Cover image for Too good to be true : the colossal book of urban legends
Too good to be true : the colossal book of urban legends
Brunvand, Jan Harold.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, c1999.
Physical Description:
480 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GR105 .B715 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
GR105 .B715 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
GR105 .B715 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
GR105 .B715 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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A fabulously entertaining book from the ultimate authority on those almost believable tales that always happen to a "friend of a friend." Alligators in the sewers? A pet in the microwave? A tragic misunderstanding of the function of cruise control? No, it didn't really happen to your friend's sister's neighbor: it's an urban legend. And no matter how savvy you think you are, you are sure to find in this collection of over 200 tales at least one story you would have sworn was true.

Author Notes

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

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

If a story sounds too good to be true, well, then it's probably an urban legend. Brunvand, the nation's leading authority on these contemporary folktales, draws from five previous collections (The Choking Doberman, Curses! Broiled Again!, etc.), from letters to his syndicated columns and from newspapers around the country, in this truly colossal anthology of horrendous and hilarious stories that sound as if they're true and most of the tellers believe are true, but somehow can never be verified. These are stories told by a FOAF (a friend of a friend) or a neighbor of the radio dispatcher who knows the deputy who talked to the doctor who treated 18 slash victims at the local mall. Many are familiar talesÄof the hook heard rasping against the car door handle, of alligators in the sewers of New York, of earwigs in ears and spiders in bouffant hairdosÄthis last traced back to the 13th century. Everyone will find at least two or three stories they could have sworn really happened. These are stories that turn up in every region of the country, every walk of life, and that invariably involve laughing paramedics, a dead grandmother stashed on the luggage rack, a fantastically cheap price for a Porsche or an exorbitant one for a cookie recipe from Neiman MarcusÄor is it Marshall Fields? In demonstrating how such stories spread, change and endure, and how certain kinds of stories attach themselves to certain franchises and products ("Kentucky Fried Rat" is an especially gruesome example), Brunvand has constructed not only an entertaining anthology, but an excellent introduction to the study of folklore itself. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Brunvand (The Choking Doberman, The Vanishing Hitchhiker) is the dean of urban folkloreÄfor 20 years he has collected and documented tall tales swapped at social gatherings. This anthology embraces over 200 fanciful, amusing, and often exaggerated stories and beliefs that have, through repetition, become part of the American oral heritage. Brunvand invented the acronym FOAF (Friend of a Friend), the anonymous source of every tale. Everyone has a few favorite stories: alligators in the sewer and pets in the microwave are familiar to most folks. Collectively, this is the best gathering of urban legends extant. They have passed through generations and represent an important body of traditions, myths, folkways, and folksay. The tales are thematically arranged, e.g., "Bringing Up Baby" is an assembly of episodes of child-rearing gone wrong. Thoroughly researched and exhaustive, this fascinating work is characterized by impressive scholarship. Unconditionally recommended for all audiences.ÄRichard K. Burns, MSLS, Hatboro, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

