Urban Legends and Beliefs

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Urban Legends and Beliefs

Urban legends are unverifiable stories about outlandish, humorous, frightening, or supernatural events that have achieved wide circulation. In some instances, the stories are based on actual occurrences that have in their telling and retelling been exaggerated or distorted. Other urban legends have their origins in people misinterpreting or misunderstanding stories that they have heard or read in the media or heard from actual witnesses of an event. The one commonality that all urban legends share is the claim that the story always happened to someone else, most often "a friend of a friend."

On March 30, 2002, the Pennsylvania State Police issued a warning to citizens of that state, advising them to question unsubstantiated allegations and accounts of various criminal acts, because a large number of hoaxes had achieved wide circulation due to e-mail, various websites, and faxes. The police illustrated their point by showing how the urban legend of the "Knock-Out Perfume," which originally told of several women who had been rendered unconscious and robbed as a result of criminals giving them phony perfume samples, became transformed after September 11, 2001, into terrorists having killed women by sending poison perfume samples through the mail. The poisonous perfume story eventually became accounts of anthrax that was supposedly being sent by terrorists to Pennsylvania residents on a mass scale.

Folklorists and other experts who collect urban legends point out that such accounts of allegedly true occurrences differ from actual news stories or historical events in that they have a completely developed storylinean actual beginning, middle, and end. Urban beliefs are most often accusations, claims, or frightening assertions that are directed at individuals, religious groups, corporations, or political organizations.

To illustrate the difference between an urban legend and an urban belief, take the example of the terrorists and the poisonous perfume. An urban legend would begin by affirming that the story is true and that it happened to a woman who was known by a friend. It would go on to give her name and describe how she innocently opened a package sent to her through the mail and how she sampled the perfume that she found inside. The story would conclude with a recounting of the tragic demise of the victim. An urban belief, rather than providing an illustrative anecdote, would simply state that all women must be suspicious of any package sent to them by a perfume company, because it is known to be true that terrorists are targeting American women with poisoned perfume.

The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation issued certain guidelines to aid people in detecting an urban legend:

  • If the story has a beginning, middle, end, and a punchline, it is likely to be an urban legend.
  • If the story begins with the affirmation that it is true and happened to a friend, it is probably not an account of an actual event.
  • If one has heard the same or similar story from several different sources, but with different names and details, it is probably an urban legend.
  • If there is no real evidence to support the story or its allegations, it is likely to be false.

While most urban legends and Internet myths are basically a nuisance to law enforcement officers who are often called to investigate the truth of such accounts, such false stories and hoaxes do consume time, energy, and finances. Although spokespersons for the Federal Bureau of Investigation have stated that no statistics are maintained on how many hoaxes are investigated, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, nearly every story concerning poisons, anthrax, or other noxious substances sent through the mail was taken seriously and checked.

Many urban legends are recycled stories and continually updated. A story that was in wide circulation in the 1950s will achieve a new birth in the twenty-first century and fool people all over again. Barbara Mikkelson, who maintains the Urban Legends Research Centre, theorizes that such revisions of old stories are done by people who heard them years ago and were frightened or amused by them and thereby wish to retell the old legends in a way that puts their own imprint upon the stories. In other instances, she comments, many legends were originated by people who wished "to appear more knowledgeable or more informed on a subject than might truly be the case."

Mentioned here are the more familiar urban legends and beliefs, all of which have been told and retold as true occurrences that happened to real people.

Deadly Reptiles in the Imported Carpets

The story: A woman went shopping in a new department store that had recently opened near her home. As she was admiring the vast display of imported carpets and running a hand over the fabric, she felt a sudden sharp prick in the hand that was holding the bunched material. Thinking the small wound on her hand to have been caused by the bristles of the new carpet, she continued to examine the display. A few moments later, she felt dizzy and faint and collapsed in the carpet department. Judging by her wan color and her difficulty in breathing, the store called an ambulance, fearing that she suffered a heart attack.

Fortunately for the stricken woman, a doctor at the hospital had experience in Asia and recognized her symptoms as having been caused by a poisonous snake indigenous to that part of the world. When employees of the department store cautiously checked the new shipment of imported carpets, they discovered a number of the deadly snakes that had somehow unknowingly been shipped with the merchandise. The woman recovered from the bite and sued the department store for negligence.

A variation of this urban legend has the woman handling some imported baskets that have just arrived at the department store. She screams and drops to the floor. She is rushed to the hospital but is dead upon arrival. The doctors recognize the symptoms of snake bite, and when the employees of the store investigate, they find a deadly poisonous snake coiled at the bottom of the last basket the woman was examining.

