Urban Legends Analysis & Reading Assessment
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by Eric Bryan
| 14 Questions
DIRECTIONS: Located below, there is a link to a folder full of popular urban legends. Please choose three (3) different legends, read each one and then choose your one (1) favorite/the one that grabbed your attention the best. Then, answer the questions below on that one "favorite" chosen urban legend.

URBAN LEGENDS FOLDER
PART 1:
1
2 pts
Before we learned about them in class, I (or my partner and I) had heard about the following urban legends (list all that apply):
2
3 pts
The three urban legends I/we read are…
3
2 pts
The one urban legend I/we would like to focus on for this assignment is…
PART 2 -- DETAILS:
4
2 pts
Briefly summarize/describe this urban legend in your own words:
5
2 pts
How would you label the urban legend you are analyzing?
A. Scary / Creepy / Unsettling
B. Funny / Silly
C. Surprising
D. Weird
6
2 pts
Explain why you answered the way you did in question 5.
7
2 pts
Discuss the urban legend’s cultural admonition (its purpose, advice, warning, cautionary lesson regarding our culture/world).
PART 3 -- CREDIBILITY:
8
3 pts
What is the most unbelievable piece of evidence from the urban legend you decided to analyze? Explain.
9
3 pts
What is the most believable and/or unsettling detail of the urban legend? Explain.
10
3 pts
Would you say that the urban legend you chose is very relevant to today’s world still? Discuss why you do or do not believe so.
Use the following terms to answer question number 11:

Apocryphal story - story with an unknown author and/or questionable origin or background.
Ostension - the process of someone unwittingly acting out or mimicking part or all of an urban legend that is already part of the body of lore.
Pseudo-ostension - someone deliberately acting out an urban legend (people secretly placing pins, needles, razors, etc. in Halloween candy).
Slacktivism - someone doing good for a political or social cause with little or no effort via the internet (i.e. - signing online petition, forwarding emails for “good” cause, getting involved in a campaign group on social media, etc.)
11
2 pts
Explain which one of the above terms is reflected the best in the urban legend you analyzed.
PART 4 -- READING ASSESSMENT

DIRECTIONS: Read the urban legend below, debunked on snopes.com, and answer the questions that follow.
Gas Trick Upset

Claim: Service station customers are getting stuck by HIV-loaded syringes affixed to gas pump handles.
Status: False
Example: (collected via e-mail 2006)

My name is Captain Abraham Sands of the Jacksonville, Florida Police Department. I have been asked by state and local authorities to write this email in order to get the word out to car drivers of a very dangerous prank that is occurring in numerous states.

Some person or persons have been affixing hypodermic needles to the underside of gas pump handles. These needles appear to be infected with HIV positive blood. In the Jacksonville area alone there have been 17 cases of people being stuck by these needles over the past five months. We have verified reports of at least 12 others in various states around the country.

It is believed that these may be copycat incidents due to someone reading about the crimes or seeing them reported on the television. At this point no one has been arrested and catching the perpetrator(s) has become our top priority.
Shockingly, of the 17 people who were struck, eight have tested HIV positive and because of the nature of the disease, the others could test positive in a couple years.

Evidently the consumers go to fill their car with gas, and when picking up the pump handle get stuck with the infected needle. IT IS IMPERATIVE TO CAREFULLY CHECK THE HANDLE of the gas pump each time you use one. LOOK AT EVERY SURFACE YOUR HAND MAY TOUCH, INCLUDING UNDER THE HANDLE.

If you do find a needle affixed to one, immediately contact your local police department so they can collect the evidence.
PLEASE HELP US BY MAINTAINING VIGILANT AND BY FORWARDING THIS EMAIL TO ANYONE YOU KNOW WHO DRIVES. THE MORE PEOPLE WHO KNOW OF THIS THE BETTER PROTECTED WE CAN ALL BE.
Origins: This hoax urging caution when pumping gas appeared on the Internet in early June 2000. In common with other AIDS-infected needle scares (syringe attacks in movie houses and dance clubs and contaminated needles in payphone coin returns), it plays upon our fear of contracting this dread disease through the pursuit of ordinary and harmless activities.

There is no Abraham Sands with the Jacksonville Police Department—someone just invented a name to make this “warning” look authoritative. No newspaper stories from the city made any mention of Sands, which is unusual about a department’s spokesperson; Jacksonville is served by a sheriff’s office, not a police department. No news stories out of Florida confirm the email’s claim that 17 people had been injured. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta stated they were not aware of any cases where HIV had been transmitted by a needle-stick injury outside of a healthcare setting.

Although there have been a few isolated reports of copycat pranksters leaving needles in public places (including gas pumps) in the wake of this hoax (most recently in Tucson, Arizona, in March 2007), none of those incidents has involved a needle bearing any traces of HIV.
12
3 pts
What parts of this story make it fit with the term "urban legend"? (Use specific examples from the story to support your answer)
13
2 pts
Why is this story not a myth? (use specific examples from the story to support your answer)
14
4 pts
Pick two additional terms from the terms below and explain how they are depicted in this story (use specific examples from the story to support your answer.)

Apocryphal story - story with an unknown author and/or questionable origin or background.
Ostension - the process of someone unwittingly acting out or mimicking part or all of an urban legend that is already part of the body of lore.
Pseudo-ostension - someone deliberately acting out an urban legend (people secretly placing pins, needles, razors, etc. in Halloween candy).
Slacktivism - someone doing good for a political or social cause with little or no effort via the internet (i.e. - signing online petition, forwarding emails for “good” cause, getting involved in a campaign group on social media, etc.)
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