Allegations of and knowledge about ritualistic or satanic abuse may also be spread through urban legends. In _The Vanishing Hitchhiker_ (1981,) the first of his four books on the topic, Dr. Jan Harold Brunvand defines urban legends as “realistic stories concerning recent events (or alleged events) with an ironic or supernatural twist” (p. xi.) Dr. Brunvand’s books convincingly explain that just because individuals throughout the country who never met each other tell the same story does not mean that it is true.Absurd urban legends about the corporate logos of Proctor and Gamble and Liz Claiborne being satanic symbols persist in spite of all efforts to refute them with reality. Some urban legends about child kidnappings and other threats to citizens have even been disseminated unknowingly by law enforcement agencies. Such legends have always existed, but today the mass media aggressively participate in their rapid and more efficient dissemination.
Southern Poverty Law Center
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