College Urban Legends Debunked!

I’m a sucker for a good urban legend, and I more often than not fall victim to them. I still check the backseat of my car ever time I get in to make sure there are no escaped convicts hiding in it, waiting to kill me. A little dramatic, maybe, but who doesn’t like a good, creepy story that seems so real it couldn’t possibly be a work of fiction?

The list of urban legends unique to college is miles long. College students are believable characters in these tales, many of which don’t seem so far – off from your average Friday night frat party antics. There are three legends in particular that are incredibly pervasive, withstanding the test of time. But are they true or false? Let’s see…

1. At some colleges, sororities aren’t allowed houses because of “brothel laws.”

This legend has been making its rounds on the internet since 1995 and may have been concocted way back in 1960. Unfortunately, it’s false. While some cities have zoning ordinations concerning how many people can lawfully occupy a single building, there are no “brothel laws.” Many campuses still cite this legend as fact to explain why they don’t have sorority houses.

2. Your college’s library is sinking because its architect did not consider how much the books in it would weigh.

My friend at Indiana University, where the library looks like a giant Triscuit, swears this is true. Alas, it’s not. Libraries may sink, but it’s not because of the books but boring “structural problems.” Analysts take this legend as a metaphor: the weight of the books represent the daunting impossibility of “the scholar’s task.” Precious.

3. The night after a wild party, a University of Texas student wakes up in a bathtub full of ice. Next to him is a sign telling him to call 911: both of his kidneys have been stolen, to be sold on the black market.

Obviously, this one is my favorite. It appeared in 1996 and really picked up speed, circulating campus through email and phone. It accrued credibility through use of false names and a faked appearance in The Daily Texan. But, it’s totally false — one huge mistake gave it away: The legend attributed the organ theft to a medical student at UT – Austin, but everyone knows UT – Austin has no medical school! Geez. Check your facts! Because facts are key to creating an awesome urban legend.

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