I. "THIS REALLY HAPPENED!" 1. What Is an Urban Legend? Calling All Folklorists. Eight Standards to Assess Urban Legend Status. And Back to Where We Started. 2. Urban Legends as Collective Dreams. "Row, Row, Row Your Boat ..." Jungian Archetypes: Dream Casts. Of Meanings and Interpretations. Dreaming on Your Coffee Break. Surrealism in Urban Legends. Archetypes in Urban Legends. Lessons in Urban Legends. Unequivocal. 3. Questions, Frequently Asked and Otherwise, About Urban Legends. What's So Urban; About These Legends? Not for the Squeamish. Plot Elements for Your Edification. The Verification Paradox. Modern Storytelling: Around the World in a Flash. How Can You Find the Truth on the Internet? Why Bother with Any of This? II. FAMOUS FIGURES. 4. Is Paul Dead? (and Other Burning Pop Music Questions). The Mother of All Rock-and-Roll Urban Legends. Three Mysteries (Not Four). Truth Is More Drab Than Legend: The Moped Accident. The First Mystery: So Many Clues. The Second Mystery: Was It Intentional? The Third Mystery: Was Paul the Walrus? Other Urban Legends About Pop Stars. 5. Did Shakespeare Write Shakespeare? "Wherefore Art Thou, Walrus?" So What's All the Fuss About? Candidate No. 1: The Earl of Oxford. Candidate No. 2: Sir Francis Bacon. So How Come People Get So Worked Up About All This? @CHAPTER 6. Did Catherine the Great Really Do It with a Horse? Reason the First. Reason the Second. Yeah, Yeah, What About the Horse? Other Historical "Facts" That Aren't Factual. Some Final Thoughts. 7. The Family Hour (Not): Twisted Legends About Your Favorite Children's Television Stars. Guess What a Friend of a Friend of Mine Heard About (Insert Kids TV Star Here). Did Steve Burns, the Star of Blue's Clues, Die of a Drug Overdose? Strange Rumors About Nice People on Children's Programs. Sad but True: Dark Stories About TV Friends Make Great Conversation. The Darth Vader Syndrome. The Mikey Syndrome. "Tragedy" Strikes Other TV Families. Bottom Line: Innocence Is Unsettling. "He Said What? " "She Did What?" "One Small Step for Mr. Gorsky." More Nationally Televised Remarks That Weren't. Did Oprah Toss a Racist Fashion Designer off Her Show? Did Paul Harvey Reveal Startling New Facts About the Early Life of Mel Gibson? Speaking of Politics. Did Julia Child Drop a Duck to the Floor During a Program, Pick It Up, Dust It Off, and Say, "It's Fine"? Was Humphrey Bogart the Model for the Gerber Baby Food Baby? Was John Denver a Retired Army Sniper? The Great Newlywed Game Controversy. And Finally. An Elevating Tale. III. PARANOIA. 9. All Creatures, Great and Small. The Pooch in the Microwave. Cute Puppies Are Counting on You. Sly Cats, Sleeping Babies. Sly Cat, Nude Man. Alligators in the Sewers Beware of Foreigners Bearing Pets Beware of Foreigners Bearing Plants. And Now, a Few Words About the Whole Hidden Bug Nests Thing Predators, Predators Everywhere. Anacondas Chomp Helpless Kid! (Not). 10. Brand-Name Nightmares. Unknown Danger AHEADS! Looking on the Bright Side (Kind Of). The Biggie Dirty Bubble-Gum Card Alert! America Online Is Watching You (Not). The Pop Rocks and Pepsi Crisis, Revisited. A New Use for Mountain Dew? "The Real Thing" Gets a Turn in the Urban Legend Spotlight. A Minor Correction ... . Is That Really Chicken?. More Fast-Food Fun Every Shampoo You've Ever Heard of is Laden with Carcinogens (Not). The Last Word on Brand-Name Urban Legends. 11. The Government Is Out to Get You. How to Build Your Own Urban Legend About a Government Conspiracy. Try It at Home! Roswell, U.S.A. The Kennedy Assassination. The Government Wants to Kill You. The Government Has Ceded Control... The Government Is Planning to Institute Martial Law. The Government Is Tracking Your Every Move by Means of the New Currency. The Government Is Out to Ban All Religious Broadcasting. The Government Wants to Tax Internet Usage. Bill Clinton Is the Antichrist. 