Auto Urban Legends

Announcer: Go behind the wheel, under the hood and beyond with Car Stuff from

Scott Benjamin: Hey, everybody. Welcome to Car Stuff. I'm Scott Benjamin, the auto editor here at

Ben Bowlin: My name is Ben Bowlin. Scott, you know, of course, I still work here with you at Also, I want to tell you this new gig I got, man. It's sweet. It's awesome.

Scott Benjamin: A new gig?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, good. What's going on this week?

Ben Bowlin: I am HowStuffWorks's official weatherman for Antarctica.

Scott Benjamin: Really?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: So, what's it doing in Antarctica today?

Ben Bowlin: Just being cold, man. Easiest job ever.

Scott Benjamin: Good work.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, no wonder they don't pay me.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. Is there much need for a weatherman in Antarctica?

Ben Bowlin: Oh, sure. Just in case. Just in case. You never know.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I understand. Okay.

Ben Bowlin: You've got to start somewhere.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, well, my stapler needs refilling too, so maybe you need to get back to that one, I guess.

Ben Bowlin: I've moved on. We have an intern doing that.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, that was tape. I think it was tape. You were a tape dispenser refiller.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, yeah, tape.

Scott Benjamin: An intern's doing the staplers?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: I'll ask around.

Ben Bowlin: I said it was political earlier, if people remember. So, let's - you know what, though? Let me just move past that to my tremendous loss in both terms of ego and salary when I couldn't get onto the staples, but let's go and talk about something a little more exciting.

Scott Benjamin: No problem.

Ben Bowlin

All right. I'm just gonna fire a couple ideas off. Tell me to stop if you hear one that you want to do a podcast on because look at all these notes I got, right?

Scott Benjamin: You do.

Ben Bowlin: Parachutes? No? Okay.

Scott Benjamin: No, no.

Ben Bowlin: Hang gliders?

Scott Benjamin: No.

Ben Bowlin: Okay. Hang glide racing?

Scott Benjamin: No.

Ben Bowlin: Okay. Urban legends?

Scott Benjamin: Possibly.

Ben Bowlin: Wait, what?

Scott Benjamin: Possibly.

Ben Bowlin: All right. Well, let me try to entice you with one. You want to hear one?

Scott Benjamin: I'd love to hear one.

Ben Bowlin: Okay. I'll do a really short one. This is like a one liner. Okay, there is an urban legend that - and we've discussed this one before - that interstate systems were built to be air landing strips.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, yes.

Ben Bowlin: Right? Airplane landing strips in times of emergency or war!

Scott Benjamin: Sure.

Ben Bowlin: That is not true. We're just gonna go ahead and bust that one. We busted it before, but we still get e-mails about it occasionally. It is not true that it happened. A lot of people who claim that or a lot of things that you read about that say that it happened in 1956, in the Interstate Act in 1956.

Scott Benjamin: Sure, yeah.

Ben Bowlin: That established the interstate system, so logically, that would be where it was if it was true. It's not. There are definite regulations for the grade of the interstate, the height of bridges or overpasses, but there is nothing there that says you need to be able to land a plane on it.

Scott Benjamin: Okay, makes sense. We've talked about it in the past where we've said yeah, I could kind of see it's possible, but then there's also these tricks kind of thrown in there that now there's a long stretch of highway, but there are big metal poles in the way that have signs that warn you about upcoming off ramps.

Ben Bowlin: Sure.

Scott Benjamin: To me, that says you can't land a plane there. There's trees nearby that they've allowed to grow somewhat close to the road - not right on the road, but somewhat close to it. Or a green median where there's now trees growing. Something like that just wouldn't work. Or the separation - the concrete barrier!

Ben Bowlin: The separating median, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: It would have to be one continuous wide stretch of road. It can't have a concrete barrier. I can kind of see that one being false.

