Maybe you've even passed along these legends to friends, co-workers and family.
by Keith Goble, staff writer
Just how many of those seemingly outlandish tales - "urban legends" as they've become known - are actually true? As you might expect, most stories are as bogus as a bad lease. But, on occasion you will hear a story that is true. Some are outlandish and most have dozens of variations. Yet, some prove that fact is indeed stranger than fiction.
An oldie but a goodie is a story about a hungry trucker who stops at a quiet restaurant for a bite to eat, only to have some bikers disrupt his quiet meal by giving him a hard time. After being thoroughly hassled by the bikers, the trucker quietly, and without incident pays for his meal and makes his way out to his rig. The obnoxious bikers, still inside, are disappointed they couldn't rile the trucker. As the bikers sit around badmouthing the trucker, the attendant, noticing the truck driving off, tells them their bikes have just been trampled underneath the 18-wheeler.
The origins of this story, depicting the ultimate revenge, can be traced back to the mid-'60s in Indiana. Since then, it has made its way through the U.S., Canada and U.K., as well as being the inspiration for scenes in "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Every Which Way but Loose." But, as you might have guessed, this tale originated from someone's creative imagination.
Another tale, which popped up on the internet in the late '90s and soon hit the airwaves, describes two tractor-trailers involved in a high-speed rear-ender in which the two rigs are fused together, one behind the other, into one large mass. The mass is transported, as one, to the junkyard. After a few days pass, the trucks are finally pulled apart only to discover a Volkswagen Beetle and its driver crushed in between. This story is well-received by many due to its shocking ending. But, yet again, this story is purely for entertainment value and is completely false.
Unfortunately, some stories of the road prey on the fears of motorists, as did an urban legend that began circulating early this year. This story tells of rowdy teenagers across the U.S. who throw lit gasoline-soaked rags into open windows of vehicles, resulting in fires that destroy or nearly destroy the targeted vehicle. Various news sources have been unable to confirm any such occurrences. Feel free to drive with your windows down.
Another newcomer to the urban legend library is a tale about individuals putting hypodermic needles underneath fuel pump handles. As a result, unsuspecting motorists are reportedly becoming infected with HIV-positive blood upon refilling their vehicles. This tale really took the trucking world by storm. But, like the gasoline-soaked rag story, it lacks humor and is completely false. OK, you say, you've seen the flyer naming a Florida police captain who posted the original HIV warning. There is, of course, no such officer.
Another story that will leave you shaking your head involves a trucker rushing to the aid of a woman in her car. The woman, having left the grocery store, is sitting in her car in the parking lot when she hears a loud bang behind her and feels an impact to the back of her head, leaving a sticky mass on her head. A concerned trucker, who happens to be in the parking lot on a hot summer day, notices the woman holding onto the back of her head with both hands. The distraught motorist tells the trucker that she has been shot in the back of the head and is trying to hold her brains in. The helpful trucker looks in the back seat and informs the helpless lady that the sticky mass is actually Pillsbury dough that exploded from its can because of the heat. Seem unbelievable? Could this have really happened? You wouldn't think so, but not even the media was sure. The Orlando Sentinel ran a news story on it in 1996, only to retract it the very next day. As it turns out, the story originated in the mid-'90s when a variation of it was used in Brett Butler's ("Grace Under Fire") night club act.
Another legend tells of a man who attached a lawn chair to helium weather balloons in an attempt to hover above his house. The wanna-be flyer reportedly packed some soda, a camera, and a pellet gun to shoot out balloons for his descent. By eyewitness accounts, the lawn chair, with occupant, shot up higher than anticipated to a neck straining 16,000 feet. The amateur pilot, with lawnchair, soon found himself drifting into the approach path of a nearby airport before he began shooting out the balloons and ultimately landing in a set of power lines. The hapless pilot was safely grounded a short time later after rescue workers were called to the scene.
Proving that fact is indeed stranger than fiction: The lawn chair-pilot story is true. It happened to truckdriver Larry Walters of North Hollywood, CA. Walters even hit the talk show circuit after his misadventure; appearing with both Johnny Carson and David Letterman. He was even honored by the Bonehead Club of Dallas.
What about Donald Trump's famous act of kindness? Word has it that Trump gave a Good Samaritan an undisclosed amount of money for aiding Trump's mother? According to legend, a truckdriver assisted in the capture and arrest of a mugger who attacked Trump's mother. Trump reportedly gave the trucker a job offer and an undisclosed amount of money. This story dates back to the early '90s, and guess what? It's true.
Did you ever hear the one about Elvis? (Which one, you ask.) Before Elvis Presley recorded his breakout hit, "That's All Right (Mama)" he was an aspiring singer in Memphis searching for a band to join. After his first audition (1954) he was turned down after nervously singing along with a band. The band's leader offered Elvis some friendly advice. Elvis was told to stick to his day job, "because you're never going to make it as a singer." Elvis' day job: trucking, of course.
Some are outlandish and most have dozens of variations.
Yet, some prove that fact is indeed stranger than fiction.