramas are about complete actions and in particular about actions that bring about feelings of fear or pity in the playgoers.  He declares that such feelings are especially aroused when the incidents are unexpected but not unrelated, "as when the statue of Mitys of Argo caused the death of the man who had been responsible for Mitys' death, by falling upon him."  Such events, according to Aristotle, do not appear to be arbitrary and so are the stuff of superior plots.

The story of Mitys evidently circulated as a legend, for Aristotle appears to treat it as a familiar story and he is not the only ancient author to recount it.  Like the narrative from Arizona, it is a crisp story of poetic justice in which the slayer is ironically and unexpectedly slain by his victim.  Just as a certain man brought about the death of Mitys of Argo, after which a statue of Mitys fell upon the killer, causing his death, so also a certain man brought about the death of a particular saguaro cactus by illegally shooting at it, and the cactus toppled over, crushing him to death.  The parallelism of the two stories is all the more remarkable because of the resemblance of saguaro cacti to human beings or statues.

Although I cannot shed any light on the historicity of the story of the saguaro-shooter as such, I can suggest at least that simple stories of poetic justice have been around for a long time.  The story-pattern that underlies the deserved fate of the saguaro-shooter is a traditional one in general (a misbehaver is punished in an unexpected and ironically apprpriate way) and perhaps also in particular (a killer is unexpectedly felled by the actual or symbolic corpse of his victim).



Cactus = Standing Stone?

Alan F. Barksdale

Apt #4,

203 Utica Place

Huntsville, AL 35806




I was pleasantly surprised to read in the May 1999 edition of FoafTale News  (#44:11) "Poetic justice: cactus murder" which reminds me of a posting I made to the Usenet group alt.folklore.urban in about May 1990.  My posting was in response to a thread about the falling cactus story.   I described a story I had heard in Avebury, England, in the summer of 1984:

At the museum within the Avebury standing stones in England ‑‑ (The stones are in an array much larger than Stonehenge;  they surround part of the village.) ‑‑  I was told that in medieval times, people sometimes would get it into their heads to bury or break up the stones because of their supposedly devilish origins.  I was told that underneath one of the stones was found the remains of a man (dated c. 1300) who apparently was digging away at the base of a stone to bring it down and succeeded more quickly than he expected.




More Needles

Philip Hiscock

Folklore & Language Archive

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St John's, Newfoundland CANADA A1B 3X8



The following was being circulated in late April 1999 through Canadian email networks.   I received it via a professor in the Department of Sociology at Memorial University of Newfoundland; she received it from a colleague in Toronto.   The email headers have been stripped for ease of reading but the subject line "Not humor") is as on the original.   This follows on the note in the last issue of FoafTale News (44:  10) about needles in a variety of other places.  Regina and Saskatoon are cities in the central province of Saskatchewan.

Subject: Not humor ... (fwd)

Below is an e‑mail that was sent to me that contains serious consequences should it happen to you.  Its validity was supposedly established with the Saskatoon Police Department.  So please take this e‑mail seriously and pass it along to anyone you know.


The following information was sent from the Regina City Police Dept. to all of the local gov'ts in the Sask. area.  Marlon forwarded it to me as all of SGI staff received this bulletin.  It's not a joke, and I think it's important to let as many people know as possible.  Here's the exact statement from the police:

For your information, a couple of weeks ago, in a movie theater, a person sat on something sharp in one of the seats.  When she stood up to see what it was, a needle was found poking through the seat with an attached note saying "You have been infected with HIV".  The Centers for Disease Control reports similar events have taken place in several other cities recently.

All of the needles tested HAVE been positive for HIV.

The CDC also reports that needles have been found in the coin return areas of pay phones and soda machines.  Everyone is asked to use extreme caution when confronted with these types of situations.  All public chairs should be thoroughly but safely inspected prior to any use.  A thorough visual inspection is considered the bare minimum.  Furthermore, they ask that everyone notify their family members and friends of the potential dangers, as well.  Thank you.

Marlon works with people who's spouses work in doctors offices.  They have reported that in Saskatoon, needles have been found in the coin return of pay phones.  FYI



Procter & Gamble's New Suits

Jan Brunvand has sent us a clipping from The Salt Lake [City, Utah] Tribune (12 April 1999, p. A8) editorial page.  Entitled  "Our View: Rumors Can Be Harmful," it states the paper's view of Utah U.S. District Court Judge, Dale A Kimball's dismissal of a case by Procter & Gamble against Amway Corporation and a local distributor of Amway products, Randy L. Haugen.   Haugen was accused of spreading rumours of P&G's satanistic practices by means of his telephone-answering machine.  He was sued in 1995 and, soon after, Amway was listed as co-defendant.  The judge ruled that no case had been made that specific damages had been suffered.  The opinion of the Tribune is that despite the dismissal, such rumours are seriously hurtful.   According to an Associated Press wire story datelined Houston, 4 May 1999, a similar suit by P&G against Amway opened in early May 1999 in a Houston,Texas federal court.



Some Legend Variants

Douglas M. Jole

Department of Folklore

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8




These legend variants were collected by students in my second-year Folklore class, spring semester 1999, at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, Newfoundland.

          This version of "The Baby Sitter and the Man Upstairs" (cf. Brunvand's Vanishing Hitchhiker, 53-57 and Choking Dobermann, 214-215)  was collected in 1999 by Suanne Carter from a 20-year-old male from Carmanville, Newfoundland.  She included this unusual variant in a paper analysing this legend and variants that she collected. She reports that her source had heard the story from a friend when he was eleven years old:

A girl was babysitting for a family with 2 kids.  They had popcorn and watched movies before the girl put them to bed upstairs.  She was sitting on the sofa watching the news when she heard a report about a crazy man that had escaped from the local hospital.  She didn't think anything of it until the phone calls started.  The phone would ring and when she answered it, all she could hear was heavy breathing.  This happened several times and she started to become scared.  She phoned the operator to get a trace put on the phone line.  After the next call the operator called her back and told her that the calls were coming from inside the house.  She goes upstairs to get the children out of the house. When she opens the bedroom door she sees the little boy with the phone in his hand.  The little boy then jumps up and kills the baby sitter.

      Carter's informant stated that when he was younger, he would tell this story to his friends during sleep‑overs.  He thinks that this story tells people that you should always look upstairs to make sure that there is no one there before putting the children to bed.  Overall, though, she says that he believes that this story tells people to avoid becoming a babysitter.  Carter gives the following analysis of the legend:

This version is given from a male perspective, and disseminated by young adolescent boys aged 10‑12.  At this age the boys still have baby‑sitters but find that their budding sense of manhood and independence is impaired by the structured supervision of an older female.  On the surface this story may serve to propel boys to play tricks on their baby‑sitters.  The inclusion of the line stating that they watched movies and ate popcorn teaches that even though the babysitter may be nice, you can still play tricks on her.  Yet on a deeper level, the fact that the boy kills the babysitter may be a way of telling young men not to be ruled by females.

The phone calls in this version have heavy breathing as the form of harrassment.  Heavy breathing can be seen as being very sexual in nature.  The presence of the heavy breathing on the other end of the phone line could be seen as the threat of a sexual male in the lives of every woman.  The young men who listen to this legend will learn that in order to scare, and thus control a woman, you must make the threat very sexual in nature, i.e. sexual harrassment, fondling, and rape.

      This version of the legend is striking in that it combines several legend motifs.  The escaped maniac of this version is found in many other "horror" based legends, such as "The Hook Man" and "The Boyfriend's Death."  It may be that those who tell or listen to this variant need more of an introduction or explanation for the actions that follow.  In an ironic twist, it is the boy being cared for who menaces and kills the babysitter.

Paul Clark collected an unusual variant of "The Boyfriend's Death," which should be entitled "The Girlfriend's Death" because the roles of the boy and the girl in the standard legend are reversed.  This version was told to him on 22 July 1999 by Debbie Squires, his girlfriend's mother. Squires heard it late one night from a co‑worker at the Evening Telegram newspaper based in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Two young kids, a boy and a girl, had just left a drive‑in movie theatre; they were on their way home when the car runs out of gas.  The young woman goes to call for help due to the fact [that] the young fellow has a cast on his leg and could not possibly travel the indiscriminate number of miles to a telephone.  So he waits in the car hearing the scraping sounds on the roof and sits there terrified during the whole night.  The next day some people come along and help him out of the car and there is his sweetheart hanging from a tree.

     Clark points out here that the gender reversal is important in this version of the legend, where the usual big, tough guy is forced to sit passively with his mind racing as to what the scraping sound might be.  He states further that in our society we have the tendency to view the male as being able to handle such situations, when realistically "Joe Average" is just as susceptible to fear as "Jane Average."  The broken leg renders the male impotent to act in his normal role in this variant.  It is easy to see the broken leg as a type of emasculation, whereby the male is forced to assume the female role.  It is interesting that this variant was told to Clark by a female, although the sex of the co‑worker who told this legend to Clark's informant is not specified.

Clark also collected a version of this legend localised to St. John's, Newfoundland.  He heard this story 20 July 1999 from Tina Hookey, who heard this story while at a slumber party about 10 years ago when she was 17 years old.  She heard this story on the night of her high school graduation, the same event that sets the stage for the legend.  Hookey heard the legend from a girl named Rebecca who told the story to all the girls there.

The young couple involved in the story had gone to their high school, Bishops College, about six years earlier, and Rebecca stated that her older sister had known them.  Upon leaving the high school graduation dance, the couple went for a drive out to Signal Hill, a well known historic and tourist site overlooking the city and harbour of St. John's. The two stop along the way for a romantic interlude but the girl is not interested.  They get into an argument and the young hothead storms off and leaves the car and the girl alone.  The girl waits in the car since she figures he will return once he has calmed down.  Time passes and she begins to hear scratches on the roof of the car as well as see shadows on the windshield, which scare her.  The young woman is found the next morning by joggers, who were drawn to the boyfriend who is swinging over the car.

      An interesting fact about this tale is that Signal Hill is very close to town, not remote at all, and that there are almost no trees on the hill, let alone ones that are tall enough to hang someone over a car!  It is unfortunate that it is unspecified exactly what it is that the boyfriend is suspended from.

Heather Burton, from Long Island, Newfoundland, heard this version of "The Nude Surprise Party" in a classroom discussion in her high school, in a class of 16- and 17-year-old students, both male and female. This is an unusual variant where both the young couple and the girlfriend's parents are "caught in the act" at the same time.

This version starts off with a guy and a girl who are out driving around town.  They decided to go up to the local lookout since it was such a beautiful night, but they weren't very interested in the view.  It was pretty dark up there and the lot had several trees so it was hard to tell if there was anyone else around.  Anyway, they started to make out and they noticed that the windows were getting steamed up and it was getting really hot.  They decided to get out of the car and lay down on the grass amongst the trees.  When they started removing each other's pants and shirts, they heard some moaning and groaning coming from the trees close by.  Then in the blink of an eye, the girl's parents rolled out of the trees while engaging in their own sexual acts, and bumped right into their half‑naked daughter and her boyfriend.

      The oral crititicism of the hearers is quite interesting.  Burton reports that the students said they believed that it could happen but this incident was "just so funny that they didn't think about the truth and false aspect of it."  She reports that the guys in the group said that they could see themselves in a similar situation but most of the girls could not picture themselves doing something like that with their boyfriends. 

Dale Pike submitted a variant of the "Welcome to the World of AIDS" legend.  His informant, referred to as Kevin, heard this story while he was living in Ontario in 1998.

I heard this story about two local teenage girls who went to see a movie together.  When one of the girls went to sit in her seat, something stuck her in the leg.  When she lifted up her seat, she noticed a needle in the cushion with a note attached saying "Welcome to the wonderful world of AIDS."

      Pike included this narrative in a collection of legends about rats biting people in a movie theatre in St. John's, Newfoundland.  It is interesting to contrast the past notions of contagion and disease with contemporary examples, all happening in the interstitial space of a darkened movie theatre.  It is significant that this story was heard in Ontario, and then related here in Newfoundland.  Diane Goldstein's work with AIDS narratives — for instance her paper at the 1999 ISCLR conference ("Reading Needle Prick Narratives as Resistance") — ties in with this.


Some clippings

Thanks mainly to Brian Chapman (in Victoria, British Columbia) we have a steady stream of clippings from news services, newspapers and Internet discussion groups that relate to contemporary legend topics.  Most have not yet been processed.  The following are some from early 1998.  John Bodner and Erin Columbus helped put them in the present form.


“Anal Sex and Perversion Company.”  Toronto Sun (27 April 1998).  [A company advertises hardcore pornography in newspapers and only accepts payment by cheque.  Once they receive your money, they send a letter saying that they cannot send the ordered materials, and send back your money written on a cheque from the Anal Sex and Perversion Company.]

Bauer, Fran.  “Church Members Report Image on Door.”  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  11 April 1998.  [Religious image seen.]

van Beynen, Martin.  "Rat rumour baffles MAF." The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand, 22 May 1998.  [A couple rescue a white‑haired "Chihuahua" from the water.  When it attacks their cat they take both animals to the vet who identifies it as a rat.  Now escaped, authorities are hunting the beast.  The reporter suspects a mere rumour, but authorities are unsure.]

Broughton, Philip Delves.  “Rat Who Smelt a Fire Saves Family.”  The Times.  14 April 1998. [A pet rat saves his owners from a house fire.]

Buhrmann, Axel.  “Church Impounds Crying Statue.”  Associated Press wire story, 30 March 1998. [Church authorities in Vic, Spain impound a blood-weeping statue of the Virgin Mary to determine whether it is a hoax.  Some townspeople in Mura, where the statue was taken, believe it is a miracle resulting from a priest’s unwillingness to be re-assigned to the village.  See "Catholic Authorities..." below.]

Buhrmann, Axel.  “Nike Says Free Shoes E-mail a Hoax.” Associated Press wire story, 30 March 1998. [Rumour that Nike will replace old shoes for free is false.]

“Butt of his Joke.”  Entertainment Weekly. 6 May 1998. [Article saying that Mel Gibson and Chris Rock played a practical joke on Joe Pesci with his treasured collection of cigars; similar to the tourists and their toothbrushes.]

“Catholic Authorities Pronounce Marble Virgin Crying Blood a Hoax.”  Associated Press story, 7 April 1998.  [Church authorities in Vic, Spain say that crying statue is a hoax.  Follows on Buhrmann story, above.]

“Catholics Flock to See Image in Tree Resembling Patron Saint.”   Associated Press wire story, 15 April 1998. [Roman Catholics in Tucson, Arizona are flocking to view an image in the bark of a tree that is believed to be the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico.]

Chiu, Alexis.  "Police Want to Say 'Later' to Illegal Gator."  Associated Press wire story, 17 March 1998.  [Police in Massachusetts face increase in dangerous pets, like caimans and alligators, owned by criminals;  refers to alligators in sewers.]

Cole, Dave.  “Canine Caller: Dog in Kenosha Accidentally Calls 911.”  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 18 March 1998.  [Puppy dials 911, sending emergency personnel to her home.]

Connor, Steve.  “Chalk Giant Could Be a Big Joke on Cromwell.”  The Sunday Times.  5 April 1998.  [Giant statue in Cerne Abbas, Dorset is believed to be a mockery of Oliver Cromwell, and not an ancient symbol of fertility as previously thought.]

“Crocodile is Seen in Australian Storm Water Drain.” Associated Press wire story.  Found in St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 20 April 1998.  [A crocodile is seen in a storm drain where a girl was mauled earlier in the year.  The girl was saved when her grandmother kicked the crocodile in the head.]