Ben Bowlin: Now, this is not to say that it is impossible for a plane to land on certain parts of the interstate. And who knows? Planes may have to at some point. It's just not - it wasn't explicitly designed to do that.

Scott Benjamin: I've seen it.

Ben Bowlin: You've seen it.

Scott Benjamin: I've seen it.

Ben Bowlin: You've seen a plane land?

Scott Benjamin: Yes.

Ben Bowlin: See, this is - oh, you've snuck into Stuff Scott Sees.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. Yeah, I did, didn't I?

Ben Bowlin: Clever. Touché.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, it was in Michigan. I think I maybe have even mentioned this last time.

Ben Bowlin: You did. I think so.

Scott Benjamin: Okay, yeah. That's enough of that then. You can listen to the episode if you want to hear it.

Ben Bowlin: I don't want to - do I have your interest yet on this one?

Scott Benjamin: Yes, you do.

Ben Bowlin: Okay, good. Let's keep going. I've got one for you. Let me see. I'm gonna read you - I'm gonna read two very short ones. You tell me which one you think is true. One of these is true.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, it's a quiz.

Ben Bowlin: Okay, yeah. Cell phones can set off gas pumps.

Scott Benjamin: Okay.

Ben Bowlin: Or - no, I'll give you three [inaudible].

Scott Benjamin: You mean fire, right?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, like in dangerous fire. So, I'll give you three. Two are false, one is true. Cell phones can set off gas pumps. Adrienne Brown, the wife of James Brown, tried to plead diplomatic immunity to some traffic conviction, including speeding and driving under the influence or -

Scott Benjamin: Wait, diplomatic immunity?

Ben Bowlin: Yes, because she claimed that her husband, James Brown, being hailed as the Ambassador of Soul qualified her. That's an urban legend.

Scott Benjamin: Okay.

Ben Bowlin: Red cars get more speeding tickets. One of these is true, the other two are false.

Scott Benjamin: One is true. I'm gonna go with the red cars.

Ben Bowlin: I hate to break it to you, man.

Scott Benjamin: I'm wrong?

Ben Bowlin: You are wrong.

Scott Benjamin: I'm wrong. Red cars do not get more speeding tickets.

Ben Bowlin: Statistically, people have found that red cars do not get more speeding tickets.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, okay.

Ben Bowlin: However, statistically, it's also been found - and this comes from some citations by Snopes - that white cars, in the tests that they have done, actually get less speeding tickets in proportion of the number of white cars in the sample size. So, while it is not proven that red cars get more speeding tickets, which everybody believes. I used to believe that until earlier this week, actually.

Scott Benjamin: Sure.

Ben Bowlin: There is this sort of tentative thing that indicates just maybe your white car will get you less notice.

Scott Benjamin: Really? That's interesting.

Ben Bowlin: Don't start speeding, though.

Scott Benjamin: No, no, of course. I bet it has a lot to do with the type of car it is as well.

Ben Bowlin: I'm sure that's more so.

Scott Benjamin: Maybe not. Maybe not. Maybe - this is just pure statistical data that's based on car color, right?

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: So, I guess you can't argue with that. If it's - of course, what's the sample? You've got to figure out that. What was it? Was it just one town, or was it one state, or how did they do it? Do you remember?

Ben Bowlin: It's one - it's not the whole country. It's not a whole country average. It's not even regional. It's relatively small.

Scott Benjamin: All right.

Ben Bowlin: But, of course, the law enforcement people questioned about this said that they were focused on the violation that they saw, not the color of the car. So, statistically, again, we might get in trouble for this. I'm sure there are people who disagree, and they probably drive red cars, but statistically, red cars do not get pulled over.

Scott Benjamin: I'm trying to think back if I had more speeding tickets in a red car than I had in, say, a blue car.

Ben Bowlin: You know what, though?

Scott Benjamin: I can't remember.

Ben Bowlin: I think you're right. I think it really is the type of car.

