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The Biscuit Bullet

Claim:   A woman sitting in a car is convinced she's been shot when a loud bang is immediately followed by an impact to her head, producing a sticky mass on her cranium. The 'brains' she tries to hold in turn out to be biscuit dough from an exploded can.

LEGEND

Examples:

[Collected on the Internet, 1996]

My brother just called, who is Memphis Police Officer. He said let everyone know that Memphis Police Department received an alert this morning from a reliable source that a Gang Initiation is starting today and will be going until the end of December. The gangs are instructed to ask someone for directions and then shoot them. He says they seem to be targeting women.

Everyone pass the word, and be careful. A lady named Linda went to Arkansas last week to visit her in-laws, and while there, went to a store. She parked next to a car with a woman sitting in it, her eyes closed and hands behind her head, apparently sleeping. When Linda came out a while later, she again saw the woman, her hands still behind her head but with her eyes open. The woman looked very strange, so Linda tapped on the window and said "Are you okay?"

The woman answered "I've been shot in the head, and I am holding my brains in."

Linda didn't know what to do, so she ran into the store, where store officials called the paramedics. They had to break into the car because the door was locked. When they got in, they found that the woman had bread dough on the back of her head and in her hands.

A Pillsbury biscuit canister had exploded, apparently from the heat in the car, making a loud explosion like that of a gunshot, and hit her in the head. When she reached back to find what it was, she felt the dough and thought it was her brains. She passed out from fright at first, then attempted to hold her brains in.
 

[Collected on the Internet, 1999]

WANTED FOR ATTEMPTED MURDER (the actual AP headline)

Linda Burnett, 23, a resident of San Diego, was visiting her inlaws, and while there went to a nearby supermarket to pick up some groceries. Several people noticed her sitting in her car with the windows rolled up and with her eyes closed, with both hands behind the back of her head. One customer who had been at the store for a while became concerned and walked over to the car. He noticed that Linda's eyes were now open, and she looked very strange.

He asked her if she was okay, and Linda replied that she'd been shot in the back of the head, and had been holding her brains in for over an hour. The man called the paramedics, who broke into the car because the doors were locked and Linda refused to remove her hands from her head. When they finally got in, they found that Linda had a wad of bread dough on the back of her head. A Pillsbury biscuit canister had exploded from the heat, making a loud noise that sounded like a gunshot, and the wad of dough hit her in the back of her head. When she reached back to find out what it was, she felt the dough and thought it was her brains. She initially passed out, but quickly recovered and tried to hold her brains in for over an hour until someone noticed and came to her aid.
 

Variations:
  • The woman is discovered parked in her car either at a shopping mall or pulled off to the side of the road.
  • With few exceptions, the incident is said to have taken place in one of the Southern states (Arkansas being the most frequently mentioned).
  • When a brand name of dough is mentioned, it's always Pillsbury.
  • The victim is always a woman, but her rescuer can be male or female.
  • A version that emerged online during the summer of 2008 closed with, "Linda is a blonde, a Democrat, and an Obama supporter, but that could be irrelevant."
Origins:   In 1994 comedienne Brett Butler (of Grace Under Fire fame) was using the Biscuit Bullet story in her act, telling Boom! it as something that had befallen her sister. Butler is likely not the origin of the tale though; half a year earlier the same story (minus any mention of Brett Butler's sister) was being pointed to as a cautionary tale in a newspaper article decrying urban violence.

People in show business have been known to tell urban legends as events that happened to them. Especially in the world of comedy, personalizing a story becomes an ordinary storytelling device. (Folklorist Jan Brunvand liked to show his classes a tape of Johnny Carson's telling the resurrected rabbit legend, then another from about two months later in which the late Michael Landon is seen telling the same story to Johnny. Both Landon and Carson at least start out claiming it happened to them or a close acquaintance.)