“Gnome Nabber Fined.”  The Saturday Sun.  Reuters wire story, 15 November  1997.  [Gnome-napper is fined $500 for stealing garden figures in France.]

Harrington, Carol.  Canadian Press.  “Cattle Mutilation Mystery Persists.”  Victoria, British Columbia Times-Colonist, 16 March 1998, A7. [Cattle found dead;  some believe they were killed by aliens.]

Harlow, John.  “Chinese Go Whole Hog on Full Monty.”  The Sunday Times.  12 April 1998  [Chinese translators change American film titles and cause confusion.]

“Illicit Kenyan Couple Reportedly Must be Separated by Doctors.”  Reuters wire story, 6 May 1998.  [An adulterous couple must be separated by doctors after being unable to disentangle themselves after a rendezvous.]

“Image of Virgin Said Seen in Mexican Cake.”  Reuters wire story, 8 April 1998.‑ae8 [Image of Virgin Mary found in cake in eastern Mexico.]

"Insulting Shoes Seized."  PA News, 19 May 1998. [Egyptian police raided several stores and confiscated shoes which appeared to have "Allah" written on them.]

 Lovett, Anthony R. and Matt Maranian. L.A. Bizarro: The Insider's Guide to the Obscure, the Absurd, and the Perverse in Los Angeles. NY: St. Martin's Press, 1997, p. 106. [Contains story of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson who was supposedly buried with a working telephone connection.]

MacDonald, Peter V.  From the Cop Shop: Hilarious Tales from Our Men and Women of the Badge. Toronto: Stoddart, 1996, p. 179.  [Includes story about how RCMP officer discovers who committed series of break-ins by using a breathalyser as a lie detector.]

“Man Dies After Toilet Explodes.” Reuters wire story, 13 April 1998.  [A camper in Germany is killed after lighting a cigarette near a gas leak in a camp site washroom.]

"Man Hit By Train While Talking On Cellular Phone".  Hornell, N.Y. Associated Press, 22 May 1998.  [Despite great effort from engineer to warn a man walking on the tracks while talking on cell phone he was struck.  Injuries were not life-threatening and story led to an increase in rail line security.]

“Man in Tree Nabbed When Cell Phone Rings.”  Associated Press wire story.  19 April 1998.  [A man accused of a traffic violation tries to evade police by hiding in a tree; he is discovered when his cellular phone rings.]

“Man Jailed for Extortion Scheme.”  Associated Press wire story.  20 April 1998. [Man alleges his son bit into a rat's tail in his french fries, swallowing part of it.  Investigators prove the tail came from the same species of rat that the man works with in a lab.]

Mendez, Deborah.  “K-mart T-shirts Recalled.”  Associated Press wire story.  17 April 1998.  [Customers complain of an obscene message heard in a children's talking teeshirt with the image of the Cookie Monster from tv show "Sesame Street" on it.]

"New York Times Prints Urban Legend." 26 May 1998, Metropolitan Diary By Enid Nemy with Ron Alexander.  [Nun purchases cookies in New York airport.  While waiting for her plane she eats one of them and the man beside her appears to take a cookie as well.  Together they finish the package.  The nun feeling that she has helped a less fortunate individual finds her package of cookies in her purse when she takes her seat on the plane.]

“Origin of Cricket’s Most Famous Trophy Questioned.”  Associated Press wire story, 16 April 1998. [The Ashes, the most famous cricket trophy, is now said to be ashes of a lady's veil rather than that of a cricket wicket.]

“Polar Bear Hair.”  [Scientific legend about polar bears' light-coloured hair attracting light to keep them warm.]

“Police in Hunt for Gnome Snatchers.”  Reuters wire story, 3 April 1998.  [Police search for gnome statues stolen from an Amsterdam garden.]

"Police Mistake Cremated Remains For Illegal Drugs."  San Antonio, TX. The Associated Press, 29 May 1998.  [Man arrested and jailed is vindicated when follow-up testing proves that the contents of a bag contained ashes of cremated grandmother.  Man is suing police.]

Rhodes, Tom.  “School Killings Boy Dabbled in Devil Worship."  The Times  (Jonesboro, AK), 28 March 1998.  [Police in Jonesboro, Arkansas, are investigating the possible ties between the Jonesboro school shootings and a satanic cult.]

“Roots of Religion Cause Stir.”   World News.  14 April 1998.‑‑times/paper/1998/0414/wor8.html [When potato is cut open, it reveals mould growing in the shape of a crucifix.]

Rubin, Sam.  “Perspectives: Titanic in Arabic.” Newsweek, 20 April 1998, p. 19.  [Distributors will have a difficult time selling “Titanic” in Arab countries because Titanic means “Let’s have sex” in Arabic.]

“Satanists are Blamed for Priest’s Death.”  The Independent.  13 April, 1998.  [Poisoned wine sent by cults preparing human sacrifices for Easter kill a priest and one of his parishioners in Colombia.]

Shelf Life .  n.d. Surprise birthday party UL about guests restraining dog as owner labours at unknown task in kitchen.  Hidden guests are surprised when woman appears naked, covered in peanut butter and calls for the dog.  Reprinted as true in Santa Barbara 'Zine, Shelf Life.

“Sing for Your . . . “  The Christian Monitor.  12 April  1998. [Opera singer is accosted on the street during a break in rehearsals because he is costumed as a skinhead.]

"Snuff Films."  Bizarre Magazine (  [No evidence of actual snuff films.]

Stevenson, Mark.  “Mexicans Lynch Two Suspects Believed to be Kidnapping Children for Their Organs.”  Associated Press wire story, 26 March 1998.  [Two Mexicans suspected of kidnapping children for their organs are lynched and a judge beaten after he orders gives them bail.]

“Teacher Suspended after Accidentally Showing Porn Movie in Class.”  Associated Press wire story, 24 March 1998.  [Teacher takes wrong videocassette to school and shows several minutes of porn flick before realizing mistake.]

“Three Sisters Give Birth on Same Day.” Associated Press wire story, 13 March 1998. [Computer Science professor’s three daughters give birth on the same day.]

“Teens Charged with Cooking Parrot.”  Associated Press wire story, 10 April 1998.   [Pet parrot is killed by teenage burglars when cooked in a microwave.]

"Translation Legend.” New Scientist, 31 January 1998, p. 96.  [Outlines the inaccuracies of translation software; mentions that many of the tales of mistranslation have a common form and have circulated since 1981.]

Underwood, Dudley. Mathematical Crank.  (Washington, DC: Mathematical Association of America, 1992), pp. 192‑7.  [Story that legislators tried to round off pi to 3 is false.]



Gay Christ Protests

[From clippings supplied by Brian Chapman, compiled by John Bodner.]

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 it retold the biblical story with Jesus and the disciples being gay.   By all accounts, the finished play is more about being gay in Corpus Christi, TX than about Jesus, and it uses the life of Christ as an allegory. 

Following the League's protest, 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 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.

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.Thanks to Brian Chapman who sent in email and newspaper stories -- this note is compiled from these sources.


* * *





Re-run of late-'80s & early '90s "Modem Tax"

Philip Hiscock

Folklore & Language Archive

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8



Longtime users of the Internet (or the Bitnet, etc., before it) will remember the warnings ten years ago of a "proposed modem tax" being legislated by the United States government. It was an early "frequently forwarded" warning for computer users, and well-loved by on-line debunkers.

In April 1999 a similar warning started going around Canada;  it suggested that a named (but non-existent) Member of Parliament had introduced a certain bill in Parliament that when enacted would tax internet mailings.  The rumour added that opposition to the bill was being coordinated by a named (but non-existent) lawyer in New Brunswick.  Debunkers jumped in, checking out the names and parliamentary bill numbers and finding nothing of substance.  This may started in early April as an actual April Fool's prank.  By June 1999, the rumour has subsided in Canada but it had spread to the United States, newly transformed into a warning about Congress's intentions of handing the Internet to the US Post Office for tax purposes.  This new warning cycle continued well into July 1999.  Again, debunkers were on the case early.

Both the Canadian and the new American rumour campaigns are treated at a number of debunking sites on the Worldwide Web, notably David Emery's site at  I have not checked David and Barbara Mikkelson's site ( but I expect they also have a page devoted to it.

In mid-July 1999 the rumour took a new shape:  it was now a warning that the United Nations was planning this tax: a penny on each piece of Internet mail sent.  It spread with much the same vigour as the previous incarnations and with just as much debunking.  One debunking poster to a usenet newsgroup asked (rhetorically, no doubt) when readers last heard of a consumer tax imposed by the U.N.

Has this rumour taken on other forms in the past few months?  I'll be interested if readers who know of other national oikotypes will pass them along.



Bits and Pieces

Among those bits of legend-like Internet-lore floating around are the following sent to us by Janet White, Bill O'Farrell and Brian Chapman.


“Reason not to Party Anymore.”  Daily Texan (University of Texas newspaper).  18 March 1998. [Warning about drinking and using drugs at parties for fear waking next day with your kidney stolen.]

“Articles in Various American Medical Journals.”  2 April 1998. [Unusual medical emergencies reported:  objects found in human bodies.]

“Inflation.”  2 April 1998. [Military life raft accidentally inflates in a Volkswagen Bug with four people in the car.]

“Too Bad You are a Commie.” http://fresno‑ [A commemorative edition of guitars honoring Joan Baez will include a message that a guitar repairman put on her guitar saying, ‘Too Bad You are a Commie.’]



Information site about "computer incidents"

Readers may be interested in the Web site maintained by the Computer Incident Advisory Capability (CIAC) of the United States government's Department of Energy at  Specific pages have up-to-date information about Internet hoaxes, viruses, computer security and chain letters.  The page dealing with chain letters is  It has links to CIAC-approved statements on "Penpal Greetings!", "Make Money Fast", "America Online Upgrade" and a dozen others.



* * *






Contemporary Legend: An Update

Paul Smith, Acting President

International Society for Contemporary Legend Research

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8



As most readers will know, over the past few years ISCLR has experienced several delays in publishing Contemporary Legend.  Some of the delays were caused by general production problems, others by work commitments and the personal circumstances of the editor.  More recently, however, the delays have been caused by the publisher, to the extent where all progress had stopped.  By way of addressing the situation, the Council of ISCLR notified the publisher that their services were no longer required.  At that point, the Society took matters into their own hands, and we would like to take this opportunity to bring you up to date on our progress.

The several volumes of Contemporary Legend that have been in progress are moving along.  Volume Five will be the last of the old series.  In the effort to make a clean break, a new series has been instituted as follows.

Contemporary Legend Volume 5 (1995): This volume has had to be re‑typeset, but it is now on its way to the printers.

Contemporary Legend - New Series Volume 1 (1998):  The galleys have been returned by the authors, and the issue should be ready for the printer by mid-November.

Contemporary Legend - New Series Volume 2 (1999):  This special issue entitled, “Border Crossings:  Legend, Literature, Mass Media and Cultural Ephemera,” edited by Cathy Preston, has been proofread; typesetting will begin shortly.

Contemporary Legend - New Series Volume 3 (2000):  Half the volume has already been typeset, and galleys are with the authors for proofreading. A couple of manuscripts are with authors for revisions, and five are under review.  Assuming that they are accepted, if we can get authors to complete revisions promptly, the rest of the volume will go for typesetting by early in the new year (2000).

         Regrettably, the "divorce" from our publisher has other ramifications ‑‑ one being that, at present, we appear not to have access to back issues.  Another problem, and one with which you can possibly assist, is that we have no record of the institutional subscriptions as these were directly supplied by the publisher.  In order to provide a better service and honour our obligations, we need to reinstate this list.  If your library has been subscribing to Contemporary Legend, would you please ask them to contact Mark Glazer (College of Arts and Sciences, University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, TX  78539  U.S.A.) who is now dealing with all subscription matters.

We thank you for your patience with us and also greatly appreciate your support of the Society.







18-23 MAY 1999


From May 18th to the 23rd, 1999, the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research met at the Delta Hotel in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada for its seventeenth conference on perspectives on contemporary legend.   About forty members and visitors took part and about two dozen papers were given.  Abstracts of these and a couple of papers that were unable to be given are reprinted below.

The annual general meeting of ISCLR was held on Saturday 22 May.   A number of business items were discussed, most notably the decision by Bill Ellis to step down from his term as President for health reasons.  Bill was given a standing round of applause by those present after he was thanked for all that he hads done for the Society since even before its inauguration.  His presidency will be completed by Paul Smith with the help of Michael Preston .  New elections are scheduled for the next annual meetings.

Reports were given on the state of the two main publications of ISCLR:  FoafTale News and Contemporary Legend.   Philip Hiscock explained that due to his changed circumstances, FoafTale News was not published between February 1998 and May 1999.  Nonetheless, an issue came out in May 1999 and this present issue was planned for late summer.   As Philip finds times he will continue to put together rather less ambitious issues and will hand the editorship over to a new editor as soon as one comes forward with the institutional support to carry it along.

Paul Smith and Joe Goodwin, respectively former and current editors of Contemporary Legend explained its current state. 




Conference Programme

18 May 1999 (Tuesday):

Evening:  Registration and Relaxation.

19 May 1999 (Wednesday):

Welcome to the Conference.

Bill Ellis, Penn State Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

"'There  Was a Couple  Who  Went to Park...' Intrinsic Genre and 'The Hook'."

Jan Harold Brunvand, Salt Lake City, Utah.

"An Encyclopedia of Urban Legend."

Michael Preston, Department of English, University of Colorado, Boulder.

"Sex in the White House: The Altoids Product-Legend, the Exploits of JFK, and Clinton Jokes."

Panel - Legend and Popular Culture. (Mikel Koven - Chair)

 Jenna Olender, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

"Cloning: Legend, Science Fiction, and Fact."

Julia Kelso, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

"Haunted House Legends in the Popular Media: How the Horror Genre Applies Legendary Motifs to Modern Story Lines."

John Bodner, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

"Pop-Culture Cannibalism: The Windigo Legend in Comic Books and Film."

Mikel J. Koven, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

"Oy, Have I Got a Monster for You!: Some Thoughts on the Golem, The X-Files, and the Jewish Horror Movie."

St. John's Haunted Hike Tour.


20 May 1999 (Thursday):

Mark Glazer, College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Texas - Pan American, Edinburg, Texas.

"Risk, Legend, Belief and Rumor: A Search for Method."

Holly Everett, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

"Mutation and Marking: Negotiating Power in Traditional and Contemporary Legendry."

Wendy Welch, New Gilston, Leven, Fife, Scotland.

"Urban Legends in the Story Telling Renaissance."

W. J. (Joe) Cherwinski, Department of History, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

"The Rise and Incomplete Decline of a Contemporary Legend: Frozen Englishmen on the Canadian Prairies During the Winter of 1906-07."

Anna Guigné, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

"The Giant Squid: Legend or Reality? At the Interface Between Folklore and Science."

Scademia Boat Tour from St John's Harbour


21 May 1999 (Friday):

Sylvia Grider, Department of Anthropology, Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas.

"The Poisoning of Treaty Oak: The Exploration and Transformation of Tradition."

Jeannie B. Thomas, Department of English, Utah State University, Logan, Utah.

"Narrating Barbie:  Media-Legend Barbie Versus Folk Barbie."

Diane Goldstein, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

"Banishing all the Spindles from the Kingdom:  Reading Needle Prick Narratives as Resistance."

Gary Butler, Division of Humanities, Vanier College, York University, Toronto [presentation cancelled].

"Toronto Trinidadian Obeah: Traditional Legend or Contemporary Tradition?"

