Notiziario del CEntro per la RAccolta delle VOci e delle Leggende Contemporanee


Vol. 2, November 1992

english abstracts

Ten thousand coupons for a wheelchair, by Paolo Toselli

A collection of coupons and bar-codes is going on in a big way in Italy, throughout the whole Peninsula. This collection is carried out by willing people who want to get wheelchairs for disabled persons. Several articles, dealing with this topic as a legend, were published by the national press, where interviews to members of our Center appeared. Revenue officers, too, followed the event with interest, as they had a suspicion that firms or private citizens might use tickets and vouchers to obtain illegal tax refund, thus cheating on their taxes. Even if the fact was formally denied, the Tradespeople Union in Turin was swamped by telephone calls from people asking for elucidations, and later on decided to buy a number of wheelchairs, since, in their opinion, people's interest, kind-heartedness and care had to be taken into account and rewarded.

Employment-bar: an odd tale, by Cesare Bermani.

The left-wing newspaper Il Manifesto on July 2, 1991, ran a working-woman's letter regarding an unpleasant incident occurred to a writer's young female-colleague. After being dismissed by her firm, she was proposed a marketing work with a new-born company. The work talk was fixed for that very evening in a bar placed in the heart of town. Reached the bar, she found herself among several men, one of the which looked at her with insistence. Shortly after she went out of the bar. As several hours had elapsed, and nobody had come at the appointment, she went back home. Next day she was resummoned by the putplacement firm and she was explained that couldn't be employed as having failed to realize the inquisitive customer was her potential employer, she was not suited for a marketing work. The newspaper passed this "sad tale" off as true, nevertheless other letters sent to Il Manifesto pointed out the story could be an urban legend.

Animals and contemporary legends: the phantom TIR, by Paolo Fiorino.

Since several years, odd rumors have began to spread throughout Italy: some species of animals, bred in captivity or purloined, would be carried by night by means of trucks in order to be unlawfully let in several area. The operators remain unidentified: some say hunters, some other say ecologists, or landowners, or nothing less than the legal authorities charged with the safeguard of natural patrimony. We give three examples regarding alleged "unlawful" removal of pigeons, deer and wild boars in some areas of Piemonte.

Black panther is back, by Paolo Toselli

As usual in our country, "phantom panther" has come back to the scene this year too: it has been reported throughout Italy. On February 2 it was sighted in the country around Avellino, near Napoli. Around the middle of June it was reported on plateau of Colfiorito (Macerata). On July a new sighting in Brindisi district. In August 17, going up to the north of Italy, the panther was reported on the edge of Treviso. Beatings were of no avail; that's a feature which marks such events, placed between folklore and Fortean phenomena but, very likely, soaked with a good deal of fancy.

"Piccoli Fans": the phantom episode., by Paolo Toselli

A reader has reported to us an odd event regarding the TV show "Piccoli Fans" broadcasted around the end of the eighties. During the show, Sandra Milo - a star of the screen - had been interviewing five or six years old children; next they had to sing in front of an audience of parents as well as relatives. They say Milo, while interviewing a child of Napoli, would have asked him if he had the fianc‚e. Following the affirmative answer, the presenter would have asked: "Well, what do you do together with your girlfriend?". So the child: "What Mum does when she is together with my uncle Antonio". As soon as heard this, the child's father would have stood up and landed uncle Antonio (as well present in studio) on the face. The show is interrupted. In spite of having been remembered by hundreds of people, we haven't got any first hand witness to the event; it seems the RAI (State television) Archives does not hold a copy of the film. Is it just a rumor?

Marco Predolin says: "I've catched AIDS? It's a nonsense", by Paolo Toselli.

Around the end of the summer 1991 a rumor says TV presenter Marco Predolin has been taken ill of AIDS to a Bologna hospital. About the middle of September, the presenter, softly, denies. But in December the rumor, spread all over Italy, says he is dead. To deny once and for all the rumor, he takes part, as guest, to several TV show where he carries on the negative result HIV test. Further, he states his legal adviser would have brought an action against anyone who spreads the news about his false disease. A quite similar event happened to French actress Isabelle Adjani in 1987.

Notiziario del CEntro per la RAccolta delle VOci e delle Leggende Contemporanee


Vol. 3, June 1993

english abstracts

Urban folklore in Naples, by Marino Niola.

Naples is a town of ancient urban folklore, full of legends, rumors and stereotypes. As an example, we report three significant tales; they are more local performance of a rather spreaded score than exclusively neapolitan tales. The first episode, reported as a true fact on '89 newspapers, regards the claim for damages by a girl left pregnant owing to the plugging of his boy-friend's car; the plugging happened "at the most awkward time" while they were secluded inside the car. Another tale concerns a man who is walking along a road in the centre of the town. Suddenly he feels a bump and then realizes of not having any more the wallet. So he pursues him whom he believes is the thief and, after having reached him, he orders to deliver the wallet. Back at home he realizes in dismay the wallet is not his. The third tell of a huge mouse (25 kg.), white in colour, which would live in the subsoil of Naples or, more exactly, under the local cemetery. Is it a local version, dating back to the half of eighties, of the alligators in the New York sewers?

