This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 01 table of contents.

Urban Legends

Author Jan Harold Brunvand is famous for his concept of urban legends , introduced originally in the book The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends & Their Meanings (1989). Urban legends are basically "fun ideas" in the form of stories passed around so frequently that soon everybody has heard them. Often people believe urban legends are true until they see the legend discussed in one of Brunvand's amusing books or one of the many urban legends web sites. The better web sites also list stories that sound like urban legends but are documented as true (such as the story of Larry Walters, who fastened surplus weather balloons to lawn furniture and soared to 16,000 feet).

What is an "urban legend"?

Urban legends tend to have a bizarre or shocking element to them. A classic example s the urban legend about a fellow who wakes up in a bathtub, after a hard night of partying, and finds a scar on his stomach along with a note informing him that one of his kidneys has been removed. A shocking or amusing element helps insure the story is passed around or propagated like a virus.

What-or who-is a FOAF?

People often swear an urban legend is true, because (they claim) the experience actually happened to somebody close to them...not a close personal friend, but a "friend of a friend." This is such a common statement that Brunvand coined an acronym, FOAF, which stands for "friend of a friend." Apparently a FOAF is close enough to have credibility, while far enough away that nobody can find out who it is. So a FOAF is a perfect authority to cite when trying to prove that a fictitious urban legend is true.

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