Urban Legends doesn’t myth the mark

By Markus Anderson

You’ve heard the stories. Friends discovering a rodent, body parts and other less wholesome things in their food. How about the tales of giant alligators lying in wait down in the sewers of New York? The scuba diver found in a tree?

Urban Legends: Strange Stories Behind Modern Myths is as intriguing as its title. In his journey for the truth, writer A.S. Mott often debunks these modern fables which are often taken as fact. Intriguingly, he doesn’t debunk all of them.

The stories are arranged by into categories like “Eat, Drink, and be Wary”, “They’re Celebrities, They Deserve It”, and “A Strange Way To Go”. Mott uses an amusing style that doesn’t fail to engross. Each tale is laced with a caustic sarcasm and often references other infamous urban legends.

Perhaps the most fascinating section is the last one, consisting of true stories so incredulous, they’re often mistaken for urban legends. This section reminds the reader that truth is often stranger than fiction–and sometimes even more interesting.

One is the true story of Elmer McCurdy, or rather that of his corpse. Through an odd set of circumstances he ended up suspended in a carnival funhouse as a hanging dummy. Decades later, his body was discovered and finally removed when a TV crewman demanded the phony-looking dummy be taken down.

If the book has a fault, it is how some of the legends are too readily dismissed. Most myths are shrouded in at least some truth, as seen by how truly foolish people can be. One story describes a child whose parents put honey on his hands to encourage a picture-perfect moment with a bear, with predictable results.

If you’ve ever been curious about the origins and true nature of some of those urban legends, A.S. Mott provides the perfect ammunition during a party when someone brings up “that story about the axe murderer”.

Leave a comment