The World’s Greatest Folklorist On The Exploding Toilet


Jan Harold Brunvand, the world famous folklorist, in search of the abominable snowman.

No, not literally!

If you haven’t heard of Jan Harold Brunvand, you have probably not heard of urban legends. He more than any man or woman in history has done more to popularise them and promote their study.

An urban legend is a story that sounds plausible, that may have happened to a FOAF – friend of a friend – but when all the facts are in, is perhaps not all it was at first believed to be.

Details of Professor Brunvand’s books can be found on his official website. Nowadays he spends more time on the ski slopes than in the classroom. That is him in the above photographs. Not bad for a geezer of...well, let’s say he won’t see 80 again.

Today he commented on a strange story that has been reported about a most unfortunate lady in Spain who sat on a public toilet only to have it explode underneath her. This sounds terrible and tragic, but is it true? The exploding toilet is one of those urban legends that has been going the rounds for decades. According to Professor Brunvand:

“I’m always a little suspicious about such odd news items, perhaps in this case because it comes from Barcelona. I think of Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers who would explain the odd behavior and stupidity of his employee Manuel by saying , ‘He’s from Barcelona.’

He added: “I wonder why she turned on the light after sitting on the toilet, and why an explosion had not occurred sooner to another person if the gas had been building up.

I expect many people will forward this to me. I suspect some will also doubt its authenticity.”

They may indeed, and the story itself may be a total croc...odile. But, sometimes urban legends do come true, like one of the most macabre, that of the snuff film.

[The above article was published originally February 14, 2010].

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