google.com, pub-6663105814926378, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Hoaxes Urban Legends 4289

Hoaxes Urban Legends

Defined in Curtis MacDougall’s classic book on the subject, a “hoax,” strictly speaking, is “a deliberately concocted untruth made to masquerade as truth.” Some writers use the term in reference to urban legends, particularly bogus warnings, but there is scant evidence of deliberate creation of untruth in the tradition of contemporary rumors and legends.


Rather, these particular fictions can seldom be traced to a source, and they are passed along either in good faith by people who believe them, or else simply repeated as jokes. It would seem best, then, to reserve the term “hoax” for cases where there is a provable dishonest and conscious attempt to deceive, which is very seldom true for the circulation of urban legends. Fine and Ellis, however, point to recent “widely distributed hoaxed memos” circulating on the Internet as examples of obvious hoaxes that refer to well-known urban legends. The New York Times daily crossword puzzle (No. 1031 in 2007) equated “Some urban legends” (the clue) with “hoaxes” (the answer).

It must be admitted that some of MacDougall’s examples do overlap with urban rumors, legends, and other lore covered in this reference work. These include “The Graveyard Wager,” Hilarious Reports, Redemption Rumors, and “The Vanishing Lady.”

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