Scott Benjamin: It could be. I wonder if there's just a little bit of how aggressive you drive in that car as well, which obviously has a part to play in this. You could have a brand new Ferrari that's bright red, of course.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Of course.

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: That maybe you never, ever go over the speed limit because you know they're watching for you, but I don't know. I don't know how to answer this. You can look at it two different ways. Let's say you've got an exotic car that's bright red. Of course, that's gonna catch some attention.

Ben Bowlin: Sure.

Scott Benjamin: But say you've got a car like mine, which is not exotic, but let's say that it's bright red, and you drive it very aggressively. There's a chance that you're probably gonna get more speeding tickets if you're driving aggressively, I would think.

Ben Bowlin: And there we go. I'll go with you there and even take it around the corner. What if people drive more aggressively when they're in a red car?

Scott Benjamin: True. Could happen, could happen.

Ben Bowlin: Possibly.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. I don't know. I don't know how much that has to do with it. How much do you really see the outside of the car when you're - and even when - I don't know.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, we've got a whole show ahead of us.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: Okay, just to get the quiz over with, buddy.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. Wait a minute. Wait a minute that means that James Brown's wife really did plead - or ask for diplomatic immunity?

Ben Bowlin: Right. I guess you would say - the correct language would be claimed diplomatic immunity.

Scott Benjamin: Really?

Ben Bowlin: Because her husband at the time, James Brown, was the Ambassador of Soul. And the lawyer who advanced this - now, this really happened. The lawyer who advanced this did withdraw that claim shortly after making it.

Scott Benjamin: I would think so, yeah. That's outlandish.

Ben Bowlin: Because you can't just say you're -

Scott Benjamin: That really happened?

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: Okay, well, what about the static - oh, go ahead. Did you have more about the -

Ben Bowlin: It's just also basically, diplomatic immunity - in case there's anybody listening who is somehow involved in a situation like this - if you're a US citizen and you have diplomatic immunity for some reason, it only applies outsi de of the US. If you're in a state department job or something and you work here in the States, you can't speed, dude. Don't try to get away with it.

Scott Benjamin: It doesn't work.

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: Got it. I didn't know that.

Ben Bowlin: Okay, static and cell phones. Also complete hogwash, man.

Scott Benjamin: Really?

Ben Bowlin: It doesn't happen.

Scott Benjamin: No kidding?

Ben Bowlin: It does not make you blow up. You're not in danger.

Scott Benjamin: I thought I heard that too.

Ben Bowlin: Smoking, though.

Scott Benjamin: But wait a minute. Wait a minute, cell phones and static electricity don't cause fires at the pump, right?

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: But static electricity at the pump does. If you were to - if you're not grounded and then there's a spark from your fingertip, that's very dangerous.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, I could see that because it's still -

Scott Benjamin: Very dangerous.

Ben Bowlin: Basically, the danger is the spark.

Scott Benjamin: Exactly. And that's why they tell you not to get back into the car when you're fueling a vehicle up because of built up static, and it's a static charge inside the vehicle, and then when you come back out again, you have risk of touching something metal near the tank.

Ben Bowlin: That's true.

Scott Benjamin: Because there's vapor coming out the whole time, and then of course, you've got your tank right below it. It's the same thing with filling - I believe containers, like the plastic containers that you fill, the red containers.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, that's why you have to have them on the ground?

Scott Benjamin: You put them on the ground. Yeah, that's right. You never fill them in like a plastic truck bed. That's bad news.

Ben Bowlin: Plus, if you have a car like mine with an all shaggy wool interior, right?

Scott Benjamin: You have a wool interior?

Ben Bowlin: The ladies love it.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I bet. I bet. It's not scratchy at all, right?

Ben Bowlin: So, you know some urban legends, man. You got any?

Scott Benjamin: You know what? I got a couple here, and what's funny is that this kind of came up because of a listener.

