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Encyclopedia > Urban legend

An urban legend or an urban myth is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories thought to be factual by those circulating them. The term is often used to mean something akin to an "apocryphal story." Like all folklore, urban legends are not necessarily false, but they are often distorted, exaggerated, or sensationalized over time. This article does not cite any references or sources. ...

Despite its name, a typical urban legend does not necessarily originate in an urban setting. The term is simply used to differentiate modern legend from traditional folklore in preindustrial times. For this reason, sociologists and folklorists prefer the term "contemporary legend." Cities with at least a million inhabitants in 2006 An urban area is an area with an increased density of human-created structures in comparison to the areas surrounding it. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...

Urban legends are sometimes repeated in news stories and, in recent years, distributed by e-mail. People frequently allege that such tales happened to a "friend of a friend"—so often, in fact, that "friend of a friend," ("FOAF") has become a commonly used term when recounting this type of story. Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... Friend of a Friend (FOAF) is a phrase used in some social sciences as a half-joking shorthand for the fact that much of the information on which people act comes from distant sources (as in It happened to a friend of a friend of mine) and cannot be confirmed. ...

Some urban legends have passed through the years with only minor changes to suit regional variations. One example is the story of a woman killed by spiders nesting in her elaborate hairdo. More recent legends tend to reflect modern circumstances, like the story of people ambushed, anesthetized, and waking up minus one kidney, which was surgically removed for transplantation. Organ theft is the supposed practice of stealing peoples organs (presumably while they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol) via amateur surgery, and then selling them on a supposed black market for use in organ transplants. ... Transplant redirects here. ...



The first study of the concept now described as an "urban legend" seems to be Edgar Morin's La Rumeur d'Orléans (in French) in 1969. Jan Harold Brunvand, professor emeritus of English at the University of Utah in the United States, used the term "urban legend" in print as early as 1979 in a book review appearing in the Journal of American Folklore 92:362. Even at that time, researchers had been writing about the phenomenon for a long time, but with varying terminology. Edgar Morin is a French philosopher and sociobiologist who was born in Paris on July 8, 1921 under his original name Edgar Nahoum. ... Also: 1969 (number) 1969 (movie) 1969 (Stargate SG-1) episode. ... Jan Harold Brunvand (born 1933) is a professor emeritus of English at the University of Utah in the United States who is best known for spreading the concept of the urban legend, or modern folklore. ... The University of Utah (also The U or the U of U or the UU), located in Salt Lake City, is the flagship public research university in the state of Utah, and one of 10 institutions that make up the Utah System of Higher Education. ... Also: 1979 by Smashing Pumpkins. ...

Brunvand used his collection of legends, The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends & Their Meanings, to make two points: first, that legends, myths, and folklore do not occur exclusively in so-called primitive or traditional societies, and second, that one could learn much about urban and modern culture by studying such tales. Brunvand has since published a series of similar books, and is credited as the first to use the term vector (inspired by the concept of biological vectors) to describe a person or entity passing on an urban legend. The Vanishing Hitchhiker (UK: The Phantom Hitchhiker) is a reported phenomenon in which people travelling by vehicle meet with or are accompanied by a hitchhiker who subsequently vanishes without explanation, often from a moving vehicle. ... For other uses, see Legend (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Mythology (disambiguation). ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... In epidemiology, a vector is an organism that does not cause disease itself but which spreads infection by conveying pathogens from one host to another. ...


Many urban legends are framed as complete stories with plot and characters. Urban legends often resemble a proper joke, especially in the manner of transmission, but are much darker in tone and theme. For other uses, see Fable (disambiguation). ... In literature, a plot is all the events in a story particularly rendered towards the achievement of some particular artistic or emotional effect. ... A joke is a short story or ironic depiction of a situation communicated with the intent of being humorous. ...

The compelling appeal of a typical urban legend is its elements of mystery, horror, fear or humor. Many urban legends are presented as warnings or cautionary tales, while others might be more aptly called "widely dispersed misinformation," such as the erroneous belief that a college student will automatically pass all courses in a semester if one's roommate commits suicide.[1] While such "facts" may not have the narrative elements of traditional urban legend, they are nevertheless conveyed from person to person with the typical elements of horror, humor or caution. Horror is the feeling of revulsion that usually occurs after something frightening is seen, heard, or otherwise experienced. ... A cautionary tale is a traditional story told in folklore, to warn its hearer of a danger. ...

Much like some folk tales of old, there are urban legends dealing with unexplained phenomena such as phantom apparitions.

