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October Saturday Guest Bloggers: 10/7 Mark Bacon, 10/14 Elaine Orr, 10/21 WWK's Margaret S. Hamilton, 10/28 Kait Carson, and E. B. Davis 10/31 to fill out our fifth Tuesday.


WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla! Look for Carla's blog this month to find out the winner.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Thursday, April 28, 2016

URBAN LEGENDS

Just a few of my many books on folklore and myths.
In the early 1980s I took one of my favorite classes while earning a degree in elementary education. It was a class in Folklore taught by one of my favorite professors, Vivian Pemberton, who became a friend of mine. I found all aspects of the class interesting, but the one I’m writing about here is urban legends. They often derive from earlier legends that have been changed through the year with each telling. A few years after I’d graduated, a column appeared in my local tribune called “Urban Legends,” written by Professor Jan Harold Brunvand. I have no idea which college she taught at, or what her specialty was, but I clipped out those articles and still have them almost thirty years later.

The first I’m going to tell is about a Doberman’s meal, in which a young woman who lived alone returned home to find her Doberman choking violently. She immediately drove the dog to her local veterinarian. The vet informed her that the dog would have to be sedated, and it could be several hours to correct the problem and release the dog. He told her to return home, and he would telephone her later. Her telephone was ringing when she unlocked her door, and it was the veterinarian. In a barely controlled voice, he told her to leave the house immediately. No questions – just leave. The police arrived a few moments later, for the vet had also called them. They searched the house and found a burly, mean burglar hiding in the hall closet, passed out from loss of blood. The Doberman had been choking on three of the burglars’ fingers, which it had bitten off.

The professor wrote that this could be true, but was more than likely passed down from the ancestor of this story. In the original story, the hero, Prince Llewellyn, returns home where he has left his hunting dog guarding the baby. He discovers the dog, covered with blood, cringing at the open front door. Then he sees the baby’s crib inside, overturned and empty. Assuming that the dog has attacked the child, the prince kills the animal, only to find when he enters the home, that the baby is safe and a huge wolf that the dog had fought off is lying dead on the floor. I’ve heard the same story about a husky in Alaska, that killed a wolf, but unfortunately the owner thought his dog had killed the baby so he shot his dog.
 
My friend Laura goes along with any crazy idea I  suggest.
Once upon a time I heard another story that turned out to be an urban legend. A woman was driving along and saw a dead cat beside the road. Being an animal lover, she put the cat in a plastic bag planning to bury it when she returned home. She put it in her trunk, and drove to the local mall where she was heading. She went inside and did her shopping and when she returned with her bags, she put the bags in the trunk, and the bagged dead cat on the trunk as she headed to another store in the mall to buy one last thing. As she came out, she saw a woman furtively looking around and then snatched the bag with the dead cat in it, and headed for her own car.
The woman who had picked up the dead cat was curious and followed the woman to a nearby restaurant. The thieving woman took the package she’d stolen into the restaurant where she met a friend. The animal lover took a booth nearby where she could watch the woman when she opened the package. When she did, she let out a scream and passed out. The story said she died of a heart attack.

And then there’s the story I told my brother Jerry, and our cousins Norman and Dolores when we camped out one night in a tent on our grandparents’ farm close to our houses. The story goes:

A young boy was given money by his mother to go to the store to buy liver for supper. However, the boy bought candy instead (Or depending on who tells this, maybe a bigger kids stole the money.) and realized his mother would be very angry with him. He didn’t know what to do, but as he passed a graveyard on his way home with a fresh grave, he dug up the body, and removed the man’s liver and headed home and gave it to his mother. That night when he’s upstairs in bed, he hears a heavy footstep on the stairs, and a voice says “One step, give me back my liver.” And then he hears, “Two steps, give me back my liver.” The boy is terrified and huddles down under his blankets, then he hears another step and the deep voice say “Three steps give me back my liver.” And that’s when I grab the person’s arm next to me and shout “I got cha!” And, of course, the screams rang out. I did the same thing with my Cub Scouts and my Girl Scouts.  

The whole story is ridiculous. I mean a young kid digs up a grave that to my knowledge has always been six feet deep? But it’s all in the telling and the setting at the time. Usually around a campfire at night.
In my second book, I have my main character locked in a trunk, and the old legend of a young girl who sinks into a coma for some reason goes through her mind. The doctor pronounced the girl dead, and she was buried on top of a hill in the family cemetery on the family farm. Her parents grieved for her as does the dog. For several nights they heard their dog howling mournfully. The wife insisted they dig up the coffin, although the husband thought she’d gone crazy with grief, went along with it. When they dug up the coffin and opened it they saw the inside satin of the lid torn into pieces with some still in their dead daughter’s hands. She had been buried alive and had been trying to get out. Did this actually happen once upon a long time ago? Maybe.