Yet a third version of the snakes at the department store has a woman trying on some clothes that have just arrived from an Asian nation. She pulls on a coat and stands before the mirror, evaluating the fit. Deciding against the purchase, she places the coat back on the hanger and returns home. That night, she experiences a strange swelling on her shoulder and begins to feel ill. When her husband takes her to the emergency room, the wound is diagnosed as a bite from an unknown kind of snake. The next day she returns to the store, picks up the same coat that she had tried on the previous evening, and in the presence of the store manager finds a small snake nestled in a shoulder pad.

This urban legend was first circulated in the early 1970s and has continued to be repeated in its several versions. Some believe that the myth was begun as a way of discouraging shoppers from patronizing the large discount department stores that featured merchandise imported from overseas markets.

The Fabulous Cookie Recipe

The story: A woman and her daughter finished their salad at a Neiman-Marcus cafe in Dallas, Texas, and because they were both such cookie lovers, they decided to try the "Neiman-Marcus" cookie. The cookie was so excellent that the woman asked if she might have the recipe. The waitress rather haughtily informed her that the recipe could not be given away freely, but it might be bought for two-fifty.

The woman was thrilled, considering "two-fifty" to be $2.50 and a great deal. However, when she received her credit card statement, she was shocked to see that the Neiman-Marcus charge was $285.00 with "Cookie Recipe: $250.00" clearly marked on the bill.

The woman called the Neiman-Marcus accounting department to complain, and she was soundly rebuffed. She was told that the waitress had duly informed her that the recipe could be bought for "two-fifty" and she was naive to think that such a treasured list of ingredients could be purchased for $2.50. She was warned not to call the Better Business Bureau or the Texas Attorney General's office, and not even to think of trying to get even or to get her money back.

"All right," the woman told them, hatching a scheme to get revenge for such an exorbitant bill, "you've got my $250.00, now I'm going to have $250.00 worth of fun. I'm going to send your famous cookie recipe to every cookie lover in the United States who has an e-mail account."

An alleged recipe for Neiman-Marcus cookies is then provided to the e-mail recipient with the instructions that it should be sent on to every person he or she knows who has an e-mail address.

While many recipients of such an e-mail undoubtedly follow the recipe included and produce a good-tasting cookie, the recipe does not come from Neiman-Marcus. There is no "Neiman-Marcus cafe" at any of the famous department store's three Dallas-area outlets. In its restaurants, named the Zodiac, Zodiac at North Park, and The Woods, the staffs do not sell recipes, but give them away free to any customer who may inquire about a particular item on the menu.

There wasn't even a "Neiman-Marcus cookie" until quite recently when, in a good-natured response to the widespread urban legend, the company developed a chocolate chip cookie and freely gives away its recipe.

This popular urban legend of an ordinary woman getting revenge on a corporate giant has been around in one form or another since the late 1940s. It began shortly after the end of World War II (1945) with a woman being charged with an exorbitant bill after requesting the recipe for fudge cake from a railroad diner car. In the 1960s, the legend evolved to a woman customer receiving a bill for $350.00 from New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for a dessert known as "Red Velvet Cake." In the 1970s, Mrs. Fields became the villain for having sold the recipe for chocolate chip cookies to a customer for $250.00. The story regarding Mrs. Fields became so widely circulated that in 1987 the company issued a public denial, insisting that all of their cookie recipes remained trade secrets. In each of the fictional instances, the urban legend had it that an ordinary person who had been taken advantage of by a haughty big business had gleefully taken her revenge by distributing the once-sacrosanct recipes to whomever wished to use them.

Sometime in the 1990s, the story shifted from Mrs. Fields as the malefactor to a cafe in a Dallas-area Neiman-Marcus store. The advent of the Internet caused the story of the vengeful woman and her defiant distribution of the cookie recipe to become one of the most popular of all the widely circulated urban legends.

Green M&Ms

The story: Mars, Inc., the makers of M&Ms, was brought into court and heavily fined when it was discovered that the candy coating on the green-colored M&M chocolate candies contained an aphrodisiac. The candy company was involved in an insidious plot to stimulate innocent children sexually with the substance in the green M&Ms and drive them into the hands of pornographers. In addition to the aphrodisiac in the candy coating, Mars, Inc., had launched a series of television commercials featuring scantily clad models whose poses were designed to arouse the children even further and suggest how they themselves might pose for the child pornographers. Conscientious consumers were urged to cease supporting a candy company that was in league with the manufacturers of child porn, and parents were advised to write their congresspersons and demand that the product be taken off the market.

