Urban Legends

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Florida’s Myth of the “Fountain of Youth” Decoded

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From Delancey Place


This is an excerpt from Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State by T.D. Allman: Ponce de Leon, Washington Irving, and the Fountain of Youth — and how the name “Florida” was chosen.

findingflorida-200If you go looking for the Fountain of Youth in its reputed location in St. Augustine, Florida], you’ll know you’ve almost reached your destination when you find yourself peering up at an ancient-looking arch. Across the top you’ll see displayed, in Ye Olde English-type lettering, an inscription. It reads: FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH. The lettering is meant to evoke long-vanished times of chivalry and derring-do, but one detail marks it as indubitably Floridian: the sign is made of neon tubing. In the gathering subtropical twilight, the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH sign glows and sputters like the VACANCY sign on a state highway motel. According to press releases provided by the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, which is what this venerable tourist attraction currently calls itself, this is the very spot where ‘Ponce de Leon landed in St. Augustine in 1513 searching for a Fountain of Youth.’ …

Juan Ponce de Leon never visited and never could have visited St. Augustine: St. Augustine was not founded until forty-one years after his death, in 1565. Ponce did not discover Florida. Many Europeans had been to Florida before he got there; many more knew of its existence. The first European to sight Florida may not have been Spanish at all, but Portuguese or Italian. … (more…)

Discovery Channel’s Fishy Story: Megalaton, Serial Killer of the Seas

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Sharks, Lies, and Videotape
John Oliver on The Daily Show
August 7, 2013

The Discovery Channel almost actually discovers something during “Shark Week.” (03:29)

Sasquatch Genome Sequenced?

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From Larry C.:


Bigfoot Is Real, And We Have DNA To Prove It: Researchers
by Lee Rannals
RedOrbit.com
February 14, 2013

sasquatchscience-200We thought the first evidence would emerge from some backyard video footage, or a smartphone photo, but the real proof of the existence of Bigfoot actually lies in the DNA.

A team of scientists has published the results of a five-year study of DNA samples from Sasquatch in the journal DeNovo Journal of Science.

Researchers claim they have sequenced three whole Bigfoot nuclear genomes, helping to prove that the legendary creature exists in North America, and is a human relative that arose 13,000 years ago.

The scientists hypothesize that the Bigfoot creature is a hybrid cross of modern Homo sapiens, with a novel primate species, giving it the species name Homo sapiens cognatus. (more…)

Dracula’s Serbian Cousin

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From Linda:


Vampire Threat Terrorizes Serbian Village
by Dragana Jovanovic, Belgrade
ABCnews.go.com
November 29, 2012

For the people in a tiny Serbian village there is nothing sexy or romantic about a vampire. In fact, they are terrified that one of the most feared vampires of the area has been roused back to life.

Rather than ‘Twilight’s’ Edward, the people of Zorazje fear that Sava Savanovic is lurking in their forested mountains of western Serbia.

They believe that he is on the move because the home he occupied for so long, a former water mill, recently collapsed. Savanovic is believed to be looking for a new home.

“People are very worried. Everybody knows the legend of this vampire and the thought that he is now homeless and looking for somewhere else and possibly other victims is terrifying people,” Miodrag Vujetic, local municipal assembly member, told ABC News. “We are all frightened.”

Vujetic said villagers “are all taking precautions by having holy crosses and icons placed above the entrance to the house, rubbing our hands with garlic, and having a hawthorn stake or thorn.”

“I understand that people who live elsewhere in Serbia are laughing at our fears, but here most people have no doubt that vampires exist,” he says. (more…)

Bear With Fish Impersonates Wooly Mammoth, Fools Millions

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Woolly Mammoth Video From Siberia Faces Credibility Issues
Huffington Post
February 9, 2012

A woolly mammoth has reportedly been seen and videotaped in Siberia, offering irrefutable proof that the giant hairy prehistoric elephants — believed to have gone extinct thousands of years ago — still exist.

That is, of course, if this new video shows an actual mammoth crossing a Siberian river. According to The Sun, a government engineer, conducting a survey for a potential new road last summer, saw the beast in question in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug region of Siberia.

He supposedly filmed the creature. And here is where so many questions come to mind: (more…)

The Mary Todd Lincoln Portrait Fraud

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Mrs. Lincoln, I Presume? Well, as It Turns Out …
by Patricia Cohen
The New York Times
February 11, 2012

For 32 years, a portrait of a serene Mary Todd Lincoln hung in the governor’s mansion in Springfield, Ill., signed by Francis Bicknell Carpenter, a celebrated painter who lived at the White House for six months in 1864.

The story behind the picture was compelling: Mrs. Lincoln had Mr. Carpenter secretly paint her portrait as a surprise for the president, but he was assassinated before she had a chance to present it to him.

Now it turns out that both the portrait and the touching tale accompanying it are false.

(more…)

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

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Bonfires, fireworks mark Guy Fawkes Day in the UK
Associated Press
November 5, 2011

London (AP) – Children and the young at heart across Britain are preparing fireworks and building bonfires to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day.