Satan at any rate: the role of mass-media, by Danilo Arona.

In October '92, Simone Allegretti, a four years old child, is kidnapped and murdered by unknown. The hypothesis of a satanic ritual abuse, reported by many journals, has roused the raving of italian religious fundamentalists. According to several religiuos extremists there are more than 600 (sic!) satanic sects in our country, and the devil would have seized the toys industry too. In 1992 the yellow press has carried on his propensity to distort the truth by creating the "satanic incident" out of thin air. Several examples are reported.

The prodigious powers of Coca-Cola, by Paolo Toselli

Coca-Cola is a symbol, a myth. The popular culture has attached it various "alternative" uses or wonderful properties. Of course, the tales about Coca-Cola are spreaded in Italy too. During the 1991 some university students at the Faculty of Letters of Padova collected many tales belonging to the contemporary folklore; some of them regarded the alleged wonderful properties of Coca-Cola. It follows a score of brief tales about alternative using (tanning and spermicide) and ravaging effects (corrosive, dilating, lethal).

The wife left behind, by Paolo Toselli.

The well-know tale about the wife forgotten at highway stop is also a reality. The fact really happened in August '92 at a highway stop near Rome. During the holiday return journey, the husband has stopped the car to fill up and have a sandwich. The wife, who had been sleeping on the back seat among the bulky luggage, wakes up and get out of the car. Then he starts again without realizing the wife is left behind. He becomes aware of it only 500 km. after, when is back at home, at Cant—, in Como province. So he sends notice to the Carabinieri. The wife comes back by train. By means of a thorough inquiry we have ascertained the reality of facts. They are even more astonishing if we consider that the five months old daughter on board of the car didn't show signs of uneasiness. Although the wife has denied having quarreled, it's hard to believe the husband didn't realize of her missing. Other versions of the tale placed in Italy are reported.

The bothered bridegroom, by Lucia Veccia.

At the end of last year were speaded in Italy several stories about the one who Brunvand calls "the bothered bride". In October the tale is reported on the newspapers too, as placed in Catania, Sicilia. The rumor is so insistent to identify Rossella Pietropaolo, 31 years old, as the bride left before the altar because having caught in bed in company of future bridegroom's best friend. The girl, of a rich family at Acireale, near Catania, is even appeared in television and had been interviewed by newspapers to deny the rumor. She has offered 100 millions to whoever is able to show that she is really the "bride left behind". Other versions excerpted from the literature and a comic-strip transposition are reported.

Notiziario del CEntro per la RAccolta delle VOci e delle Leggende Contemporanee


Vol. 4, may 1994

english abstracts

DID YOU HEAR THESE TALES?, by Edoardo Russo.

There are some tales coming from the uban folklore: the speedometer of cars would always point at a speed greater than in reality for prudential reasons; the peculiarly folded yellow cloth left on the dashboard of a parked car as a safe antitheft device; how to do free calls by phone; the thief who, after having snatched a lady's pearls necklace off, meets her some days later: so he lands her a powerful blow and mocks her in that the necklace is false.


In the spring of 1993, in several italian areas within the borders with ex-Jugoslavia, the gruesome rumor spread that an italian family went to Slovenia to eat fish at a cheap local tavern. They were stopped on the way by several armed man and robbed of their coats and fur coats. The soldiers seized on the car and took it away. Half an hour later the thieves presented themselves again, apologized for the mistake and gave back clothes and car. They advised also the family to go back to Italy at once. After some kilometers the family got wind of something and stopped the car: there were two corpses into the luggage van! They disharged them on edge of the road and ran away thoroughly frightened. Soldiers' foolish action and the fact that Slovenia was no longer in war for some time make this tale an example of contemporary legend.

KEFIR: A LOCAL BLOB, by Carlo Presotto, Paola Rossi and Danilo Arona.

Since March 1993 "Kefir" have begun to spread throghout northern Italy. It's a culture similar to the yoghurt which originates from Caucasus. It's passed from hand to hand and the rumors spread that it has beneficial virtues: purifying and detoxicating, firstly, but it seems useful for a very large array of disease. Some months later, the so-called "japanese alga"or "egyptian plant" have begun its diffusion from family to family all over the country. After being put into a vessel, such "alga" is fed with indian black tea and sugar until its parts itself into three "daughters" to present to the friends. While someone says the home cultivation of the alga is justified by reasons similat to the Kefir's, most people attend to the plant on "grounds" magic/ritual only: each wish expressed at the alga "littering" time will be satisfied. A previous event does exist: the so-called "fungo cinese" (chinese mushroom) which was raised in sugared lemon tea. During the fifties it was drank becouse of its tonic properties.

1993: THE PHANTERS' INVASION, by Paolo Toselli.

