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4                      Urban Legends: Why They Persist

             Urban Legends: How                                "By looking at what's implied in a story,
                                                        we get an insight into the fears of a group in     BECOMING
         They Start and Why They                        society," he told LiveScience. Urban legends

                                                        "need to make cultural sense," he said, noting
                         Persist                        that some stick around for decades while others   A GUEST ON
                                                        fizzle out depending on their relevance to the
                   By Heather Whipps                    modern social order.
                                                               It's a lack of information coupled with            THE ‘X’
        My mother has this friend whose daughter got    these fears that tends to give rise to new
        sick from rat pee on her soda can.              legends, Koven said. "When demand exceeds                    ZONE
               Sound familiar?  You've might have       supply, people will fill in the gaps with their
                                                        own information…they'll just make it up."
        heard the same story. Except that it was
                                                               The abundance of conspiracy theories
        someone's boyfriend's brother—or friend's
                                                        and legends surrounding 9/11, the war in Iraq              RADIO
        cousin, or doctor's travel agent—who became
                                                        and Hurricane Katrina seems to point to distrust
        ill. Either our food inspection system has gone
                                                        in the government among some groups, he said.
        downhill fast, or the story is an urban legend.                                                             SHOW
               Urban legends are an important part of
        popular culture, experts say, offering insight  A lot of fun, too…
        into our fears and the state of society. They're
        also good fun.                                  But urban legends aren't all serious life lessons
               "Life is so much more interesting with   and conspiracy theories, experts say, with the
        monsters in it," says Mikel J. Koven, a folklorist  scariest, most plausible ones often framed as
        at the University of Wales. "It's the same with  funny stories.
        these legends. They're just good stories."             Those stories can spread like wildfire in
                                                        today's Internet world, but they've been part of
        The making of a legend                          human culture as long as there has been culture,
                                                        and Brunvand argues that legends should be
                                                        around as long as there are inexplicable
        Like the variations in the stories themselves,
                                                        curiosities in life.
        folklorists all have their own definitions of what
                                                               "It might seem unlikely that legends—
        makes an urban legend. Academics have always
                                                        urban legends at that—would continue to be
        disagreed on whether urban legends are, by
                                                        created in an age of widespread literacy, rapid
        definition, too fantastic to be true or at least
        partly based on fact, said Koven, who tends to  mass communications, and restless travel," he
        believe the latter.                             wrote in "The  Vanishing Hitchhiker," printed
               Discovering the truth behind urban       many years before widespread use of the
                                                        internet was common. "A moment's reflection,
        legends, however, isn't as important as the
                                                        however, reminds of the many weird,
        lessons they impart, experts say.Urban legends
                                                        fascinating but unverified rumors that often
        aren't easily verifiable, by nature. Usually
                                                        come to our ears—killers and madmen on the
        passed on by word of mouth or—more
                                                        loose, shocking or funny personal experiences,
        commonly today—in e-mail form, they often
                                                        unsafe manufactured products and many other
        invoke the famous "it happened to friend of a
        friend" (or FOAF) clause that makes finding the  unexplained mysteries of daily life." []
        original source of the story virtually impossible.
               "The lack of verification in no way
        diminishes the appeal that urban legends have
        for us," writes Jan Harold Brunvand in "The
        Vanishing Hitchhiker:  American Urban
        Legends and Their Meanings" (W.W. Norton &
        Company, 1981). "We enjoy them merely as
        stories, and tend to at least half-believe them as
        possibly accurate reports."                                                                        If you would like to be a guest
               A renowned folklorist, Brunvand is                                                                            on
        considered the pre-eminent scholar on urban                                                           THE ‘X’ ZONE RADIO
        legends and "The Vanishing Hitchhiker," named
        for a classic legend, the subject's seminal work.                                                                SHOW,
        The definition of an urban legend, he writes, is                                                                   go to
        "a strong basic story-appeal, a foundation in                                                
        actual belief, and a meaningful message or
        'moral.'"                                                                                                   and click on the
               Most urban legends tend to offer a moral                                                     “TO BECOME A GUEST”
        lesson, Koven agreed, that is always interpreted                                                 tab at the top of the page and our
        differently depending on the individual.  The
        lessons don't necessarily have to be of the deep,                                                          booking producer,
        meaning-of-life, variety, he said.                                                                 STEPHANIE McCONNELL
                                                            Treasure Coast Para Unity Conference
                                                                  November 3, 4, & 5 2017                    will contact you  when your
        Legends need to make cultural sense
                                                                     Fellesmere, Florida.                    completed form is received
                                                                      Featured Speaker
        Urban legends are also good indicators of what's                                                                     or
                                                             The ‘X’ Zone’s ROB McCONNELL
        going on in current society, said Koven, who is                                                    Contact Stephanie Directly at
                                                         Other Speakers Include: Paul & Ben Eno (via
        part of the International Society for
                                                           Skype), Terri Lynge, Paul Meckes, Robert
        Contemporary Legend Research (ISCLR) and is
                                                              Robinson, Chris Sutton, Tim Yancy.
        editor   of    its  peer-reviewed     journal,                                            
                                                                    For More Information:
        Contemporary Legend.
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