Fawkes plotted with other conspirators to blow up Parliament with explosives and install a Catholic monarch in the botched “Gunpowder Plot” of 1605.

The failure of the plot is remembered every year on Nov. 5 with fireworks and the burning of effigies known as “guys”.

Although not widely known outside Britain, the folk hero’s story has recently been gaining attention worldwide because many protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement wore a stylized Guy Fawkes mask.

The design of the mask, with a clownish and sinister mustachioed smile, originated from the comic book “V for Vendetta,” a story about an anarchist movement.

Successful people who never existed

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From Don:


Successful people who never existed
by Adam K. Raymond
CNN via Mental Floss
April 1, 2011

(via Mental Floss) — The dream student

George P. Burdell was a man born of a simple mistake. In 1927, someone in the admissions office at Georgia Tech accidentally sent student Ed Smith two registration forms instead of one.

Sensing an opportunity for mischief, Smith filled out one form for himself and the other for George P. Burdell — a student he completely made up. When Smith arrived at school, he kept the ruse going by enrolling Burdell in all of his classes and even turning in assignments under his name.

In fact, Smith did so much work on behalf of his imaginary friend that Burdell eventually graduated. When other students found out about the hoax, they helped keep Burdell’s story going. (more…)

LiteratEye #47: A Tale of Theft & Murder Behind “The Hound of the Baskervilles”

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Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Urban Legends

Here’s the forty-seventh installment of LiteratEye, a series found only on The Art of the Prank Blog, by W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of FIONA: Mysteries & Curiosities of Literary Fraud & Folly and the LitFraud blog.


LiteratEye #47: A Tale of Theft & Murder Behind “The Hound of the Baskervilles”
By W.J. Elvin III
January 15, 2010

Sherlock Holmes Movie Poster-200Some reviewers say Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must be rolling over in his grave in response to the new Sherlock Holmes film. Typical is the comment in The New York Times that Robert Downey, Jr.’s version of Sherlock “frequently bears little resemblance to the one Conan Doyle wrote about.”

Well, there are a great many Sherlock Holmes stories that Conan Doyle had nothing to do with other than to provide the basics, and who knows how many actors from the big screen to the small theater have portrayed our hero, each in their own way. So the current situation is nothing new, Sir Arthur has already been given plenty of reason to roll over.

More to the point, who can say how Doyle might have reacted? His famous detective novels give the impression he was as much a man of science as Sherlock, pragmatic, principled, scoffing at fantasy. Not entirely so. He was into fairies, séances and, it has been charged, murder.

Doyle continues to suffer ridicule for falling for fake photos of fairies. It’s said that in the 1920s he spent a million dollars in an effort to prove the existence of the tiny folk.

Probably the strangest story involving Doyle found him accused of plagiarism, conspiracy and murder. (more…)

LiteratEye #46: Who Discovered the Americas? Egyptians, Irish, Chinese and Your Uncle Bob

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Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Urban Legends

Here’s the forty-sixth installment of LiteratEye, a series found only on The Art of the Prank Blog, by W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of FIONA: Mysteries & Curiosities of Literary Fraud & Folly and the LitFraud blog.


LiteratEye #46: Who Discovered the Americas? Egyptians, Irish, Chinese and Your Uncle Bob
By W.J. Elvin III
January 8, 2010

covermaur-200

“Nowhere, alas, does bullshit and bang-me-arse archaeology flourish so well these days as in America where foolish fantasies pour from the press every month and sell like hotcakes.”

-Noted archaeologist and detective novelist Glyn Daniel, quoted in the book, Fantastic Archaeology.

Do you get lured off down a rabbit hole by claims of lost civilizations, fantastic explorations, bizarre archaeological discoveries and all that? Welcome to the club.

My membership dues have included books I’ve bought, bang-me-arse fabrications or not, about visits to the Americas by Chinese, Welsh, Scot, Irish, Basque, Libyan, Egyptian, Norse and other travelers in the days before Columbus.

There’s no shortage of fascinating tales. Take, for instance, the one about the Roman-Jewish settlement in the Tucson area, dating back a thousand years or so. Has to be a hoax, but if so how did it fool several respectable investigators? (more…)

Top 10 Urban Legends of 2009

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Top 10 Urban Legends of 2009
by David Emery
About.com Guide

Here, in ascending order of popularity as gauged by reader interest and site traffic, are the Top 10 Urban Legends, Rumors, and Internet Hoaxes of 2009:

ladygaga-20010. August ‘Mars Spectacular’
Circulating for the sixth year running, this email hoax describes a “once in a lifetime” celestial phenomenon — the closest encounter between Mars and Earth for the past 5,000 years — which already occurred in 2003. Read more…

9. Burundanga Drug Warning
“In Katy, Texas a man came over and offered his services as a painter to a female putting gas in her car and left his card,” begins this overwrought message. “She said no, but accepted his card out of kindness and got in the car. Almost immediately, she started to feel dizzy and could not catch her breath. She tried to open the window and realized that the odor was on her hand; the same hand which accepted the card from the gentleman at the gas station.” Read more…

8. Breast Infestation
“The picture is horrible but I felt that I should share with you. After anthropologist Susan McKinley came back home from an expedition in South America, she noticed a very strange rash on her left breast. Nobody knew what it was and she quickly dismissed it, believing that the holes would leave in time. Upon her return she decided to see a doctor after she started developing intense pains. To Miss McKinley’s surprise, they found larvae growing and squirming within the pores and sores of her breast.” Read more… (more…)

LiteratEye #43: Oh, I wonder, wonder who, ummbadoo-ooh, who, who wrote “The Night Before Christmas”?

