Our nationwide "tour" of urban legends visits Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky: Internet Scambusters #539
Which famous Beatles urban legend started in Iowa? And when and where was the earliest reported alien abduction, supposedly in Kansas?
And what was behind the curse allegedly cast by Kentucky's Colonel Sanders on a Japanese baseball team?
Find the answers to these questions and more in the latest installment of our alphabetic journey around the urban legends of the United States.
Now, here we go...
Urban Legends from Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky
We're back on the road again this week with our alphabetical tour of state urban legends.
This time we're in Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky, which turn out to be fertile territories for myths and legends, ranging from the familiar to the bizarre.
And some of them are the sort of stories that pop up in almost every state we visit -- like the Sasquatch, though we'll give him (or her!) a miss this time around.
Obviously, though, we still only have space for a couple from each state -- so, sorry if we missed your favorite!
Urban Legends from Iowa
What a lot of people don't know is that one of the most famous, global showbiz urban legends has much of its origin in Iowa -- the supposed death and substitution by a lookalike of Beatle Paul McCartney.
This forerunner of modern-day death hoaxes has been around for decades, claiming McCartney died in a 1966 car crash and was replaced by an actor.
All the other Beatles were supposed to have kept the secret for the sake of the band's fame and success, although people claimed the group gave out lots of hints, like the McCartney "clone" not wearing shoes on the cover of the Abbey Road album.
Although the rumor had bubbled below the service in England for a while, the story gained its traction after it was published in a school newspaper at Iowa's Drake University.
It was subsequently picked up from there by other Midwest papers, to be followed by mainstream media all over the world.
In the end, McCartney was forced to give a radio interview proving he was the genuine item.
Even so, the urban legend persists to this day.
Staying on a university/musical theme, a famous urban legend that has circulated online for years concerns the supposed construction by students at the University of Iowa of an incredibly complex musical machine.
The device was said to have been built using mostly old farming equipment, and videos of the device in action began to appear on YouTube, along with claims it was now on display at the Smithsonian.
In fact, the video is real but it's actually a remarkable piece of animation by a company called Animusic that has produced a number of these incredible videos.
The video links are still circulating, with all manner of stories about where the instruments came from -- but now you know better!
Kansas Urban Legends
Another story that's been circulating for many years concerns a prayer that was supposedly delivered by a pastor to the Kansas House of Representatives in 1996.
The prayer, which contains numerous controversial statements ranging from abortion to pollution, allegedly led to a walkout by legislators.
The prayer still turns up in emails today.
But this one is largely true. It was reported by the Kansas City Star and the prayer was aired on the radio in 1996.
Kansas also has its very own "Loch Ness monster" -- well, really nothing more than a manatee, or sea cow, that is supposed to live in Tuttle Creek Lake.
Alleged photos of the creature appear online from time to time and there's even a Facebook page devoted to it.
Finally, echoing the role of newspapers in promoting urban legends, Kansas might just hold the record for one of the earliest alien abduction reports in the nation.
In 1897, the Yates Center Farmers Advocate reported that a rancher had seen a UFO, manned by six aliens, capture a calf and carry it away.
The animal's remains, apparently, were found some miles away the next day.
Very interesting... except that the story turned out to have been scooped by the newspaper from a gathering of the local "Liars' Club" -- a well-known clearing house for fantasies, figments of the imagination and urban legends.
Kentucky Urban Legends
Well, how can we visit Kentucky without mentioning Colonel Sanders and his famous Kentucky Fried Chicken?
The number of urban legends attached to his name could probably fill a book by themselves.
Probably the most common, totally untrue, are stories that circulate about the main ingredient in his fast food feasts -- chicken.
These have ranged from claims of artificially bred super-chickens to... yuck... rats.
These invented tales have since spread worldwide and often get attached to other fast food joints (pardon the pun!).
But these aren't the only tales relating to KFC. Others include a myth that the company changed to its abbreviated name because they didn't want to use the word "Fried" in the title -- denied by the firm, which still uses the full name in some of its marketing.
Then, there's the Japanese baseball team supposed to have been cursed by the Colonel, allegedly because he was unhappy when a KFC storefront statue of him was thrown into a local river by fans celebrating their team's victory.
According to Wikipedia, this turned out to be a handy excuse to explain the team's subsequent 18-year losing streak.
Back to the animal world for our final urban legend. We didn't really want to disappoint you Sasquatch half-man, half-beast fans, so how about a human/goat hybrid?
They call him the Pope Lick Monster, named after a local creek south east of Louisville.
He reputedly haunts a trestle bridge, jumping on trespassers or on the roofs of cars passing underneath.
Some versions of the legend have him as an escaped circus freak, while others say he's the ghost of a farmer who sacrificed goats in return for dark powers.
Time to get back to reality.
Urban legends are mostly entertaining tales but some of them have a serious or mischievous purpose.
You can read about some of these at our Urban Legends and Hoaxes Resource Center.
As always, we encourage you to be skeptical about fantastic and outrageous stories that have the ring of urban legends. But, if they're harmless, enjoy!
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!