It is difficult to trace the origins of this urban legend about the green candy with the bizarre erotic stimulant mixed into its coating, but it appears to have begun sometime early in 1993 on the Internet with e-mails informing parents to insist upon legal action against Mars, Inc., for becoming participants in the insidious child porn business. Some researchers have theorized that the rumor may have begun when Mars, Inc., actually did appear in court in 1992 to obtain a cease and desist order against Cool Chocolate, Inc., a competitor that had started to manufacture a green-coated chocolate that it was calling "The Green Ones." The attorneys for Mars, Inc., argued that the product was too similar to M&Ms, and the court ruled in favor of the long-established makers of the popular colored-coated chocolate. Cool Chocolate, Inc., was ordered to cease producing its rival line of candies. Since the urban legend began shortly after the court case had concluded, it is possible that the purpose of Mars, Inc.'s, day in court became woefully distorted into an outrageous accusation associating the candy company with child pornography.

The origin of the claim that Mars, Inc., also created a series of erotic commercials to promote further the ingestion of the aphrodisiac-coated green M&Ms among children remains a mystery. True to the tradition of urban legends, no one can actually recall seeing any scantily clad models in the familiar commercials promoting the candy that "melts in your mouth, not in your hands," except, of course, for a "friend of a friend."

The Hook on the Car Door

The story: A young couple were parked on a lonely lovers' lane by a river, listening to dreamy, romantic music on the car radio. Suddenly the mood was shattered by a news bulletin. An escapee from a hospital for the criminally insane had escaped. People are told that they should be on the lookout for a tall, gaunt man with a pronounced limp and a hook instead of a left hand. The announcer concluded the bulletin by warning the radio audience that the man with the hook was a serial murderer and was last seen making his way out of town.

The thought of a mass murderer with a hook for a hand coming upon them as they sat there in lovers' lane completely destroyed the romantic interlude for the young woman, and she asked to be taken home. Her boyfriend was decidedly unpleased with her decision. He argued that the murderer was undoubtedly far away and would certainly never wander out to a lovers' lane. Although he persisted and tried to dissuade his frightened sweetheart, she once again repeated her wish to leave the dark and lonely place at once.

Angered and frustrated, the young man started the engine and roared out of the parking place by the river. Pouting and disappointed, he refused even to speak to his girlfriend as he drove directly to her home. Stubbornly, he remained seated behind the wheel and silent while she got out of the car to walk to her front door.

Just as she was about to slam the car door, she screamed in horror. Jolted from his pique, the young man got out to see what had caused his girlfriend to go into hysterics.

As he walked to the passenger side of the car, he, too, is startled to see a prosthetic forearm dangling from the door handle, a steel hook gleaming in the light from a street lamp. The murderer had been about to open the door on the passenger's side of the car when the young man had given into his girlfriend's demands and peeled out of the parking place, tearing off the killer's hook in the process.

This is a classic urban legend, dating back at least to the 1940s. The familiar tale is most often told as having happened to a friend's college roommate or high school classmate, and the story of the murderer's hook on the car door has long been a favorite at slumber parties and around campfires.

If Your College Roommate Commits Suicide.

The story: It is a standard regulation at all colleges that a student whose roommate commits suicide will automatically receive a 4.0 grade point for the current school term.

Although this myth has become popular enough to be the subject of two motion pictures (Dead Man on Campus and Dead Man's Curve, both 1998), it is not true. Nor will any of the variations of this legendsuch as a roommate being murdered, killed accidentally, or dying from a terminal diseaseearn the surviving roommate a 4.0 grade point.

Persistence has led to other versions of this story becoming a bit more believable, with versions stating the death of a parent, a close relative, or a betrothed guaranteeing a straight "A" report card. While many academic institutions do offer some kind of bereavement considerations to those students who suffer the loss of someone deemed especially important to their lives, no college is known to award grade points for such tragic circumstances.

Jesus on the Freeway

The story: A couple was driving across the United States on vacation when they spotted a long-haired, bearded hitchhiker standing at the side of the road. Although he appeared somewhat disheveled and his clothes were a bit ragged, they decided to take a chance that he was not a serial murderer and they picked him up.

After they had driven for a few miles, the hitcher, in answer to their inquiries regarding his destination, began to speak of heaven. His words touched their hearts and the relieved couple realized that they had picked up a very spiritual fellow.

