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Boot Strapped

Claim:   A mechanic working in a car's trunk is mistaken for a kidnapping victim.

LEGEND

Example:  [Ananova, May 2007]

German police staged a major operation to find a kidnapped child after a woman spotted a "young boy" being locked into a car boot.

The panicked woman alerted authorities as the car drove off, and police set up road blocks and dispatched patrol cars to intercept the vehicle.

But when the car was finally sighted and stopped, police found the "boy" was actually dwarf car mechanic Klaus "Shorty" Mueller, 27.

He had climbed in the boot and asked to be driven around so he could see where a strange rattling noise had been coming from.

Police in the northern city of Bremen confirmed a woman had called after she looked out her apartment window and saw a child in the boot — just before the driver slammed it shut and drove off.

The spokesman added: "A major investigation and manhunt was immediately launched and the car and its driver were apprehended. It seems the driver had been worried by inexplicable rattling noises in or near his boot. He called a mechanic, who was very small, and who climbed in the boot to get to the bottom of the problem."

Police said the mini mechanic had often used the same method to solve the problem and had found it the best way to detect the source of strange noises.

 

Origins:   The story about Klaus "Shorty" Mueller, the half-pint German mechanic mistaken for a tot in the process of being kidnapped, appeared in a handful of print publications at the end of May 2007 as a "weird news" item. While there exists the slight possibility that the tale might be true, it is likely better regarded as a slightly expanded version of an urban legend that has been around since the mid-1960s.

In this version from 1982, the mechanic in the trunk is not a dwarf and thus not mistaken for an abducted child. Instead, it's his two legs sticking out from the back of the car that arouse suspicion:
In March 1977, police in Dover, Kent, were contacted by an hysterical woman who had just seen a car driving along at great speed with a body sticking out of the boot. Fortunately she had the presence of mind to take down the car's number and in a matter of minutes the police were able to trace it. Sure enough there were two legs sticking out of the boot. They stopped the car and were about to arrest the driver when the 'body' climbed out of the boot. He was a garage mechanic who was listening for a rattling noise that only occurred when the car was in motion.
The sight of a pair of legs protruding from the trunk of the car is also what sets the police in motion in this telling from 1965:
A woman reported to Southland police today that she had seen a car being driven at Leigh-on-Sea with what appeared to be a body protruding from the open boot. Police found the car — with two legs sticking out of the back. They belonged to a garage mechanic trying to trace a noise which was annoying the driver.
What moves the tale into the realm of legend is an implausibility inherent to the two older versions: While a dedicated mechanic might agree to being driven about in a car's trunk in an effort to aurally locate an elusive automotive noise, it's hard to imagine any such person doing so while his legs were sticking out the back of the car and thus being bounced upon by the unsecured trunk lid.

Barbara "das boot" Mikkelson

Last updated:   20 June 2011

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Sources:

    Alpert, Lukas   "Weird But True."
    The New York Post.   31 May 2007   (p. 29).

    Brandreth, Gyles.   The Book of Mistaikes.
    London: Futura, 1982   (p. 136).

    Parsons, Denys.   Funny Ha Ha and Funny Peculiar.
    London: Pan Books, 1965.   (p. 11).

    Ananova.   "Dwarf Mechanic Mistaken for 'Abducted' Boy."
    30 May 2007.

    [Glasgow] Daily Record.   "Rattled Cops Find a Dwarf."
    31 May 2007   (p. 22).