Well, this will be my last column for a while. I’ll be in Australia from November 20th until December 5th, and that means my next Nyogtha will be December 13th. I’m sure Widro will find someone to fill in during those three weeks I won’t be babbling about monsters and Things That Should Not Be. But for now, let’s make this an enjoyable column before we part for a time, okay?
We all know these. Stories that we hear from a friend that happened to a friend of a friend of a friend. Six degrees of separation but we’re assured the stories of true. Of course they aren’t, and most of the time we know this, but these stories still become part of folklore and are passed down through friends and family, and now even the Internet helps to perpetrate them.
But what’s the truth of these stories? Where do they come from? Is there any truth at all to them. Let’s look at a few and dissect them together, shall we?
Revenge via the phone
We’ve all heard this one. A wife learns that her husband is not on a long business trip as he claimed, but is in fact having an affair with another woman, taking her out for a trip far more about pleasure than any pencil pushing. So the wife packs up her things, and dials a phone number and leaves the phone off the hook before leaving the house and her soon to be divorced husband. That number of course is always the continual time and weather recording of some Asian country, usually Japan, China, Hong Kong, or Vietnam.
Now this Urban Legend has been around for about 20 years now, first surfacing in the 1980’s and has since been written up in things like The New Statesman in 1986, the Houston Post in 1990, the Chicago Tribune in 1993, and even into a Garfield Sunday strip for June 2nd, 1996.
But what’s the actual possibility of this being real or happening? None at all in fact. At least not to the degree an embittered wife would want it to be, Telephone companies have an automatic shut off for their time/date/weather/whatever recordings, usually after just a minute so the plan would be foiled rather quickly, which is something philanderers are probably quite glad to know.
However ladies, if your boy cheats on you, consider getting a bunch of animals from the Humane Society and letting them run wild. Or burn the place down. Or inject him with Syphilis. Those are all equally hilarious ways to get back at a cheating lover.
The Ghost in “Three Men & a Baby”
Ah Mr. Spock, your directing of Sam Malone, Magnum PI and Mahoney into an Americanized version of a French Classic managed to defy all odds and actually create an entertaining 80’s flick. But somewhere along the lines you angered the spirit world and well, see for yourself.
Supposedly what this arrow points to a ghost lurking behind the drapes in the film. According to the Urban Legend, the ghost is of a boy who once lived in the house where the movie Three Men & a Baby was filmed and he committed suicide by a bullet to the head shortly before the house was leased out to be filmed in. Supposedly there is other footage where you can find the ghostly rifle the boy used to blow himself away, but so far, nope.
Here’s another shot of the would be specter.
A much better shot of him, yes? I mean, how can you miss that?
There’s a whole huge myth and story about the boy. He is supposedly 13 or 14 and has dark hair and used to look out that window all the time. His ghost still stands there, looking out at a world he can never touch or interact with again.
Supposedly when Ted Danson was shown the footage, he freaked out when he was shown the ghostly boy and the editors of the film all claim nothing was there when they went through the footage and spliced it all together. Even the little boy’s mother supposedly came out and said that was the spitting image of her son.
This is of course, pure bullshit.
In the summer of 1990, Three Men & a Baby was released on VHS. It was then people started noticing the shadowy figures in the drapes when Ted Danson’s mother encounters the young baby the three Movie Stars are taking care of. The figure wasn’t noticed in the theatres, because no one thought to look for it, but with a VCR, you can pause and freeze frame a movie enough to find things like this. It’s a game a lot of film buffs play with their movies. Some watch Star Wars and make a list of all the goofs in those films. Other play certain scenes in Event Horizon frame by frame to see all the stuff going on in it. This is just another example of what goofs you can discover when you release a film to the home market.
But how can a ghost be an editing oops? Simple. It’s not a ghost. When the rumour of the ghost began to spread like wildfire, Touchstone Pictures, the producers of the film, quickly proved this image was not a ghost at all, but was in fact a prop from the film. It was a standee of Ted Danson!
See? Not a ghost at all. Just a prop that was meant to be in the film coupled with some melodramatic ghost watchers. Nothing more than a nearly life size cut out of the owner of Cheers.
And to further add to the proof that this entire story is hogwash. One just has to learn that the apartment in the film was actually nothing more than a sound stage in Toronto. Of course then came the rumour that the entire myth was actually fabricated by Touchstone Pictures to help generate interest in the film’s videotape release and to drum up more revenue.
This entire story was merely moving the age old myth of being able to catch ghosts on film into a new medium; that of film.
The Kentucky Fried Rat
Again, another very popular one. This Urban legend is about finding a cooked rat in a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken (now called KFC). Although many of us can see this one being true considering the fact Fast Food Meat is on par with eating deceased circus animals, this Urban Legend has been floating around since the 1970’s, making it one of the oldest Urban Legends out there, still making its rounds as “legit.”
The first recorder case of the legend in written (may be older for oral) history came from Central Michigan University by a 24 year old female student. The second came a year later by a 19 year old female at the University of Minnesota. A strong history of this Urban Legend can be found in the book, “The Kentucky Fried Rat: Legends and Modern Society” by Gary Allen Fine.
Note that the legend is never accompanied by a lawsuit or an actual newspaper or TV snippet about it. These legends pop up all across the country as something that happened to a friend of a friend or FOAF, as folklorists call these tales. In this Urban Legend it is almost always a woman that gets and devours the rat before realizing what she has eaten. There’s two schools of thought on this legend. The first is that the story is giving the moral. “Look before you Leap.” The second is that this tale was created by men that are a little less…liberated in regards to gender equality and the story came about to say “This is what happens when women aren’t in the kitchen making me dinner.”