The hitchhiker then shifted his comments to issue a number of warnings concerning the day of judgment that will soon be at hand for all of humankind and the entire world. The backseat became a makeshift pulpit as he advised the couple that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ was at hand.

At this point in the narrative, the story has two equally popular endings:

  1. The couple looked around and discovered to their astonishment that their passenger had disappeared. Then they realized that the man was Jesus himself, warning them to prepare for Judgment Day.
  2. Just before he disappeared before their astonished eyes, the hitchhiker revealed himself to be Jesus, who left them with a blessing and a final warning to be prepared for his return.

The stories of Jesus on the freeway seem to be a variation of the urban legend of the phantom hitchhiker combined with the gospel account of the risen Christ appearing to Cleopas and another disciple as they walked on the road to Emmaus, about seven miles northwest of Jerusalem. At first the two do not recognize Jesusand when they do, he disappears.

The tale of the contemporary hitchhiking Jesus is still repeated, but it was in very wide circulation in 199899, just before the year 2000 and the period of time that many Christian fundamentalists believed would be the advent of the end times, Armageddon, the last great battle between the forces of Good and Evil. From their perspective, it seemed to be in the order of things that Jesus could return in disguise, then reveal himself to certain individuals so that they might be prepared for the opportunity of the Rapture, which they believe will deliver all true believers from the planet.

The Phantom Hitchhiker

The story: A college student was driving on a lonely country road late one rainy night when he was startled to see a young woman walking along the shoulder. Immediately he pulled over, leaned across the front seat to open the passenger door, and asked her if she wanted a ride.

Without a word, she got inside. It was obvious that she was cold and soaked to the skin. The college student reached behind him, grabbed his sweater from the backseat, and offered it to the lovely hitchhiker.

She smiled her thanks and draped the warm sweater over her shoulders, informing him that she had to get home that night to see her parents.

In the light from the dashboard, the student noticed for the first time that her face and hands were scratched and bleeding. When she caught him looking at her injuries, she explained that her car had slid off the road and into a ditch. She had stood there for what had seemed like hours, hoping for help; then she decided to walk the rest of the way to her parents' home.

The student told her that there was no problem taking her right to her parents' front door. In spite of her bedraggled appearance, it was becoming apparent to him that she was a very beautiful young woman, probably about his own age. She gestured into the darkness ahead and said that the house was only a few miles ahead.

As he was getting up his courage to ask her for her name, she pointed to a house down a very short lane. She asked him to stop, and she got out of the car. He protested that he would be happy to drive her the rest of the way, but she was already running away into the night. As he drove on, he berated himself for not asking her name, but then he remembered that she still wore his sweater. That would be his excuse to drive back to her parents' home and formally make her acquaintance.

Two days later, after his afternoon classes had ended, the student drove to his mystery girl's home and knocked on the door. He was surprised when an elderly woman opened the door and invited him to step inside. As he looked about the interior of the front parlor, he noticed a framed portrait of the beautiful young girl, and he asked the woman if her granddaughter was home.

Following the student's gaze to the portrait, the woman began to weep. Her darling daughter, she said, was still trying to come home. The student listened incredulously as the woman told him that her daughter had been killed in an automobile accident more than 40 years before.

By the time he managed to leave the old woman, he had concluded that she must be crazy. The hitchhiker he had picked up that night was no more than 19 years old. And she was very much alive.

As he passed a small rural cemetery, something blowing in the wind caught his eye. When he entered the graveyard to investigate, he found his sweater draped over a tombstone that marked the final resting place of a young woman who had died 40 years ago.

Some version of the above account of a phantom hitchhiker has been told and retold with variations for at least the past 70 years. In many areas, there are no shortages of witnesses who say that they themselves have stopped to pick up the ghostnearly always a lovely young womanand they swear that their encounter is true.

Chicago's "Resurrection Mary" has been hitching rides and spooking motorists since the 1930s. Said to be the spirit of a beautiful, blond Polish girl, Mary has been picked up by smitten young men at dances and asked to be taken home. The problem is, "home" always turns out to be Resurrection Cemetery on Archer Avenue on the South Side of Chicago. On occasion, Mary has been bold enough to open car doors and get in, explaining to the startled driver how she desperately needs a ride into the city. Once again, as the car approaches the cemetery on Archer, Mary bolts from the car and vanishes at the gates.

