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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 July, 2004, 08:08 GMT 09:08 UK
Experts to study urban myths
Scary stories always seem to involve a friend of a friend

Experts on modern-day spooky stories are gathering in mid Wales this week to compare the content and causes of so-called urban myths.

The four-day event at the University of Wales Aberystwyth will examine how often blood-curdling anecdotes are created and passed on.

Delegates from will give examples of "legends" from receiving prophetic warnings to meeting mad axe men.

Wales is hosting the international folklore event for the first time.

The International Society for Contemporary Legend Research (ISCLR) has been meeting each year since it was founded at the University of Sheffield in 1982.

We can trace stories that we hear at least as far back as ancient Greece
Dr Mikel Koven

The gatherers of modern-day folklore discuss the latest developments in tall stories, which often are often reported as happening to "a friend of a friend".

Previous meetings have been held in Canada, the United States and across Europe.

This year's event is being hosted by the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies.

Topics of urban legendry to be discussed include the Devil, pirates, The X-Files, food contamination legends, haunted university dormitories, e-mail fraud, public health scares, ghosts, witches and of course, axe-wielding psychopaths.

Dr Mikel Koven, from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, said urban myths still exist even in the age of television and the internet because people just love stories.

'Ancient Greece'

He said: "We're a communicative people, human beings.

"It's not just a question of transmitting information, the basic raw data that we need in order to survive, we need to be creative with that.

"We can trace stories that we hear at least as far back as ancient Greece, sometimes into pre-recorded history.

"Perhaps the best definition I have heard of an urban myth or legend is "a story too good to be true"."

Dr Koven said his favourite urban myth was the one about a women who lived alone with her large golden retriever dog.

During the night, she hears disturbing noises but when she reaches down to her dog, it licks her hands affectionately.

But in the morning, when she goes to the bathroom, she pulls back the shower curtain to find the mutilated body of her beloved pet hanging in the cubicle.

And written on the bathroom mirror in the animal's blood are the words: "Humans can lick too!".

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