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  • Urban Legend: An Experiment in Transmission December 6, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite , trackback

    Urban Legend

    How do urban legends spread and how quickly? The following is a suggestion for an experiment involving the creation and propagation of a new urban legend. First phase: a team creates a credible story and each member changes details but not narratives. Second phase: they, then, on a given day, release the story on an unsuspecting world: emails to five or six people in their email accounts; release on Facebook accounts; etc etc. There are also attempts to contact the kind of journalists – typically those with columns – who might publish the story. Third phase: every month for twelve months and then every three months for the next ten years the different variants of the story are tracked with Google.

    A suggestion for a possible story. Strangehistory recently offered a forgotten urban legend ‘the missing clock’: a departing female lodger leaves house and a valuable chamber clock goes missing; the landlord chases departing lodger who furiously denies that she took the clock; the two are taken before a judge; the lodger stands up decries the landlord and denies any wrongdoing; as she is speaking, at 12 pm on the dot, the chamber clock begins to sound from her bustle (wicker framework on the bottom). This urban legend is a good choice for any modern experiment because: (i) it no longer exists; (ii) it is memorable; and (iii) it can easily be adapted to modern circumstances.

    The modern story would go something like follows.

    My friend’s cousin’s boss* is a wealthy American* businessman who, for reasons you’ll soon understand, I won’t name. He was recently in Paris* and invited a beautiful young woman for a drink. The man is a little garish having a painfully loud version of *Beethoven’s ninth on his bejeweled smartphone. In the bar the phone was constantly going off and the Parisians were rolling their eyes, as the French typically do when confronted with New World vulgarity. The businessman and the girl talked for half an hour and, then, the man went to the bathroom, leaving his phone and wallet on the table with his new friend. When he returned he found that the woman had vanished and that while his wallet was still there his extremely expensive smartphone had vanished, too. He raced down the street and found the woman walking away while talking on her own mobile and he stopped her. She apologized for having left the bar but revealed that her friend had just had an emergency. She began to cry when the man accused her of having stolen his smartphone, but the business man insisted and called the local police over who, despite the girl emptying her pockets and handbag, brought both the accuser and accused before the local judge. The woman, when her turn came to speak, berated the man and had the judge nodding and the American blushing until the unmistakable notes of Beethoven’s Ninth emerged from her general crotch area.

    Never written an urban legend before and not sure if this works: perhaps expectations in the tale are managed badly. The ‘*’ marks points where variants could be easily introduced. Note that the language would have to be changed throughout just to stop Google searches tracking any online UR version down: perhaps, in fact, it would be best not to publish the UR story online in any form! That alone might be reason for choosing another story. Interest, advice or help: drbeachcombing At gmail DOT com