Donna L. Wyckoff, Faculty of Science and Letters, Baskent University, Ankara, Turkey.

"A Legendary Vote for National Pride."

Anna Milerska and Dionizjusz Czubala, University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland

"Myths and Rumors Surrounding the Last (1946) Pogrom of the Jews in Poland." [Read by Chris-Anne Stumpf, Department of English, Memorial University of Newfoundland].


22 May 1999 (Saturday):

Peter Narváez, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

"Media Legends and Contemporary Legends:  A Taxonomy and Interpretive Frame."

Larisa Fialkova and Maria N. Yelenevskaya, Division of Folklore, Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of Haifa and Department of General Studies, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel.

"Ghosts in the Cyber World: Analysis of Folklore Sites on the Internet."   [Read by Philip Hiscock, Folklore & Language Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland].

Bodil Nildin-Wall, Folklore Department, Språk- och Folkminnesinstitutet, Uppsala, Sweden.

"Acting Legends and Creating Worlds:  Role-Players, Fantasy and Folklore."

Paul Smith, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

"The Dark Side of Contemporary Legends:  Identifying Boundaries and Discussing Anxieties." [Presentation cancelled].

Anita M. Barrow, Department of Anthropology, William Paterson University, New Jersey.

"Gringos E Latinas: Urban Legends of Love, Lust and the Good Life."

Diane Goldstein, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Chair, "Conference Review."

Bill Ellis, Penn State Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Chair, "ISCLR Information Session."

Dinner and Party at Diane Goldstein's house.


23 May 1999 (Sunday):

Wendy Welch, New Gilston, Leven, Fife, Scotland.

Urban Legends the World Over.  Newfoundland Museum. Legends in a storytelling session for an adult audience.


Two additional papers were cancelled before the final schedule was set:

- Michaela Todorova, Graduate School for Social Research, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, 72, Nowy Swiat Str., 00-330 Warszawa, Poland.

"Contemporary Legends in Bulgaria."

- Alvard Jivanian, English Philology, Yerevan State University, Heratsi 2a, Appt. 13, Yerevan, Armenia 375049

"Legends of the Cursed Children"






Anita M. Barrow, Department of Anthropology,

William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ 07470-2103, U.S.A.

"Gringos e Latinas:  Urban Legends of Love, Lust and the Good Life"

Generally exploiting traditional myths of ethnic and gender stereotyping about Latin women and European, Canadian, and American men, contemporary urban legends about the availability of latinas for sex and marriage, and the stability and earning power of gringos abound.  In this paper, I discuss how cross-cultural urban tales of love, lust, and the "good life" promote sex, dating, and marriage between gringos and latinas.  These urban legends also support the booming international sex, bride, and dating trade.

Following theoretical orientations developed by folklorists and anthropologists such as Alan Dundes and Carl Pagter, gringos and latinas will be examined within the context of folk groups, each with a vividly distinctive urban lore perpetuated locally (commonly by word of mouth), nationally, and internationally (via advertising, tourism and numerous web sites on the Internet).  The existence of parallel web sites throughout Central and South America, Western and Eastern Europe, Canada, Asia, and the United States document the popularity and widespread distribution of these legends.  In fact, as I demonstrate, technology, in this case the Internet, serves not only as a popular transmitter and rapid diffuser of urban legends about latinas and gringos; it also serves as a primary inventor of legends as well.

At the core of urban legends perpetuated by Latins, male and female, about latinas seeking gringos to date and marry, are myths about sensuality (virginity or explicit sexuality), femininity, loyalty, fertility, and family values.  International agencies, designed to showcase Latin women from Central and South America, exploit these myths in web site mottos emphasizing the versatility and universal appeal of Latin women.  Thus, for example, "International Lady," a South American-based singles-sites web-based search site advertises:

Our photo galleries contain Latin women from several countries, many of whom are professional and may want to continue their careers and many who desire to be just a good mother and spouse. . . .  If you are serious about meeting and marrying a beautiful Latin woman who is both modern, yet maintains old fashioned ideals towards family and marriage, now is the time to view the following pages . . . make your dreams come true.

Acquisition of Latin women, sexual experiences, and managing urban agencies and local and national bureaucracies are major themes in contemporary urban legends invented and circulated among gringos.  Thus, the "Two Gringos" guide and web page instructs gringos "in search of that special lady" how to "take a mate finding trip to Colombia without putting any of your money in a middleman's pocket."

International agencies such as Go Wild, Cyber Cupido, and Amor-Latino soliciting gringos for sex or marriage promote the accessibility of latinas on their web sites.  A Hong Kong-based web page with sexually explicit pictures of Latin women from several countries, for example, directs gringos to "select one of these señoritas and we delete her so you don't have to compete with other gentlemen."  On the other hand, urban organisations such as "Color Blind" have formed recently and are dedicated to dispelling what they deem to be negative beliefs and tales about interracial and international unions.



John Bodner,  Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland,  St. John's, Newfoundland, A1B 3X8 Canada

"Pop-Culture Cannabilism:  The Windigo Legend in Comic Books and Film"

The legend of the Windigo exists throughout the Algonquin-speaking native North Americans.  This group lived throughout the Canadian Shield, an expansive land mass cradling Hudson Bay from Québec through Manitoba, and into Nunavut, the former North West Territories. 

The Windigo is a creature of immense power who haunts the boreal forest during winter.  One of two fates awaits anyone meeting a Windigo:  death, or transformation into a Windigo.  The human/ Windigo returns to its camp and begins to cannibalise its family to feed the great hunger that possesses it. 

The legend has been of interest to people outside the native community for many years.  Beginning with Morton Teicher's "Windigo Psychosis" in 1960, anthropologists have explored the links between the legend, culture and medical belief systems to understand this culture-bound illness.  The issues and implications raised by this form of study resulted in a yearly article on the issue through the 1960s and into the mid-1970s.  At the same time, the legend was spreading beyond the native and academic communities and into popular culture.

This paper explores issues surrounding the use and function of the Windigo within the context of two distinct media forms, the action comic book (Incredible Hulk 130-1; X-Men 140, Spider Man 8-12, Wolverine 129-30) and the film Ravenous (1999).  Folklorists have tended to study the existence of folkloric motifs within media-mediated narratives (film, television, print, email etc.) as evidence of the resilience of folklore forms (Brown 1969; Baker 1975), as a question of  "transmission" (Dégh 1979; Smith 1992), and/or the dialectic relationship between folk and popular culture (Narváez and Laba 1986).  Others have emphasised the malevolent nature of media forms on certain folklore genres, specifically Märchen and folk-song.  What has been ignored is a systematic study of the media itself — Georgina Boyes' study of newspapers and rumour legends being a notable exception (1989).  It is argued that changes to the motifs, narrative structure and characteristics of the Windigo are predictable when the form of the media is understood.  Narratives are constructed within media forms based on the internal logic of the form itself.  Ignoring for a moment the relationship between media narrative constructions and consumer culture, a hermeneutic study of the media suggests that narratives are used by media forms to serve their own specific needs.  Within a stable genre, like the action comic book, these needs are governed by a structuralist morphology in which role is the most important factor.  Film is a more complex media form since the genre and the very nature of the narrative form have been constantly changing since the technology was invented.  It is argued, however, that the film Ravenous (1999) uses the Windigo in much the same way as comic books.  The transformation of the Windigo legend provides clues as to the nature of the media which can then be used to refine broader arguments around contemporary/urban legend, popular culture and various media forms.



Baker, Ronald L.  1975.  "Folklore Motifs in Comic Books of Super Heros."  Tennessee Folklore Society  Bulletin 41,4:  170-174.  

Boyes, Georgina.  1989.  "Women's Icon, Occupational Folklore, and the Media."  The Questing Beast: Perspectives on Contemporary Legend, Volume IV.  Sheffield:  Sheffield Academic P.

Brown, Lloyd W.  1969. "Comic Strip Heroes:  Leroi Jones and the Myth of American Innocence." J Popular Culture 3.2: 191-204.

Dégh, Linda and Andrew Vázsonyi.  1979.  "Magic for Sale:  Märchen and Legend in TV Advertising."  Fabula 20.1-3: 47-68.

Narváez, Peter and Martin Laba.  1986.  "Introduction:  The Folklore-Popular Culture Continuum." Media Sense:  The Folklore-Popular Culture Continuum.  Ed. Peter Narváez and Martin Laba.  Bowling Green, OH:  Bowling Green State U Popular P, pp. 1-8.

Smith, Paul. 1992.  "'Read all about it!  Elvis eaten by drug-crazed giant alligators':  Contemporary Legend and the Popular Press."  Contemporary Legends:  The Journal of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research 2:  41-70.

Teicher, Morton.  1960.  "Windigo Psychosis:  A Study of the Relationship Between Belief and Behavior Among the Indians of North Eastern Canada."  American Ethnological Society. Proceedings of the 1960 Annual Spring Meeting.



Jan Harold Brunvand,

1031 First Avenue, Salt Lake City, Utah 84103, U.S.A.

"An Encyclopedia of Urban Legends"

Anyone who saw the film Urban Legend released last year will remember the library scene.  The beautiful student Natalie (played by Alicia Witt) suspects that recent campus deaths and disappearances were inspired by urban legends, the same kind of stories she is studying in a folklore class at New England's Pendleton College.  Natalie goes to the college library to consult the ultimate reference work on the subject, a hefty tome titled Encyclopedia of Urban Legends.  There she finds the proof she is seeking — an illustrated description of the latest killing.

No such reference work exists, of course, but one is in preparation.  Back in August 1997, an acquisitions editor of ABC/CLIO, a major publisher of reference books, asked me to consider producing exactly that work.  In December 1997, I signed a contract agreeing to submit the manuscript for the book by July 1, 2000, and the publisher agreed to bring it out about nine months later.

The completed encyclopedia will be a large-format illustrated book about 150,000 to 200,000 words in length; thus it will resemble two recent folklore encyclopedias published by ABC/CLIO, the general folkloristics volume (1997) edited by Thomas A. Green and the volume on folklore and literature (1998) edited by Mary Ellen Brown and Bruce A. Rosenberg.  Unlike these two references, however, the urban legend volume will be written by me alone, a condition I insisted upon after the long, tedious, and often frustrating (but ultimately satisfying) experiences I had with American Folklore:  An Encyclopedia (Garland, 1996).  No more group projects for me!

The publisher's desire is that this encyclopedia "shouldn't be too scholarly and yet it should be authoritative . . . a serious reference work that is also fun, and written for the non-scholar."  The primary audience is to be high school and undergraduate students as well as the informed lay person (including journalists).  The scope will be "somewhat international" in that stories, motifs, and themes that occur in places other than North America will be mentioned in the entry texts.

          Following these guidelines, I prepared an entry list of some 550 items, about three-quarters of which are simply the titles of individual legends.  The other one-quarter of the entries covers the study of urban legends, themes in urban legends, and about 20 individual countries.  In January 1999, as this abstract was being composed, about one-quarter of the entries had been finished — comprising all entries for the letters A through D.  Another quarter of the project is due by the end of June 1999 (comprising entries through half of the letter L).

All entries will have further references cited, and the Encyclopedia of Urban Legends will have the other usual features of such works:  an introduction, cross references, and a general bibliography.  I am also intending to include information on Internet sources of information on urban legends, and the publisher may decide to issue some form of the work in an electronic format.

This presentation will describe further the planned encyclopedia, including lists of entries for each general category and some sample entries.  Audience discussion, comments, queries, and suggestions will be welcome.  My major concern here is to learn what value members of ISCLR see in such a reference work, and what uses we might put such a book to in our research and teaching.



Gary Butler, Division of Humanities, Vanier College,

York University, Toronto, ON  M3J 1P3 Canada

Toronto Trinidadian Obeah:  Traditional Legend or Contemporary Tradition?

This paper examines the legendary narratives based on the Caribbean tradition of supernatural obeah, a variety of shamanistic witchcraft, in the contemporary Toronto Trinidadian community.  Its aim is to investigate what happens to this belief system as its adherents move from their traditional, primarily rural context to a quite different urban-industrial context in Canada.  To demonstrate the transformation, legendary narrative material collected from several generations of Trinidadian Canadians, some born in Toronto, others born in Trinidad and immigrating to Toronto as adults, is examined.  And, while the content of the various texts is examined for evidence of substantive change, this paper also deals with the attitudes of different generations towards the tradition, their interpretation of its significance, and how these differences are manifested during the course of conversational interaction.  As such, the paper examines the cognitive, affective and expressive dimensions of this narrative complex.



W. J. (Joe) Cherwinski,  Department of History, Memorial University of Newfoundland,  St. John's, Newfoundland, A1C 5S7 Canada

"The Rise and Incomplete Decline of a Contemporary Legend: 

Frozen Englishmen on the Canadian Prairies During the Winter of 1906-07"

This paper emerged out of much larger study of the social effects of the brutal winter of 1906-07 in the region between the Canadian Shield and the Rockies.  While most historians attempt to find the origin and impact of change over relatively long periods, this project concentrates on the twenty-three weeks between the middle of November 1906 and the end of April 1907.  In an effort to gauge the effect of that winter on the average resident, dozens of weekly community newspapers and most of the region's dailies from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta were examined.  By stressing depth rather than breadth, interesting patterns emerged from these sources.  Besides the expected editorial comments and local news reports of dislocation, inconvenience and product shortages, reports of tragic events which took place elsewhere in the region appeared frequently.  Moreover, the stories were often repeated wholesale, or modified in either minor or significant ways, in a number of other similar publications.

This paper concentrates on one of the more sensational stories published that winter.  It involved the Joseph Ratcliffe family, father, mother and three young boys who had arrived from England in the late spring of 1906 to homestead in the southeastern corner of Saskatchewan.  They were typical settlers who remained anonymous until mid-February 1907 when reports began to circulate that Mrs. Ratcliffe and her sons had been found frozen in their sod shack which was devoid of fuel and other provisions.  Meanwhile, the father was found in a similar condition having been caught on a nearby lake with his oxen by a severe blizzard while returning home with a load of coal.  In bringing prominence to this alleged incident, this paper describes the story as it appeared in a number of publications and how it took on a much greater significance than a mere regional rumour.  Not only did it strike at the heart of public policy as it related to Imperial immigration at the time, but by its spread throughout North America, to the British Isles and possibly beyond it, confirmed and helped perpetuate the image of Canada as unsafe for immigrants or investors because of its near-Arctic climate.  As a consequence, a policy of damage control initiated earlier that winter by an apprehensive Canadian Government to stem the flow of erroneous and harmful information was accelerated to discover "the truth" and to ensure that as many as possible would be so informed.

Indirectly the paper also discusses the role of those national ikons, the stolid Royal Northwest Mounted Police stationed in the field, in struggling not only to proffer assistance where necessary but to react rationally to unsupportable rumours in the face of considerable pressure from senior officers and government bureaucrats.  Once the "truth" was known, police information was used to provide legitimacy to the counter campaign.

In short, by providing context to the Ratcliffe story this paper attempts to explain why such an ugly, and potentially harmful rumour, developed.  At the same time it is hoped that authorities on rumour and legend can cast further interpretative light on this intriguing tale once the context is revealed.



Bill Ellis,  Penn State Hazleton,

Highacres, Hazleton, PA 18201‑1291 U.S.A.

