I grew up in Manhattan which is home to some of the most sophisticated–and skeptical–people, in the arts, finances, and media. It’s also home to an encyclopedic range of urban legends. I think the first one I ever heard–and believed–was that the NYC sewer system provided the perfect habitat for alligators.
Now, wait a second, before you dismiss this as crazy, back in the ’60s and ’70s there was a brief baby-alligators-as-pets fad. The problem, of course, was that baby alligators turn into BIG alligators. So, the legend suggested that people flushed the small alligators down their toilets before they got too big, creating a flourishing underground reptile community.
Is this hydrant story true? Seems (mostly) believable. But I’m going to guess it’s legend (see, I’m much more skeptical nowadays).
What about the legend that folklorists have actually given its own name, “The Kidney Heist”–I bet I don’t even have to explain this to you, regardless of which version you’ve heard.
All of this got me to wondering about “rural legends.” Do they exist in the same abundance as urban legends? Do they exist at all?
A quick scan through Google yielded little. So, I contacted my folklorist friend, Varick Chittenden, who many of you know as the founder of Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY).
Varick seemed to affirm the limited number of rural legends. The closest we could really come up with is cow-tipping.
Here’s the thing, Wiki calls “cow-tipping” an urban legend. Not a rural legend, an urban legend. Okay, does the phrase “urban legend” include all such cultural legends, regardless of whether they are set in the city or country?
Varick also directed me to Snopes, the website for urband legends, old and new, and urban scams. Check out this site. It is fun, and funny. In addition to covering historic and contemporary “urban legends,” they rate each on a kind of “truthiness” scale.
So, this has pretty much stumped both Varick and me. We turn to you. Rural legends? Please share.