Monsters, ghosts and an angry goddess haunt urban legends: Internet Scambusters #478
Mostly they're simply not true, but that doesn't stop people from passing around urban legends -- far-fetched stories of hauntings and bizarre discoveries.
This week we visit Florida, Georgia and Hawaii in our alphabetical, state-by-state series that focuses on some of the most common urban myths.
We've got monsters, hidden rooms, hauntings, secret police speeding-ticket campaigns and an angry goddess to tell you about.
Let's get started...
Urban Legends "Tour" Hits Florida, Georgia and Hawaii
We're back on the road this week with our alphabetical, around-the-states tour of urban legends, stopping off in Florida, Georgia and then hopping halfway across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii.
Urban legends, as a reminder, are stories that usually have a fantastic element that's almost unbelievable. Yet they persist. And sometimes they're even true -- or at least no one's quite sure about them.
As author Jan Harold Brunvand says in his urban legends book Too Good To Be True: "(I)t's not really truth or fiction that defines an urban legend.
"As with any folklore -- and these stories are definitely part of our modern folklore -- the defining qualities are oral repetition and variation."
Florida Urban Legends
That's certainly the case with one of Brunvand's tales called The Mexican Pet, which has a New York couple, vacationing in Florida, who rescue a poor, bedraggled dog while on a boat trip.
Unable to trace the owner, they take it home where it promptly attacks (and eats, in one variation) the family cat. When they take it to the vet, he tells them it's not a dog but a Haitian rat.
Actually, the original version of this story has the couple buying what they're told is a Mexican chihuahua, which, again, turns out to be a rat.
As you might expect, there are also lots of urban legends associated with Florida's number one attraction, Disney World.
These include a claim that Cinderella's Castle had a secret room for Walt Disney and his family to use during visits, when in fact, the castle was actually built after Disney's death.
Another secret chamber elsewhere in the park is supposed to contain Disney's cryogenically frozen body, when in reality the entertainment king was actually cremated and his ashes buried in Glendale, California ...at least, as far as we know!
Like most states, Florida also has its own "monster" -- or rather, several of them.
There's the 15-foot rattlesnake supposedly found in Jacksonville, a spider called the Two-Striped Telamonia that emerges from toilet bowls, and a sea creature called The Montauk Monster.
True or not? We're not saying, but the Miami Sun-Sentinel newspaper has a list, with photos, of 40 supposed Florida monsters.
Georgia Urban Legends
In the state of Georgia, many of the monster-type urban legends relate to wild hogs variously claimed to weigh between 800 and 1,000 lbs. Many of them include supposed photos of the beast that is usually nicknamed Hogzilla.
However, there may be an element of truth in some of these stories, which also turn up in Arkansas, because hogs, at least in captivity, have been known to reach this kind of weight.
On the other hand, reports of a massive, state-wide police fundraising campaign through what's been called a "speeding ticket frenzy" is known to be a hoax.
An email about this campaign has been circulating in the state for the past couple of years.
According to the message, state troopers, patrolling in a new fleet of 30 unmarked cars, have been ordered to pull over a speeding motorist at least every 20 minutes, even if they're just doing a couple of miles above the limit.
The aim is said to be to raise $9 million.
While there's no doubt that Georgia, like all states, wants to stop speedsters, there are no such targets -- either for fundraising or time intervals, and no specially-acquired fleet of unmarked cars.
One of the most geographically widespread urban legends, known as Crybaby Bridge, turns up in Georgia.
In this myth, the sound of a crying child is said to come from below a road bridge where there has usually been an accident.
Georgia's Crybaby Bridge is in Columbus and the storytellers say that if you stop there and put baby powder on the hood of your car, footprints will mysteriously appear.
Learn more about the Crybaby Bridge urban legend story on this fascinating Wikipedia page.
And you can even do a tour of supposed Crybaby sites in the state of Ohio.
Hawaii Urban Legends
Many of Hawaii's urban legends are rooted in centuries-old folklore, but there are also a number of more modern creations, though we'll steer clear of the more politically controversial ones.
We know for sure that a park ranger invented a cunning urban legends story to stop visitors from removing lava rocks as souvenirs from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Drawing on an ancient legend that the Hawaiian Goddess of Volcanoes, Pele, lives atop Mt. Kilauea, he spun a tale claiming that anyone who removed lava rocks and took them home would be cursed by the goddess.
Apparently, after the story was published, scores of people mailed back rocks they had taken home.
Here's another one aimed at tourists that common sense tells you can't be true.
We're back to bridges. In this case, the Seven Bridges of Manoa, in Paradise Park, just outside of Honolulu.
According to the legend, if you count the seven bridges as you follow a trail, you'll find only six on your way back!
And finally, Hawaii features in a gruesome and unproven urban legend that also places Dallas, Texas and even Mumbai, India as its location.
The story, which circulates by email, warns visitors about an infected syringe that's either placed on a movie theatre or nightclub seat or in the coin slot of a call box phone.
There's no evidence it ever happened.
From grim to grin-worthy, urban legends continue to fascinate us.
Mostly, they're harmless but some are obviously worrying.
As always, we suggest that when you come across urban legends, especially in an email message, do an Internet search before taking it too seriously -- and definitely before passing it on.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!