"'There was a couple who went to park . . . .'  Intrinsic Genre and 'The Hook'"

In two previous studies of the adolescent horror story, "The Hook in the Door," I challenged the "standard" interpretations of it as expressing female fear of sexuality, and also the methods used to arrive at it.  In a more "scientific" approach, as advocated by Linda Dégh and Heda Jason, one would need to compare a large number of texts to discern a "typical" form and content.  Then interpretation would supposedly be possible, based on the elements preserved in most collected versions.  However, in attempting to do so, I found that even so stable a narrative as this varies so widely that it is impossible to identify or reconstruct a "typical" text.  In addition, such an approach ignores the complexity of individual tellings and hence takes us away from the phenomenon we study and into an artificial artifact generated by our methodology, not tradition.

Henrik Lassen has recently placed this dilemma in the context of modern narrative theory.  He has argued that the apparent "similarity" of narratives in a given "family" is a mental construct and not an empirical reality proving the "sameness" of  "narrative" on some deep mental or epistemological sense.  He uses the concepts fabula and sjuzhet to distinguish "constructs of a story‑type" from "documentable variants of the story" and proposes that a sense of sameness or fabula is valuable only so far as it allows one to observe unique features in a given performance. Text‑based research too often gives more attention to a perceived a priori tradition that the researcher sees as central to folklore.  Lassen's approach suggests ways of moving the process of narration into the centre of critical attention, thereby giving the same credit to performers' innovative skills that "the folk" do in the context of narration.

However, Lassen understates the importance of genre as a mediator between fabula and sjuzhet.  E. D. Hirsch, in the literary The Validity of Interpretation, argues that discourse communities share associated sets of generic expectations for literary works.  The reader, encountering a unique work, begins to read it with these specific expectations in mind; the writer, for his part, provides hints as to the conventions that he/she is following.  Such a process Hirsch says is based on a shared intrinsic genre, or set of conventions governing a specific type of narrative.  Obviously, innovative writers bend these conventions and sometimes surprise readers by misleading them and leading them to unexpected conclusions.  But, Hirsch argues, this concept of genre is a heuristic necessity, allowing readers to interpret a unique and complicated work bit by bit without first having to read the entire work.

Hirsch's insights may be applied to "The Hook," which is seen by many narrators and audiences in terms of intrinsic genre.  Such a mediating concept would resolve the dilemma seen in my two earlier studies, helping us see more clearly the nomos or field of reference that folk narratives inhabit.  Such a concept, moreover, is directly observable in the metacommentary provided by informants and in the ways in which audiences and narrators interact.  Clearly, a good narrator can mislead audiences, and in fact many versions of  "The Hook" rely on playing with intrinsic genre.  Many variants suggest a story that will lead in one direction and then play a kind of a joke on the listener by coming to an unexpected but "grammatical" conclusion.  This paper will look at some of these "playful" versions and show how they paradoxically rely on a shared sense of what a story about "a couple who went to park" should and should not include.



Holly Everett,  Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland,   St. John's, Newfoundland AlB 3X8  Canada.

"Mutation and Marking:  Negotiating Power in Traditional and Contemporary Legendry"

          Narratives featuring the "witch that was hurt" motif are easily found in any number of collections, ranging in geographic focus from Denmark to Mexico.  Neil Philip, for example, notes that it "is probably the most widespread single witch story."

A motif analysis of any number of variants of the legend (designated in the Christiansen migratory legend corpus as ML 3055) will reveal some combination of the following:

G211ff. Witch in animal form

G229.1 Soul of witch leaves body

G275.3.1 Witch burned by burning bewitched animal

G275.12. Injury to animal harms (kills) witch

G275.14. Witch's body injured while witch is away  

          The "witches" usually transform into animals and as such perform mischievous or harmful acts—stealing milk from cows, chewing on and killing young trees or frightening children.  The motif figures not only in the narratives of a wide range of diverse ethnic groups, but appears to have been appropriated into at least a few contemporary legend cycles.  The obvious connection is with the body of narratives known by contemporary legend scholars as "The Robber That Was Hurt," and discussed at some length in 1981 by Jacqueline Simpson in Folklore and again by Jan Harold Brunvand in his 1984 collection of  "urban legends," The Choking Doberman.

In terms of social function, the legends serve as a cautionary statement to any community members attracted to the power or gains of such illegal activity, the fear of exposure a deterrent to the allure of criminal behaviour.  Just as programmes like "Scared Straight" today attempt to dissuade young people from violating the social contract by confronting them with the real consequences of such actions, the "Witch That Was Hurt" legend threatened injury, pain and exposure.  Moreover, such narratives serve as exempla for mechanisms facilitating the integration of marginal characters in a community, the slightly sinister flip side of Simpson's theory of incorporation detailed in "Beyond Etiology:  Interpreting Local Legends."  Rather than a grudging negation, they are a societally useful reinforcement of the individual's marginalisation, as he or she is positively identified as outside the law, punished for the infraction in question in the form of a bullet wound, broken leg, etc., and given an implicit warning to keep the undesirable activities in check. 

The entire process, viewed as a liminal rite, may explain why the offending community members are not fatally wounded, ridding the community of the problem once and for all. The "Witch That Was Hurt" and "The Robber Who Was Hurt" motifs represent a desire to simultaneously condemn  and implicitly acknowledge human avarice and malice.  While certainly not role models, the variously punished antagonists clearly embody the dichotomy of human nature.  The symbolism is then carried to an extreme, all the more powerful as it is played out by liminal characters in liminal space—what Dhuibhne identifies as a "move from normal everyday urbanity into the wild exposed zone where . . . protagonists can meet in a direct collision of sexual and economic interest."  In this paper, I will explore the motifs as dynamic tools for exploring, marking and maintaining power. 



Ní Dhuibhne, Éilís . 1993.  "'The Old Woman as Hare':  Structure and Meaning in an Irish Legend."  Folklore 104.i‑ii:  79.

Van Gennep, Arnold. 1966.  The Rites of Passage.  Trans. Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee. 4th ed.  Chicago:  U Chicago P, pp. 10‑11, 20‑24.

Miller, Elaine K., ed. 1973.  Mexican Folk Narrative from the Los Angeles Area.  Austin:  U Texas P, pp. 160‑63.

Philip, Neil, ed. 1992.  The Penguin Book of English Folktales.  New York:  Penguin Books, p. 303.

Simpson, Jacqueline.  1983.  "Beyond Etiology:  Interpreting Local Legends."  Fabula 24.3‑4:  227.

West, John O.  1988. Mexican‑American Folklore.  Little Rock:  August House.



Larisa Fialkova, Division of Folklore, Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature,  University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel,  and Maria N. Yelenevskaya, Senior Teaching Associate, Department of General Studies, Technicon–Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel.   [Read by Philip Hiscock]

"Ghosts in the Cyber World:  Analysis of Folklore Sites on the Internet"

Topical chatter on the Internet has become a favorite pastime for millions of people worldwide, and folklore lovers are no exception.  The migration of folklore groups to the Internet has already attracted attention of folklorists:  the subject was discussed in the papers by I. Schneider (1996); H. Bar‑Itzhak and L. Fialkova (1996), as well as in public lectures by B. Kirshenblatt‑Gimblet, B. Dannett, etc. This paper attempts to further develop the topic and is devoted to the specifics of the subgenre of contemporary legend — ghost stories.

The emergence of folklore sites on the Internet is not accidental.  Folklore is one of the oldest forms of conservation of cultural tradition and poeticised experience. The Internet is gradually assuming this role too.  It is the synergetic effect of the tradition of spontaneous performance and the openness of the electronic medium to an unlimited number of participants that contributed to the thriving of folklore sites on the Internet.

The study examines two data samples:  the first one was drawn from the Internet in 1993 and partially analyzed by H. Bar‑Itzhak and L. Fialkova in the joint paper "Folklore and Computer" (1996); the second sampling was conducted in 1998‑1999 by the authors of the present paper.  Observations of the two chronologically separate corpora enabled us to obtain an evolutionary view of the folklore sites under study, and analyze the dynamics of folklore group practices (separation of story‑telling from story‑discussing, archive creation, information filtering, introduction  of copyright, etc.)

We outline the demographic profile of the group, and investigate the members' explicit and implicit motives for participation.  Language analysis of computer‑mediated folklore storytelling is focussed on the interaction of features peculiar to written and spoken discourse, on the repertoire of tropes and expressive devices. Besides, we analyze communicative function of Internet‑invented substitutes for extralinguistic means of communication (emoticons, ASCII graphics, unconventional capitalisation and punctuation, etc.), and their impact on the aesthetic value of folklore narratives.

Content analysis of the material reveals thematic stability of the discussion group.  The bulk of stories rotates around a dozen subjects; the most frequent among them are narratives about La Llarona, haunted toys and animal ghosts, hospital and college hauntings, Ouija board, haunted technologies, haunted houses, etc.  Thus we see a correlation between oral and electronic subject matter of the subgenre.

To examine textual characteristics of the narratives, we have selected a sample of stories about haunted houses, which can be regarded as a type‑tale. Analysis of over 100 texts enables us to single out the following features:

1.    Precise time‑space orientation of the texts.

2.   Reference to an oral source or the narrator's personal experience as the starting point of the story.

3.   Establishment of historic background of paranormal events frequently rooted in dramatic changes in the life of the narrator or his family.

4.   Attempts at rational explanation of the events, which would not contradict scientific knowledge.

5.   Detailed description of the paranormal event and superficial portrayal of the people involved.

While most of these features coincide with those of traditional oral folklore, we conclude that the medium of communication has influenced the style and rhetoric of the electronic folklore discourse.  The result is manifold duality which we see in the combination of group and dyadic communication features; in the mixture of literary controlled expression and slang‑rich chatter oblivious of grammar conventions; in the coexistence of authorship claims and the practice of disguising one's identity under thematically‑marked nicknames (e.g. Red Skeleton, Shadow Taster, Moon Jackal).

When comparing ghost stories recorded in 1993 with recent postings, we can see a gradual decline of spontaneity which gives way to the development of literary features in texts and organisational rules in the practices of electronic folklore groups. 



Mark Glazer, College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Texas - Pan American, 1201 West University Drive, Edinburg, Texas  78539-2999 U.S.A.

"Risk, Legend, Belief and Rumour:  A Search for Method"

The stealing of body parts is a contemporary legend which has garnered our attention recently.  It is true that the contemporary legend is a narrative genre which has a very large number of stories depicting both physical and/or psychological violence. These tales of miniature horror have preoccupied our imagination as a cultural reality. The horrors which often dominate these tales draw our attention because any one of us can fall prey to the situations portrayed in them.  However, the most fearful of these stories are narratives and rumours about losing an organ or body part.

An excellent theoretical perspective in approaching these stories comes from the work of Mary Douglas.  In her works Mary Douglas has studied the interrelationship between purity and danger.  In more recent work, she has studied the concept of risk as the transformation of the cultural reality of danger into that of risk in contemporary culture.  Inevitably these concepts seem to be of relevance to the study of contemporary legends as part of the network of social norms which fuel legend creation.  I will argue that the concepts of danger and risk fit the social reality behind legends of stolen body parts.  This paper will discuss stolen body part legends in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  In this area, which is predominantly Mexican American, it is possible to find legends and beliefs associated with stolen body parts stories of many subtypes. The following subtypes are based on a survey designed for this legend and have yielded the following results:

People waking up in bathtub:                        100     29%

Kidnappings with body parts stolen:             98     28.4%

Medical personnel stealing body parts:         50  14.5%

Prisoners' organs being stolen:                     20   5.8%

Children's corneas removed and returned

with a note:                                             12  3.4%

Donors' warning:                                           7     2%

Children placed in dams:                               2     0.5%

Morgues or funeral homes stealing

body parts:                                              15    4.3%

People beaten up or killed, suspected

of kidnapping:                                          8     2.3%

Story told as a warning:                                                22     6.3%

Drug dealers filling bodies with drugs:          10     2.9%

The goal of this paper is to review these legends and the belief structures which constitute the background to these human organ trade narratives in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, using Mary Douglas' theory of risk and culture. 


Preliminary bibliography:

Campion‑Vincent, Veronique.  1998.  "Bizarre Return:  Illegal transplants flourish in smaller cities as many states fail to adopt laws on organ trade."  India Today International, pp. 42‑43.

-----.  1997a.  La Legende des Voles D'Organes.  Paris:  Les Belles Lettres.

-----.  1997b.  "Organ Theft Narratives."  Western Folklore 56(1):1‑37.

-----.  1990.   "The Baby‑Parts Story:  A New Latin American Legend."  Western Folklore 49 (1):9‑25.

-----.  1989.  "Complots  et  avertissements;  Legends  urbaines  dans  la  ville."  Revue Française de Sociologie, 30:91‑105.

-----.  1976.  "Les histories exemplaires." Contrepoint, 22‑23:217‑32.

Douglas, Mary.  1966.  Purity and Danger:  An Analysis of the Conceptions of Pollution and Taboo.  London and New York:  Routledge and Kegan Paul.

-----.  1992.  Risk and Blame:  Essays in Cultural Theory.  London and New York:  Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Harrold, Francis B. and Raymond A. Eve.  1987.  Cult Archaeology and Creationism: Understanding Pseudoscientific Beliefs About the Past.  Iowa City, University of Iowa Press.



Diane E. Goldstein,  Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland,  St. John's, Newfoundland, A1B 3X8 Canada

"'Banishing all the Spindles from the Kingdom':  Reading Needle Prick Narratives as resistance."

Scholars investigating AIDS legends have focussed largely on the deliberate sexual transmission of HIV, characterised in such narratives as "Welcome to the World of AIDS," "CJ AIDS," "The Irish Angel of Death" and similar stories (Brunvand 1989; Fine 1987; Goodwin 1989; Smith 1990; Goldstein 1992, etc.).

In the background, and to my knowledge not as yet explored, is a large number of loosely connected narratives about a nameless, faceless, invisible infector who makes use of syringes, needles, pins and other sharp or hollow instruments to contaminate condoms, food, or individuals with the AIDS virus.  Such stories have existed since the mid-eighties but have recently seen an explosion of popularity, largely in the form of needles which appear in public places pricking the anatomy of an unsuspecting individual who simply wants to dance at a club, use a public telephone or watch a movie in a theatre.

Such stories make use of motifs we have seen in legend before; they warn of public places, demonstrate fears of contamination, and indicate concerns about conspiracies to obliterate individuals or groups.  It is difficult not to recognise that the narratives also reflect much older motifs of poisoned arrows (F831.3), sleep bringing thorns (D1364.2), magic spindles (D1186), murder with pins (S115.3), and others, familiar from folktale tradition.

This paper will explore these narratives as a corpus which could be read as part of a dialogue of resistance.  Placed in a public health context and correlated with commentary on safe sex compliance, the paper will explore the possibility that such narratives reflect resistance to what is seen as the inappropriate extension of biomedicine's reach into the domain of intimate experience.  Viewed as a disguised critique of dominant ideology, these narratives move medical authority and risk from the bedroom (where we do not want them) to the outer world (where we will take our chances).  While the historical idea of resistance conveys images of internal sabotage, needle prick narratives convey an imagined external sabotage which renders personal risk reduction measures insignificant, and therefore unnecessary.  Extending out from needle prick narratives to resistance readings of other contemporary legends may cast a different light on general assumptions about our fears of public vulnerability interpreted in legends of contamination and crime.



Jessica Grant and Jenna Olender, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland, A1B 3X8 Canada.  [Read by Jenna Olender]

"Cloning:  Legend, Science Fiction and Fact"

Since the unravelling of the structure of DNA in 1953, the possibilities for genetic engineering and cloning have entertained the minds of scientists and the general public.  Alongside scientific developments in this field, science fiction media have developed and explored ideas and concerns of their own in regards to cloning, as have the contemporary narratives which have been circulating.  The influence of science fiction and scientific fact upon one another is difficult to determine, but it is evident that this relationship is reflected in contemporary legends regarding scientific discovery.

