The Baby Train: And Other Lusty Urban Legends


Jan Harold Brunvand-''Mr. Urban Legend" [Smithsonian]-tracks the most fabulous tales making today's cocktail-party circuit and shows why those stories that sound too good to be true probably are too good to be true.

The eponymous episode-"The Baby Train"-sheds light on certain predawn activities that have linked unusually high birth rates to the whim of train schedule ...

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Jan Harold Brunvand-''Mr. Urban Legend" [Smithsonian]-tracks the most fabulous tales making today's cocktail-party circuit and shows why those stories that sound too good to be true probably are too good to be true.

The eponymous episode-"The Baby Train"-sheds light on certain predawn activities that have linked unusually high birth rates to the whim of train schedule makers. Other stories offer a revealing peek behind the story of "The Exploding Bra," expose the embarrassing source of "The Hairdresser's Error," resurrect a "Failed Suicide" Buster Keaton would have died for, and show why adults are better off not bringing their comic book fantasies out of the closet. From "Superhero Hijinx" to "The Shocking Videotape" to "The Accidental Cannibal," The Baby Train uncovers the mysteries behind some of the bawdiest, goriest, funniest, most pyrotechnic urban legends yet.

America's premiere folk-detective is back on the case, sniffing out those zany but dubious stories that "absolutely happened" to a friend of your sister's boyfriend's accountant's mechanic. Brunvand tracks the most fabulous tales making today's cocktail-party circuit, showing why those stories that sound too good to be true are too good to be true. Photographs and drawings.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Brunvand, an English professor at the University of Utah and author of four previous collections of modern folklore, including The Vanishing Hitchhiker , here offers another engaging compilation. He groups these resonant anecdotes, found in slightly modified versions around the world, into such sections as Sex and Scandal, and On-the-Job. In the former, the title piece tells of a train whose early morning whistle wakens couples in bed and leads to pregnancies. From the section titled Fun and Games, ``Built in a Day'' refers to taxi drivers' descriptions, tendered most often to tiresome American tourists, of such local monuments as the cathedral in Milan's Piazza di Duomo. Expanded from Brunvand's syndicated newspaper column, these accounts, for the most part, are attributed to the notorious FOAF--a ``friend of a friend.'' Illustrations not seen by PW . (Mar.)
Library Journal
Folklorist Brunvand has compiled another collection of stories originally published in his nationally syndicated column, ``Urban Legends.'' The author gives a lively analysis of these contemporary folk tales, also including accounts and variations received from his readers. Although the narratives are reported as true, they were most often told by an unnamed ``friend of a friend'' and involved outrageous antics or unbelievable coincidences. The study reveals recurrent motifs and concludes with ``A Type-Index of Urban Legends'' classifying the tales from all five of Brunvand's books. Not as informative as The Vanishing Hitchhiker ( LJ 10/15/81), but equally entertaining.-- Eloise R. Hitchcock, Tennessee Technological Univ. Lib., Cookeville
Denise Perry Donavin
For his fifth collection of urban lore, Brunvand has pulled from his files some naughty tales about a bachelorette party, a butcher's prank, and a Batman disguise gone awry in the bedroom. In his introduction Brunvand explains that he collects "data for folklorist study," not simply funny tales for the amusement and amazement of the readers of his books and his twice-weekly newspaper column. "Baby Train" is filled with lively anecdotes from the professor's attempts to trace the stories back to their earliest appearance and their devolution (that is, how they change, improve, or worsen with changing times and tellers). Whether fans of folklore or not, many readers will be diverted by these legends and amazed at how often they have been caught accepting them as genuine. Especially helpful in this volume is the subject index, which cites stories from all of Brunvand's books and suggests a classification system for storing and retrieving urban folklore.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393034387
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/1/1993
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.85 (w) x 8.51 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Jan Harold Brunvand lives in Salt Lake City, where he is professor emeritus at the University of Utah.

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Table of Contents

Preface: Some Can Tell ├čem, Some Can't 11
1 Sex and Scandal Legends 33
"The Baby Train" 33
"Superhero Hijinks" 38
"The Hairdresser's Error" 44
"The Butcher's Prank" 47
"The Bad Bachelorette" 50
Photo Faux Pas and the Infamous Toothbrush Story 53
"The Shocking Videotape" 61
2 Horrors 65
"Flights of Fancy" 65
"Mothers' Double Talk" and Other Domestic Tragedies 68
Three Sticky Situations 72
"The Accidental Cannibals" 75
"The Exploding Bra" 80
Exploding Airplanes 83
"The Failed Suicide" 86
"Psychic Videotapes" 88
"No News but Bad News" 92
The Jersey Devil 95
Mothman - Big Bird or Big Fantasy? 98
"Homey the Clown" 101
The Well to Hell 105
Drug Horror Stories 109
3 Crime and Punishment 113
Foiled Again! Lessons from Folklore 113
Annual Campus Crime-Rumor Scares 116
Crime Victims Speak, and Folklorists Listen 120
City Life 125
From the Annals of Modern Crime 128
"The Body in the Bed" 131
"The Slasher under the Car" 134
"The Colander Copier Caper" 139
Crime and the Quake 146
"The Kidney Heist" 149
4 On-the-Job Legends 155
Career Decisions 155
"The Bedbug Letter" 158
Roughneck Fishermen Throw 'em Back 163
"The Wife on the Flight" 166
Mistaken Identities 169
"The Technology Contest" 174
"Give Me a High Three" 178
A Dirt-Cheap Way of Selling Real Estate 181
Tales from the Greenroom 185
The Modem Tax Rumor 188
Log-on Lingo and Other Net Takes 191
5 Fun and Games 195
"Built in a Day" 195
Tour Guide Stories 199
Golf Stories 203
These Creative Tales Age Well 207
Biker Legends 210
Generation Gap Lore Moves with the Times 217
Messin' with Jazz 220
6 Foreign Relations 223
Culture Clash Legends 223
Refugees Adapt to Life Hmong Strangers 226
British Travel Troubles 229
Good on You, Australians 231
Tall Tales from the Low Countries 237
Finnish Urban Legends 240
My Man in Silesia 242
Hold That Taiga Tale 245
The Latest Legends from Italy 247
Urban Legends in Japan 250
7 Animal Legends 253
Sad Animal Tales, and Why There Are No Cats in Solvay, New York 253
Why Your Pet Hates the Vet 259
"Stupid Pet Rescues" 262
Motown Panthers (and Others) Are Hard to Trail 267
"The Hunter's Nightmare" 270
"The Flying Cow" 273
"The Missionaries and the Cat" 276
"The Spider in the Cactus" 278
"The Snake in the Greens" and other Weird Green Things 288
8 Academic Legends 293
Back to School Legends 293
"The Obligatory Wait" 296
Sinking Libraries 299
Switched Campus Buildings 302
"The Dormitory Surprise" 305
"The Gay Roommate" 308
"The Daughter's Letter from College" 312
Lending a Hand at Med School 315
Lessons in Compassion 318
Dissertation Blues 322
A Type-Index of Urban Legends 325
Index 349
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