The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'urban legends'
Some animal shelters in the US are refusing to give black cats away for adoption before Halloween, lest the hapless moggies end up abused or sacrificed in Satanic rituals. The same goes for white rabbits, it seems. (I'm guessing that goats and black cockerels aren't found often enough in animal shelters to be an issue˙)
“It’s kind of an urban legend. But in the humane industry it’s pretty typical that shelters don’t do adoptions of black cats or white bunnies because of the whole satanic sacrificial thing,” Morgan said. “If we prevent one animal from getting hurt, then it serves its purpose.”
“Black cats already suffer a stigma because of their color,” said Gail Buchwald, vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter in New York City. “Why penalize them any more by limiting the times when they can be adopted?”Apparently superstitions about black cats are not uncommon in the US:
Black cats tend to be adopted less often than other felines, Buchwald said. “Behaviorally, there’s no difference from the color of the cat. It’s tied into this whole mythology about the animal — don’t let it cross your path or some foreboding or foreshadowing of evil — and that’s an outdated superstition,” she said.
It's official: a US district court has ruled that household product manufacturer Procter & Gamble are not Satanists, despite the persistent urban legends: More specifically, the ruling smacked down four representatives of Amway, a rival product manufacturer allegedly connected with the US Religious Right and/or operating in a cult-like fashion, of deliberately spreading this rumour and urging a boycott. The defendants denied malicious intent, saying that their goal was merely to "fight the Church of Satan".
To the best of my knowledge the Church of Satan has not issued any statement on the ruling.
A list of some of the most unusual questions sent in to urban-legend researchers snopes.com, revealing the anxieties of the public:
I just read a blurb that pre-packaged foods can cause people to turn gay because of too much estrogen. If I was only allowed one question for snopes, I would ask if this is true. Is it?
They say that if a person has a pet cat and dies, if the person's body is not found fairly soon after death, the cat, having not been fed, will become ravenously hungry and eat the dead person's face off--JUST the face!
Is this true? My cat often looks me in the face. I used to think he was just being friendly. Now I know he's just sizing me up, like a chef at a butcher shop, waiting for "the big day". Since hearing this rumor, every time my cat licks his chops it gives me the willies!
I've heard that it is impossible to take a lightbulb out of your mouth once one puts it in, without either breaking the bulb or dislocating the jaw.
Do you know if this is true? I'm counting on you - my husband is really curious, and I don't want to have to drive him to the hospital...
(via The Fix)
Gallery of the Forbidden, a list of albums, songs or cover art banned, restricted or bowdlerised by the Moral Minority or (more frequently) recording-company marketroids; from the Five Keys' misplaced thumb to that un-American Strokes song that got deleted from US releases of their album.
The MetaFilter discussion of this issue had an interesting tangent about a legendary Hungarian song which was allegedly suppressed after it triggered an epidemic of suicides:
"Gloomy Sunday", a Hungarian song for the violin, was believed to propel the despondent into suicide. Ironically, the title "Gloomy Sunday" has been used over and over since, for different songs unrelated to the original, which makes trying to find it even more difficult.
Snopes has this to say about Gloomy Sunday; apparently it did exist, though the suppression of it was an urban legend. And here's another story which ties it to a Nazi SS officer's suicide during the Holocaust.
I wonder whether the music for Gloomy Sunday exists anywhere; and, if so, how long until some post-rock band or other does a cover of it.
Snopes looks at what the word "Moomba" really means:
The parade was to be held on the Labour Day holiday, thereby undermining the Trade Unions march and the historic significance of the day.
Bill & Eric ran an Aboriginal artifacts stall in the Dandenongs, but were staunch unionists in their younger days.
Bill had a dry sense of humour. He agreed to provide a suitable name for the parade. Friends were surprised at this, knowing how Bill felt about the City Fathers and their business promotion parade.
When he offered the name Moomba, and the organisers accepted it, Bill gave the Aboriginal community a great gift. It has been the trigger for spontaneous laughter for many years since.
While the Moomba organisers, in blissful ignorance, give the translation as "let's get together and have fun," every Koori knows that "Moom" means backside, and "ba" means . . . well, um, hole . . .
Online Journalism Review interviews David Mikkelson of snopes.com, where he talks about his role in debunking the "Hunting for Bambi" hoax, and other things:
We have a section on our site called Lost Legends. We just made up the most outrageous things we could think of, made them out to being true, then put them out there to see if people would suspend their common sense. The most popular one is that we say that Mr. Ed was not a horse [but was a zebra]. We made up that the song "Sing a Song of Sixpence" was actually a song pirates used to recruit each other in the days of Blackbeard. It turns up on the "Urban Legends" show broadcast on a cable channel that it was true. They read it and thought that it was true.
When memes compete for mindshare in the ideosphere, one of the things they're selected for is emotional impact. The most sensational story wins, as does the most disgusting urban legend, according to this paper. (via FmH)
(Which all makes sense; by the same token, there are other (so far anecdotal) laws of memetics. For example, it has been observed that urban legends that mention a "brand" of some category mutate to refer to the best-known brand. (For example, the one about some small fried-chicken restaurant chain supporting the Ku Klux Klan mutated into an urban legend about KFC, and it's probable that the "Albert Einstein said we only use 10% of our brains" UL started as a claim about some lesser known very smart person making that statement.) I'd speculate that this is the result of a selection for economy or consistency with one's existing knowledge/memes, or a streamlining process that erodes memes into more agile forms.)
April is the cruelest month: Staying in the morbid vein for a while, statistics have shown that spring is the peak season for suicides. Apparently the popular notion about the Xmas-New Year period being peak suicide season is just an urban legend. (via Plastic)
It's official: penguins don't fall over backwards when aircraft fly overhead. Or at least not when helicopters do; though the test for fixed-wing aircraft has yet to be carried out.
Another UL debunked: The word "chad", as seen in the press recently in light of some dubious events in the US, is not back-formed from a Mr. Chadless, inventor of the chadless key punch, as the Jargon File suggested. It now appears that Mr. Chadless never existed (no more than the legendary inventor of the brassière, the renowned German engineer Otto Titzling). The latest theory is that 'chad' comes from the Scottish word for gravel.
(I wonder whether, once facts are forgotten and selectively rediscovered a few times, theories will emerge that the term "chad" originated in the year 2000, as a reference to St. Chad, the patron saint of disputed elections.)