Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Legend: Girl feels for the furry collar of her roommate's housecoat and finds no head.
Example: [Emrich, 1972]
Origins: The age of this tale is anyone's guess — it appears in a 1972 compilation of urban legends, which means it was being told in the wild long before that. It was also used as the "ghost story" that underpinned a 1956 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (see Sightings
This legend is simply a scary campfire-type story that hardly needs deconstruction, but even finding a plausible scenario for a real-life event that might have inspired it is difficult. Corpses don't reach a state of full rigor mortis until twelve hours after death, so a recently-beheaded person's body would be as limp as a rag and wouldn't remain erect unless something were rigged to prop it up.
The theme of the one left behind's making the gruesome discovery of murder shows up in another urban legend, the venerable Boyfriend's Death. In that tale, the girl who waits all night in the car discovers with the dawn that the horrible scratching noises she's been hearing all night long on the car's roof were the fingernails of her murdered paramour. Decapitation is a common theme in horror legends, manifesting itself in such well-known tales as the Decapitated Biker (an errant sheet of glass got him) and the Beheaded Schoolchild (fatal road sign).
Barbara "remains to be seen" Mikkelson
Sightings: The legend forms the "ghost story" used to frighten a gullible visitor in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents ("The Gentleman From America," original air date
Last updated: 13 July 2010
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