Before television, movies, radio, and even the written word, people told tales. It was partly to entertain and partly to pass true stories on to future generations. It’s more than likely that even if there was some truth in the original story, a good story teller embellished the facts with fiction.

What urban or other legends do you remember?


12 comments:

KB Inglee said...

I love urban legends.
I'm sure lots of people were burred alive. In the Victorian period people were so scared that they put bells on the outside of coffins for the newly revived, not-dead person to ring for rescue. I can think of at least three TV shows that used that theme. One of the team members is burred and the rest of the team has to find them in time.

Jim Jackson said...

I always liked the Alligators in New York City Sewers stories. Rich kids brought back Florida gators from their winter vacations and when they were no longer cute flushed them down the toilet, and the rest—they say—is history.

Warren Bull said...

I like the story of the man who wakes up in a bathtub filled with ice. He notices a new scar on his sides and discovers someone has taken one of his kidneys.

Margaret Turkevich said...

I have a great Cleveland story which is true: dad reads daughter a bedtime story and sends her to the bathroom before bed.

"Daddy, there's a snake in the potty and I'm afraid to go."

"Nonsense. You've been watching too much TV."

"Really Daddy. I'm afraid of the snake."

Dad flips up toilet lid and peek a boo! It was a boa constrictor that had climbed up the scale-encrusted pipes.

Animal control came the next morning to deal with the snake.

For years, we kept the lids down, just in case.

Kara Cerise said...

It's a gloomy, rainy day where I live. Perfect for urban legends. I remember one about teens parked on Lovers Lane. They hear on the radio that a killer with a hook for a hand escaped from prison. The girl wants to leave, the boy wants to stay. They eventually drive away and later find a bloody hook dangling from the car door handle. I wonder if parents of teenagers started that one?

Julie Tollefson said...

I remember that one, too, Kara! When I was young, the neighbors had a little camper parked in their backyard, and kids would gather inside to tell ghost stories/horror stories to scare each other.

Kait said...

Kara and Julie, are you from New Jersey? We grew up with that legend. One of my favorites. Then there was the woman driving home alone at night. She stops at a light and the truck driver in the big rig next to her rushes over, opens her door, and pulls her out. In the backseat a man with a knife is cowering. Of course, the truck driver, being higher up, saw him. In some versions, the knife is bloody. Then there were the UFOs in the 1960s and 1970s. Those were determined to be 'swamp gases', but then, if they were, how did they abduct all those people?

KM Rockwood said...

Any number of unexplained things are "explained" by urban legends (which often aren't really that urban.)

One that's local in my area centers around an old covered bridge over Tom's Creek. Supposedly on windy dark night, a man got drunk in town and was riding his horse home when a bear startled the horse. The man fell off and drowned in Tom's Creek. Now when people drive over the bridge at night, they can hear him scratching on the underside of the bridge. Can't possibly have anything to do with the small trees that grow close by the bridge.

Kara Cerise said...

Kait, I lived in New Jersey for a few years when I was young. But I heard the story in Southern California during a Girl Scout camping trip. It must be a memorable urban legend!

KM Rockwood said...

KB, I heard that before but forget about it. Thanks for telling that historical fact.

Jim, i'veheard that, too, but the problem with truth of that is alligators can't live in cold climates

Warren, now that's really hard to believe.Sad if there's any truth init.

Margaret, I heard that,too. Even sadder was when a large python escaped from its owners cage, and crawled through vents, then squeezed them to death. It happened in Canada several years ago.

Kara and Julie, I remember hearing both of those stories, too.

Kait, I remember all the UFO stories, too. My mother believed in them.

KM, there are similar ghost stories like that everywhere. Fun to tell around a campfire to gullible people.

Gloria, on KM/Kathleen's computer at Malice.


Kait said...

Your father and my mother would have gotten along great! Dad was always disappointed in two things - I never brought gold home from any of my scuba dives and he never got abducted by aliens.

Gloria Alden said...

Kait, that is so funny. They probably would have. I wonder how many people believe in space aliens anymore. I'm sure there still have to be some like the Bigfoot believers.