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Urban Legends: Fact Vs. "Fact" / Discusses Various Aspects Of Urban Legends And The "Facts" Surrounding Them

1620 words - 6 pages

Urban Legends: Fact vs. "Fact"For hundreds of years, various folklore and local legends have been prime subjects of human intrigue and fascination. Over the past century, such folklore has been dubbed "Urban Legend." Also referred to as contemporary or modern legends, urban legends have become sources of education, entertainment, and explanations. What often starts as a mere rumor can potentially develop into an urban legend; a tale which attains this status somehow gains "truthfulness," subscribed believers, and occasional media attention. But what causes these jokes or rumors to obtain such widespread belief? What determines the validity or fallacy of an urban legend, and how are the fictitious distinguished from the factual? These are just a few of the questions which arise in interpreting today's urban legends. While pin-pointing a single source of a particular urban legend is improbable and near impossible, the cause of a legend's survival is due to its lively and "factual" content. Subsequently, urban legends are spread far and wide due to the fact that their subject matter--usually death, injury, tragedy, danger, or scandal--is of extraordinary human interest; and while urban legends are essentially unverified by credible sources (government agencies, police, news media, etc.), their attention to detail and appeal to close relation to the speaker (friend of a friend) creates a heightened sense of truth to all who hear them.Urban legends are often characterized by their bizarre nature of subject matter and their ability to convince the reader or listener that the account is a truthful one. Many times, an urban legend is accompanied with some sort of precaution or moral in an attempt to protect the well-being or dignity of the recipient of the tale. Dr. Jan Harold Brunvand, a former professor of English at the University of Utah and author of numerous books and textbooks on the interpretations and characterizations of urban legends, defines an urban legend as "a story in a contemporary setting (not necessarily a big city), reported as a true individual experience, with traditional variants that indicate its legendary character" (The Truth 6). Such is the case with a current urban legend circulating primarily within the collegiate circuit; this legend is often referred to as "The Stolen Kidneys."In one version of the tale, the neighbor (a young college student) of the girlfriend of the storyteller went to a party one night where he had a few beers and met an attractive young lady who convinced him to accompany her to another party. At the next party, they continued to drink and then got involved with various drugs. The next thing he knows, the man wakes up completely naked in a bathtub full of ice with the words 'CALL 911 OR YOU WILL DIE' written on his chest in lipstick. Using a phone on a stand next to the bathtub, the man follows the instructions and relates to the EMS operator that he does not know where he is, what happened, or why he is...

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