In other countries, the rat is replaced by some other local vermin. In Australia and New Zealand, this story can be found, but with a possum instead of a rat as the animal getting eaten. Of course, possums are much bigger so that begs the question how an entire possum got in a bucket of chicken…
The Best Known of Them All
I’m going to transcribe this tale exactly as it was written the first time it was recorded for a major Folklore journal back in 1967 by Indiana University.
I heard this story at a fraternity party. I heard this. This guy had this date with this really cool girl, and all he could think about all night was taking her out and parking and having a really good time, so he takes her out in the country, stops the car, turns the lights off, puts the radio on, nice music; he’s really getting her into the mood, and all of a sudden there’s this news flash comes on over the radio and says to the effect that a sex maniac has just escaped from the state insane asylum and the one distinguishing feature of this man is that he has a hook arm, and in the first place this girl is really, really upset, ’cause she’s just sure this guy is going to come and try and get in the car, so the guy locks all the doors and says it’ll be okay, but she says he could take his arm and break through the window and everything and she just cries and cries and goes really frantic and the guy finally consents to take her home, and he’s really really mad and he’s not even going to get out of the car and open the door for her, and she just gets out on her own side of the car and as she gets out she turns around and looks and there’s a hook hanging on the door.
Sounds familiar, right?
This story, recorded from the words of a breathless college student was the opening to the first issue of a journal edited by Linda Dahl, Indiana Folklore Professor, entitled, Indiana Folklore (Vol 1, Issue 1, pp 92-100).
Linda found references to this stories in local Indiana lore going back to 1959, almost a full decade before it was written down and documented. In fact, the story appeared in 1960, in of all places, a Dear Abby column!
DEAR ABBY: If you are interested in teenagers, you will print this story. I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but it doesn’t matter because it served its purpose for me:
A fellow and his date pulled into their favorite “lovers’ lane” to listen to the radio and do a little necking. The music was interrupted by an announcer who said there was an escaped convict in the area who had served time for rape and robbery. He was described as having a hook instead of a right hand. The couple became frightened and drove away. When the boy took his girl home, he went around to open the car door for her. Then he saw … a hook on the door handle! I don’t think I will ever park to make out as long as I live. I hope this does the same for other kids.
Of course the whole point of this story is one of morality. Sex is bad. People who have premarital sex get punished. In this case it’s by a hook handed killer. In more modern cases it is by Jason Voorhees. This legend has had so many variants of it created, that it is impossible to list them all here. From being made fun of in “The Far Side” (I couldn’t find the comic; sorry gang.) to Bill Murray’s take on it in Meatballs to even modern Horror Films like Candyman, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Urban Legend have variations of this tale appear.
Unlike most other Urban Legends, people know this one is a falsity and is often told simply as a tale around a summer campfire to scare children. It’s a classic tale that has managed to survive almost half a century. Sure it sounds silly or cheesy now to us as adults, but as a small child, it’s a guaranteed lock on scaring us all.
That’s it for the Urban Legends this week. If there’s other’s you’d like me to talk about, feel free to bring them up and I’ll do that. As always, if there is something related to folklore, myths, legends or anything of that nature you need me to answer, simply drop me an email or drop a comment in my blog, and I’ll be right on it.
Seeing as I’m going away for a few weeks, I thought I’d give a recipe combining my favorite meat (duck) with my favorite fruit (pomegranate). No real rhyme or reason, just a great sweet and sour dish for the Mediterranean.
Duck Breasts With A Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce
4 Table Spoons Olive Oil
2 Onions, very thinly Sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 1/2 cups Walnuts, coarsely chopped
4 cups duck or chicken stock
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 eight ounce duck breasts
salt and ground pepper.
1. Heat half the oil in a frying pan. Add the onions and turmeric and cook gently until soft. Transfer to a pan, add the walnuts and poultry stock. Season with salt and pepper. Stir, then bring to a boil and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
2. Cut the pomegranates in half and scoop out the seeds into a bowl, reserving the seeds of one pomegranate. Transfer the remaining seeds to a blender or food processor to break them up. Put through a strainer to extract the juice and stir in the sugar and lemon juice.
3. Score the skin of the duck breast in a lattice formation with a sharp knife. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan or grill pan and place the stuck duck breasts in it, skin side down.
4. Cook gently for ten minutes, pouring off the fat from time to time, until the skin is dark golden and crisp. Turn the duck breasts over and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and allow them to rest.
5. Deglaze the frying pan or grill pan with the pomegranate juice mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon, then add the walnut and stock mixture and simmer for 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened slightly. Serve the duck breasts sliced, drizzled with a little sauce, and garnished with the reserved pomegranate seeds. Serve the remaining sauce separately.
The Game Staff puts together a launch guide to the Nintendo DS.
EA, the only company I hate more than Square Enix, is being sued for practices we only allow our Corporations to do to citizens of Third World Countries.
News flash for Eric Katz: Emo Music has always sucked and always will.
Gloomchen gets plugged because she bashes Eminem.
I don’t watch TV
Laflin cried because my Rabbit ended up being named Mr. Chewy Biteums.
Ben Nagy had the misfortune of reviewing Avengers #503, one of the worst comics ever written.
I don’t read comics, but The Roundtable keeps me well informed.
Koko B. Ware action figure! Yes! But why is the Rock listed as a “classic WWF Superstar?”
What have they done to Big Convoy? And where is Stampy? And Break! Sigh. Beast Wars Neo was the best non G-1 Transformers line EVER.
Eric S. talks Smackdown. Who are some of these guys? Luther Reigns? WTF?
Gordi talks Kawada vs. Misawa. How is that NOT worthy of a plug?
Gone for three weeks. If you need to see what I’m up to or want to drop me a line, there’s the the blog where I’ll be detailing my trip to Australia and my attempts to steal a Koala.