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: In a way. I've got a piece of listener mail here. This is from back in March, the end of March, and I've been thinking about it a little bit. Actually, the person was talking originally about the VH1 Corvette giveaway, which was not an urban legend.

Ben Bowlin: Nope.

Scott Benjamin: That really happened, and that still exists somewhere.

Ben Bowlin: We have an episode -

Scott Benjamin: They've been moved around a little bit, shuttled around, but this person said that this reminds them of a story that they heard recently where a couple purchased a farm in Portugal or in Spain, they couldn't remember which, and the farm had an old barn on it, which they didn't open, of course, until after they had purchased the property.

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: And once they opened the doors - they had been welded shut - once they opened the doors, they found something like 200 cars that are worth $17 million on this piece of property that they got basically just at an auction. This is like kind of the ultimate barn find story, right?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: False.

Ben Bowlin: Ah.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, it's a false urban legend. This is an urban legend.

Ben Bowlin: I kind of had a feeling because 200 is a lot.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, and a lot of these photos came around recently, and the funny thing is, though, there is a barn in Portugal that has I think it's 180 cars in it that are of various makes and models and years and vintages, and the cool thing about this is - but it was documented more as an inventory than anything else. It's not this fantastic barn find that somebody found just by chance at an auction. This barn was said to have doors that were welded shut that no one bothered to open for 15 years after the original owners had passed away, that type of thing.

Ben Bowlin: Which is, first off, crazy?

Scott Benjamin: Exactly. No heirs and that type of thing, so they were gonna tear down the barn, and then they found inside this barn these 200 cars or 180 cars. Those cars do exist, and they are there in this barn in Portugal, but the truth to this is - the reality is that it's not really the lucky buyer that owns these cars now. It's really just the person that owns them originally. He was an automobile dealer in the '70s and '80s and he, over time, built up this collection because you don't build something like this quickly. It's progressive.

Ben Bowlin: Sure.

Scott Benjamin: These cars are filthy, by the way. They've been just sitting in the barn decaying, picking up dust.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, man.

Scott Benjamin: But really, he just kept the barn locked up. Once it was full, he had nothing more to do with them, so he just shut it up and left it there. You know how these collectors are sometimes. It's just what they do . I don't know. He might have others elsewhere, we just don't know. But really, the photographs were more of an inventory for the owner and nothing else, but once word got out, somebody could make a fantastic story out of it and call it the ultimate barn find.

Ben Bowlin: Forward some e-mails.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, exactly. So, that one's made its rounds, and there's a lot of other auto urban legends that are out there, and in particular that you've probably heard.

Ben Bowlin: Which one?

Scott Benjamin: This is about the escaped mental patient and the hook in the door.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, man, this was -

Scott Benjamin: Have you heard this?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, this was one of my favorite summer camp stories. I think a lot of people remember this story.

Scott Benjamin: I think so too, yeah. And just briefly -

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, the Reader's Digest version.

Scott Benjamin: This is the - it's called "The Hook," usually. I'm just reading here from Snopes. I've heard this one - when I was a kid, I heard it around a campfire, of course, and it's meant to be kind of spooky, kind of one of these evening tales that you tell around a campfire to, I don't know, scare pre-teens or whatever, when you're a dad and think it's kind of cool to scare your kids a little bit.

Ben Bowlin: Or people with a fear of hooks.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, that's right. Or you can frighten your brother or sister with this. But basically, the way it goes - and this is general. It's retold many times in different ways, but it all has the same kind of ending. And there's a kind of surprising twist to this at the end that I had never thought of, oddly enough. This is strange. The idea is this. A young couple goes out to a country road or maybe a Lover's Lane, and they're gonna park and kiss, make out, that type of thing. They don't have the radio on. The girl's - they don't have the radio on. The girl's real nervous about what's going on. She's kind of anxious, upset, kind of looking around, cautious. The young guy, he's very excited about this, of course, and he's being a little bit aggressive. She just continues with this uneasy feeling, says, "I just don't feel right about this. We need to get out of here." They hear some noises.

