I am grateful to Marc Goodacre for sharing his own research on the urban legend regarding hell’s exothermic/endothermic nature. As previously mentioned, my own research of late has turned to precisely the theme he discussed in his 2004 lecture which he shares, namely oral tradition and the circulation of urban legends. Of course, the circulation of such legends in our digital age via e-mail allows for much wider dissemination, as well as more precise reproduction, than was the case in most ancient contexts. Nevertheless, this story’s growth from its earliest form into the diverse versions now preserved in many places on the web and known to many of us still illustrates, to some small extent, the ways in which legends originate, grow and spread.
Among recent urban legends that managed to be taken seriously by some, one of my favorites is of relatively recent origin. It tells of how some Christians made a bonfire of Pokemon-related items in protest against the game’s persistent mentions of “evolution”.