A Note on Texts and Sourcesp. 17
Introduction: True Stories, Too Good to Be Truep. 19
1 Jumping to Conclusionsp. 25
"The Brain Drain"p. 28
"The Solid Cement Cadillac"p. 29
"The Package of Cookies"p. 30
"The Tube on the Tube"p. 31
"The Surpriser Surprised"p. 32
Version #1 "Why I Fired My Secretary"p. 32
Version #2 "The Engaged Couple"p. 33
Version #3 "The Fart in the Dark"p. 34
"The Hairdresser's Error"p. 36
"The Stolen Wallet"p. 37
"The Mexican Pet"p. 38
"The Hare Dryer"p. 40
As told by Johnny Carsonp. 40
As told by Michael Landon to Johnny Carsonp. 42
"The Air-Freighted Pet"p. 43
As told by Paul Harveyp. 43
"The Poisoned Pussycat at the Party"p. 44
"The Bug under the Rug"p. 45
As told by Alex Thienp. 45
2 Classic Dog Talesp. 47
"The Choking Doberman"p. 51
"The Swiss Charred Poodle"p. 53
"Not My Dog"p. 55
"The Licked Hand"p. 58
"The Crushed Dog"p. 58
"The Dog in the High-Rise"p. 60
As told by Truman Capote to Lawrence Grobelp. 60
"Fifi Spills the Paint," aka "Kitty Takes the Rap"p. 61
"Take the Puppy and Run"p. 63
3 Just Desertsp. 67
"The Loaded Dog"p. 71
"The Plant's Revenge"p. 73
"The Dead Cat in the Package"p. 74
"The Runaway Grandmother"p. 76
"The $50 Porsche"p. 77
"Dial R-E-V-E-N-G-E"p. 79
"Revenge of the Rich"p. 81
As told by Paul Harveyp. 81
"Gag Me with a Siphon"p. 82
"The Stolen Specimen"p. 83
"The Videotaped Theft"p. 84
"Urban Pancake"p. 86
"The Will"p. 87
"Promiscuity Rewarded"p. 88
4 Automaniap. 89
"The Hook"p. 94
"The Severed Fingers"p. 95
"Decapitated Drivers and Riders"p. 96
"The Killer in the Back Seat"p. 97
As told on Late Night with David Lettermanp. 97
"The Hairy-Armed Hitchhiker"p. 100
"The Boyfriend's Death"p. 103
"The Slasher under the Car"p. 105
"The Elephant That Sat on the VW"p. 107
"The Arrest"p. 109
"The Body on the Car"p. 110
"The Wife Left Behind"p. 111
"The Baby on the Roof"p. 112
"The Nut and the Tire Nuts"p. 113
"The Pig on the Road"p. 115
"Let's Give Toll Takers a Hand"p. 116
"The Bargain Sports Car"p. 117
5 Sexcapadesp. 119
"The Stuck Couple"p. 122
"Stick-Shift Frenzy"p. 123
"The Bothered Bride" and "The Grumbling Groom"p. 124
"Filmed in the Act"p. 128
"Superhero Hijinks"p. 130
"Sex in Disguise"p. 132
"AIDS Mary" and "AIDS Harry"p. 133
6 Losing Facep. 135
"The Unzipped Plumber (or Mechanic)"p. 140
"The Unzipped Fly"p. 142
"The Golf Bag"p. 143
"The Unlucky Contacts"p. 144
"The Wrong Teeth"p. 145
"Bungling Brides"p. 146
"The Nude Bachelor"p. 147
"Come and Get It!"p. 149
"A License to Practice"p. 151
"The Witness's Note"p. 152
"The Blind Date"p. 153
"Buying Tampax"p. 155
7 Accidents Will Happenp. 157
"Give Me a High Three"p. 162
"The Lawn Mower Accident"p. 163
"The Ski Accident"p. 164
"The Barrel of Bricks"p. 166
"Up a Tree"p. 168
"The Last Kiss"p. 170
"The Death of Little Mikey"p. 171
8 Creepy Contaminationsp. 173
"The Kentucky Fried Rat"p. 177
"The Mouse in the Coke"p. 179
"Alligators in the Sewers"p. 182
"The Snake in the Store"p. 185
"A Bug in the Ear"p. 187
"Spiders in the Hairdo"p. 191
"The Spider Bite"p. 192
"Spider Eggs in Bubble Yum"p. 193
"The Spider in the Cactus"p. 194
"The Poison Dress"p. 196
"The Corpse in the Cask"p. 197
"The Accidental Cannibals"p. 198
"Hold the Mayo! Hold the Mozzarella!"p. 199
9 Sick Humorp. 201
"The Kafkaesque Hospital Visit"p. 206
"Dental Death"p. 207
"The Relative's Cadaver"p. 208
"Gerbilling"p. 209
"Scrotum Self-Repair"p. 211
"Superglue Revenge"p. 212
"The Runaway Patient"p. 214
10 Bringing Up Babyp. 215
"The Hippie Baby-Sitter"p. 218
"The Baby-Sitter and the Man Upstairs"p. 220
"Baby's Stuck at Home Alone"p. 222
"The Inept Mother"p. 223
"The Stuffed Baby"p. 224