Ben Bowlin: Some rustling, perhaps?

Scott Benjamin: But what they don't know - what the young couple does not know is that there's an escaped mental institution prisoner in the area, an escapee from the asylum, and he's got a hook for a hand, and he's used this hook on his other victims. That's the kind of catch to this whole thing is that there's this hook hand. Finally, the girl says, "Look, this is just too much for me. It's too spooky. I've got to get out of here." He gets upset, gets back in the driver's seat, floors the car to get out there because he's very upset, angry, rapid acceleration out of wherever they are. They get home. He's dropping her off. He's still angry. He goes around to the other side to let her out, and he realizes that in the door handle of the car, there's a bloody hook hanging there.

Ben Bowlin: Dun, dun, dun.

Scott Benjamin: Exactly. Now, there's many other versions of this, but this is something that - I've heard this a few times, and I had no idea, and maybe you knew this. There's a moral to this story.

Ben Bowlin: What's the moral?

Scott Benjamin: I thought it was just kind of a spooky kind of you're out in the country and it's kind of scary type thing.

Ben Bowlin: Is the moral, "Don't fool around?"

Scott Benjamin: It is. It is. This is like a, "Don't engage in sex if you're a teenager," type story. I had no idea.

Ben Bowlin: So, it was purposefully made to impart this moral.

Scott Benjamin: Exactly, yeah. There's a moral to the story, and that is, "Teenage sex is dangerous." Dangerous. You could die. See?

Ben Bowlin: Well, not necessarily from a hook-handed serial killer.

Scott Benjamin: Well, no, not necessarily, but that's the symbolism.

Ben Bowlin: Something bad could happen.

Scott Benjamin: Exactly. Something bad could happen, so here's the young female saying, "No, no, no," the boy saying, "Yes," and she's the one that's right. She said, "Let's get out of here."

Ben Bowlin: And saved their lives.

Scott Benjamin: And saved their lives. That's right. So, there you go. That's the version. There's another version.

Ben Bowlin: There's another?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, there's another one that I had heard also that my dad must have told me these. I can't believe he told me these when I was so young. When I think back to this, I don't - but you know what? There was no knowledge that this was the underlying moral of this, I don't think.

Ben Bowlin: Sure. It was just a scary story.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, it was just kind of a spooky story. We camped out a lot, so it was kind of fun. But when I look back, these are pretty macabre stories, I guess.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: And this other one, it's often called like "The Boyfriend," or "The Boyfriend's Death," or something like that.

Ben Bowlin: Sure.

Scott Benjamin: Same idea, where they're out on a country road parked somewhere. Whatever happened - usually, the act happens.

Ben Bowlin: Right, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Then, they're ready to leave. The boyfriend says, "Oh, my gosh. We're out of gas," and they really are out of gas. It's not a ploy on his part. They're out of gas, so he says, "Tell you what. You stay here. I know a gas station not far from here that's nearby. I can hike back there and get fuel, and we'll leave. Stay in the car no matter what. Don't get out of the car." So, he leaves, and 20 minutes later, she hears - she's freaked out, of course.

Ben Bowlin: Sure. She hears kind of a [rustling sound].

Scott Benjamin: Exactly, a little rustling or something like that, and there's either a tapping on the car, a scratching on the car, something like that, right? She's so panicked that something's just not right. He's not back yet. It's been hours now, and this tapping is still continuing. Finally, daybreak happens or something like that. Maybe the police arrive, and they say, "Miss, stay right where you are. I'll help you out of the car." They help her out, and they say, "Whatever you do, don't look back at the car. Walk to the squad car. Don't look back."

Ben Bowlin: And, of course -

Scott Benjamin: Of course.