12. Total Strangers are Out to Get Someone You Love. Carlyle Weighs In. The Blue Star Playground Crisis. Abduction Myths. "I Am the Weirdo." Pros and Cons. 13. Tales of Hell from the Service Economy. Critical Assumptions. The Passing of the Milkman The Killer Cleaning Lady Lethal ATM Encounters and More Heartless Bureaucrats. Don't Trust That Bellboy. The Kentucky Fried Yecch Nightmare. The Kentucky Fried Yecch Nightmare (Version II). The Defiling Cup of Slush. The Infested Software. The Lethal Tan. 14. Beware the Outsider. The Unknown Driver Who Left a Note. The Outsider Wants to Steal Your Organs The Outsider Wants to Murder Children to Smuggle Drugs. The Outsider Wants to Conduct Satanic Rituals with Your Baby Has Someone Launched a Satanist Cult in Your Neighborhood? The Outsider Is Part of a Particularly Dangerous and Ruthless New Urban 15. Authority Figures Lose It. "Oops!" Bill Gates's Overworked Software Engineers Slip the Tether. Scientists Slip the Tether. Predatory Bureaucracies Slip the Tether. IV. INTIMATE ENTANGLEMENTS. 16. Humiliation Is a Many-Splendored Thing. The Minister Gets a Surprise. The Mechanic Gets a Surprise. The Whole Darned Office Gets a Surprise. The Pharmacy Customer Gets a Surprise. The Dinner Guest Gets a Surprise. Various Hotel Guests Get a Surprise. The Skier Gets a Surprise. Poor Jen Gets a Surprise. Variations on Jen's Disgrace Don't Cross the Borderline, Children. 17. Hazardous Amorous Duty. The Prehoneymoon Surprise. The Superglued Husband. "AIDS Mary" The <160?AIDS Harry" Variation. The Hidden Needles Variation. Did Any of This Happen? What Does It All Mean? Batman Gets His Comeuppance. Some Final Thoughts. 18. Private Parts in the Public Eye. Under a Watchful Eye. aGee, When I Said I Wanted to Be a Household Name, I Didn't Mean This! " Did Bing Crosby Boast About Mowing the Lawn in Exchange for Sex? The Hitler Thing. Did John Barrymore Once Make a Risque Film Short Featuring John Carradine?. Did Hugh Hefner Use the Cover of Playboy to Signify the Number of Playmates (or Playmates-in-Waiting) He Had Bedded That Month?. Did the Actor Who Played Eddie Haskell Star in a Series of Pornographic Films? Did Any of the Brady Girls Go on to Star in Pornographic Movies? While We're on the Subject, Did the Actress Who Played Carol Brady Date the Actor Who Played Greg Brady? Did a "Government Sex Slave" Minister to the Whims of Four U.S. Presidents? Scheming Adulterers Get What They've Got Coming. Surprise! You've Been Dumped! The Mammoth Phone Bill. Revenge Gone Horribly, Horribly Wrong. V. NASTY BUSINESS. 20.You've Got Mail (and It's a Scam). The Mother of All "Forward This E-Mail" Urban Legends. Forward This Message to Keep Terrible Things from Happening. Forward This Message and All Your Dreams Will Come True. A Guiding Principle. 21. The Hazards of the Big, Bad World: Urban Legends About College and College Students. The Dead Roommate. More on Dead Roommates. The Scratching Sound. Don't Trust the Library of Congress. Don't Trust the Academic Establishment. 22. Maniacs, Unlimited. Maniacs on Lover's Lane. Maniacs at the Shopping Mall. Maniacs Stalk the Babysitter. Maniacs Sneak Under Your Bed. 23. Too Disgusting for Words. A Service to One's Readers. Pass the Tacos, Please. And More of Those Adorable Roaches. And If You Haven't Heard Enough Yet About Bugs. The Bug Infestation Thing, Continued. The Whole Bug Thing Continues Well Past the Point of Overkill. Yes, We Have Flesh-Eating Banana Bacteria. Rats!. I Said, "No Mayonnaise!" And Finally ... 24. Some Final Thoughts. There's Always Another Strange Story. The San Fernando Valley Folklore Society's "Urban Legends Reference Page." "The AFU Urban Legends Archive." "About.com's Guide to Urban Legends." "The Straight Dope." And One More Web Site to Consider. One Last Legend for the Road. Appendix A: Glossary. Appendix B: Resources. Index.
Some stories are so good, we think they ought to be true, even if they aren't. Urban legends, or myths, passed on at office water coolers, over the Internet, in bars and coffeehouses, are stories that sound almost if not completely plausible. The Complete Idiot's Guide(r) to Urban Legends gathers together the most pervasive, unusual, fascinating, and grotesque of these cautionary, often violent folktales that are the 21st-century equivalent of myths, fairy tales, and fables. The book explains their historic and psychological underpinnings and showing how, thanks to the Internet, they can travel at the speed of light and mutate just as quickly.
Brandon Toropov, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide(r) to Getting Along with Difficult People and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide(r) to the World's Religions, is a Boston-area writer who has appeared on more than 100 local and national broadcast programs.