The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings / Edition 1by Jan Harold Brunvand
Pub. Date: 12/28/2003
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
The book that launched America's urban legend obsession!The Vanishing Hitchhiker was Professor Brunvand's first popular book on urban legends, and it remains a classic. The culmination of twenty years of collection and research, this book is a must-have for urban legend lovers.
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Urban legends: those stories everyone has read (or heard), and which everyone knows to be true -- yet which somehow can never be traced to any actual source. There's the Niemann-Marcus cookie recipe that cost 500 dollars; the woman who had poisonous spiders (ugh) build a nest in her beehive hairdo; the tiny poisonous snakes that showed up in a shipment of Persian rugs, only to bite an unsuspecting customer; and of course, the mysterious hitchhiker on a lonely highway, who turns out to have died decades earlier. While not as comprehensive as some of the author's subsequent works on urban legends, this is an engaging introduction to stories that range from the humorous to the macabre. Where this work falls a little short is in its brief, tentative, and uncritical functional explanations. The curious reader craves to know WHY these mythical tales are so persistent. What deep needs in us do they satisfy? Do any of these myths have equivalents in other countries? What do they tell us about the human psyche? And why are we so gullible as to believe them so uncritically? While such questions remain to be answered satisfactorily, this book offers an entertaining introduction to a intriguing cultural phenomenon that may offer insight into a barely explored aspect of the human psyche.