Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Urban Legends

Urban legends. Modern fairy tales. Whatever you like to call them, I love them. The Hook. The Hippy Babysitter. The Spider in the Beehive Hairdo. Shudder. Frisson!
Over the past few days I have been investigating Belgian urban legends for the third book in my upcoming Forbidden Spaces trilogy, set in Flanders. I finished the first draft of the second book, The Demons of Ghent, earlier this month, and it was my intention to plunge straight into book three whilst the writing engine was nicely warmed up, so to speak. The third book, appropriately enough entitled Urban Legends, is partly inspired by those gruesome modern myths, hence the research. However, as David Byrne wisely observed of Washington D.C. in Twisting in the Wind, "the further you look into it, the further things stick out";  the more research I do, the more I decide I need to do. The material is too fascinating. Let's find another online article. Let's order a book. No, let's go one better: let's decide on an out-of-print book by a Flemish academic that will require days of searching on second hand book sites and an extortionate bank transfer charge.
Well, I've ordered the book - at least I think I have. Waiting to see whether the bank transfer has worked properly and hasn't sent Thai baht by accident or something. (Drop-down boxes in online banking: asking for trouble.)
Meanwhile, if you are interested in Belgian urban legends, there is a great article about them here, by Aurore Van De Winkel, and translated by Jane Corrigan:
My great favourite is the one about coin-operated toilets in the Brussels Metro. Supposedly women were vanishing inside them, sucked into a huge pipe and down into the sewers to meet some appalling unspecified fate. Investigation showed that the pipes in the toilets were too small for a human body to fit down them. It was then concluded that maybe the kidnappers had replaced the big pipes with small ones, because they had enough women...

Above: the Brussels sewers. Is something unspeakable going on down here? 


  1. That is a hilarious story! I do remember not getting off a German self-cleaning toilet seat quick enough - that was a bit of a shock!

  2. Whoa! :-D I know those toilet seats. Some of them revolve in a most alarming manner!