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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to urban folklore
"The Vanishing Hitchhiker," folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand's first book on urban legends, provides a thorough introduction to the definition, interpretation, and themes of urban folkore. About three dozen classic "friend of a friend" tales are covered in depth; each is presented through several examples, accompanied by a detailed analysis, and listed...
Published on 12 May 1997

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3.0 out of 5 stars The Study Of Urban Lore
Jan Harold Brunvand's "The Vanishing Hitchhiker" is the first of several books he has published which take a scholarly look at Urban Legends. Where did these legends start, how have they evolved to fit a new time or situation. Urban Legends are interesting stories, as you will find people who are swear that they happened (usually not to them, but to a friend or a...
Published on 7 July 2012 by Dave_42


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to urban folklore, 12 May 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings (Paperback)
"The Vanishing Hitchhiker," folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand's first book on urban legends, provides a thorough introduction to the definition, interpretation, and themes of urban folkore. About three dozen classic "friend of a friend" tales are covered in depth; each is presented through several examples, accompanied by a detailed analysis, and listed in a Notes section highlighting folklore journal articles about it. All in all, an excellent introduction for those who care to learn more about the field of urban folklore rather than just read collections of urban legends.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book about stories and culture, 7 Aug 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings (Paperback)
This book is excellent. By reading it you get a good scope on what urban legends are and how they fulfil their role in communication in society. I have done some research in Folklore and Urban Legends in the Netherlands, and Brunvand's work has had a major influence on the scope of my thesis. He knows what he is talking about. This book gives a good insight in storytelling, culture and American Society. A must for researchers in cultural studies, and probably a good book for those who want to learn more about the American society. It is fun to read, clearly written and Brunvand has a nice style of writing. I think many people would like this book, whether they are doing research, are on holiday, on the train or whatever. It's a book of all times, and so are the stories...
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Study Of Urban Lore, 7 July 2012
Jan Harold Brunvand's "The Vanishing Hitchhiker" is the first of several books he has published which take a scholarly look at Urban Legends. Where did these legends start, how have they evolved to fit a new time or situation. Urban Legends are interesting stories, as you will find people who are swear that they happened (usually not to them, but to a friend or a relation or a relation of a friend, etc.), and you can even find cases where they are reported as happening. They can be based on something which really happened, or something which never have happened, but regardless, their spread and retelling takes on a life and purpose of its own.

The first chapter of the book deals with all the foundational information. What are "Urban Legends"? How should they be interpreted? Brunvand uses "The Boyfriend's Death" legend to help explain the phenomena and how they are studied. By far this is the most important chapter of the book, as this is then the material the reader will use on the majority of the rest of the book.

Chapters 2 through 7 are all about the legends, broken into groupings such as Automobile, Teenage Horrors, Contaminations, the dead, kind of a catchall he titles "Dalliance, Nudity, and Nightmares, and then finally two favorite media legends. Chapter 8 then looks at urban legends in the making, where he looks at legends which never take off into the population as a whole (or haven't yet), or have gone into a period of inactivity, etc.

This is a good introduction into the study of Urban Legends. My negatives are all on the writing style of the book, and not the content. The presentation could have been much more accessible and interesting. While that may not matter as far as the quality of the information is concerned, it would have helped bring more people to a point where they can appreciate the topic and the significance of studying these stories.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Telling Stories in Our Culture, 10 Jun 2011
By 
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings (Paperback)
Academic and professional folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand teaches us about "...modern American folk narratives, stories that most people have heard as true accounts of real-life experiences, and few except scholars recognize as an authentic and characteristic part of our contemporary folklore." Brunvand invented the term "urban legends" to describe these narratives and literally wrote the book on how to recognize, interpret and document them. This is that book--the first one, anyway.

Brunvand distinguishes the urban legend from tall tails, jokes and its other narrative cousins. The prototypical urban legend is represented as true, spread primarily by word of mouth, unattributed--often happening to a "friend of a friend," and has many variations in detail while preserving the story's core elements. Readers are encouraged to become amateur folklorists who can recognize these narratives, question their veracity, and explore our motives for repeating them to each other.

The bulk of the book presents and analyzes urban legends for readers benefit and entertainment. They are grouped by loose theme into chapters that cover car stories (e.g., "The Philanderer's Porsche"), teen horror tales ("The Hook"), contaminations ("Spiders in the Hairdoo"), death ("Dead Cat in the Package"), nudity ("Nude in the RV"), and business ripoffs ("Red Velvet Cake"). The final chapter reviews several "myths in the making" that were on the rise at the time the book was first released.

For the urban legends themselves, I agree that the snopes web site is a far more current, extensive, and dynamic collection. But reading this book is worthwhile for Brunvand's early thoughts and theories about their origins and our motivations for telling and believing them. Interested readers may want to read the next book in this series, The Choking Doberman: And Other Urban Legends. For a more serious and methods-oriented discussion of folklore, see the most recent version of Brunvand's text, The Study of American Folklore: An Introduction.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We all know the stories, 15 Jan 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings (Paperback)
A fabulous introduction into the propagation of urban legend. We already know the stories - the hook or alligators in New York's sewers. The book is appropriate for the general audience, but has an academic twist. Can't wait to read the rest of the series!
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining one-day read, but only for fun, 22 Jun 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings (Paperback)
I bought this book to get a better understanding of WHY urban myths and other word-of-mouth stories are passed along in our society. Basically, this is the first of many books later published by Brunvand which documents examples of popular urban legends.
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The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings
The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings by Jan Harold Brunvand (Paperback - 26 Jan 1983)
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