A good example of this, which has been circulating in the popular media since at least 1984, is the contemporary legend of the successful cloning of a woolly mammoth by Russian scientists.  This legend maintains that Russian scientists discovered ova from a woolly mammoth frozen in the Arctic.  The material was used to create an elephant-mammoth hybrid called a "mammontelephas."  This "information" was picked up newspapers who failed to realise that it originated as a piece of fiction written by Diana ben-Aaron (AFU and Urban Legend Archive, 12 March 1999).  It is interesting that in the same year her article appeared in Technology Review, the news of the isolation of  DNA from a museum specimen of a quagga, a zebra-like animal extinct since 1883, became public (Sight and Sound supplement November 1996). 

This debate heated up again in the early 1990s with the release of the movie Jurassic Park, which widely broadened the audience familiar with Michael Crichton's book of the same title, released in the 1980s.  Coinciding with the release of the film, scientists announced the isolation of DNA from a 135 million-year-old insect (Sight and Sound supplement November 1996).  Like the woolly mammoth legend, popularised once again is the idea of cloning and reintroducing extinct prehistoric species.  Other examples of pieces of science fiction which may have already explored the idea of cloning include Futureshock, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, Judge Dredd, and The X-Files.

As communication media increase the speed at which news is delivered, people everywhere have been made aware of the latest advance in genetic cloning with the creation of Dolly the sheep in Scotland.  Since then, the ethics of this technology have continued to be hotly debated in both academic and popular spheres, and jokes and stories about cloning have once again proliferated.  The fluidity of the relationship which exists between fact and fiction in the contemporary legends is a breeding ground for ideas.



Sylvia Grider,  Department of Anthropology, Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas 77843, U.S.A.

"The Poisoning of Treaty Oak:  The Exploitation and Transformation of Tradition"

The Treaty Oak is a historic tree in the heart of Austin, Texas, so named because, according to oral tradition, the Comanches and the Anglos met under this tree in 1841 to confirm a boundary treaty.  In the late 1920s the  tree — by this time near the centre of town — was in danger of being cut down to make room for more buildings.  The women of Texas undertook a public relations campaign that resulted in the tree being saved.  In 1929, the  tree was added to the American Forestry Association's compilation of famous and historic U. S. trees. Because of its size and configuration, it was frequently cited as the most beautiful oak tree in the United States.  In 1937, the City of Austin purchased the lot where the tree stood.

Throughout the next several decades, the Treaty Oak was simply a beloved landmark, tucked out of harm's way on a quiet residential street near the  banks of the Colorado River.  Then, in 1989, Paul Cullen, a transient and  recovering alcoholic, allegedly fell in love with his psychiatrist and decided to cast a love spell on her.  He checked out a book of spells from  the Austin Public Library and after reading about the veneration of oak trees and their role in the rituals of many ancient societies, he chose the Treaty Oak as the target of his contrived "spell."  He poured undiluted Velpar, a powerful herbicide used to clear brush, in a circle around the  roots of the Treaty Oak, almost killing it.

Financed by unlimited funds provided by Texas millionaire Ross Perot, an international effort was launched to save the tree.  Chemists, forestry specialists, and botanists worked around the clock and ultimately kept alive about one‑third of the once‑magnificent tree.  The public response, however, was equally intense.  People all over the world wrote to various addresses in Austin expressing their sympathy, get‑well wishes, and suggestions, and many made pilgrimages to Austin on behalf of the suffering  tree.  The tree became the focus of so many prayer vigils, (including one group of Buddhist monks) and other less conventional gatherings, that Austin  Parks and Recreation personnel had to rope off the area to control traffic and also to protect the poisoned roots of the tree from additional stress.  Visitors began leaving get‑well‑soon mementos by the thousands, all of  which are archived by the Austin History Center.  These ranged from religious medallions and children's hand‑lettered messages to cans of  chicken soup and even a necklace of healing crystals.  Somebody with a surrealistic turn of mind also left a sequined shoe and a pair of tickets  to the local Paramount Theater.

From the time that Cullen read about oak trees in the "New Age" book of spells he checked out from the library, until the specialists saved part of the tree and removed the protective barricades, the Treaty Oak was the caught up in a complex web of conflicting traditions as well as popular culture‑induced reactions.  From Cullen's exploitation of archaic rituals to the expressions of public concern — from the serious to the  whimsical — widespread public knowledge of various traditions converged and were transformed into an intense symbol of the conflict between the environment and technology and, as one source noted, a symbol of  "strength and permanence in an age of increasing vulnerability and change."

Paul Cullen was tried and convicted of willful destruction of public property and sentenced to nine years in prison. 



Anna Kearney Guigné, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland   A1B 3X8   Canada

"The Giant Squid:  Legend or Reality?  At the Interface Between Folklore and Science"

For years, as far as scientists were concerned, the accounts fishermen told of giant squid were considered nothing more than legend and comparable to other stories of sea monsters such as the sea serpent, the kraken and the colossal octopus.  Were it not for concrete evidence provided by the finding of body parts, and the eventual discovery of several sixty-foot long squid on the shores of Newfoundland in the latter part of the nineteenth century, scientists and others would have continued to consider descriptions of the giant squid as whimsical sea tales.

Today, because of the existence of authenticated examples, the giant squid is generally accepted as real.  Yet, while this sea creature is known to exist, its legendary status continues to grow and expand.  Clusters of stories and imagery largely based in popular science, film, print and by way of the Internet lead one to believe that this creature is actually still somewhat of a legend.  In this presentation I examine documentation and descriptions of the giant squid from the time of Homer up to the twentieth century.  Using the giant squid as a case study, I explore the interface between legend and science.  I look at current  knowledge of this large cephalopod and the approaches to its study.  I consider whether such knowledge, scientific or otherwise, has of its own right taken on legendary proportions.



Alvard Jivanian, English Philology, Yerevan State University, Heratsi 2a, Appt. 13, Yerevan, Armenia 375049

Legends of the Cursed Children

May nothing on which you have set your expectations ever grow,

Nor dew ever fall on your ground.

May now smoke rise from your dwelling.

In the depths of the hardest winter,

May the worm be in your store,

And the moth under the lid of your chests.

If a fey being has power,

Revenge will be taken, though it may be on your descendants.

Folk wisdom ascribes curses to the realm of the evil suggesting at the same time children are more vulnerable to curses than grownups.

A large group of legends present curses as an expression of parents' heedlessness, an unintentional but grave mistake which they later lament very much, the best known example probably being the Queen Mother's curse in Brothers Grimm's "The Raven."

Of interest, Russian fairyland is inhabited by mischievous child fairies known as proklyatie deti (cursed children):  mostly unbaptised children who have been cursed by their parents for mere naughtiness.  As a result, they are possessed by the Devil himself or become invisible.

Early in the spring, a beautiful plant with gold‑headed flowers blooms near sheets of water. The surface of its leaves is cool and flat but they are soft and fluffy underneath.  In England it is known as colt's foot.  Russians, however, call it mat i machekha — "good mother/step‑mother."

Of cruel female relatives in folktales and legends, the stepmother appears most often.  For centuries, stepmothers have been notorious for their dislike and cruelty towards their stepchildren.  Second wives were also ill‑famed for their evil discourse:  evil charms and curses powerful enough to make the stepchild undergo fatal transformations.

And still could it be that the vicious personage of the stepmother is an image partly moulded by tale narrators?  The possible substitution of the good mother by stepmother, for a cruel natural mother was a deviation from the suggested norm, is a question that arose a number of times in works of fairy tale scholars.

Part of the truth could be revealed if looked for in folk narratives different from fairy tales and legends:  charms and incantations, for example, which have been less exposed to alterations and are more emotional and sincere.

More like a player voices an old Russian charm meant to "shew the wrath of the true mother" who when angry would "break the bones" and "drink the blood" of her child.

In a number of legends, curses are put upon children by celestial bodies.  There is a whole series of Armenian legends recounting children being cursed by the Sun, which unlike the Moon — the recognised patron of Armenian nurseries — was often believed to punish children for their impatience.

As with most folklores, Armenian folklore suggests a variety of views on the origin of fairies.  Among the less popular is the suggestion that fairies take their descent from children cursed by God or Jesus, mostly for the disobedience of their parents.

An Armenian saying of the old days dooms the cursing person to suffer from his own verbal cruelty:

‑ Curse, curse, where are you going?

‑ To the lap of the cursing man.

For centuries people here have overcome the fear of curses with the help of the consoling belief that every curse is "two‑mouthed," suggesting the cursing man will be as much harmed by the power of his evil speech as the object of the imprecation.



Julia Kelso,  Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland,   St. John's, Newfoundland   A1B 3X8   Canada

Haunted House Legends in the Popular Media:  How the Horror Genre Applies Legendary Motifs to Modern Story Lines

This paper looks at the connection between legendary haunting/haunted house motifs and the use of such imagery in "modern" horror film and stories.  It looks specifically at awareness of the legends surrounding haunting lore in the creation of this genre.  I use examples from Poltergeist, The Shining, and The Amityville Horror to demonstrate the application of type and motif imagery such as crumbling buildings and angry ghosts acting against the living from the genre of legend to that of popular culture.  I also examine how, in the end, such uses of imagery function to perpetuate traditional ideas outside the traditional context and in a society which is increasingly sceptical of the reality of haunted houses.



Mikel J. Koven,  Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland,  St. John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8 Canada

"Oy, have I got a monster for you!":  Some Thoughts on the Golem, The X-Files, and the Jewish Horror Movie"

Fox TV's hugely successful television show, The X-Files, has long been mining the very fertile grounds of contemporary legendom.  But only once have the show's creators mined the subject of Jewish folklore for its weekly mysteries.  Its one foray into that territory, an episode entitled "Kaddish," used the legend of the Golem as central to its diegesis.

In that episode, FBI Special Agents Mulder and Scully investigate a series of hate crimes for which the evidence points towards a Golem as the prime suspect.

Almost immediately after that episode's premiere, the Internet newsgroup,, was buzzing with discussion about that particular show.  Some loved it and some hated it, but after every episode the same discussions can be found in that group.  What was significant about the discussions surrounding "Kaddish" were the many Jewish members of that particular fan group who pointed out the errors in the show's depiction of the Golem legend.  Those points of  "error" are what interest me here.

By beginning with an examination of the legend itself, isolating the variations and motifs which the oral tradition allows for, and contrasting those with what the "Kaddish" episode depicts, an alternative reading emerges, one which the Jewish fans of the show may have missed.

In particular, the "errors" in the transmission of the legend from the oral to the audio-visual medium of The X-Files, is, I argue, a movement forward in trying to ascertain what in Jewish culture is "horror." The "mistakes" Jewish fans noted are actually significant in pointing out where the category of the "monstrous" exists in Jewish thought.



Anna Milerska and Dionizjusz Czubala, Uniwersytet Slaski, Wydzial Filologiczny,  Instytut Wiedzy o Kulturze, Plac Sejmu Slaskiego 1, 40-032, Katowice, Poland

Myths and Rumours Surrounding the Last (1946) Pogrom of the Jews in Poland  [Read by Chris Ann Stumpf]

In the summer of 1946 in Kielce (a city in central Poland), rumours appeared that the Jews saved from the Holocaust tended to abduct Polish Christian children whose blood they were using for baking the Passover bread.  Then one day an eight-year-old boy decided to visit his relatives who lived in a village, not far from the city, and did so without telling his parents about where he was going.  For a few days, worried parents were looking for their son and the atmosphere in the city became very tense.  Eventually the boy did come back, but — being afraid of his parents' anger — he invented a story according to which the Jews had kidnapped him along with another boy and had been keeping them in the basement.  While he managed to escape, the other one was still imprisoned by the Jews.

He confirmed his story at the police station, where he was taken by his furious father.  A troop of policemen was sent to the house inhabited by the Jews to search for the other boy.  Around the house an angry crowd had already gathered.  The pogrom started and there was no way to stop it.  Neither the police nor the army did anything to prevent the slaughter, the latter even seemed to support the crowd.  Forty-two Jews were killed and many more injured.

The tragedy was described in detail by both Polish and foreign press.  The new communist government, trying to rescue their image from total disgrace, surprisingly quickly organised a trial and nine "culprits" were executed.  These executions were supposed to close the case forever.  A short but fierce propaganda campaign conducted by the official mass-media blamed the pogrom on the nationalistic and rightist circles and on the Church.  Then all the materials concerning the pogrom were made top secret and the censorship did not allow the question to be raised again.

All this built up the atmosphere in which an unofficial, "underground" mythology of the pogrom started to develop.  It was blooming for a while, producing incredible results, and finally seemed to have died out.  It was triumphantly revived after 1990 when "Solidarnosc" took over and censorship was repealed, bringing back the whole riches of motifs and variants.  This time the nationalistic and rightist circles attacked fiercely showing all their confidence in the statements they were spreading that the whole pogrom had been a communist provocation.  They blamed the provocation subsequently on:  the USSR, NKWD, Polish Communist Party (PPR), the police, the army, security services and even the Jews themselves.  Many articles have been published, many books have been written.  Very famous and outstanding scholars, politicians, historians, writers take part in public discussions and disputes, some of which really reach the highest levels of absurdity.

The rightist wing seems to be especially involved in the case, trying to use it in its political fight against the socialist movements.  They are thus looking for the people guilty of the "provocation" and have launched official investigations.  The General Public Prosecutor's Office has been working on the case for several years now, and in 1992 the General Committee for the Investigation of Crime against the Polish Nation joined in.  Both these institutions cannot by far present any evidence supporting the statement that the pogrom was "a result of a realisation of a criminal scenario."  Yet, the investigation continues because the social pressure to find the guilty is too strong to close the case.

As we can see, the painful Polish-Jewish tragedy has been entangled in never-ending accusations based — as we can suppose — only on mythological ways of thinking.  A broad field opens for a folklorist to collect and file all obvious gossip and macro-gossip and to show their sources:  fears, prejudices, hatred, intolerance, political blindness, and other frustrations of this gloomy world that nobody can hide from.



Peter Narváez, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland,  St. John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X8 Canada

Media Legends and Contemporary Legends:  A Taxonomy and Interpretive Frame

Using an adaptation of Marshall McLuhan's conception of "media" (extensions of human perception), and a mode of spatial‑temporal interpretation based on the theories of Harold Adams Innis (McLuhan; Innis 1950, 1951), the first part of this presentation will provide a taxonomy for a cluster of Newfoundland media legends (narratives that recount events in which technological media appear as significant elements of content), as well as discuss the social import of such forms within the Newfoundland context.

The taxonomy will include the following categories:  antagonism and violence toward medium; improper use and maintenance of medium; medium's usefulness limited through erroneous decoding of message; extra‑sensory capability erroneously attributed to medium; private programmability erroneously attributed to public programming medium; bidirectional communicative capability erroneously attributed to unidirectional medium; return or exchange of an alien medium; supernormal powers erroneously attributed to medium and/or medium's creator(s).

In the next part of the presentation, I will outline the usefulness of the media legend concept and its taxonomy for understanding a significant proportion of well‑known contemporary legends concerning "media," such as elevators, telephones, cars, microwave ovens, and the Internet, within the context of global culture.

Lastly, after a brief comparison of the two groups of media legends, those I have reported from Newfoundland and the internationally acknowledged contemporary legend cluster, consideration will be given to why more of the first type have not been reported by contemporary legend specialists.  It will be argued that the trivial, consistently jocular, and seemingly unthreatening characteristics of the first group have prevented students of contemporary legend from perceiving their similitude and genetic relation to the widely acknowledged contemporary forms.



