I Heard That...

Jan Harold Brunvand. The Choking Doberman, and Other 'New' Urban Legends. Norton, 1985.
The most disarming thing about this wonderful book is that you will probably have heard most of these stories before, related in all candour as 'gospel' and, like myself, believed every word. The chicken bone stuck in the lady diner's throat that turns out to be rat: that happened in Ealing Broadway, I can point out where the Chinese restaurant used to be. And the tragically castrated child - now that really happened in Hounslow - or was it Isleworth? We don't get the spider's nest in the beehive hairdo, but these are 'new' urban legends. But what is 'new'? Many of these yarns have their genesis in music hall gags, which have later become 'true stories'; others show folklore motifs, which date back hundreds of years.

It seems that we are prepared to believe almost anything as long as it is told to us with enough sincerity (A. Collins, please note). After all, the convincing lie is always much more favourable to the unconvincing (or in most cases just plain dull) truth. And, of course, many of these people are Americans...

But why we do it and continue to re-do it, that is indeed the question … and all a matter of Foaf-lore. The Choking Dobermann is a veritable pot-pourri of tall tales, and is definitely required reading - and definitely Christmas present material (can I keep this copy Mr Rimmer) [No. Ed.] Buy yours now . But for pity's sake don 't lend it to anyone, or you will inevitably find that it has been borrowed again by a friend of your friend's brother's wife's auntie, who herself had a very strange experience - although hers, of course, was definitely true. -- Robert Rankin. Magonia 21, December 1985.

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