Thursday, April 22, 2021

a friend of a friend

Last week, during our Urban Legends artist panel, one of the artist mentioned that urban legends were kind of like creating a creature after the fact like a dodo bird--something recreated from bones and fossils and speculation, but without actual pictures or existing specimens. Something wholly a product of the interpretations that came before it.  How urban legends and folklore in general are exactly like this.  Most of them start in some murky area of something that may or may not have happened, but change and get built upon with new details. Something changes in the story, or a version of the story, and shows up hundreds of miles away in another tale. 

Outside Rockford, there's this place called Bloods Point Road, whose name just seems to be asking for legend. I wasn't aware of it until after high school--my friends definitely being of the slumber party sort and not the exploring and drinking sort, but apparently many of my peers made trips out there.  The details vary, but a few things reoccur in the tellings--a spooky bridge, a phantom truck, a cemetery. Long after I had moved to the city, I did a little digging into the stories--one thing that kept cropping up was a bus accident that involved a bunch of children who were said to haunt the bridge they went off of.  Or maybe a train hit them.  Or they fell of the bridge and were hit by a train. The story was then that if you parked your car in idle on the bridge, honked your horn a set number of times, you would feel the car start to move forward as if the children were pushing you to safety.  

I later encountered a library student staffer who hailed from Rockford and confirmed that she and her friends had done this very thing, down to the practice of covering the trunk and fender with flour to spot tiny handprints for proof. I can't remember if they succeeded in their experiment, only that I later encountered this same story from another location entirely in the US, which was sure proof that Bloods Point was maybe not entirely its own legend, but an amalgimation of many different ones.

I had this loosely in my mind as I worked on conspiracy theories this winter.  There are some traditional urban legend types of things that appear--Bloody Mary, Lovers Lane cautionary tales-- but also it's about the sorts of mythologies and patterns we encounter and build in our own minds.  The things we use as a framework to build our histories and stories on.  I think as children and young adults we are more in that world than the actual world.  Or at least I was.  The things that we deduced to be true--the things we believed in like tooth fairies and women in the mirror. As we get older, we realize that legends are based as much in fictions, if not more than facts.  But I still won't do Bloody Mary in the bathroom mirror even on the verge of 47...not because I'm afraid she'd necessarily appear, but more that I'd be a little sad if she doesn't..



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