Innis, Harold Adams. 1950.  Empire and Communications.  London:  Oxford UP.

-----. 1951.  The Bias of Communication.  Toronto:  U Toronto P.

McLuhan, Marshall.  1964.  Understanding Media:  The Extensions of Man.  New York:  Signet, New American Library.



Bodil Nildin-Wall,  Folklore Department, Språk-och Folkminnesinstitutet, Box 135, S-751 04, Uppsala, Sweden

Acting Legends and Creating Worlds:  Role-Players, Fantasy and Folklore

When does fiction turn into reality?  When does reality turn into legend?  These questions may seem rhetorical, but when studying role-playing games that are not only played but constructed, imagined and enacted at the same time, they become significant.  This sort of live role-play is in Sweden called just that — a "live," often nowadays with a swedified spelling "lajv."  The terminology clearly shows that we have imported the games from English-speaking countries — primarily from the USA.

In live-plays the outer reality is just as important as an inner reality:  towns and villages are constructed, weapons and armours are forged, clothes sewn, shoes made and special food prepared.  The time is traditionally a mythical Middle Ages period, but might also be a science fiction inspired future, preferably of the Blade Runner type, or lately even our own day.

There is hardly any doubt that fantasy literature and — naturally — above all Tolkien's trilogy have been the primary inspiration for all role-playing games and especially for live-players.  Their worlds are peopled with creatures like wizards, elves, orcs and dwarves.  Live-players, again influenced by contemporary fantasy literature, are today highly affected by Celtish mythology and folklore — nota bene primarily the mythology and folklore that can be found in, for example, Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon or Katharine Kerr's works of the magical country Deverry.

But there are also tendencies to bring "genuine" supranatural beings into the games — wood and water spirits, the little people that live in the earth or under stones etc.  On the other hand — and that is the basis for my initial questions — there is also a strong tendency to regard the beings from within the games as genuine beings that may perhaps still inhabit our woods and mountains. 

From this point of view — turning fiction into reality and reality into legend — the fact that the games might take place in our day becomes very interesting.  The main theme is traditionally nearly always the struggle between Good and Evil.  This struggle is carried on with magical means and with the help of beings that are not human.  In literature it is a foregone conclusion that Good will prevail and there will be peace — at least for a while.  For live-players this happy ending can never be certain; it all depends on how the game develops.  On the other hand, present-day fantasy or horror is often not that predictable and when it comes to stories of the future, the total catastrophe is mostly a fact.  Do these tendencies influence the live-players and how do they cope with bringing the fantastic or legendary elements into their own world and time?



Michael J. Preston,  Department of English, 101 Hellems Campus Box 226, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO  80309,  U.S.A.

Sex in the White House:  The Altoids Product-Legend, The Exploits of JFK, and Clinton Jokes

"Homo Narrans tells many more stories than he realizes," Linda Dégh and Andrew Vázsonyi wrote.  "He also uses many more communicative forms than folklore theory has ever recognized.  The contemporary storyteller, furthermore, is even more talkative than his predecessors and abides less and less by a law that folkloristics has still not clearly invalidated:  folklore must necessarily be told by word of mouth."

This paper will address the issue of sex in the White House, a topic which did not make the popular press generally until late in the twentieth century, even though legitimate children were conceived and bastards were begotten — and recreational sex occurred — in that space.

President Clinton seems atypical in modelling his behaviour on that of the late President Kennedy, and recent accounts of Kennedy's behaviour in the White House include both real and, presumably, apocryphal accounts of sexual activity.  Thus the highly publicised accounts of sexual relations between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky should, at least in part, be seen as "acting out" the "Kennedy script," but one legitimised by both real and apocryphal accounts of the behaviour of other presidents.

Popular joking supports the idea that other presidents have engaged in other than narrowly moral sexual behaviour.  And popular joking about President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky suggests that the greater proportion of the American populace is willing — or eager — to discuss sex beyond the narrow definition of penis‑in‑vagina.

In terms of contemporary legend scholarship, narrowly defined, Monica Lewinsky is documented as having suggested oral sex with President Clinton after having chewed Altoids mints.  Various accounts state that Lewinsky showed Clinton an email message about the efficacy of those mints.  Whether or not Lewinsky and Clinton ever engaged in sexual behaviour based on that email message, they were clearly aware of  "the story" about Altoids.  Indeed, a cannister of Altoids mints may suggest to many the entire story.  Thus Dégh and Vázsonyi are essentially correct.



Paul Smith, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland,  St. John's, Newfoundland, A1B 3X8  Canada

The Dark Side of Contemporary Legends:  Identifying Boundaries and Discussing Anxieties

While much research on contemporary legends has viewed them as titillating, humorous and untrue curiosities, the reality is that many of these narratives have a dark side — as is evidenced in narratives about AIDS (Smith 1990), satanic abuse (Victor 1993), and race-related issues (Turner 1993).

Contemporary legends focus on people, places, and situations with which we identify, and portray situations which are considered important by the narrators and listeners alike.  As such, they often reveal views as to how we perceive others, and/or how we think they perceive us.  Furthermore, their "contemporary" status is derived from the opportunity they provide for the narrator to introduce some statement of belief about a contemporary issue, out of which arises "dialogue" and "debate."  Consequently, while the narration of a contemporary legend can function to pass on "news" to our family, friends and colleagues, at the same time they provide us with a way of articulating and diffusing anxieties which are often submerged and which do not get everyday expression (Hobbs 1987).

The most commonly encountered themes associated with contemporary legends are murder/violence and food contamination.  A proportion of the stories using these themes, however, do so in conjunction with unfortunate perceptions of foreigners and "their" culture. Such contemporary legends, which prey on people's fears even when facts can be shown to disprove the truth of a story, can sow seeds of doubt, distrust, and the like, in people's minds and thereby may function to disseminate new, while reinforcing existing, negative attitudes and perceptions.

Interestingly, classifications listing this type of contemporary legend frequently do not highlight these aspects of the stories.  Jan Brunvand, for example, has the legend of the dog which is cooked and served to its owners in a Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong tucked away under "Legends About Animals:  Dog Disasters" and "Ethnic Restaurant Stories" are filed under "Legends About Animals:  Animal Infestations or Contaminations:  Foreign Matter in Foreign Food" (Brunvand 1993: 325-347).

This presentation explores a number of contemporary legends from Britain and elsewhere which have focused on food contamination issues, medical problems, and the like — in each instance with the blame being placed on "foreigners."


Brunvand, Jan Harold.  1993. The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends.  New York:  W.W. Norton.

Hobbs, Sandy.  1987.  "The Social Psychology of a 'Good' Story."  In Perspectives on Contemporary Legend, Vol. II, edited by Gillian Bennett, Paul Smith, and J.D.A. Widdowson.  Sheffield, England:  Sheffield Academic P, pp. 133-148.

Smith, Paul.  1990.  "'AIDS — Don't Die of Ignorance':  Exploring the Cultural Complex," in Gillian Bennett and Paul Smith (eds.), A Nest of Vipers:  Perspectives on Contemporary Legend Volume V,  Sheffield:  Sheffield Academic P, pp. 113-142.

Turner, Patricia A.  1993.  I Heard It Through the Grapevine:  Rumor in African-American Culture.  Berkeley:  U California P, 1993.

Victor, Jeffrey S.  1993.  Satanic Panic:  The Creation of a Contemporary Legend.  Chicago:  Open Court.



Jeannie B. Thomas, Department of English,

Utah State University, 3200 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-3200, U.S.A.

Narrating Barbie:  Media-Legend Barbie Versus Folk Barbie

In 1959 a new doll appeared on the toy market; she was the brainchild of Mattel Toy Company co‑founder Ruth Handler.  Handler realised that the only adult dolls her daughter had access to were paper dolls.  She wanted to create a doll for young girls that would help them prepare for and deal with the physical changes of puberty.  So, inspired by her daughter's paper dolls and a German sex doll, she created an adult doll for little girls and named the doll "Barbie" after her daughter.

By 1997, Mattel Toy Company had sold over a billion Barbie dolls.  Today, two Barbies are sold every second somewhere in the world.  Barbie even has her own colour:  Barbie pink.  There are many different Barbies now — so many that Barbie is no longer Barbie; she's "Barbie as Rapunzel" or "Barbie as Little Bo Peep" or "George Washington Barbie."  Originally a blonde, blue‑eyed American version of the Aryan ideal, today Barbie is of many nations.  There's Polish Barbie, Arctic Barbie, Mexican Barbie, Thai Barbie, Malaysian Barbie, Czechoslovakian Barbie, Jamaican Barbie, and Ghanian Barbie, to name a few.  Barbie is even born of famous artistic masterpieces; there's a Barbie inspired by one of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings: "Sunflower Barbie."  She wears a yellow chiffon petal skirt and has "delicate leaves of green and green satin tendrils" encircling her waist, according to Mattel's description of her.  Popular culture has led to the creation of some Barbies, too.  There's Star Trek Barbie and Ken, Barbie Loves Elvis, Barbie as Marilyn Monroe with her white halter dress flying up as she stands above the subway grill in The Seven Year Itch, Barbie as Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and an X Files Barbie and Ken.  There is even a Harley Davidson Barbie (hog Barbie?).

But who is Barbie really?  This is the question that this paper explores.  In particular, it looks at Barbie as a "media legend," that is, the mass‑marketed image of Barbie.  What narratives about her does Mattel perpetuate?  How does she compare with other figures — like Marilyn Monroe — whom the media refer to as legendary?  These are some of the questions I address in this paper.  In order to facilitate the discussion of legends and media legends, I also define the phrase "media legend" and compare and contrast it to folklorists' use of the term "legend."  Finally, I consider some narratives from ordinary consumers about their own Barbie dolls.  So in essence I look at how the folk construct Barbie, and I ponder how the folk Barbie compares to the media‑legend Barbie. 



Michaela Todorova,  Graduate School for Social Research, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, 72, Nowy Swiat Str., 00-330 Warszawa, Poland.

Contemporary Legends in Bulgaria

Research on contemporary legend has just started in Bulgaria.  This does not mean that nobody has touched the issue before.  The mythology of nowadays is such an important reality that one can deal with it working on almost every social problem.  Scholars had to take the modern myths into consideration, speaking, for example, about media. Describing its social role, one has to tell how it diffuses contemporary legends.  It is unavoidable also dealing with politics, ethnic conflicts (in Bulgaria especially important were ethnic conflicts between Turks and Bulgarians and between Macedonians and Bulgarians), religious groups, UFOs, etc.  We have dealt with similar issues working on popular jokes and stereotypes.  Nevertheless there have been no systematic researches and no research programme has been created in Bulgaria.

I became interested in contemporary legend after my first contacts with modern western folklore researches (Sheffield School). I conducted some local researches in Bulgaria which showed that there were a great many examples of that kind of production.  They should be obviously carefully documented in both oral and written form.  Now in Bulgaria we usually deal with written examples of contemporary legend.  During communism, urban myths were not so numerous and they were created by centralised newspeak.  Especially widespread was the myth of the "enemy."  The situation changed after political reforms in 1989.  A lot of newspapers appeared in the market, among them newspapers of different political parties and tabloids. They created the space for all kinds of urban myths.

The Bulgarian oral urban legends are similar to English, German and Polish ones and they function likewise.  They are "nowadays" but nobody knows how old they are.  There are no borders for nowadays legends, they are told all over the world, so we can say that they are a civilisation phenomenon.  The globalisation process leads to unification of the elements we deal with in urban legends of different nations and social groups.  On the other hand each nation and group adds to the myth characteristic, motives and elements which are related to national psychology.  For example, the very popular Polish myth about the Virgin who appears on the house windows is almost unknown in Bulgaria.

In my paper I would like to show the mosaic of  motives I have collected for the last three years, mainly in Sofia.  I try to discuss the gathered materials and show the fears of nowadays Bulgarian society and its dreams.  I would try to show what Bulgarians protest against and what they become shocked at.



Wendy Welch, The Old Schoolhouse, New Gilston, Leven, Fife KY8 5TF, Scotland

Urban Legends in the Storytelling Renaissance

How do storytellers who work professionally make use of urban legends?  Does their influence have an impact in how these legends circulate and alter as they flow?  Which laws of narrative are upheld, and which broken, by professional tellers' uses of contemporary legends?  These are the questions explored in this paper.

Specifically, the Dégh concept of a legend conduit could be applied to storytellers who work in paid venues among narrative enthusiasts.  A path of like‑minded individuals sharing enough similarities to make the tale of mutual interest to promote its retelling could be said to be created in these self‑aware environments.

Also, the law of self‑correction would seem not to apply in Public (as opposed to merely public) performances of these legends.  By exploring the creativity and innovations brought to these tales by professional entertainers, we can assess the willingness of the audience to suspend disbelief.  Particularly when a teller uses a well‑known legend, the willingness of his or her listeners to "go along with it" makes an interesting commentary on this community‑based idea of organic narrative.

Finally, the innovative uses of urban legends by storytellers has led to marketing successes with audio presentations such as David Holt and Bill Mooney's tape,Spiders in the Hairdo, published by August House.  What impact do these successes have on the genre, and are they themselves in keeping with the traditional telling of these tales?  Contemporary legend is a genre where time and variance are significantly different in their impact and measurement than in other branches of folkloristic narrative study; how do we apply the standards of  "traditionality" to them in Public storytelling?  What of the self‑conscious/unself‑conscious use discussions of days gone by?  Do these become again relevant in this area?

Through an exploration of the presentations of Public storytellers using urban legends, I hope to present insights into these questions.


Donna Wyckoff, Sedat Simavi Sok,  29/28, Cankaya, 06550 Ankara, Turkey.

A Legendary Vote for National Pride

Mustafa Kemal, the founder of the modern state of Turkey, is better known, both in Turkey and the rest of the world, simply as "Ataturk":  "Father of Turks."  He is both the dominant symbol of Turkey's recent past and an effectual iconic stop‑gap in its quest for ideological renewal, social cohesion, and national identity.  His image is everywhere.  Every public office and schoolroom boasts pictures of this nation's favourite hero, as do many homes.  Enormous banners, each depicting Ataturk in different guise, hang from public buildings all over the capital city of Ankara during any national holiday:  Ataturk the war hero, the scholar, the Western statesman; Ataturk on a horse, at a formal ball, with his sleeves rolled up at a ground breaking.  Ataturk is still a man of — and for — all Turkish people; he lives in their hearts and their minds.

It is not surprising, therefore, that when Time magazine announced in its August 1997 edition that it was beginning a project to identify and honour the 100 people "who have had the most impact on our world and the way we'll live in the future"  (Isaacson), that Turks would immediately think of Ataturk, the man who (the legends seem to suggest) almost singlehandedly transformed Turkey from Ottoman imperialism to Western democracy, from a largely‑rural peasantry to industrialised modernity.  It seems also quite natural that they would want him included in Time's (or anyone else's) list of the "100 most influential people of the 20th century."

This paper will explore the "Vote for Ataturk" phenomenon, a brief but almost frenetic and fanatical behaviour on the part of many Turks.  Animated by rumours and energised by person‑to‑person encouragement, the activity defied all attempts by Time to correct misunderstandings about who would determine the final list.  And while the vote does not seem to have won Ataturk a spot among the 100 (although not all categories have been reported as yet), the act of voting and the fervent sense of the need and rightness of doing so seems to have served an important socio‑cultural purpose of its own.  Ataturk, the legendary hero, for a brief time at least, became the central focus of contemporary legend activity.


