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1 Created by J. Davis, ACHS (Slides 10 – 22 by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen)

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Presentation on theme: "1 Created by J. Davis, ACHS (Slides 10 – 22 by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen)"— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Created by J. Davis, ACHS (Slides 10 – 22 by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen)

2 Urban Legend  Modern folklore usually believed by their teller’s to be true.  One of my friends had a friend who…  My brother knows this guy who…  I know this guy in school who had this…  “FOAF” – Friend of a friend…  Such personalization serves to authenticate its origins and empower the message

3 Becoming a Legend  Generally, an urban legend “sticks” if it carries some sort of significance, message, or warning (called a moral in traditional folklore)  Also known as contemporary legend – not necessarily all about urban areas

4 How an Urban Legend Spreads  Word of mouth  Newspaper  (Chain letters)  Popular culture – movies, books, comics  Many urban legends adapt to their region and time  Spider in the beehive hairdo  spider in an emo cut

5 “Urban Legend”  First used in 1968, becoming popular in 1981  Many have complete plots, characters, and settings (which vary based on the region or context in which it appears)

6 Typical Traits  Often serves as some sort of cautionary tale or warning  Mystery  Horror  Fear  Humor

7 Typical Urban Legend Scenario  Horrific Crime – the escaped killer, the hook, the flashing headlights, the gang initiation  Contamination – food, clothing, etc.  Negative consequences for careless choices which could hit many people  Dire consequences for those not passing the information or taking it seriously

8 Truth or Legend? Some clues…  A lack of…  Specificity…  Names  Dates  Locations  Persistent urban legends have some degree of plausibility…  The killer in the backseat  The endangered babysitter alone in the house

9 Urban Legends as a Tool?  Urban legends may indicate a society’s collective concerns and fears regarding crime, health, childcare, the working parents, the unknown, and other pressing concerns

10 10 Urban Legends, like Hip Hop and Rap Exhibit many features of Literature: They are dramatic, and play on such emotions as fear or embarrassment. They are filled with such rhetorical devices as Hyperbole (overstatement), Antithesis, Symbolism, Irony, and especially Poetic Justice. They appear credible, because they are grounded in reality, and because they explain mysterious phenomena. They are also based on stereotypes and archetypes we see around us every day. They get our attention, because they are gross and sexual and scatalogogical and Titillating. And they are documented, because they always happened to a Friend of a Friend. They are therefore called FOAF tales.

11 YOU PROVIDE THE ENDINGS  A man goes to a hotel with a beautiful, sexy woman he met at a party. They share a passionate night, after which he falls asleep. When he wakes in the morning, the woman is gone, but written in lipstick on the mirror is this message:  “Welcome to the world of AIDS.” 10 11

12  The driver of a cement truck goes past his house at lunch time and sees a brand new car in the driveway. He is suspicious that his wife has a male visitor, so he sneaks up to the house and hears a man’s voice. In anger, he…  backs his truck up to the new car and dumps in his lad of cement.  Later he learns that his wife has just purchased the new car for his birthday.  (Nilsen & Nilsen 302) 10 12

13  On a cold and rainy night, a man sees a young woman standing at a bus stop with no coat and no umbrella. He stops and offers her a ride home, which she gratefully accepts.  Because the two are so compatible and she lives right on his way, he aranges to pick her up on a regular basis. But after a few evenings she isn’t there. He goes to the house where he has been dropping her off and learns that…  20 years ago she had been killed by a speeding car at that very bus stop.  (Nilsen & Nilsen 303) 10 13

14  A vacationing husband takes off all his clothes and is relaxing in the back of the camper while his wife takes a turn driving.  When she stops suddenly, he jumps out to see what the trouble is. It is just a dog crossing the road, so the wife…  speeds off not realizing that she has left her naked husband behind.  (Nilsen & Nilsen 303) 10 14

15 10 15 Tell us each of these urban legends: The Alligators in the Sewers The Baby on the Roof The Fifty-Dollar Thunderbird The Dog in the Oven The Second Blue Book The Baby and the Turkey

16 10 16 The Death of Little Mikey The Elephant That Sat on a VW The Finger in the Dog’s Throat The Mickey Mouse Acid The Hairy-Armed Hitchhiker

17 10 17 The Manhattan White The Phantom Hitchhiker The Purse in the Changing Room The Maniac’s Hook The Stuck Couple

18 10 18 !RUMORS: When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he replied: “Because that’s where the money is” Mary Baker Eddy was buried with a telephone so she could talk to the other side John Dillinger’s member is at the Smithsonian Institution Humphrey Bogart posed for Gerber baby picture Tobacco Companies own large marijuana plantations in South America

19 10 19 ! There are ground worms in McDonald’s hamburgers Pop Rocks have exploded inside children’s stomachs Cigarette filters are made of ground glass Some Girl Scout cookies are laced with hashish Procter and Gambel advertisers are Devil worshipers

20 10 20 !! and that Some Kentucky Fried Chicken is actually People’s Fingers and that one of the ingredients of Coca Cola is cocaine.

21 10 21 !!!TRUTH But the one about the Kentucky Fried Finger actually happened, but it was at Wendy’s and it was a customer’s finger. and it’s also true that one of the ingredients of Coca Cola used to be cocaine.

22 References: Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Choking Doberman and Other “New” Urban Legends. New York, NY: W. W. Norton, Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meaning. New York, NY: W. W. Norton, Dickson, Paul, and Joseph Golden. There Are Alligators in Our Sewers and Other American Credos. New York, NY: Delacorte, Eschholz, Paul, Alfred Rosa, and Virginia Clark. Language Awareness: Readings for College Writers, 10 th Edition. New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martins, Mey, Jacob. Pragmatics: An Introduction, 2 nd Edition. Malden, MA: Blackwell, Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Encyclopedia of 20 th Century American Humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood,


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