Few urban legends can be traced to their actual origins. Exceptions include the The Submarine, the Steam tunnel incident and the Hungarian suicide song "Gloomy Sunday." The Submarine is the name given to a particularly large and aggressive Great White Shark that was supposed to have dwelled in False Bay, near Cape Town, South Africa. ... The steam tunnel incident refers not to a single event, but rather to a set of urban myths wherein players enacting live action role-playing games perish, often in the utility tunnels below their university campus. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...

Propagation and belief

People sometimes take urban legends to be true, instead of recognizing them as tall tales or unsubstantiated rumors, because of the way they are told. The teller of an urban legend may claim it happened to a friend, which serves to personalize and enhance the power of the narrative. Since people, unconsciously or otherwise, often exaggerate, conflate or edit stories when telling them, urban legends can evolve over time. Statues of tall tale characters Paul Bunyan and Babe A tall tale is a story that claims to explain the reason for some natural phenomenon, or sometimes illustrates how skilled/intelligent/powerful the subject of the tale was. ... Look up rumour in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Many urban legends depict horrific crimes, contaminated foods or other situations which would affect many people. Anyone believing such stories might feel compelled to warn loved ones.

Many urban legends are essentially extended jokes, told as if they were true events. Others, like tall tales in general, contain a grain of truth. The urban legend that Coca-Cola developed the drink Fanta to sell in Nazi Germany without public backlash originated as the actual tale of German Max Keith, who invented the drink and ran Coca-Cola's operations in Nazi Germany during World War II.[2] A joke is a short story or ironic depiction of a situation communicated with the intent of being humorous. ... The wave shape (known as the dynamic ribbon device) present on all Coca-Cola cans throughout the world derives from the contour of the original Coca-Cola bottles. ... Fanta is a global brand of fruit-flavored soft drink from the Coca-Cola Company. ... Nazi Germany, or the Third Reich, commonly refers to Germany in the years 1933–1945, when it was under the firm control of the totalitarian and fascist ideology of the Nazi Party, with the Führer Adolf Hitler as dictator. ... Max Keith was the head of Coca-Cola GmbH, which was the major bottler of Coca-Cola during the National Socialist period of German history. ... Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000...

Some urban legends are morality tales that depict someone, usually a child, acting in a disagreeable manner, only to wind up in trouble, hurt, or dead. This article is about the use of the moral in storytelling. ...

With the advent of the internet, a new kind of urban legend is beginning to emerge where a passage from a book, television show, film or play is taken wholesale and attributed to some well-known social or political figure, largely through chain e-mails.

Regardless of origins, urban legends typically include one or more common elements: the legend is retold on behalf of the original witness or participant; dire warnings are often given for those who might not heed the advice or lesson contained therein (this is a typical element of many e-mail phishing scams); and it is often touted as "something a friend told me," while the friend is identified by first name only or not identified at all. A hallmark of false urban legends(although not the only sign of a false urban legend) is a lack of specific information about the incident(names, dates, locations, when or where it was published, or similar information). An example of a phishing email, disguised as an official email from a (fictional) bank. ...

Additionally, urban legends will often contain a grain of truth (in that even if an urban legend is not probable or plausible, most are at least possible). Often, this will come in the form of the dire warning mentioned above (such as a serial killer hiding in the back seat of a car—while possible, the chances are extremely remote and the circumstances highly unlikely).

Other terminology

The term urban myth is also used. Brunvand feels that urban legend is less stigmatizing because myth is commonly used to describe things that are widely accepted as untrue. The more academic definitions of myth usually refer to a supernatural tale involving gods, spirits, the origin of the world, and so forth. However, the usage may simply reflect the idiom (e.g., in Australia urban myth is used). For other uses, see Supernatural (disambiguation). ... This article is about the term God in the context of monotheism and henotheism. ... For other uses, see Spirit (disambiguation). ... A creation myth is a supernatural mytho-religious story or explanation that describes the beginnings of humanity, earth, life, and the universe (cosmogony),[1] usually as a deliberate act of creation by a supreme being. ...

The term urban myth is preferred in some languages such as Mexican Spanish, where conventional coinage is "mito urbano" rather than "leyenda urbana." In French, urban legends are usually called rumeurs d'Orléans ("Orleans' rumours") after Edgar Morin's work. "Légende contemporaine" is an acceptable translation of the English idiom, instead of "légende urbaine", which is an improper and meaningless verbatim translation, though used by some French sociologists or journalists. But neither expression is commonly used: for ordinary French people, the more genuine terms rumeur or canular (hoax), not to mention more colloquial and expressive words, describe this phenomenon of "viral spread tall story" properly enough. This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ...

Some scholars prefer the term contemporary legend to highlight those tales that originated relatively recently. This is, of course, true for all periods in history; for instance, an eighteenth-century pamphlet alleging that a woman was tricked into eating the ashes of her lover's heart would be a contemporary legend with respect to the eighteenth century.