                      * * *



The following  list was compiled by Paul Smith, who identified titles from catalogues and flyers, and Bev Gleeson, who typed and organised the list, and wrote the annotations.  Not all bibliographic information was at hand, but Bev tracked down as much as was available. A few other titles were gathered from other sources including books received by FoafTale News.

Both Paul Smith and Bev Gleeson are at Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, Newfoundland, Canada A1B3X8 — Bev in the Folklore & Language Archive and Paul in the Department of Folklore.


Abokor, Axmed Cali.  The Camel in Somali Oral Tradition.  New Brunswick, NJ:  Transaction, 1987.  ISBN 91-7106-269-6.  [Poems, proverbs, metaphors, and tales about camels.]

Adams, Richard C.  Legends of the Delaware Indians and Picture Writing.  NY:  Syracuse U P, 1998[?].  ISBN 0-8156-0487-4.  [An illustrated collection of authentic Delaware legends, originally published in 1905.]

Andrews, Ann and Jean Ritchie.  Abducted — The True Story of Alien Abduction in Rural England.  London: Headline, 1998.  [A small child believed to have been repeatedly abducted by aliens.]

Aquila, Richard, ed.  Wanted Dead or Alive:  The American West in Popular Culture.  Urbana, IL:  U Illinois P, 1998.  ISBN 0-252-06527-1.  [Essays on how the myths and images of the West have penetrated popular culture.]

Barron, Neil, ed.  What Fantastic Fiction Do I Read Next?:  A Reader's Guide to Recent Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction. Detroit, MI:  Gale Research, 1997. ISBN 0-7876-1866-7.  ["Classifies 4800 novels and story collections published between 1989 and 1996."]

Behrand, Jackie.  The Hauntings of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown.  Winston-Salem, NC:  John F. Blair, 1998.  ISBN 0-89587-210-2.  [More than forty tales of hauntings in Virginia.]

Bendix, Regina.  In Search of Authenticity:  The Formation of Folklore Studies.  Madison, WI:  U Wisconsin P,1997.  ISBN 0-299-15540-4.  [Two hundred years of German and American folklore studies.]

Bergmark, Janet.  In The Presence Of Aliens.  St. Paul, Minnesota:  Llewellyn, nd.  [A first-person narrative about dual identity, human and alien, sharing one body.]

Bloom, William PhD.  Working with Angels, Fairies and Nature Spirits.  London:  Piatkus, 1998[?].  ISBN 0-7499-1904-3.  [Wisdom and advice about how to put the reader back in touch with the world of angels and spirits.]

Boatright, Mody C., Wilson M. Hudson, Allen Maxwell, eds.  The Best of Texas Folk and Folklore:  1916 - 1954.  Denton, TX:  U North Texas P, 1998.  ISBN 1-57441-055-5.  [Folklore from four racial groups in Texas.]

Bondeson, Jan, MD.  A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities.  NY:  Cornell U P, 1997.  [Bizarre medical mysteries and mythologies.]

Bord, Janet.  Fairies:  Real Encounters with Little People.  NY:  Carroll & Graf, 1997.  [An examination of fairy lore.]

Brunvand, Jan Harold.  "Introduction."   Skeptical Inquirer (23: 3, May/June 1999), 29.  [Introduces two articles on the topic of contemporary legend;  see entries for Radford and Stine.]

-----.  Too Good to Be True:  The Colossal Book of Urban Legends.   NY: W W Norton, 1999.  [Larger-than-usual, up-to-date collection of texts, sources and citations; 480 pp, no index but with clear table of contents. Includes many texts from the Internet, including a few legend parodies.]

Caduto, Michael J.  Earth Tales from Around the World.  Golden, CO:  Fulcrum, 1997.  ISBN 1-55591-968-5. [Forty-eight tales from forty countries illustrating that we are part of nature.]

Calloway, Burt and Jennifer FitzSimmons.  Triad Hauntings:  Ghost Stories from Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point, and Surrounding Areas.  Winston-Salem, NC:  John F. Blair, 1998.  ISBN 1-878177-00-1.

Campion-Vincent, Véronique.  "Dossier: Une légende scientifique: l'œil révélateur."  La Mandragore, no.  2 (1998): 7-26.  [Nineteenth century belief that the eye of a murdered corpse could reveal, photographically, a picture of the murderer.]

Canepa, Nancy L., ed.  Out Of The Woods:  The Origins of the Literary Fairy Tale in Italy and France. Detroit, MI:  Wayne State UP, 1997.  ISBN 0-8143-2688-9.  [Eleven essays cover over three hundred years of the literary fairy tale.]

Caudill, Edward.  Darwinian Myths:  The Legends and Misuses of a Theory.  Knoxville, TN: U Tennessee P, 1997.  ISBN 0-87049-984-X.  [The effect of Darwin's theory on modern culture, focusing on the impact of social Darwinism.]

Castleden, Rodney.  Atlantis Destroyed.  NY:  Routledge, 1998[?].  ISBN 0-415-16539-3.  [Examines how Plato's account of Atlantis could be considered true.]

Clute, John and John Grant, eds.  The Encyclopedia of Fantasy.  NY:  St. Martin's, 1997.  ISBN 0-312-15897-1.  [Thousands of entries on authors and films, with theme and motif indexes, cross-references and bibliographies.]

Coan, Peter Morton.  Ellis Island:  Interviews — In Their Own Words.  NY:  Facts-On-File, 1997.  ISBN 0-8160-3414-1.  [Interviews with immigrants to America who landed at Ellis Island, as well as with officials who worked there.]

Colum, Padraic.  The King of Ireland's Son.  NY:  Dover Publications, 1997.  [First printed in 1916]  ISBN 0-7864-0251-2.  [A "folk novel" in which the King of Ireland's son must rescue the daughter of a sinister enchanter.]

Corso, Col. Philip J.(Ret.) and William J. Birnes.  The Day After Roswell.  NY:  Pocket Books/ Simon and Schuster, 1997.  ISBN 0-671-00461-1.  [A former Pentagon official claims that much modern technology has been reverse-engineered from alien technology.]

Dash, J. Michael.  Haiti and the United States:  National Stereotypes and the Literary Imagination.  2nd ed. NY:  St. Martin's, 1997.  ISBN 0-312-16490-4.  [Traces the history of the West's mythification of Haiti from the 19th Century to the present and how this has been used for ostracism and domination.]

Dean, Jodi.  Aliens in America.  NY:  Cornell U P, 1998.  ISBN 0-8014-8468-5.  [The place of aliens in popular culture.]

Decker, Ronald, Thierry Depaulis, and Michael Dummett.  A Wicked Pack of Cards:  The Origins of the Occult Tarot.  NY:  St. Martin's, 1997.  ISBN 0-312-16294-4.  [The origins of Tarot cards from their invention in the 15th century to their recent occult associations.]

Dekkers, Midas.  Dearest Pet:  On Beastiality.  London:  Verso, 1994.  [Examines beastiality and its influence on literature, art, poetry, and film throughout history and across cultures.]

DeRivera, Joseph and Theodore R. Sarbin, eds.  Believed-In Imaginings:  The Narrative Construction of Reality.  Washington, DC:  American Psychological Association, 1998.  ISBN 1-55798-521-9.  [Essays exploring why people may believe they have experienced UFO sightings, satanic ritual abuse, etc.]

DeWolf, Jan J. ed.  Bukusu Tales.  New Brunswick, NJ:  Transaction Publishers, 1995.  ISBN 3-8258-2399-7.  [Thirty- one Bukusu tales collected by the research assistants of Gunter Wagner, the first anthropologist to do an extensive study of this Bantu-speaking people.]

Dick, Stephen J.  The Biological Universe:  The Twentieth-Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate and the Limits of Science.  Cambridge, MA:  Cambridge U P, 1996.  ["A detailed examination of the changing status of the idea of extraterrestrial life."]

Ducios, Denis.  The Werewolf Complex:  America's Fascination with Violence.  Oxford, NY:  Berg Publishers, 1997.  ISBN 1-85973-151-1.

Dumerchat, Frédéric. "Légendes contemporaines: L'homme qui a écouté les hommes qui auaient vu les avions qui dissipent les les nuées."  La Mandragore, no. 1 (1997): 79-84.  [French and Spanish rumours of secret weather manipulations.]

-----. "Légendes contemporaines:  Entretien avec Pierre Lagrange." La Mandragore, no.  3 (1998): 68-77.  [Interview with a sociologist and historian of science who has turned his attention to UFO beliefs.]

----- and Philippe Véniel.  "Légendes contemporaines:  Vois-tu ce que je vois?  Le puma de la forêt de Chizé."   La Mandragore, no.  2 (1998)83-94.  [Central France has its own Bodmin-Moor-like legends of a puma in the woods.]

Dundes, Alan, ed.  The Walled-Up Wife:  A Casebook.  Madison, Wisconsin:  U Wisconsin P, 1996.  ISBN 0-299-15071-4. [Legends, ballads, and actual practice of walling women into houses during construction so that the foundation will be strong.]

El-Shamy, Hasan.  Brother and Sister:  Type 872.  Bloomington, IN:  Trickster Press, nd. [First published 1979]  [Explores the variants of this tale-type and provides insight into brother-sister relationships in Middle-Eastern cultures.]

Engelmann, Larry.  Tears Before The Rain:  An Oral History of the Fall of South Vietnam.  NY:  Da Capo, 1997.  ISBN 0-306-80789-0.  [American and Vietnamese soldiers and civilians tell of the events of Spring 1975 and the aftermath of those events.]

Fanthorpe, Lionel and Patricia.  The World's Greatest Unsolved Mysteries.  Toronto:  Hounslow, 1997.  [Classic unsolved mysteries, from the moving coffins of the Barbados to the devil's footprints.]

Filmer-Davies, Kath.  Fantasy Fiction and Welsh Myth:  Tales of Belonging.  NY:  St. Martin's, 1996.  [Draws on the ancient myths of Wales to offer insight into western society and culture.]

Finucane, Ronald C.  Miracles and Pilgrims:  Popular Beliefs in Medieval England.  NY:  St. Martin's, 1995.  ISBN 0-312-12528-3.  [Medieval miracle stories.]

Folk Rhymes from Around the World: Teacher's Guide.  BC:  Pacific Education, 1997.  ISBN 0-88865-083-3.  [A teacher's guide to developing a unit on folk rhymes for Grades 2-3.]

Folklore:  An Encyclopedia Of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music And Art.  Santa Barbara, CA:  ABC-CLIO, 1997. ISBN 0-87436-986-X.  [Over two hundred essays on North American and European folklore.]

Frazier, Kendrick, ed.  Encounters with the Paranormal:  Science, Knowledge, and Belief.  NY:  Prometheus Books, 1998.  ISBN 1-57392-203-X.  [Forty-five authors explore issues of science, knowledge and belief, such as conspiracy theories and near-death experiences.]

-----, Barry Karr, and Joe Nickell, eds.  The UFO Invasion:  The Roswell Incident, Alien Abductions, and Government Coverups.  NY:  Prometheus Books, 1997.  ISBN 1-57392-131-9.  [A collection of skeptical writings on UFOs.]

Gilbert, James.  Redeeming Culture:  American Religion in an Age of Science.  Chicago, IL:  U Chicago P, 1997.  ["Traces the relationship between religion and science in the period from 1945 to circa 1965."]

Gordon, Jan B.  Gossip and Subversion in the Nineteenth-Century Novel:  Echo's Economies.  NY:  St. Martin's, 1996.  [Suggests that gossip be given proper credit in the development of the novel in Britain.]

Haining, Peter.  The Flesh Eaters:  True Stories of Cannibals and Blood Drinkers.  London:  Boxtree, 1994. ISBN 1-85233-371-8.  [Sensationalist account of true cases of cannibalism in the Western world.]

Hanghe, Ahmed Artan.  Folktales From Somalia.  New Brunswick, NJ:  Transaction, 1988.  ISBN 91-7106-377-3.  [A collection of stories from the oral tradition of Somalia.]

Hausman, Gerald and Loretta.  The Mythology Of Dogs:  Canine Legend and Lore Through the Ages.  NY:  St. Martin's, 1997.  ISBN 0-312-18139-6.  [An encyclopedia of dogs, featuring a collection of dog stories from around the world.]

Hayes, Kevin J.  Folklore and Book Culture.   Knoxvillle, TN:  U Tennesseee P, 1997.  ISBN 0-87049-978-5. [Explores the intersection of orally transmitted stories and tradition with the transmission of written texts.]

Hesseman, Michael and Phillip Mantle.  Beyond Roswell:  The Alien Autopsy Film, Area 51 and the US Government Cover-up of UFOs.  London:  Michael O'Mara, 1997.

Hill, Frances.  A Delusion of Satan:  The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials.  NY:  Da Capo, 1997. ISBN 0-306-80797-1.

Hoggart, Simon and Mike Hutchison.  Bizarre Belief.  NY:  Prometheus Books, 1997 [orig. 1995]. ISBN 1-57392-156-4.  [An investigative inquiry into beliefs like UFO sightings, the writings of Nostradamus, and the Bermuda Triangle.]

Holt, David and Bill Mooney.  Spiders in the Hairdo: Modern Urban Legends.  Little Rock, AK: August House, 1999.  Available as a book: ISBN 0-87483-525-9; and (originally from High Windy Audio, 1995) as an audiocassette, ISBN 0-87483-573-9.  [Popular radio host retells popular legends.]

Hough, Peter.  Supernatural Britain — A Guide To Britain's Most Haunted Places.  London:  Piatkus, 1995.  [A guidebook to paranormal activity in Britain.]

----- and Moyshe Kalman.  The Truth About Alien Abductions.  NY:  Sterling, 1997.  [A collection of accounts of alien abductions and strange occurrences.]

Howells, Richard.  The Myth of the Titanic.  NY:  St. Martin's, 1999.  [The Titanic as a modern myth.]

Huntsinger, Elizabeth.  Ghosts of Georgetown.  Winston-Salem, NC:  John F. Blair, 1998.  ISBN 0-89587-122-X. [Ghost stories from Georgetown, South Carolina.]

Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson.  More Ghosts of Georgetown.  Winston-Salem, NC:  John F. Blair, 1998.  ISBN 0-89587-209-9.  [Twenty more ghost stories from Georgetown, South Carolina.]

Jacobs, David M.  The Threat.  NY:  Simon and Schuster, 1998.  ["Sexually rapacious" aliens walking among us, seeking to infiltrate us.]

Jarman, A.O.H. and Gwilyn Rees Hughes, eds.  A Guide to Welsh Literature:  Vols 1-6.  Cardiff, Wales:  U Wales P, 1992.  [History of Welsh literature in paperback edition.]

Klass, Phillip J.  The Real Roswell Crashed-Saucer Coverup.  NY:  Prometheus Books, 1997.  ISBN 1-53792-164-5.  [Documents the cover-up surrounding the events at Roswell and shows that the coverup was by the media and not the government.]

Kootenai Culture Committee, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, comp.   Ktunaxa Legends.  Seattle, WA:  U Washington P, 1998[?].  ISBN 0-295-97660-8.  [Legends told by the Ktunaxa or Kootenai people living near the Rocky Mountains.]

LaFontaine, Jean.  Speak of the Devil:  Tales of Satanic Abuse in Contemporary England.  Cambridge, MA:  Cambridge U P, 1998.  [A detailed study of the satanic abuse scare.]

