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Urban Legends Can't Get Past Snopes
Don't believe everything you hear
When I was a young I saw the movie, When A Stranger Calls. It scared the pants off of me and kept me awake for a night or two. Since I was also a babysitter for several neighborhood families it had a definite effect on my business. Basically the movie was about a babysitter who received several ominous phone calls from someone asking if she had checked the children who were asleep upstairs. The freaked out babysitter finally called the police, who were able to trace the call and told her to run for her life because the calls were coming from inside the house. When she was finally able to wrestle the door open and escape to safety we find out the children were slaughtered in their beds and the murderer had gotten away, one assumes to kill again.
An urban legend goes to the movies
Although the movie received less than rave reviews I still think it was one of the most suspenseful, scary movies I’ve seen to date. It also turns out that this movie is a variation of an urban legend and not the first movie to be based on this magical form of storytelling. Basically the term urban legend refers to a modern form of folklore, a fictitious story told so many times that it becomes mistaken for a real story. When I was a kid I remember hearing some pretty awful urban legends that quickly took on lives of their own. I was told the “true” story of the babysitter (what’s up with the babysitter scenario?), who was on drugs and mistakenly put a baby in the oven because she thought it was the chicken she was supposed to make for the family dinner. Ever hear the one about the tourist in NYC who was mugged and knocked unconscious only to wake up on a park bench minus one kidney? One of my best friends told me a story about a man who danced all night with a beautiful, but cold-handed woman. When it was time to leave she asked him to drive her home, lead him to the local cemetery, got out of the car and disappeared among the headstones. My friend pinky swore this really happened so of course I believed her.
Snopes, the essential urban legend killer
When I was a kid there was no internet, so validating these stories wasn’t so easy. If your friend was pinky swearing the story she just told you was true then who were you to doubt her? And how could you prove her wrong? Her best friend’s, friend’s, cousin’s sister insisted this really happened to her. Nowadays we have instant access, via certain websites, to all sorts of stories, Snopes being one of the most well known websites. They advertise their site as the definitive internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors and misinformation. My dad is the Snopes king which also makes him Mr. Information. If you forward him an email insisting something happened you better be sure it’s true because he’ll undoubtedly verify it with Snopes. And woe to the email sender who turns out to be mistaken. He’ll properly chastise you and happily include a link to Snopes where it will tell you that you have indeed been gullibly duped. From what I’ve been able to glean from online searches, Snopes is about as good as it gets when you want to verify the authenticity of a story.
TV shows jump on the urban legend band wagon
Television shows are also guilty of pilfering urban legends and using them in their storylines. I seemed to recall one of the Law and Order series including the kidney stealing legend in a previous episode. After a quick check with Snopes I found I’m correct. The episode appeared back in 1991. But to counteract the fact that some television shows utilize the urban legend to scare viewers while adding to ratings, reality shows like Discovery Channel’s Myth Busters not only tell viewers about these stories but put them to the test in their lab and in the field. There’s even a current series on Syfy called Urban Legends.
There was never a hanging munchkin in the Wizard of Oz
Not all urban legends are scary however. For instance the infamous hanging munchkin scene in The Wizard of Oz. I grew up believing the story of a love-sick munchkin who committed suicide right on the movie set after his love was unrequited. Fortunately this story is false. Apparently it was a bird caught in the camera’s frame. Snopes says it’s a bird and they know best.
Start your own urban legend
Camp outs, sleepovers, Halloween night or just about any time you want to scare, trick or hoodwink your friends you could try telling a good urban legend. The internet is loaded with tons of them. Or, better yet, make up one of your own. Use your imagination, swear it’s true and happened to you then watch it spread like wildfire.