For many years, taxi drivers in Naha, Okinawa, have claimed that an attractive woman in her 20s, with short-cropped hair and dressed in black slacks, often hails them for a ride on the road to the U.S. Marine Camp. When the cab drivers turn to ask for a specific destination, she disappears. The phantom has been dubbed the "Nightwalker of Nago," because she most often appears on the mountain road leading from the fishing village of Nago to the marine camp.

Since 1965, dozens of drivers have slammed on their brakes to avoid hitting a pretty young woman in a flowing white dress standing in the road on Blue Bell Hill in Maidstone, England. The phantom is said to be that of a woman who was to have been a bridesmaid for her best friend when she died in a car crash the night before the wedding. Her spirit appears still dressed in her flowing bridesmaid's gown, still attempting to get to the wedding on time.

Stories of phantom hitchhikers constitute a category of urban legends that have been reported around the world and show no signs of ceasing. Motorists, truckers, and taxi drivers by the hundreds have a "friend of a friend" who really did give a ghost a ride.

Proctor & Gamble Is a Satanist Company

The story: Sometime in the 1960s, when many people were announcing that the Age of Aquarius was dawning and New Age beliefs were beginning to receive wide circulation, the rumor started that the logo Proctor & Gamble had applied to their products for generations was a satanic symbol. The logo pictures the moon with a smiling face and 13 stars, representing, according to the urban belief, the number of satanists in a coven, the negativity of the number 13, and the devilish activities that evildoers commit in the moonlight.

Representatives of Proctor & Gamble had issued disclaimer after disclaimer, assuring the public that none of its executives or employees were satanists, but in 1994, a call to action was issued by alleged Christian fundamentalists demanding that all good Christians boycott all P&G products. According to the manifesto that was widely circulated, the president of P&G had appeared on the Phil Donohue television program on March 15, 1994, and announced without hesitation that he was a satanist. What was even more upsetting to the author of the pronouncement was that the president of P&G had openly declared that he had been using the products of his company to raise money to support his charity, The Church of Satan. Then, defiantly, the president stated that there weren't enough Christians in all 50 states combined that would make any difference to him or to his company's profits.

The anonymous author of the declaration that went out over the Internet and in postal mailings titled his piece, "You Can Make a Difference," and he challenged all Christians to show the president of Proctor & Gamble that he was wrong. They could make a difference by ceasing to buy any P&G products. "Let him know what Christians think of his kind," the e-mail demanded. "Stop buying his products! Now! Today!"

No president of Proctor & Gamble ever appeared on the Donohue television talk show. No one from the firm has ever claimed to be a satanist or commented on the number of Christians residing in the United States.

The accusations of satanic allegiance and worship levied at Proctor & Gamble are completely fabricated. Yet, in spite of P&G's legal representatives winning nearly a dozen court decisions declaring that the rumors had no basis in truth, the urban legend about Satan profiting from Proctor & Gamble's many products continues to rear its horned head.

The Scuba Diver in the Tree

The story: While assessing the damage done by a forest fire in California, authorities were startled to discover the body of a man dressed in a wetsuit, complete with a dive tank, flippers, and face mask, in the branches of a tree. The strangely placed victim had suffered severe burns from the forest fire, but an autopsy revealed that he had not died from the flames, but from massive internal injuries. Dental records provided the victim's identification, and investigators contacted his family in an attempt to learn how a man who was dressed for scuba diving could possibly have ended up in the branches of a tree in the midst of hundreds of acres of charred forest.

According to the horrified family, the victim had been diving in the ocean some 30 miles away from the forest on the day that the fire had gotten out of control. As the investigators pieced together the grim details of the man's death, it became apparent that he had been accidentally scooped up along with thousands of gallons of water by one of a fleet of helitankers that had been called in to help the firefighters. Caught up in one of the huge buckets, the unfortunate scuba diver had been dumped along with the sea water in an attempt to put out the forest fire as quickly as possible.

While this story has been told many times since the late 1980s, there has never been a record of a diver in a scuba outfit being accidentally dumped by helicopter tankers on a forest fire. Authorities point out that while water is sometimes taken from lakes and ocean areas in an effort to extinguish forest fires as rapidly as possible, the helitankers suck up the water by means of a hose only a couple of inches in diameter. No one could be drawn into such a small opening and pulled into the tank.

Snakes in the Toilet

A fear of snakes is among the oldest of all of humankind's basic fears, so it is likely that this urban legend grew out of the ancient warnings of primitive people to be cautious about the places they selected to relieve themselves when obeying a call of nature. As civilization progressed, the outdoor toilet was a place that often harbored snakes that would scare or bite a person, which would possibly lead to death. With centuries of apprehension about snakes it seems a natural progression to bring such primitive fear into man's modern plumbing and toilet facilities.

