Posts Tagged ‘urban myths’

The Legend . . .

In February 1785, Elly Kedward of Blair, Maryland was branded a witch and banished from the village after allegations of enticing children to her home in order to draw blood from them. By the following winter, nearly half of the village’s children had disappeared, along with all of those who had accused her of witchcraft. The villagers fled in fear to escape the ‘curse’ that they believed had been put on them.

In November 1809, a fictional book called The Blair Witch Cult was published. It tells the story of a woman who, having been tortured and banished on charge of witchcraft, placed a curse on the village of Blair. This tattered book has survived but most of the pages are illegible.

In 1824, a new town named Burkittsville (population 194) was established where the village of Blair had once stood in Frederick County, Maryland, about one hour’s drive from Washington DC.

Turbulent times followed for the townsfolk of Burkittsville, with a series of child murders and macabre occurrences taking place in and around the town. Perhaps the most horrific example was in 1941, when a man was convicted of the murder of seven children. He had disembowelled them in what appeared to be a ritual and claimed he had carried out the gruesome murders under the influence of the ghost of an old woman who dwelt near the woods of his house.

In 1994, three student filmmakers arrived in Burkittsville. They were collecting information for their class project on the Blair Witch legend and, having interviewed the townsfolk, they set off into the nearby woods to gather footage for their film, never to be seen again.

A huge operation to find the students ensued, but after ten days of combing the woodlands with the aid of tracking dogs, helicopters and even a department of defence satellite, the rescuers returned unsuccessful.

For a year their disappearance remained a mystery, until the film footage they had shot was discovered buried under an old log cabin in the woods.

The Investigation . . .

The Blair Witch Project was groundbreaking, as it was the first time that a UL was created with the sole purpose of marketing a film. This low-budget production used the power of ULs to maximum effect and, in doing so, achieved massive publicity before the film was even released.  The Blair Witch website supplies a formidable and extremely detailed history of the legend, giving a credible background to the film. The film itself is said to be the actual footage filmed by the students, shortly before they disappeared.  The footage was found a year after their disappearance in an abandoned log cabin, and was titled The Blair Witch Project. The whole set-up was very believable, and instantly gave the film a cult status before it was even released. Of course, we all know now that the whole legend is an elaborate piece of fiction, a clever piece of marketing that was the brainchild of the film’s writer/directors, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. Without a big budget to spend on advertising, they utilised the Internet to spin a unique piece of netlore; and it worked.

The film itself was produced in a unique way, and unknown actors were used to play the characters. The outline of the film and the characters’ roles were explained to the actors, and then they were dumped in the middle of the woods not knowing what was going to happen.  Notes and supplies were left in strategic positions for them,  and they were  monitored  by a Global Positioning System that helped keep track of where they were. The end result was unique film footage that has a home video documentary feel to it, where the emotions of true fear and horror can be seen quite clearly on the young actors’ faces. In truth, the film never actually lived up to the hype, although

it did prove to be a popular topic for discussion due to the fact that  public opinion was so vigorously divided. The infamous shaky camcorder footage has not proved to be everyone’s cup of tea, but was essential to get that student home video feel that the film relies on.

And Finally . . .

The Blair Witch Project reportedly took a total of $240.5 million at the box office, and $140.5 million of that was from the USA alone. To put these figures into perspective, you have to remember that the film was made with hardly any budget. It was one of the great successes of 1999, rated fourteenth in that year’s top grossing films. It even beat off big-budget blockbusters, with films such as Wild Wild West, American Pie, End of Days, Entrapment and Big Daddy all finishing in lower positions.

 Extract from the international selling kindle version of Urban Legends Uncovered – Reloaded – click below to buy


Name:    Trick In Treats


Every year at Halloween, kids dress up in ghoulish costumes and go trick-or-treating. This is seen as harmless fun by many and is usually carried out under adult supervision. The reason why this exercise is called ‘trick-or-treat’ is simple, the kids knock on a door and when a person answers they are asked a simple question:

‘Trick or treat?’ The person then has to give the trick-or-treaters a treat (e.g. sweets, chocolate, apples, etc.), or pay the penalty with a trick. The trick is usually a practical joke with no malice involved, although some kids may take this a bit too far.

This custom has been carried out for generations, and so it is a sign of the times when parents have to be careful about the treats the kids are receiving. I am afraid there are some truly wicked and twisted people out there, who seem to take great pleasure in tampering with the kids’ treats. In some of the most serious cases, razor blades and pins have been found embedded in apples. It is only a matter of time before serious injury is caused by such callous acts.

So, I ask all parents to be extremely vigilant and not allow your children to go trick-or-treating without adult supervision. Always check the treats for signs of tampering, and especially be wary of anything homemade (e.g. cakes).

Happy trick-or-treating!

The Investigation . . .

It seems unbelievable but it’s true – these depraved individuals who interfere with kids’ treats really do exist. The warning above is typical of many that appear in e-mail in-trays or through fax machines just before Halloween every year. It is a warning with basis, and should never go unheeded. Over the years there have been many incidences of this kind of food tampering, and the threat has prompted official warnings to be issued. In 1997, the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) issued the following safety   tip for Halloween trick-or-treating:  ‘Warn children not to eat any treats before an adult has examined them carefully for evidence of tampering.’

Although still a threat, the stories have turned into legends over the years and are often greatly exaggerated. Most cases reported have turned out to be hoaxes and out of the incidents that have actually happened, luckily no one has been seriously injured. The stories started to fly around in the late sixties, and the number of incidents reached a record high in 1982. In this particular year, there was an influx of food tampering instances, and not just over the period of Halloween.

Although hugely popular in the USA, trick-or-treating in Britain was almost unheard of before the 1980s. When the US custom did take off in Britain in the mid 1980s, so did all the legends that went with it. British parents were particularly cautious about their children going trick-or-treating, on hearing all at once a plethora of stories about food tampering, poisoning and kidnapping. Many households banned trick-or-treating, and trick-or-treaters were  shown hostility. Of course, the media gave more than a helping hand to whip up the frenzy.

And Finally . . .

The modern  practice of trick-or-treating  probably originated from  a  Celtic  New  Year  tradition  of placing treats  on  the doorstep  for  the  spirits that  haunted  the  night, looking for people to possess. The idea was that the treats would please the spirits, and so these would leave the occupants of the house in peace.

Christians had a similar ritual called ‘souling’, which would take place on 2 November around the ninth century AD. A participant would knock on doors, and the person who answered the door would exchange ‘soul cakes’ (square pieces of bread with currants) for a prayer for deceased relatives. The more cakes that were given, the more prayers would be said, increasing the chances that the deceased relative’s soul would find heaven.

Extract from the kindle book Urban Legends Uncovered – click here to buy