Ben Bowlin: Of course.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, there's - the boyfriend is dead, and he's either hanging above the car, and the tapping that they hear is his foot or his fingertips or blood, or I've read a version where it's his head that's on an antenna that's dripping. There's just all kinds of really gory details to this one, but again, of course, she looks back, and she sees this horrible scene that is caused by teenage sex.

Ben Bowlin: And this is -

Scott Benjamin: That's it.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, this is utterly false, right?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. Yeah, it's made up. These are cautionary tales that have been passed down through generations now at this point. It really does go back to the '40s. There's been Lover's Lane murders before.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, all the way back before the 1700s, there have been Lover's Lane stories.

Scott Benjamin: Sure. Yeah, it happens, and it really does happen sometimes. There's that off chance when something like that does happen, but most of these are really based in the idea that underage sex is bad, and you'll see that trend carried over into horror movies of today. You'll see like Friday the 13th and just - is it Halloween? I think Halloween has some elements of that as well.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, sure. Most American horror movies do have some sort of element of that.

Scott Benjamin: Well, that's kind of a bummer.

Ben Bowlin: Excuse me, like the date horror movies.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, yeah, sure.

Ben Bowlin: Hey, wait. Before we go out of spooky territory, let me pick up one.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, you've got a spooky one? Okay.

Ben Bowlin: I've got a spooky one. All right. I'm gonna say three words to you. I bet you'll - I know that you'll know this one because you and me are on the same page - you and I.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, either way.

Ben Bowlin: We're there. We're on that page. Dead car smell!

Scott Benjamin: Oh, yes. Yeah, I know this one.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah. Now, of course, Scott, you know that this is the story about someone who, at the basis - there are quite a few versions of this, but at the basis, somebody gets this just beautiful cherry car for less than it should be. Not an unbelievable price, which is a different story, but for less than it should be, and they can't quite figure out why it is until they realize when they get into the car after the purchased it, for some reason -

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, they've never checked it out. Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: It's just like that barn in Portugal, right, man? And they realize that it reeks of a smell that they're not quite familiar with. Then, they find out eventually, through some sort of pomp and circumstance that this car had someone die inside of it, and now, no matter what, the smell will not leave.

Scott Benjamin: Okay, so somebody died in the car and they were in there apparently for a long time.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, there's a couple different versions here. There's a serious version where the car is almost cursed, and the person who buys it afterwards also dies, sort of like the James Dean, Franz Ferdinand legends.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, yeah, sure.

Ben Bowlin: Then, there's sort of a less serious version. I don't know if I want to say less serious because it is death, but there's one where the people who buy the car next in line don't have to die, they just have to put up with this terrible smell. This story - I'm gonna tell you something kind of weird, man.

Scott Benjamin: Okay.

Ben Bowlin: You ready?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, ready.

Ben Bowlin: We're going weird.

Scott Benjamin: I'm ready.

Ben Bowlin: Okay. This kind of story, the way it's written, it's almost impossible to prove whether or not it's true or false. Of course, we know that not being able to disprove something doesn't make it true or false. It just means that we don't have the information. The reason we - I'm gonna go ahead and say this is probably false because any smell can be taken out eventually, even if you have to gut the inside of the car.

Scott Benjamin: Yes.

Ben Bowlin: But the reason I'm gonna say it's false is that we have seen this take all the steps that the usual folklore stories go through. It's been around since at least the '20s, early '20s. It's been every kind of car you could imagine - a Cadillac, a cruiser, a Viper, even a Model A, apparently, which that didn't make sense to me because Model As are not closed cabins, so how did that smell stay in there?

Scott Benjamin: They're closed cabins. There are some closed cabins.

Ben Bowlin: There are some, but they've got -

Scott Benjamin: Oh, yeah. I understand. I understand what you're saying.

Ben Bowlin: But the smell would leak out.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, yeah. They're not necessarily air tight vehicles.

Ben Bowlin: Right. They're not sealed.