The story: Perhaps the most common version of this urban legend has someone with an enormous pet python moving into an apartment building. In order not to alarm his neighbors, the individual keeps the nature of his pet a secret from everyone. (Sometimes the story states that he or she is with a traveling circus and is only staying in the apartment for a few nights.)

One day, the snake fancier carelessly leaves the toilet lid up in his bathroom, and the big serpent wiggles its way into the bowl, enters the drain pipe, and emerges in the toilet of the next door apartment. The startled individual is horrified to see a monstrous snake suddenly rear its head from the toilet bowl, and as he runs from the bathroom, the mammoth python begins to slither its way into his apartment. This account usually ends with the frightened apartment dweller calling the zoo or the animal control center and a crew of men arriving to wrestle the monster python of 15 to 20 feet out of the building.

Another popular version of the story has a big snake somehow making its way into the plumbing system of an apartment house and moving through the pipes until it comes up for air in someone's toilet just as the person is about to use it. In some legends, the victim either dies of a heart attack or is bitten to death by the deadly reptile.

Spiders in the Hairdo

As man watches primates grooming one another in the zoo or in a nature film, one can clearly see that the process of checking one's hair for insects is a procedure that has been inherited from the most primitive ancestors. Combine this instinctual grooming practice with the fear of poisonous insects and there is the likely origin of the urban legends about the spiders in the hairdo.

Although tales of the unwanted presence of bees, wasps, and other annoying insects in someone's long hair had been popular since at least the late 1800s, the urban legend of the poisonous spider in the hair continued through the twentieth century. This legend started up again with the introduction of the popular beehive hairdo in the early 1960s. Because women sprayed their hair to create a rounded "beehive" appearance, it seemed possibleand terrifyingto those wanting such a fashionable style that a spider could take residence in the raised hair atop their heads.

The Story: As the legend goes, a woman, wearing a beehive hair style, walks into a beauty shop and asks for a trim. She tells the beautician that she has not touched her hair for daysother than to add spraybecause she felt she had achieved the perfect shape to her hairdo. As the beautician begins to shampoo the woman's hair, the customer screams in awful pain. She grimaces, gasps, and collapses.

The beautician, horrified and confused, calls an ambulance as the other customers look on in disbelief. As the paramedics are lifting the woman onto a stretcher, a black widow spider crawls from the woman's hair. The poisonous insect had been nesting in the woman's sprayed hair and had bitten her when the beautician began to shampoo her hair.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, male "hippies," who wore their hair shoulder-length or longer, became the most oft-cited victims of the "spider in the hair" folktale. The long hair made it possible by the suspicions of the general public that "hippies" seldom bathed, thus allowing a deadly spider to remain undetected in their hair until somehow provoked.

The Internet continues to resurrect both the female victim with her beehive hairstyle or the poisoned hippie with his uncombed, unwashed shoulder-length hair. However, sometime in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the urban legend was updated by substituting a man or woman with dreadlocks as the unsuspecting host for the poisonous spiders. In some versions, the victim is bitten when he or she attends a barbershop or beauty parlor and the barber or beautician uncovers the insect. In other legends, both the wearer of the dreadlocks and the hair-stylists are bitten by a nest of spiders.

Delving Deeper

Bronner, Simon J. Piled Higher and Deeper. Little Rock, Ark.: August House, 1990.

Brunvand, Jan Harold. Curses! Broiled Again! New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.

. Too Good to Be True. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.

Craughwell, Thomas J. Alligators in the Sewer and 222 Other Urban Legends: Absolutely True Stories That Happened to a Friend of a Friend. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1999.

. Baby on the Car Roof & 222 Other Urban Legends: Absolutely True Stories That Happened to a Friend of a Friend. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2000.

Dickson, Paul, and Joseph Gouldon. Myth-Informed. New York: Perigee Books, 1993.

Genge, N. E. The As-Complete-As-One-Could-Be Guide to Modern Myths. New York: Random House, 2000.

Glantz, George. "Cops Out to Quell Urban Legends." Times Herald, March 30, 2002. [Online] http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=3705584&BRD=1672&PAG=461&dept-id=.

Holt, David, and Bill Mooney. Spiders in the Hairdo Modern Urban Legends. Little Rock, Ark.: August House Publishers, 1999.

Urban Legends Research Centre. [Online] http://www.ulrc.com.au/html.

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