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Q: Urban legends ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   8 Comments )
Subject: Urban legends
Category: Relationships and Society > Cultures
Asked by: wantstoknow-ga
List Price: $4.21
Posted: 24 Jul 2002 07:54 PDT
Expires: 23 Aug 2002 07:54 PDT
Question ID: 44559
In the U.S. and/or developed countries, what is the most commonly
believed urban legend? I would exclude from this anything that is a
matter of religious dogma (such as appearances of the Virgin Mary) or
pseudoscience (such as astrology or dowsing).  I'm looking for the
falsehood that is most commonly believed, not necessarily the one that
is talked about the most.

Request for Question Clarification by thx1138-ga on 24 Jul 2002 10:13 PDT
The problem with urban legends (sometimes called urban myths) is that
they can rarely be proved to be ‘falsehoods’, this is why they are
legends/myths.  Almost always there is an element of truth to them. 
For example the common “everlasting light bulb” The story is that a
scientist invented an everlasting light bulb, and that a well known
light bulb manufacturer bought the idea/patent from him for millions
of $īs and is keeping the plans hidden in a swiss vault, so that
people will continue to buy light bulbs that have a finite life.  This
one goes back to the 80īs  (I remember it!) Nowadays the prospect of
an ‘everlasting light bulb’ are more realistic but in the 80īs it was
not likely, but how could you PROVE it wasnīt true!
So do you want urban myths that have been proven to be false, or are
you refering to urban legends proved OR unproved?

Subject: Re: Urban legends
Answered By: j_philipp-ga on 24 Jul 2002 11:40 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello Wantstoknow,

Following are the most believed urban legend which I sorted in order
of how often you come across them, and how many people really believe
in them. Since you are looking for "falsehood that is most commonly
believed" I will not list myths that turn out to be true. Often,
there's a bit of truth in them (or many people telling they're
actually completely true) -- in any case the fears of the cultural
subconscious expressed are very real. Please bare in mind that the
list presented is not the one definite order, but should give a good

1. Predicting the death of someone close in a dream, or dreaming of a
future accident that was then prevented due to the knowledge of it, or
dreaming of a future accident which then actually happened to oneself

If there should be only one answer, the above would be it for me. I
heard it in many variations, from teachers in school, friends and
family, or in newspaper and magazine stories.
You might take a statistical approach and ask how big a coincidence
would it be if indeed you dream of an accident or death of someone and
it happens -- compared to how often people dream of it and it doesn't
come true. Also a part of it can be self-fulfilling prophecy, and in
general the subconscious at night revealing more clues about reality
than we are able to see in daylight.

2. Snuff films exist

3. Coca-Cola invented Santa Claus as we know him today

4. Cigarette packages hide racist messages, like the three triangle
shapes of Marlboro as "KKK"

5. Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet

6. The USA faked the moon landing

7. The Pyramids were built by extra-terrestrials

8. Eskimos have 50 words for snow

9. Shakespeare didn't write the plays we think he wrote

10. "Paul is dead" hidden messages can be found in Beatles songs, and
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" means "LSD"

11. "The Wizard of Oz" captures a suicide by one of its actors

12. "Frankenstein" is the name of a monster, and not the madman
scientist Victor Frankenstein that created it

13. The only terrestrial object to be seen by the naked eye from the
moon is the Great Wall of China

14. Armstrong's first words on the moon were "It's one small step for
a man, one giant leap for mankind." and not "It's one small step for
man ..." -- forgetting the intended "for _a_ man".

15. We use only a very small percentage of our brains

16. The Titanic was the first ship to send the SOS signal

17. Sherlock Holmes really existed

Hope this helps!

Search strategy:
    I knew, and on Google researched
    individual legends that are very common.

Search terms:
    "pyramids were built by extra-terrestrials"
    did sherlock holmes really exist
    "sherlock holmes really existed"
    cigarettes packages hiding racist messages kkk marlboro urban
    usa faked moon landing urban legend
    frankenstein's monster scientist people
    kkk marlboro urban legend
    "it's one small step for man"
    "small step for man, a giant leap for mankind"

Request for Answer Clarification by wantstoknow-ga on 24 Jul 2002 13:04 PDT
What an intriguing and unexpected answer for #1!  And if you were to
include the stories about the people who missed a flight, or who
weren't in the WTC when they were supposed to be, and that type of
thing, this story is clearly very, very common.

Obviously, unless there were some poll done, there's no way to know
which of these tales people really believe the most.  If I were to
guess, I'd pick #8, #15, #5 and #2.

Thanks much.

Clarification of Answer by j_philipp-ga on 24 Jul 2002 13:20 PDT
Hello Wantstoknow,

I'm glad you liked the answer, which was great fun to research... thanks!
wantstoknow-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
I couldn't have asked for a more interesting or more thorough response.

Subject: Re: Urban legends
From: pinkfreud-ga on 24 Jul 2002 13:28 PDT
I wanted to do a little research on this question, but I nodded off,
and when I woke up I found that the alligators in the sewers had
removed my kidneys and replaced them with cookies from Neiman Marcus.
Subject: Re: Urban legends
From: dunno-ga on 24 Jul 2002 13:57 PDT
But those are all true!!
Subject: Re: Urban legends
From: expertlaw-ga on 24 Jul 2002 14:34 PDT
Did they charge you $250 for the cookie recipe? ;-)
Subject: Re: Urban legends
From: mwalcoff-ga on 24 Jul 2002 15:27 PDT
Some other very common urban legends:

--Mussolini made the trains run on time.

--Vince Lombardi said "Winning isn't the most-important thing; it's
the only thing."

--Building X on any college campus was designed to be secure from
student protesters.

--More pizzas are delivered to Dorm X on any college campus than to
any other building.

--If your college roommate dies, you get straight A's for the
Subject: Light Bulbs
From: ulu-ga on 24 Jul 2002 16:35 PDT
Of course they all have an "element" of truth.
Subject: Re: Urban legends
From: grimace-ga on 25 Jul 2002 07:10 PDT
The most common one I've come across - by a long way - is this:

* Thomas Crapper invented the flushing toilet.

I suppose so many people believe it that it hardly registers as an
urban legend any more!

The '50 words for snow' and '10% of our brains' legends are, I'd say,
most commonly believed. While 'Paul is Dead', 'Marlowe wrote
Shakespeare' and 'Marlboro hide anti-semitic messages' are often
repeated, few people actually *believe* them, do they?
Subject: Re: Urban legends
From: plotinus-ga on 25 Jul 2002 08:41 PDT
I'd add a couple: of false things that everyone seems to believe:

People in the Middle Ages thought the world was flat

Goldfish have a memory measured in seconds

Mayflies live for only a day

Ostriches really bury their heads in the sand

The water swirls out of the toilet or baisin in the opposite direction
in the southern hemisphere
Subject: Re: Urban legends
From: voila-ga on 25 Jul 2002 14:16 PDT
here's an all-purpose portal.

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