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Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Urban Legends

Here’s the forty-third installment of LiteratEye, a series found only on The Art of the Prank Blog, by W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of FIONA: Mysteries & Curiosities of Literary Fraud & Folly and the LitFraud blog.


LiteratEye #43: Oh, I wonder, wonder who, ummbadoo-ooh, who, who wrote “The Night Before Christmas”?
By W.J. Elvin III
December 11, 2009

santa_record_broken-200Sure, some of us are nostalgic for ancient pagan winter rites like getting all painted up in blue for a sun worshipping cavort around a circle of huge boulders. Or those jolly pre-Christian customs like decorating trees with the intestines and various organs of one’s enemies. But let’s face it, the old-fashioned ways of celebrating year’s end are pretty much out of favor with the mainstream.

All that old-fashioned revelry has been transposed into kinder, gentler Christmas. In fact — regardless of your position as participant, observer of some other tradition, or just as bystander — you probably see the reality of two Christmases operating side by side. There’s the Christian religious celebration and then there’s the giving and getting commercial holiday frenzy.

Well, we’ll leave the religious rigmarole for someone else to tackle. Let’s look at the evolution of the commercial frenzy. (more…)

Peruvian Police Suspended for Faking Mythological Killings

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Urban Legends

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III: Come out Santa, it’s safe. Looks like it’s ok to let your jelly belly roll:


Peru officer suspended over human fat killers ‘lie’
by Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima
December 2, 2009

PeruPoliceFatScamPeru’s police chief has suspended a top investigator for saying he had caught a gang who were murdering people to sell their fat.

Last month, top organised crime investigator Felix Murga said police had arrested four suspects who confessed to murdering up to 60 people.

He said they were selling their fat for thousands of dollars a litre.

But the macabre tale now appears to be nothing more than a tall story – or a big fat lie. (more…)

The End Is At Hand

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Submitted by W.J. Elvin III: Apocalypse every once in a while…


10 Failed Doomsday Prophecies
NationalGeographic.com
November 4, 2009

halleys-comet-end-world_425

Click here to see all ten prophecies.

Just as some people today believe a Maya calendar pinpoints 2012 as the end of the world as we know it, some ancient Romans saw the A.D. 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius (pictured: Pompeiians flee the city in an illustration), as a sign of a coming apocalypse. (See “2012 Prophecies Sparking Real Fears, Suicide Warnings.”)

That’s because Roman philosopher Seneca, who died in A.D. 65, had predicted the Earth would go up in smoke: “All we see and admire today will burn in the universal fire that ushers in a new, just, happy world,” he said, according to the 1999 book Apocalypses.

(Test your Armageddon knowledge on the National Geographic Channel Web site.)

The end never came, but that hasn’t stopped people–over centuries and across cultures–from forecasting our collective doom. Click through the gallery for a sampling of end-of-the-Earth scenarios.

artwork: Library of Congress

Top 10 Scariest Urban Legends

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From UrbanLegends.about.com by David Emery:

Top 10 Scariest Urban Legends

It’s the witching hour on a dark, moonless night. You’re huddled with friends around a campfire in the woods far from town, taking turns telling tales. Someone has just recounted a particularly eerie ghost story, insisting it was true. You sit silently, staring self-consciously into the flames, reluctant to let on that the story actually made your skin crawl. Then someone in the shadows clears his throat and speaks:

“Did you hear the one about. . .”

2339532850_1f19e292cf-2001. Aren’t You Glad You Didn’t Turn on the Light?

Strange things happen in the dark, and as this terrifying story shows, sometimes it’s just better not to know. . .

2. Bloody Mary
They stood in candlelight in front of the bathroom mirror, chanting “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary.” The thirteenth time they said it, something very strange and frightening happened. . .

3. The Boyfriend’s Death
Parked late at night on an isolated country road, a teenage girl waits for her boyfriend to return after going outside to relieve himself. After what seems like an eternity, she is startled to hear something scraping across the roof of the vehicle. . .

4. Buried Alive!
Many years ago before the medical technology we now have for monitoring patients’ life signs existed, an elderly woman was pronounced dead and scheduled for burial. Family members literally had to pry her unembalmed body from the clutches of her husband, who kept protesting that she wasn’t really dead. . . (more…)