Urban Legends and Myth Busting


Eating Pop Rocks and drinking soda at the same time causes your stomach to explode.  A woman was warned of a home invader by her chocking Doberman Pincher.  Microsoft will give you $245 for every third person to whom you forward a certain e-mail. 

You’ve heard stories like these before, either through word of mouth or forwarded e-mail.  They are urban legends, a kind of American folklore that, like tales of old, is kept alive through word of mouth and occasionally media reports.  The rise of the internet and e-mail has helped to spread these tales globally at the blink of an eye.  Urban legends typically contain elements that are strange and fantastic, but are so realistic and plausible that you would believe them to be true.  But the reality is that these tales are at best exaggerations of actual events, and at worst, hoaxes.   

Jan Harold Brunvand, a former professor who taught courses on folklore and studied urban legends as a hobby, calls urban legends an integral part of American culture, just like traditional folklore.  Urban legends, however, appear to be validated by witnesses or other reliable sources, so “the most sophisticated ‘folk’ of modern society” believe they are true. (from The Vanishing Hitchhiker)  Being a folklorist, Brunvand does not look to debunk these stories.  His series of books simply explore the origins and evolution of urban legends.  Similarly, The 500 Best Urban Legends Ever! divides the tales into different categories and presents them without additional commentary:  Just plain, fun reading! 

Proving or disproving urban legends is the job of two highly visible and notable sources.  On the Discovery Channel series Mythbusters, special effects experts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage take urban legends, myths, rumors and historic oddities and test them scientifically.  Faithful crash test dummy Buster is often on hand when Hyneman and company recreate the myths, some involving elaborate machines, props and explosions!  After observation and examination of applicable data, the myth is declared confirmed, plausible or busted! 

Barbara and David P. Mikkelson do the same job as the Mythbusters, only without the splash!  Their website Urban Legends Reference Pages at snopes.com verifies or disproves urban legends, “common fallacies, misinformation, old wives’ tales, strange news stories, rumors, celebrity gossip, and similar items” (from snopes.com FAQ) by going the source of the legend – personal accounts, media or historical reports and/or physical evidence – to determine its validity.  The findings are presented in short essays where the legends are rated as true, false or undetermined.  The sources of the research are often included.   

Snopes.com divides the legends into forty-four categories, including a search option.  The Computers category is especially useful for finding the truth behind those pesky mass e-mails that friends and family forward to you.  You know the ones:  They warn you about computer viruses, pending threats and disasters, and show pictures of fantastic phenomena like pink dolphins.  The next time you get one of those mailings, check Snopes to see if it is worth forwarding to everyone in your address book! 

Other books on urban legends are available at CCLS and through PINES.  Many more sites can be found on the web by searching the term “urban legends” or “urban tales.”


Published in: on August 22, 2007 at 4:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tutor Fair: Sept. 8

NEED A TUTOR FOR YOUR CHILD?      Stop by the Clayton County Library System’s Headquarters Library on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2-4 p.m. to meet various local tutors. These tutors are fee-based and are not being specifically recommended by the library. This information is being made available as a public service in response to frequent requests.

CALLING ALL TUTORS.  If you are a local tutor and want to participate in this tutor fair, there is no charge to participate but you must pre-register by calling Diane Flores, 770 473 3850 (ask for the Children’s Dept.) or by emailing her at dfmountain@inbox.com   Participating tutors will be expected to bring multiple copies of flyers regarding their tutorial services to distribute to the public. Participating tutors should be tutors who work in Clayton County or are easily accessible to Clayton County families.

Following the fair a “Tutor Notebook” will be placed at each of the library system’s six locations containing a flyer from each of the participating tutors.

Also don’t forget that your student can access “Live Homework Help” for free online tutoring via the library’s web site, http://www.claytonpl.org/  Most online tutoring sessions last 20 minutes and a Clayton County Library PINES card is required to access this service.  If the student doesn’t have a library card, please follow the instructions on the library’s web site to “cut and paste” the library card number from the online copy of the library card application.  This online service is funded by the Clayton County Library System Foundation and Clayton County Public Schools.

Published in: on August 22, 2007 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

When Harlem Nearly Killed King

The 1958 Stabbing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
Martin Luther King, Jr. sat at a table in a Harlem department store, autographing copies of his book Stride Toward Freedom. He was approached by a woman who asked “Is this Martin Luther King?” “Yes, it is,” King replied. Immediately, the woman pulled a letter opener from her coat pocket and drove it into King’s chest, just fractions of an inch from an aorta. As the woman was taken into custody, King was rushed to Harlem Hospital where, three hours later, surgeons removed the letter opener.

