Guest Author - Melissa Lamkin
So you have an urge to read about urban legends? Where can an avid reader turn for information? It's best to decide what kind of reading you're in the mood for: light and enjoyable or more serious and informative. Because, there is a huge collection of books and articles written about urban legends. People love ULs, we love reading about them and telling them to other people. There's a great many written for folklore scholars, but just as many written for enthusiasts. All it takes is a little searching of the internet or your local libraries and bookstores to start building a great collection!
Probably the best known name in urban legends is folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand. He's been collecting and writing about ULs for years. He began writing for a mostly scholarly audience but has always had a clear and enjoyable writing style that won't put off an enthusiast. His book The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings (1989) is a staple in most American college folklore classes. This book, and others like it, look at some of the roots of legends and their meanings and relevance to American culture when they were collected. If you're not interested in deciphering the cultural meanings of a story, but just want some good stories to read, try his Encyclopedia of Urban Legends (2002) or Too Good to be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends (2001). These are great reference books to have on your bookshelf!
Other well-written and interesting collections come from David Holt and Bill Mooney who, in 1999, wrote Spiders in the Hairdo: Modern Urban Legends. There are 50 stories collected and written for a younger audience. Aimed at young adults, the topics range from traditional vanishing hitchhiker stories to modern conspiracy theories. The authors have an engaging and amusing writing style that's suitable for all readers. All readers who love creepy urban legends anyway!
If you're in the market for less generic books, look for collections of regional urban legends. Excellent sources for urban legends and stories often come from small, regionally published books. Check your library or the internet for books on your area. I really recommend the library, librarians always know about small books from local publishers. I'm from Texas, and have a ridiculous love for ghost stories, so two of the books on my shelves are: Texas Ghost Stories: Fifty Favorites for the Telling (2004), by Tim Tingle and Doc Moore (two well-known Texas storytellers) and Ghost Stories of Texas (2001), by Jo Anne Christensen. Most states and regions have people who have dedicated some time and effort (sometimes years of effort, so they need your support) to collecting and publishing urban legends, so head down to your local library or bookstore and see what's on offer!