Though there are no verifiable Biscuit Bullet occurrences on record, the story has at various times been presented by the media as a true story. In May 1996 a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel ran it as a true story just dripping with fabulous details in which the daughter of a reliable source had come to the aid of the stricken lady. Within the day a number of readers had
contacted him to point out this was a well known urban legend, prompting the columnist to check a little further with his source. Oops; turned it hadn't happened to the man's daughter at all but to one of her clients. (At this point, one expects the "friend of a friend" chain to continue to stretch indefinitely as each new link contacted will correct the misinformation of the event having befallen her, pointing to yet another person further down the line as the one it really happened to.)

In January 1996 a writer for the Fresno Bee slipped it into an article about urban violence. Again, it had reached him as a true incident related by someone he'd been talking to about gun-related issues. In April 1998 the tale showed up in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, this time told as a very detailed account of an event that had befallen a truck driver (again as the rescuer, not the victim). In April 1996 a columnist for the Denver Post ran it as a cute story he'd been hearing a lot of late. Though this fellow went to great lengths to make it clear he was relating it merely as something he'd liked enough to want to share with his readers and he didn't believe a word of it, that newspaper appearance no doubt added to the story's credibility. (It's sad but true — even newspaper articles debunking urban legends are later remembered as news stories reporting the who, what, when, where and how of the presenting incidents.)

This legend popped up again on the Internet in early 1999 as a true "dumb blonde" story, attributed to the Associated Press.

Underlying this humorous story runs the fear of modern crime's engulfing the innocent, resulting in the undeserving's becoming just another drive-by or random shooting statistic. That the loud bang of a canister of biscuit dough exploding in the heat would be mistaken for gunfire says a lot about our feelings of vulnerability.

The "food substance on the head mistaken for brains" motif is not new to this story. In Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Aunt Sally says about Huck, as the purloined butter hidden under his hat begins to drip down: "He's got the brain fever as shore as you're born, and they're oozing out." In more traditional folklore, a fox puts milk and butter on his head and convinces a bear that he has had his brains knocked out. In a Russian version the fox puts pancake dough on his head and says it is brains. While these stories do not seem to be the origin of the biscuit bullet tale, they certainly establish that the basic idea existed in folklore long before contemporary tales placed confused blondes and exploded biscuit dough in overheated parked cars.

Barbara "acquitted biscuit" Mikkelson

Sightings:   In 1997 this legend showed up on an episode of television's High Incident.

Last updated:   20 July 2011

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Sources:

    Denton. Lisa.   "Chewing Gum Keeps the Hearing Aids In."
    The Chattanooga Times.   30 July 1997   (p. C1).

    Kaelber, Randy.   "The Biscuit Bullet: Is It My Fault?"
    FOAFTale News.   June 1996   (p. 8).

    Kreck, Dick.   "A Biscuit with Her Name on It."
    The Denver Post.   6 April 1996   (p. D8).

    Owens, Gene.   "Doughboy Gets Around."
    [Greensboro] News & Record.   11 July 1995   (Food; p. A7).

    Rose, Allen.   "Story of Biscuit Dough Explodes in My Face."
    The Orlando Sentinel.   31 May 1996   (p. D1).

    Rose, Allen.   "Biscuit Dough Makes Impact on Shopper."
    The Orlando Sentinel.   30 May 1996   (p. D1).

    Sandstrom, Karen.   "Joke Telling Done Well Gives Audience More Than Laughs."
    The Plain Dealer.   19 June 1994   (p. B5).

    Setencich, Eli.   "City Shoots First, Asks Questions Later."
    The Fresno Bee.   22 January 1996   (p. B1).

    Truly, Pat.   "The Unthinkable Is Becoming Less So Every Day."
    The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer.   19 January 1994   (p. B5).

    Venable, Sam.   "Highway Shooting Incident Turned Out to Be Poppin' Fresh."
    The Knoxville News-Sentinel.   19 April 1998.

    Viets, Elaine.   "The Half-Baked Biscuit Bullet Story Won't Die."
    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.   13 December 1995   (Food; p. 3).

Also told in:

    Flynn, Mike.   The Best Book of Bizarre But True Stories Ever.
    London: Carlton, 1999.   ISBN 1-85868-558-3.   (pp. 246-247).

    Holt, David and Bill Mooney.   Spiders in the Hairdo.
    Little Rock: August House, 1999.   ISBN 0-87483-525-9   (p. 17).