The main scholarly association on the subject is called The International Society for Contemporary Legend Research; its journal is titled Contemporary Legend.

Documenting urban legends

The advent of the Internet has facilitated the proliferation of urban legends. At the same time, however, it has allowed more efficient investigation of this social phenomenon.

Discussing, tracking and analyzing urban legends has become a popular pursuit. It is the topic of the Usenet newsgroup, alt.folklore.urban, and several web sites, most notably snopes.com. Usenet (USEr NETwork) is a global, decentralized, distributed Internet discussion system that evolved from a general purpose UUCP architecture of the same name. ... The Urban Legends Reference Pages (also known as snopes. ...

The United States Department of Energy has a service called Hoaxbusters that deals with all sorts of computer-distributed hoaxes and legends. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government responsible for energy policy and nuclear safety. ...

Since 2003 the Discovery Channel TV show MythBusters has tried to prove or disprove urban legends by attempting to reproduce them. Discovery Channel is a cable and satellite TV channel founded by John Hendricks which is distributed by Discovery Communications. ... MythBusters is an American popular science television program on the Discovery Channel starring American special effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, who use basic elements of the scientific method to test the validity of various rumors, urban legends and news stories in popular culture. ...

See also

The Abduction Phenomenon is as umbrella term used to describe a number of kidnap individuals--sometimes called abductees--usually for medical testing or for sexual reproduction procedures. ... NASA image of the western Atlantic, showing the popular borders of the Bermuda Triangle. ... It has been suggested that Evidence regarding Bigfoot be merged into this article or section. ... In contemporary Western folklore, Bloody Mary is a ghost or witch said to appear in a mirror when her name is called three times (or sometimes more, depending upon the version of the story), often as part of a game at slumber parties. ... Haunted locations are places that are allegedly inhabited by ghosts. ... This article is about the urban legend. ... Christ Church Parish Church The Chase Vault is a burial vault on the cemetary of the Christ Church Parish Church in Oistins, Christ Church Parish, Barbados. ... For other uses, see Conspiracy theory (disambiguation). ... Conventional wisdom is a term coined by the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, used to describe certain ideas or explanations that are generally accepted as true by the public. ... Look up Curse in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Mount Isa, Australia, is often incorrectly referred to as the largest city in the world by area Toronto, Canada, was never designated by UNESCO as the worlds most multicultural city Factoid can refer to a spurious (unverified, incorrect, or invented) fact intended to create or prolong public exposure or... Fakelore is inauthentic, manufactured folklore which is created in the hope that it will be accepted as genuine and/or legitimate. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... Reputed ghost of a monk. ... A hoax is an attempt to trick an audience into believing that something false is real. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Haunted locations or haunted places are sites of reported ghost activity. ... This is a list of uncontroversial, undisputed clarifications to common misconceptions. ... Moral panic is a sociological term, coined by Stanley Cohen, meaning a reaction by a group of people based on the false or exaggerated perception that some cultural behavior or group, frequently a minority group or a subculture, is dangerously deviant and poses a menace to society. ... For other uses, see Mythology (disambiguation). ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...

External links


  1. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara; David P. Mikkelson. Grade Expectations. Urban Legends Reference Pages. Retrieved on 2007-01-09.
  2. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara. The Reich Stuff?. Urban Legends Reference Pages. Retrieved on 2007-01-09.
The Urban Legends Reference Pages, also known as snopes. ... Year 2007 (MMVII) was a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar in the 21st century. ... is the 9th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... The Urban Legends Reference Pages, also known as snopes. ... Year 2007 (MMVII) was a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar in the 21st century. ... is the 9th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ...

  Results from FactBites:
Urban Legends Reference Pages: (Glossary) (1150 words)
Urban legends are a specific class of legend, differentiated from "ordinary" legends by their being provided and believed as accounts of actual incidents that befell or were witnessed by someone the teller almost knows (e.g., his sister's hairdresser's mechanic).
Urban legends are narratives which put our fears and concerns into the form of stories or are tales which we use to confirm the rightness of our world view.
Pseudo-ostension is the act of deliberately acting out an existing urban legend (e.g., children secreting pins in their Halloween treats to throw a scare into the community or pranksters in Pulaski, Virginia, placing syringes in payphone coin return slots in 1999).
Urban Legends, Urban Legend, Urban Legends News at LiveScience.com (456 words)
Urban legends are comparable to a modern-day type of folklore.
Most urban legends reference a friend of a friend, and are assumed factual by the people who spread the stories.
Some urban legends have been circulating for a very long time, and are constantly resurfacing and spreading much farther and faster with the advent of email.
  More results at FactBites »



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