During the whole 1993, there have been dozens of sightings of "mystery cats" all over Italy, to a great extent in central and north-western countries. It seems that phanters, leopards, pumas and lions are undisturbed running about our woods as well as our downtowns. We've got torn to pieces animals, quick sightings, some prints, a couple of photographs and continual beatings. Evident captures are virtually non-existent. To tell the truth a lioness and a puma would be captured by a screen actor in Lazio, but it was almost surely a hoax for advertising reasons. A small part of sightings of such big cats are likely due to animals left behind in the country by their owners. Anyway if we look at it as a whole, the phenomenon is an interesting example of contemporary legend.

Letters from Moscow, by Maria Teresa Carbone.

In a correspondence from Moscow there is an update about the rumor on a still secret underground Moscow (see Tutte Storie No. 4). It seems that each Moscovite hold a peculiar version, sometimes so detailed to describe the secret entrances.

Notiziario del CEntro per la RAccolta delle VOci e delle Leggende Contemporanee


Vol. 4, December 1994

english abstracts


The theatre does not show as many urban legends as film imagery. It is quite odd that such a revealing side of imagery has been left apart in spite of a context so sensitive to subjects like oral expression and everyday life. In 1989 the author (a stage actor), following a personal interest into the argument, developed the hypothesis of carrying on the stage the contemporary legends. This gave rise to an experimental performance called "Leviathan" focused around torpedo fish tale. During fall 1993 it has took shape the idea of carrying out a "news-reel" about the urban legends. The meeting of Carlo Presotto (screen artist) and Giacomo Verde (narrator) has originated the "Miralago Bar" performance. The pjay had a run of twelve nights so far, and the onlookers were asked to report tales and personal variations. "Miralago Bar" has got a good interest.


One of the most serious drawbacks of some parapsichological books was/is the publication of second-hand, third-hand or nth-hand news. Toward the end of the past century it was published a report about a forewarning dream: a man, who was driving a hearse (in the dream), turned out to be the lift attendant at a public spot where the fellow, who got the premonition, died due to a lift breakdown. The very same incident was ascribed to several people, places and timezs, and was reported in books four more times at the very least, the last one being in 1955. Among the alleged protagonists there was Lord Dufferin, the then English ambassador in Paris. But a careful examination has excluded such a possibility. It is a classical example of ante-litteram legend marked by several protagonists (some identifiables, some anonymous), and a few small changing details.


The Brunvand-christened "phone revenge" legend is spreaded throughout the world: a deceived wife or fianc‚e revenges herself on the faithless man by dialling a foreign phone number (e.g. the Tokio right time) and leaving the receiver lifted causing the ex-partner to pay an enormous bill. Such a legend has got many literary quotations. In 1993 is reached the Italy press too. The last variation regards a call to a "sex-line" via a mobile phone. Several new variations are quoted: they are collected by Peter Burger, Netherland.


Between July 18 and July 22, 1994, it was held at the "Maison des Sciences de l'Homme" - Paris, the Twelfth International Conference, for the purpose of discussing about the perspective regarding the contemporary legend. It was organized by the "International Society for Contemporary Legend Research" (ISCRL). Researchers from twelve countries met together. Italy, Romania and Australia were represented for the first time. Organizers were V‚ronique Campion-Vincent and Mark Glazer. They got more than thirty papers; manu of them were very different in approaches. Most guests were folklorists, but even some sociologist attended to the meeting. Usually (e.g. the French ones) the sociologists like the word "rumor" better than "contemporary legend". There were also psychologists and specialists in history of art and history of literature to emphasize the multi-disciplinary nature of the meeting. Italy was represented by Paolo Toselli who reported about "Child Kidnapping and the Body Parts Black Market: Italian Rumors and Contemporary Legends in the Nineties", and by Lucia Veccia who spoke about the problem of "Classifying and Cataloguing the Contemporary Legends".


Rumors and legends about clandestine organ trades have been circulated at large in Italy in the last four years, more than any other European country. They were based upon and fed by the living debate on the severe adoption law. But the catalysing themes were others. At first the media unjustified promotion of a "missing children" syndrome, just like in the USA in the '80s. Then, since mid-1992, the problematic law on organ transplants and donations. As number of donors, Italy ranks at the bottom of European classification. The charges of illicit trades made by physicians, members of European Parliament, Ministers etc., for two years, have been grounded on rumors and third hand information only. Those claims have been raising a lot of discussions. The distress for such a situation has helped in spreading, since June 1993, the legend of child's kidnapping at a supermarket. This story has the same features of variation who circulated in USA 10 years ago: cut-haired kid with replaced clothes is found in a toilet. In the course of a few months the legend has been placed in almost each supermarket of Italy. At the beginning of 1994 in Italy it did surface a variation of the so-called "stolen kidney" legend. At a disco a young man meets a beautiful girl. Many hours elapse. He doesn't returns home. Next morning he is found in derangment in his car. He is getting a phleboclysis. During the night he was extirpated a kidney; the operation took place on a TIR or a truck equipped like an operating room. At first this legend spreaded in Piedmont. It has been placed in several disco of northern Italy and, sometimes, the alleged "kidney-stealing blonde"'s victims have been identified by full name.