However rational you might consider yourself to be, there’s still likely to be one urban legend that sounds just plausible enough to believe. After all, these are stories are usually grounded in the truth and have evolved, often over decades, being fine-tuned with very re-telling to make them just about plausible. In ‘Too Good to be True’, American folklorist and academic Jan Harold Brunvand analyses some of the best that he’s collected over the years. It’s one of the more entertaining books that’s arrived in the E&T inbox recently and we asked 14-year-old Anya Vitaliev, who’s been interning with us, to take a look at it.
Did you hear the one about the hairy armed hitchhiker? A woman leaving work late spots an elderly lady in the back seat of her car and agrees to give her a lift… I’d better stop here not to reveal too much, but, believe me, it ends with an unexpected twist.
This, and plenty of other amusing and somewhat eerie stories can be found in Jan Harold Brunvand’s book ‘Too good to be True’. Professor emeritus at the University of Utah and the author of other books such as ‘The Choking Doberman’ and ‘Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid’, he knows one or two things about urban legends and modern folklore.
What is an urban legend? According to Brunvard, it is just a good story, which people cannot resist. Among such seemingly irresistible stories in the book, are those of the good time virus, the ghostly video tape, the shoplifter’s hat and a whole collection of other tales which you are free either to doubt or to believe in, because they are simply legends.
I particularly enjoyed ‘The elevator incident’ for its subtle irony and ‘The Guardian Angels’ for its unexpected twists.
This book is good fun for all ages – from kids in their early teens to octogenarians, who remain kids in their hearts. I can also recommend it to engineers and scientists who want to relax after a hard day in the office, for the book includes plenty of stories (legends) from the field of technology too, eg ‘The Microwave Pet’, ‘Saved by a Cellphone’ etc.
‘Too Good to be True’ is definitely good enough to put a smile on people’s faces and make them view everyday life with curiosity and wonder.
‘To Good to be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends’ by Jan Harold Brunvand is published by WW Norton & Company, RRP £13.99, ISBN 9780393347159