This is how most newspaper and biographical accounts describe the assassination attempt on Martin Luther King on September 18, 1958. In the days that followed, news on King’s recovery, details on the surgery and the fate of the would-be assassin was released. But this brief event is often overlooked, if mentioned at all, in the context of other events and achievements of King’s life. Thus, many are unaware of the near tragedy.

When Harlem Nearly Killed King by Hugh Pearson takes a deep look at the incident. Starting with the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and King’s own memoir about the boycott, Pearson traces the events and circumstances surrounding King’s trip to Harlem, his stabbing at the hands of Izola Curry, the surgery to remove the weapon, and the various individuals involved. As it turns out, there was more going on beneath that near fatal moment than meets the eye: New York gubernatorial candidates Averell Harriman and Nelson Rockefeller showed support of King in effort to win black voters; many black leaders of New York, who disagreed with or were jealous of King, declined to attend a rally in his honor; a prominent Harlem bookstore owner launched a protest at the rally when King declined to visit his store; Curry’s hatred of black ministers fueled her decision to try to kill King; professional ego caused the delay in King’s surgery and was a factor in who took credit for the operation.

I read When Harlem this past summer for a class assignment. I won’t burden you with the particulars of the assignment, but part of my paper examined the impact of race on what went on that day and the days before and after. It was the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, and as Americans were confronted with the issues of inequality and discrimination more than in previous times, so were their attitudes. Its influence was at the base of every motive and action by every individual directly involved with that day in September, for better and for worse. The stakes were high, and race was something used for gain or an obstacle to proving the worth of African-Americans.

When Harlem Nearly Killed King is a fascinating read for history buffs like me and readers interested in the Civil Rights Movement. Filled with revealing facts and tidbits of information, it is a revealing look at the state of America at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement.

Published in: on August 21, 2007 at 12:08 am  Comments (1)  

What Now?

Harry Potter…What more can we say about Harry Potter that hasn’t already been said?

Well, I for one am glad the seven books J.K. Rowling pre-planned are finished. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading them, I did, well, once I finally decided to start them. When the series first began I really didn’t care too much to read them. There was just too much hype surrounding them and that usually turns me off of something for a while (like the DaVinci Code by Dan Brown-phenomenal book by the way). By the time Goblet of Fire came out, I was able to get the four books at a very large discounted price and decided to read them. Yeah, yeah, I know-shameful reason to decide to read a book. So there I was after dinner, sitting on my bed reading the Harry Potter books. In the wee hours of the morning, dry eyed and exhausted I finally crashed midway through the third book. I was hooked.

My whole view on Harry is different from most people’s. For one, I really don’t like him, my most favorite character is Snape (although I think this is partially due to the portrayal Alan Rickman gives in the movies hehe), and my favorite book of the series is the Order of the Phoenix-but not for reasons most would have. To me, Order of the Phoenix is all about repercussions and I liked that.

So, to my point about being glad the Harry Potter books are over. Now its time for some other series to have a taste of the spotlight!

In my opinion one of the best ones out there is the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix. Maybe an evil boy genius is more up your alley-if so pull out Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Perhaps you would prefer to be transported to a parallel-ish universe in which deities of mythology and all sorts of fantastical creatures and monsters really do exist? Well then, Everworld by K.A. Applegate is perfect for you.

There is the Merlin series by T.A. Barron, Redwall by Brian Jacques. Maybe a series that has been turned into a movie is more for you… A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett or His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman or even The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Maybe you have found a new series or stand-alone. Either way, keep on reading and find your own bit of magic in books!

Till next time-keep flipping those pages!


Published in: on August 13, 2007 at 4:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Library participates in Free Family Fun Day

Representatives from the Clayton County Library System will be present at two free local events for families on Saturday, August 4, taking library card registrations and giving out information about library programs and services.

Georgia R.O.C.S. (Reclaiming Our Schools & Community) Family fun day at the Beach at International Park located on Highway 138 from 2-7 p.m.  The first 2,500 kids will receive free backpacks with school supplies. This event is hosted by “Reach Them 2 Teach Them.” Admission price to the park for that day will be half price, $5 per person & parking fees will be waived. For more information go to


and www.rt2tt.org

2007 Back to School Rally sponsored by New Birth South Metropolitan Church.  Parade begins 11 a.m. , route Clayton Co. Board of Education Building, 1058 Fifth St. through downtown Main St., ending at old Courthouse Building. Rally with concerts, carnival rides, health fair, 11:45-4 p.m. Free except for carnival rides & food.  Free school supply giveaways while supplies last. For more information go to www.newbirthsouth.org 

Published in: on August 2, 2007 at 12:03 am  Leave a Comment