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In this book Nick Harding sets out to describe a host of Urban Legends suggesting that we should not dismiss them purely as nonsense nor accept them as gospel truth but by striving to understand their underlying meanings we begin to see their true worth as folklore for the modern world. To understand folklore and therefore the realm of the Urban Legend is to understand the psyche of a nation. By understanding Urban Legends we can gain an insight into our own fears and those of our fellow human beings.
Pocket Essentials; October 2006
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Urban Legends occupy a unique position in human culture. They are a bridge between true story telling, the realm of fantasy, and the real world.They exist on the boundaries where the definitions of what is true and what is imaginary lack solidity and clarity.They are stories that blur the edges.We pride ourselves, particularly in this day and age, on being intelligent, aware and conscious of the world around us.We think that we are less likely, in this modern world of instant information, to fall victim to the scam, dupe or tall story.We do not believe in a flat Earth or that the stars are fixed to crystal spheres. We know that the planets revolve around the sun.We know the age of the universe, the speed of light and the workings of quantum mechanics. But somehow, despite these advances, Urban Legends still hold sway.Why is this so? Urban Legends have survived so long because humans tell stories and have done so from the Palaeolithic campfire to the bar in the local pub. The reasons for doing so are numerous. Stories are told as social bonding devices. They can be tools for selfaggrandisement or used for the transmission of information. They can be a means of instruction, particularly in the realm of morality and mores, and, in some cases, they can be used as a device to control the behaviour of others, from groups of small children to whole nations. Even in an electronic age stories are still important to our species. One only has to look at the continuing popularity of TV, film, novels and computer games to realise that the telling of stories is very much alive and will survive as long as there are humans to tell them. Stories are a social glue – we need them, probably more than ever at the start of a new millennium (something that has itself contributed to the creation of Urban Legends), as great swathes of the population around the globe feel, rightly or wrongly, that they are entering a more precarious era. Stories bring security – a shared experience and a communality that helps us all deal with the wider world – but they can also delude us and encourage enormous misconceptions about our society and our position in it.
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