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MARTHA SEZ:Some so-called urban myths

April 7, 2011
Just in time for April Fool’s Day, here are some so-called urban myths—although some of them are rural.

You have probably heard of urban myths. They are the amazing, but untrue, stories you are likely to read on-line or hear from friends or happy hour acquaintances.

Most of these are several years old, at least. It is surprising how long such tall tales can persist. It seems that there are stories people just want to believe, even when all of the evidence points another direction. Sometimes it boils down to a matter of faith, bypassing reason altogether.

Urban myths may masquerade as good advice from your mother, who is only trying her best to set you straight. How likely are you to fall for these fallacious accounts?

Take this simple true-or-false quiz to find out. Give yourself five points for each statement you consider true.

Animal lore

1) Porcupines can throw their quills.

2) There are no coy dogs in the Adirondacks. The animals people refer to as coy dogs are actually eastern coyotes, whose ancestors include the red wolf, but not the German shepherd (or the standard poodle). It is larger than its western cousin.

3) Adirondack coyotes are called coy-dogs because they are descendants of wild coyotes and domesticated dogs.

4) Daddy longlegs are the world’s most venomous creatures, theoretically capable of killing a human with one bite—but fortunately their mouths cannot penetrate our epidermis.

5) Spiders frequently bite sleeping people. On average, Americans swallow five spiders a year in their sleep.

6) Tarantulas are venomous (so why are they sold in pet stores?).

7) According to ongoing studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, sperm whales have “names,” recognizing each other by pauses between vocalized clicking sounds. A whale name might be Click Click pause Click Click Click.

8) A toy poodle exploded when its elderly owner tried to dry it off in her microwave oven.

9) Mexican sewer rats have been adopted by kindly tourists who mistook them for dogs.

10) Chocolate is poisonous to dogs who eat it (fatal at one ounce of chocolate per pound of dog). Also poisonous to dogs is “cocoa mulch,” a landscaping material.

11) Uncooked rice is indigestible and sometimes deadly for the birds who eat it, and so the old tradition of throwing rice at weddings is environmentally unsound.


12) President Obama has an eclectic and original world perspective due to the fact that he was born outside of the United States and raised as a Mao Mao in Africa and/or a Muslim in Indonesia.

13) President Bush 2 had the lowest IQ of any president to serve in 50 years.

14) The term “bra burner” was introduced by a “New York Post” reporter  for feminists who protested the 1968 Miss America pageant. No brassieres were actually burned at the event, but the reporter wanted to link feminists with draft card burners.


15) A young woman cooked (basically, microwaved) her internal organs by paying too many visits to a tanning booth in preparation for her wedding. The only clue to her condition was the smell of rotting meat she gave off during her honeymoon. Of course, she died shortly thereafter.

16) During the early Sixties, a young woman unwittingly housed a nest of spiders in her beehive hairdo. They burrowed into her head and laid eggs.

17) Not only is it impolite to wear hats indoors, but men who constantly wear baseball caps (or any other form of headgear) increase their chances of going bald.

18) Shaving and/or cutting hair will make it grow back faster and thicker.

19) Eating chocolate will make an acne condition worse.

20) Smoking tobacco speeds up the aging process in skin, causing wrinkles.


Statements 7, 10, 14 and 20 are true. All the rest are false, at least according to my sources.

Check out the book “Owls Aren’t Wise and  Bats Aren’t Blind,” by Warner Shedd, and the Internet sites “ Uncle Ken’s Urban Myths” and “”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is also a source of information for this column.

Like many others, I nurture my own cranky beliefs in the face of expert opinion to the contrary. For example, I prefer to believe there are wild cougar families in the Adirondack Park, even though the DEC recently declared the eastern cougar to be extinct inside the Blue Line.

I’m just saying.

Have a good week.



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