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02 February 2012 @ 11:08 pm
Are they American things?  
About a year ago I told my mother that we were talking about urban legends in my folklore class, and I found out that, while she knows some of them, she hadn't actually heard the ones I knew best. This sort of surprised me. Anyway, I told her a couple, and she laughed at how horrible they are.

However, I began to wonder whether these were stories that circulate mainly in the United States, or whether the internet has spread them. I thought I would post a couple (they tend to be really short), and I was actually wondering recently whether people outside the U.S. hear the same ones. And maybe hear a few that have been circulating other places. As always, there are plenty of variations, but I'll tell the ones I know.


There is a story about an old lady whose cat got stuck out in the rain. She thinks about how to get her cat dry fairly quickly, and decides the best way to is microwave it. So she sticks the cat in the microwave, and walks away for a minute, and when she comes back she finds out that the cat has exploded in the microwave.

The one I told my mother that laughed at was about a carpenter who comes to lay a carpet down for a lady. He gets the whole thing laid down, and packs up. He then pats his pockets to find his cigarettes so he can have a smoke when he gets outside, but he can't find them. He then notices a bulge under the carpet; not feeling like pulling up an entire carpet for a pack of cigarettes, he decides to simply hammer it flat, and no one will ever know. On the way out the door, he hears the lady's kid saying he can't find his hamster, and he just shrugs it off. When he gets back into his van, he sees his pack of cigarettes laying on the dashboard.

The one that everyone seems to know is about the teenagers who are parked out on Lookout Point, about to get it on. The radio is playing, when the announcer says that a lunatic has escaped from an insane asylum, and you'll know him because he has a hook for a hand. So the girl convinces her boyfriend to drive her home, despite his reassurances. At a stoplight, they hear a strange scraping against the side, but continue home. When the guy gets out of the car to open the door for his girlfriend, he sees a hook on her door handle.

That one, and the one about the lady driving home from a gas station, and the person behind her turns on his high beams, then turns them off again. She doesn't know what's going on, and just continues. The person behind her keeps turning his high beams on and off all the way home, and when she gets out, he stops and comes up to her and says, "There was a guy with a knife in your backseat. Every time I turned my high beams on, he would duck down so I wouldn't see who he was, but when I turned them off, he would sit up again. I thought it would be best to just follow you home!"

I was really into these stories when I was in high school, but for whatever reason I haven't heard much in the way of new ones. Of course, I'm sure there are stories I'm convinced are true and aren't.

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Alexanderashmedai on February 3rd, 2012 04:19 am (UTC)
Nope, I haven't heard these. I'm trying to think of some German urban legends, but I'm drawing a blank. I think we're too unimaginative to have any. LOL
MissTeacakesmissteacakes on February 3rd, 2012 01:40 pm (UTC)
Well, now you have some stories to tell friends. These things usually happen to "this person my friend knows" or to people in Texas.

Although, of all people who could come up with something gruesome to tell friends, I would think it would be Germans. (Nearly all our folk tales are either Grimm or the watered down French ones Perrault told.)

Every once in a while we get rumors about people finding various human appendages in fast food and some stuff; I thought even those might make their way out of the U.s. Maybe we just like scandal too much...(Although, I suppose I could tell ones we have about Germany/Germans. ^_^)
Alexander: FlyIntoEuropeashmedai on February 3rd, 2012 02:35 pm (UTC)
Although, of all people who could come up with something gruesome to tell friends, I would think it would be Germans. (Nearly all our folk tales are either Grimm or the watered down French ones Perrault told.)

Oh yeah, we're fed a steady diet of the most hair-raising stuff as soon as we learn to understand language. I remember learning to read when I was three years old, using a book that gave me fucking night terrors (Wilhelm Busch, who wrote verse to go along with caricatures. Someone usually was burned alive, chopped to pieces or had other horrible things happen to him in these stories). Sometimes I wonder if it has to do with that Teutonic compulsion for "hardening one's self", the psychological variant of jumping into a lake of freezing water or running around naked in the snow, in order to be hardened against cold - lol.

MissTeacakes: maggiemissteacakes on February 3rd, 2012 02:48 pm (UTC)
Oh God, that sounds almost like Der Struwwelpeter, (although, that one is Heinrich Hoffman...)My frustrated grandmother gave my aunt that book when she was little. We recently were laughing over the cats crying over the ashes of the girl who wouldn't stop playing with matches. How to scare your kids into submission...
Alexander: LaughingCatashmedai on February 3rd, 2012 02:54 pm (UTC)
We recently were laughing over the cats crying over the ashes of the girl who wouldn't stop playing with matches.

Yes! LMAO!! Things like that. Brutal, I tell you! XD
MissTeacakes: seriousmissteacakes on February 3rd, 2012 03:16 pm (UTC)
Yeah, with my great-grandmother from a Bavarian family, we have a tradition of scaring kids into behaving. I don't know, I think I ended up fairly well-adjusted. (I think a dose of good, old-fashioned fear is good for kids)
Alexanderashmedai on February 3rd, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
(I think a dose of good, old-fashioned fear is good for kids)

Finally someone who agrees with me. :)
MissTeacakesmissteacakes on February 3rd, 2012 03:29 pm (UTC)
We used to have a number of immensely popular horror shows for kids when I was about ten years old. They were just scary enough that we weren't permanently traumatized, and everyone had a favorite show they never missed. A lot of people my own age--not quite old enough to have kids yet--are seeing the effects of not scaring your kids, and think we need to get them back.
Alexanderashmedai on February 3rd, 2012 06:05 pm (UTC)
A lot of people my own age--not quite old enough to have kids yet--are seeing the effects of not scaring your kids, and think we need to get them back.