11 Strange Things Happenp. 227
"The Vanishing Hitchhiker"p. 231
"The Lost Wreck"p. 235
"The Death Car"p. 236
"The Missing Day in Time"p. 237
"The Ghost in Search of Help"p. 239
"The Well to Hell"p. 242
"The Ghostly Videotape"p. 243
"A Dirt-Cheap Way to Sell Real Estate"p. 246
"The Devil in the Disco"p. 247
12 Funny Businessp. 251
"The Bedbug Letter"p. 255
"Red Velvet Cake"p. 257
"Neiman Marcus Cookies"p. 259
"Find the Hat"p. 261
"The Wife on the Flight"p. 262
"Redemption Rumors"p. 264
"The Body in the Bed"p. 266
"The Cabbage Patch Tragedy"p. 268
13 The World of Workp. 269
"The Rattle in the Cadillac"p. 275
"The Roughneck's Revenge"p. 276
"Fixing the Flue"p. 277
"The Locked-Out Pilot"p. 278
"Language Boners: The Folklore of Paperwork"p. 280
"The Wordy Government Memo"p. 283
14 Baffled by Technologyp. 285
"The Microwaved Pet"p. 290
"The Technology Contest"p. 291
"Curses! Broiled Again!"p. 292
"Push-Starting the Car"p. 294
"Cruise Control"p. 295
"The Ice-Cream Car"p. 296
15 The Criminal Mindp. 299
"The Colander Copier Caper"p. 303
"A Friend of the Family"p. 305
"The Two Hitchhikers"p. 306
"The Double Theft"p. 308
"The Robber Who Was Hurt"p. 309
"A Double-Whammy Theft Legend"p. 310
As told by Jack Paarp. 311
"The Grocery Scam"p. 311
"The Shoplifter's Hat"p. 312
"Indecent Exposure"p. 314
"The Attempted Abduction"p. 315
"The Unstealable Car"p. 317
"Stripping the Car"p. 319
"Get Out of Here!"p. 319
16 Human Naturep. 321
"The Baby Train"p. 325
"The Trained Professor"p. 326
"Cussing and Clowns"p. 328
"Take My Tickets, Please!"p. 330
"The Dishonest Note"p. 330
"Pass It On"p. 331
"The Lottery Ticket"p. 332
"Dial 911 for Help"p. 333
17 Strays from the Wild Kingdomp. 335
"The Kangaroo Thief"p. 340
"The Deer Departed"p. 341
"Horsing Around"p. 342
"The Hapless Water Skier"p. 343
"The Giant Catfish"p. 344
"The Flying Cow"p. 346
"The Fatal Boot"p. 347
"Snakes in the Amusement Park"p. 348
"The Snake in the Stawberry Patch"p. 349
18 Pet Problemsp. 353
"The Bump in the Rug"p. 357
"The Pet Nabber"p. 358
"The Flying Kitten"p. 359
"The Missionaries and the Cat"p. 360
"The Bungled Rescue of the Cat"p. 361
"The Eaten Pets"p. 362
"The Pet and the Naked Man"p. 364
19 Slapstick Comedyp. 367
"The Exploding Toilet"p. 370
"Stuck on the Toilet"p. 372
"The Man on the Roof"p. 373
"The Exploding Bra"p. 375
"The Nude Housewife"p. 376
"The Nude in the RV"p. 378
"The Stunned Deer--or Deer Stunt"p. 381
20 Bogus Warningsp. 385
"Blue Star Acid"p. 390
"Lights Out!"p. 393
"The Good Times Virus"p. 395
"The Kidney Heist"p. 398
"The Welded Contacts"p. 402
"The Procter and Gamble Trademark"p. 404
"The Madalyn Murray O'Hair Petition"p. 407
"The Veterans' Insurance Dividend"p. 408
21 Mistaken Identificationsp. 411
"The Elevator Incident"p. 413
"It All Started with Neil (Or Did It?)"p. 416
"Sit, Whitey!"p. 419
"Black and White"p. 420
"The Ice-Cream-Cone Caper"p. 422
As told by Paul Harveyp. 422
"The Blind Man"p. 424
22 Campus Capersp. 425
"The Dormitory Surprise"p. 430
"The Gay Roommate"p. 431
"The Roommate's Death"p. 432
"Switched Campus Buildings"p. 434
"Sinking Libraries"p. 435
"The Acrobatic Professor"p. 436
"The Telltale Report"p. 438
"The Daughter's Letter from College"p. 439
"The Barometer Problem"p. 440
"Term Paper Trickery"p. 441
"The Bird Foot Exam"p. 442
"Do You Know Who I Am?"p. 443
"Tricky Q and A"p. 444
"The Second Blue Book"p. 447
23 "True" Urban Legendsp. 449
"The Pregnant Shoplifter"p. 451
"The Unsolvable Math Problem"p. 452
"The Heel in the Grate"p. 457
"Craig's World-Record Collection"p. 461
"Green Stamps"p. 465
"The Bullet Baby"p. 469
Epilogue: Urban Legend Parodiesp. 473