Loya, Olga.  Momentos Magicos/Magic Moments.  Little Rock, AK:  August House, 1998.  ISBN 0-87483-497-X.  [A bilingual — Spanish/English — collection of fifteen tales from Latin American oral tradition.]

Mackenzie, Donald A. (retold by).  Scottish Wonder Tales From Myth And Legend.  NY:  Dover, 1997.  [1917] ISBN 0-486-29677-6.  [Sixteen chapters recounting tales from the Celtic oral tradition.]

Manring, M.M.  Slave in a Box:  The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima.  Charlottesville, VA:  U P Virginia, 1998.  ISBN 0-8139-1782-4.  [Examines how the racist image of Aunt Jemima has endured in American culture.]

Marrs, Jim.  Alien Agenda:  The Untold Stories of the Extraterrestrials Among Us.  London:  Harper Collins, 1997.  [Everything from ancient astronauts to Roswell.]

Martens, Katherine and Heidi Harms, eds.  In Her Own Voice:  Childbirth Stories from Mennonite Women. Winnepeg, MA:  University of Manitoba Press, 1997.  ISBN 0-88755-642-6.  [The personal experience stories of twenty-six women in rural and urban settings.]

Metternich, Hilary Roe (retold by).  Tales from Mongolia.  Seattle, WA:  U Washington P, 1997.  ISBN 0-937321-06-0.  [Twenty-five myths and legends from Mongolia.]

Morgan, Fred T.  Ghost Tales of the Uwharries.  Winston-Salem, NC:  John F. Blair, 1998.  ISBN 0-89587-083-5.

Moss, Basil.  Tales of the Wichitas.  Lubbock, TX:  Texas Tech. U P, 1997.  ISBN 0-89672-390-9.  [Seven tales from the viewpoint of an Anglo boy in the 1930s living on land leased from the Native Americans.]

McNamee, Gregory and Luis Alberto Urrea, eds.  A World of Turtles:  A Literary Celebration.  Boulder, CO:  Johnson, 1997.  ISBN 1-53566-190-4.  [Forty short literary mentions of turtles spanning many cultures.]

Neaman, Evelyn.  Folk Rhymes from Around the World.  BC:  Pacific Education, 1997. [A collection of folk rhymes from over twenty cultures.]

Patai, Raphael.  Arab Folktales from Israel and Palestine.  Detroit, MI: Wayne State U P, 1998.  ISBN 327109.  [Twenty-eight Arab folktales placed in a global context.]

Peck, Catherine, ed.  Intro. Charles Johnson.   A Treasury of North American Folk Tales.  New York: W. W. Norton, 1998.  ISBN 0-393-04741-5.  380 pp.   [Collection of texts from published sources, some adapted for this presentation; mostly tale but enough legend to be of interest:  eg., La Llorona, Johnny Appleseed, and vanishing hitchhiker.]

Pepper, Choral.  Western Treasure Tales.  Niwot, CO:  U P of Colorado, 1998[?].  ISBN 0-87081-489-3.  [A look at the treasure legends of Western America.]

Pinckney, Roger.  Blue Roots:  African-American Folk Magic of the Gullah People.  St. Paul, MN:  Llewellyn, 1998.  ISBN 1-56718-524-X. 

Plasketes, George.  Images of Elvis Presley In American Culture, 1977-1997.  NY:  Haworth, 1997.  ISBN 1-56024-910-2.  [Examines the impact of Elvis mania on popular culture.]

Price, Charles Edwin.  Haints, Witches, and Boogers:  Tales from Upper East Tennessee.  Winston-Salem, NC:  John F. Blair, 1998.  ISBN 0-89587-093-2

The Queen Charlotte Islands Readers.  (series of nine books) BC:  Pacific Educational, 1997.  [The culture of the Haida people, including legends;  for Grades 6-9.]

Radford, Benjamin. "Bitter Harvest: The Organ-Snatching Urban Legends."  Skeptical Inquirer (23: 3, May/June 1999), 34-39, 48.  [Part of a pair of articles (see also Stine) introduced by Jan Brunvand.]

Randle, Kevin D.  The Randle Report:  UFOs in the 90s.  NY:  M Evans, 1997.  [Essays on a wide variety of UFO-related topics.]

Randles, Jenny.  Alien Contact:  The First Fifty Years.  NY:  Sterling, 1997.  [Including Roswell and the moon landing, the author discusses some of the more controversial aspects of this subject.]

-----.  Investigating the Truth Behind MIB:  The Men in Black Phenomenon.  London:  Piatkus, 1997. [Produces some theories for the MIB phenomenon and tries to make sense out of the often bizarre reports.

-----.  The Paranormal Source Book.  London:  Piatkus, 1998[?].  ISBN 0-7479-1884-5.  ["Combines established paranormal phenomenon and cases with up-to-date news."]

-----.   The Truth Behind the Men in Black.  NY:  St. Martin's, 1997.  [ A collection of well-known and previously unknown stories of MIB encounters, along with possible explanations.]

Reed-Danahay, Deborah, ed.  Auto/ethnography:  Rewriting the Self and the Social.  Oxford, NY:  Berg, 1997. ISBN 1-85973-970-9.  [The place of personal narrative and self-inclusion in writing about others.]

Roberts, Nancy.  Georgia Ghosts.  Winston-Salem, NC:  John F. Blair, 1998.  ISBN 0-89587-172-6.

Romines, Ann.  Constructing the Little House:  Gender, Culture and Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Amherst, MA:  U Massachusetts P, 1997.  ISBN 1-55849-121-X.  [Combines personal observation with scholarly analysis to examine the "Little House" series in the context of 19th century feminine popular culture and literature.]

Rose, Carol.  Spirits, Faeries, Leprechauns and Goblins:  An Encyclopedia.  NY: W.W. Norton, 1998.  ISBN 0393317927

Rovere, Vicki.  Where To Go:  A Guide to Manhattan's Toilets.  NY:  Vicki Rovere, 1991.  ISBN 0-9633586-0-X. [Includes legend of inadvertent visitor to funeral getting inheritance.]

Ryden, Kent C.  Mapping The Invisible Landscape:  Folklore, Writing and the Sense of Place.  Iowa City, IA:  U of Iowa P, 1993.  ISBN 0-87745-406-X.  [Discusses the connection between story and place.]

Saler, Benson, Charles A. Zeigler, and Charles B. Moore.  UFO Crash at Roswell:  The Genesis of a Modern American Myth.  Washington, DC:  Smithsonian Institution P, 1997.  ISBN 1-56098-751-0.  [Scholarly writings treating the events at Roswell as a modern myth.]

Schott, Rudiger.  Bulsa Sunsuelima:  Folktales of the Bulsa in Northern Ghana.  New Brunswick, NJ:  Transaction, 1996.  ISBN 3-8258-2699-3.  [Second in a series, contains 34 tales of the Sky-God Naawen.]

Scott, Bill.  Pelicans, Chihuahuas and Other Urban Legends: Talking About Folklore. St. Lucia, QL:  Queensland U P, 1996,  xxvi + 226 pp.  ISBN 0-7022-2774-9.   [A collection of about fifty columns, essays and speeches (originally published in, among others,  Queensland Folk and Australian Folklore) about several genres of folklore, mainly contemporary legend.  The title refers to the widespread Australian legend of small, noisy dogs annoying much larger pelicans that eventually steal the dogs from their owners (cf. stories of raptors and infants or other pets in FTN 37 ff).]

Shawcross, Tim.  The Roswell File.  London: Bloomsbury, 1997.  [The book to go with the TV documentary shown on Britain's Channel 4.]

Shrestha, Kavita Ram & Sarah Lamstein.  From The Mango Tree and Other Folktales from Nepal.  Englewood, CO:  Libraries Unlimited, 1997.  ISBN 1-56308-378-7.  [A map and an introduction to the history of Nepal is given with these tales.]

Sikunder, Sylvia and Diane Williams.  Windows on the World:  Plays and Activities Adapted from Folk Tales from Different Lands.  BC:  Pacific Educational, 1997.  ISBN 0-88865-089-2.  [Adaptations of folk tales from five countries, with masks and other costume elements.]

Sorg, Eric V.  Buffalo Bill:  Myth and Reality.  Santa Fe, NM:  Ancient City, 1998[?].  ISBN 1-58096-002-2.  [Separates fact from fiction in the life of Buffalo Bill Cody.]

Spanos, Nicholas P.  Multiple Identities and False Memories:  A Sociocognitive Perspective.  Washington, DC:  American Psychological Asssociation, 1996.  [Extends the belief that hypnosis is an intense sort of role-playing to study multiple personality disorder.]

Spencer, John and Anne Spencer.  Fifty Years of UFOs:  From Distant Sightings to Close Encounters.  London:  Boxtree, 1997. [An examination of changes in ufology over the past fifty years.]

Stevenson, Ian.  Where Biology and Reincarnation Intersect.  Westport, CT:  Praeger, 1997. [A summary of the author's "study of cases where birthmarks or congenital deformities on a child appear to coincide with wounds on the body of the alleged previous personality."]

Stine, Scott Aaron.  "The Snuff Film:  The Making of an Urban Legend."   Skeptical Inquirer (23: 3, May/June 1999), 29-33.   [Part of a pair of articles (see also Radford) introduced by Jan Harold Brunvand.]

Stork, David G. ed.  HAL's Legacy:  2001's Computer as Dream and Reality.  Cambridge, MA:  MIT, 1997. [A collection of essays about technology and humanity, and what separates them.]

Suwyn, Barbara J. (retold by).  The Magic Egg and other Tales from the Ukraine.  Englewood, CO:  Libraries Unlimited, 1997. ISBN 1-56309-425-2. [Traditional folktales from Ukraine.]

Tatum, Stephen.  Inventing Billy the Kid:  Visions of the Outlaw in America, 1881-1981.  Tucson, AR:  U Arizona P, 1998[?]  ISBN 0-8165-1719-3. [A study of the history and the legend of the short life of Billy the Kid.]

Taylor, L. B., Jr.  Civil War Ghosts of Virginia.  Williamsburg, VA: no pub.

-----.  The Ghosts of Williamsburg.  Williamsburg, VA, no pub.

-----.  The Ghosts of Richmond.  Williamsburg, VA, no pub.

-----.  The Ghosts of Tidewater.  Williamsburg, VA, no pub.

-----.  The Ghosts of Fredericksburg.  Williamsburg, VA, no pub.

-----.  The Ghosts of Charlottesville & Lynchburg.  Williamsburg, VA., no pub.

Thompson, Kenneth.  Moral Panics.  NY:  Routledge, 1998[?].  ISBN 0-415-11976-6.  [Examines the significance of moral panics caused by the AIDS crisis, violence and sex, etc.]

Thompson, Sue Ellen, ed.  Holiday Symbols, 1998:  A Guide to....  Detroit, MI:  Omnigraphics, Inc., 1997. ISBN 0-7808-0072-9.  [An encyclopedic handbook identifying more than 750 symbols from 174 international holidays.]

Tunneshende, Merilyn.  Medicine Dream:  A Woman's Encounter with the Healing Realms of Don Juan.  London:  Thorsons, 1997. [Details the author's struggles with personal tragedies as she studied Mayan culture.]

Van Dyk, Gregory.  The Alien Files:  The Secrets of Extraterrestrial Encounters and Abductions.  Rockport, MA:  Element Books, 1997.  [An introduction to the UFO phenomenon, with an overview of abduction cases.]

Vankin, Jonathan and John Whalen.  Greatest Conspiracies Of All Time.  NY:  Citadel Press, 1995. [Summarizes conspiracies of the last fifty years, with a focus on the United States.]

Wells, Marguerite.  Japanese Humor.  NY:  St. Martin's Press, 1997. ISBN 0-312-15978-1. [How and why societies make rules about the use of humour, and how those rules affect communication.]

White, Richard, ed.  King Arthur in Legend and History.  NY:  Routledge, 1998[?].  ISBN 0-415-92063-9.  [Traces the development of the Arthurian legend over five hundred years.]

Wilbur, C. Keith.  Revolutionary Medicine:  1700-1800.  2nd edition.  Chester, CT:  Globe Pepout, 1997. ISBN 0-7627-0138-0. [An overview of medical science in the 18th century.]

Whedbee, Judge Charles Harry.  Legends of the Outer Banks.  Winston-Salem, NC:  John F. Blair, 1998. ISBN 0-910244-41-3.

Wojcik, Daniel.  The End Of The World As We Know It:  Faith, Fatalism, and Apocalypse in America.  NY:  New York U P, 1997.  ISBN 0-8147-9283-9.  [Explores the origins of modern day fatalistic beliefs.]

Young, Richard and Judy Young.  The Scary Story Reader.  Little Rock, AK:  August House, nd.  ISBN 0-87483-271-3.  [A collection of scary stories written for young readers.]

----- and -----.  Favorite Scary Stories of American Children.  Little Rock, AK:  August House, nd. ISBN 0-87483-395-7. [More spooky stories suitable for child audiences.]

Zeitlin, Steve, comp. & ed.  Because God Loves Stories:  An Anthology of Jewish Storytelling.  NY:  Simon and Schuster, 1997.  ISBN 0-684-81175-8. [A collection of tales, wit, wisdom, musings, personal recollections, etc.]

Zipes, Jack, ed. & transl.  Fairy Tales And Fables From Weimar Days.  Madison, WI:  U of Wisconsin P, 1997. ISBN 0-299-15144-X. [A collection of 27 tales from the Weimar Republic, a time in German history when many fairy tales were changed into contemporary fantasies.]




The journal  La Mandragore: revue des littératures orales (ISSN 2-910432-18-1) has been published in French biennially since 1997.   In the three issues at hand are several articles on contemporary legend:  see items by Dumerchat and Campion-Vincent, above.  Other smaller but relevant articles are not listed above.

It is published by the Centre d'Etudes, Recherche, Documentation sur l'Oralité of the Maison des Cultures de Pays de Parthenay.  Its mailing address is La Mandragore,  CERDO-Métive, BP 03, F-79201, Pathenay Cedex, FRANCE.   Individiual issues are available at FF155 each;  a current subscription costs FF240 plus FF40 for postage outside France.  Cheques should be made out to Métive;  postal money orders and Eurocheques are welcome.





This issue has been aided and abetted by John Bodner, Brian Chapman, Eileen Collins, Erin Columbus, Bev Gleeson, Paul Smith, and Janet White.  Thanks to them and to everyone else who has contributed material.




                                  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 Mark Glazer, Arts & Sciences, University of Texas - Pan-American, Edinburg TX 78539-2999, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.  Members also receive Contemporary Legend, a refereed academic journal.  Most back issues of FTN are available from the Editor at a charge of US$3 each.  FoafTale News is indexed in the MLA Bibliography.

This newsletter is called FoafTale News for the jocular term current among legend scholars for over twenty years.  The term "foaf" was introduced by Rodney Dale (in his 1978 book, The Tumour in the Whale) for an oft-attributed but anonymous source of contemporary legends: a "friend of a friend."  Dale pointed out that contemporary legends always seemed 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.  "Foaf" became a popular term at the Sheffield legend conferences in the 1980s.   It was only a short step to the pun "foaftale," a step taken by a yet-anonymous wag.  See the discussion on the name on page 2 of this issue.

FoafTale News welcomes contributions, including those documenting legends' travels on electronic media and in the press.  Copyright to all research notes and articles belongs  to the individual authors.  For permission to reprint, contact them at the addresses given in the headnote of the article.  Send queries, notices, and research reports to a maximum of 3000 words to the Editor;  clippings, offprints, and citations are also encouraged.  See the style guide on page 2 of this issue.

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