I agree, and I think it's the effects of not disciplining kids that are taking a terrible toll today. I don't have kids, and so I normally keep my mouth shut, but I'm shocked when I read others' LJ posts, how much they cater to their kids and let their kids treat them as "equals" (meaning equal in status, not worth, i.e., the kids don't see parents as authority figures). I'm not surprised so many kids are in psych treatment, they don't know which way is up anymore. / rant
aaa_mazing: wisdomaaa_mazing on February 3rd, 2012 02:57 pm (UTC)
Sorry, me butting in again. You guys didn't read our Gogol. Dead uprising and straddling people, riding around the village. Blah-blah-blah. But, IMO, Irish fairy tale are the scariest. One of my students wrote a paper on one; something about a stepmother who killed her stepson, and cooked! a part of his body every day for her husband.
Alexander: BadBadThingashmedai on February 3rd, 2012 03:03 pm (UTC)
That's what I call a resourceful woman. *g*
aaa_mazing: wisdomaaa_mazing on February 3rd, 2012 03:16 pm (UTC)
The boy's name was Goldielocks, btw. Just so you know.;)
And I always thought why have children. They can be useful.
MissTeacakesmissteacakes on February 3rd, 2012 03:12 pm (UTC)
Hey, I brought this stuff up for discussion! Go for it!

I vaguely remember a story about that, but I don't remember much. And yeah, Ireland has a very strong folk tradition, which is interesting since that Catholic church is so strong there.
aaa_mazing: wisdomaaa_mazing on February 3rd, 2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
I guess, the stronger the church, the more old traditions resist. The way to survive. At least, it true for Russia.
aaa_mazing: smokingaaa_mazing on February 3rd, 2012 07:31 am (UTC)
First two made me smile. I've heard the one about the cat in a microwave.
Last two are often used in horror movies, which - more often than not - make me smile as well.

Here, everybody knows the story about the ghost of a bride walking along the road. The legend says the girl was hit (murdered, raped then murdered) on the eve of her wedding.

Also, many pagan traditions are still alive in Russia, so lots of legends go along with them.
MissTeacakes: pythonmissteacakes on February 3rd, 2012 01:52 pm (UTC)
And for some reason, when you're ten you believe that a cat would actually blow up if you microwaved it. (We Americans certainly did.)

The one that's been used in horror movies galore is about a babysitter who keeps getting calls from someone who says he's watching her, and it turns out he's calling from inside the house. It's been around since at least the fifties, too!

Stories like the bride one are pretty popular in the U.S., too (there's been a huge wave of TV shows lately about that kind of thing.) And it's interested about the pagan traditions. It's almost strange that I can't think of anything that qualifies as distinctly "pagan" in the U.S., although part of that may be because we're such a young country.
aaa_mazing: wisdomaaa_mazing on February 3rd, 2012 02:16 pm (UTC)
"...you believe that a cat would actually blow up if you microwaved it." - Are you sure it won't?

Is it the "Scream" that you mean?

Pagan traditions are closely interwined with Christian ones in Russia. All the divinations have pagan roots but are usually hold on orthodox holidays. If you want, I could tell you some. Ask away.
MissTeacakes: seriousmissteacakes on February 3rd, 2012 02:28 pm (UTC)
No doubt it'll die, but after that it'll probably just cook like any other bit of meat you put in there.

"Scream" is the big one, but I've seen it in countless TV shows, and I'm sure there are other movies that use it, too. (There was an entire horror movie called "Urban Legends.")

I'd love to hear them. I'm a story-fiend, after all!
aaa_mazing: wisdomaaa_mazing on February 3rd, 2012 02:48 pm (UTC)
I just don't know how many brain cells EXACTLY do you need to put a cat into a microwave. And I don't even want to think what will happen to a poor thing.

I saw "Urban Legends". Always thought it's purely American thing. The legends, I mean.

Well, I don't know where to start. Maybe you have any questions? To push me.
MissTeacakesmissteacakes on February 3rd, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
Maybe we're making up for lost time.

If you don't know where to start, I certainly don't! I suppose it'll take some thought...
aaa_mazing: wisdomaaa_mazing on February 3rd, 2012 03:38 pm (UTC)
Well, I don't know if what I meant even falls under "Urban legends". They are just old Russian 'scary' traditions. That are still strong in Russia.
MissTeacakesmissteacakes on February 3rd, 2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
Well, they tend to be fairly modern, and people tend to believe it actually happened, but no one is sure who it happened to. I recently learned that the earliest documented one was actually Sweeney Todd, who appeared in a penny dreadful in 1846, and people are still saying he's based on a real person. We still get stories about gross things in restaurant food, including jokes about what's really in Chinese food. (I guess most folklorists prefer the term "modern legend" rather than "urban").

Honestly, I love hearing stories even when they don't necessarily fall into the category.
aaa_mazing: wisdomaaa_mazing on February 3rd, 2012 04:34 pm (UTC)
I saw Sweeney Todd. Didn't like. Holliwood tends to make even could-be-good stories into mainstream trash.

Well, I'll start with divinations. It's a common tradition here to tell fortunes. Which is pagan but takes place on Christian holidays (usually Christmas). Well, there is a belief that if at midnight on 6th of January (Yule?) you with girls (initially virgines but where can you find them these days?;) put a mirror and light a candle in front of it, you'll see your 'betrothed' there. I saw. Now I think it's a trick of light and shadow, but all girls do it still. Not exactly a legend, huh?