Urban Legends

Have you heard the story about the woman who got brain matter on the swab of her Covid test? If you did then chances are you heard the start of a new Urban Legend. 

Urban Legends have been around for several years and are not going away any time soon. They tend to follow current events. They may stem from “true” events but it’s not exactly the way it happened. Take the brain matter on the Covid test for example. There was indeed a case where brain fluid leaked into a patient’s nose after the test. However, it is also true that this patient had a rare condition that caused that to happen. This was not a typical case but that doesn’t matter when you have a story to tell and to spread. 

The term Urban Legend was first coined by Jan Harold Brunvand. Brunvand was a professor of English at the University of Utah. In 1981 Brunvand wrote a series of popular books of legends. He used his collections to make two points. One was that legends and folklore are not exclusive to primitive or traditional societies, and two that you can learn a lot about urban and modern culture by studying these stories.

What are Urban Legends? Urban Legends are fiction told as truth. Some Urban Legends stay around for decades and some disappear over the years. There does seem to be a recipe for these stories. They may have combinations of horror, humor, embarrassment, warning, or morality to them. There can be some moral lesson that each individual will interpret differently. There may be some sort of unexpected twist that is outlandish but just plausible to be true.  However, some are just good fun. 

These stories are told from person to person and reach a wide audience. They can show up anywhere from handwritten chain letters to a forwarded email. Before the internet, the stories were generally passed on from word of mouth. However, since the invention of the internet, these stories can travel through many different platforms of social media. The way Urban Legends travel makes it difficult to verify where it comes from or when it started. 

A few popular ones have been with us for quite some time for example “Bloody Mary”. We all know this story. You must stand in front of the mirror and say her name 3 times. Then Bloody Mary will show herself in the mirror or she may exit the mirror and start haunting you. 

“Creepypastas” are some of the newer ones circulating the internet. These are stories that involve horror and have been copied and pasted throughout the internet. They are generally brief and paranormal stories that often involve murder, suicide, or otherworldly occurrences. One of the more popular ones is the “Slenderman”.

“The Licked Hand” is a popular story with teenagers. This story only works if the main character has a dog. In this story, there is a killer in the house that lays in wait under the bed. When the main character puts her hand on the side of her bed to pet the dog, the killer licks her hand and she believes it to be her dog. 

So why do we tell these stories? The short answer is they’re fun. Also because for some people the story may just seem a little too real so better to be on the safe side and inform others. Maybe Mikel J Koven, a folklorist at the University of Wales says it best “Life is so much more interesting with monsters in it”  

Ahmed, Issam “COVID-19 test caused brain fluid leak in US patient with rare condition: study” Medical Xpress 2 October 2020

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-10-covid-brain-fluid-leak-patient.html Accessed 27 October 2020

 

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