Scott Benjamin: No, no, not like cars are now.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, yeah, yeah. I didn't mean they were all open air.

Scott Benjamin: No, no, I know what you meant.

Ben Bowlin: Then, apparently, there are some folks who think they've traced it back to a time before cars, where it was actually a story about a guy who sat in a rocking chair and was so depressed that he died, and the chair always smelled like him.

Scott Benjamin: Really?

Ben Bowlin: So, boom, that's another myth busted. Not myth busted, but it's another urban legend that is not true. So, right now, we've got just, what, one? One that's true?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I think you're right.

Ben Bowlin: Just the one.

Scott Benjamin: Just the one, yeah.

Ben Bowlin: Just Adrienne Brown, the diplomat.

Scott Benjamin: Yep, yep.

Ben Bowlin: What do you got?

Scott Benjamin: I've got a couple others here. There's one that has - this one's called - and this is from Snopes, also - "The Rattletrap." You may have heard of this one.

Ben Bowlin: "The Rattletrap?"

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, have you ever heard of this one?

Ben Bowlin: No, I haven't.

Scott Benjamin: This is about - and I'll make it super brief because this has actually got a long description to it here. I'm leafing through it right now, but the idea of this one is that it's always a luxury car, always something like a Jaguar, Mercedes, Corvette, Cadillac.

Ben Bowlin: Sure, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: That's what it says here. And there's always a persistent rattle that's caused by something in the car. Okay? So, you buy a new car. Let's say it's a real high end Jaguar, and you find out that as you drive this thing, there's a rattle that is just driving you nuts. You can't tell where it's coming from. You take it back to the dealership. They say, "Well, we've never heard anything like this. Let's take it out for a test." They can't figure it out. Of course, it's inconsistent. It doesn't happen all the time, but this rattle is just driving you nuts because you hear it all the time, no matter what, once you focus in on that. Finally, the owner - after several attempts to get the dealership to figure out what it is, they say, "We've checked everything that it possibly could be. We're even looking into getting another car for you." That's how persistent this is and how much it bothers you. Finally, you've just had enough, and you think you've realized where it's coming from, and let's say you open up the door of the car.

Ben Bowlin: Sure.

Scott Benjamin: You just take off the panel yourself, and you realize that there's an empty whisky bottle in there with some change in it that rattles around, an empty whisky bottle that had been in the door of your Jaguar.

Ben Bowlin: With change in it?

Scott Benjamin: With change in it and maybe a note.

Ben Bowlin: All right.

Scott Benjamin: And the note says something like, "Well, you finally found the rattle. You rich SOB. Hope you enjoy your car. Signed, Me, the little guy on the line," or whatever. It's one of these kind of revenge type stories, right?

Ben Bowlin: Sure, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: And the idea is that it's really a sabotaged car is the idea. Your car has been sabotaged by somebody without you knowing.

Ben Bowlin: Kind of a prank.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, it's a prank. It's a car prank, really. And there's one little bit of - and this one goes back to at least, according to Snopes, at least 1969, and there have been some modern day versions of this that have come about. It could be anything. It could be bolts. It could be, like I said, change in the door. It could be something just as simple as something written on the backseat. Maybe this isn't a rattle, but this is something else. Now, here's something kind of funny. There's a real life event that happened to the queen that is very similar to this.

Ben Bowlin: The queen of England?

Scott Benjamin: Yes.

Ben Bowlin: What?

Scott Benjamin: Yes, I know.

Ben Bowlin: Go on.

Scott Benjamin: I know you're listening now, right? Now, this is from Snopes. It says a real life event somewhat similar to the legend occurred in June of 2001, when Queen Elizabeth II's Jaguar was found to contain pornographic magazines tucked into a cavity and a swastika painted behind a seat panel.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, my gosh.

Scott Benjamin: And that's done at the factory. That was somebody that just did this as kind of a - on a lark. They just did this as a joke.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, man.

Scott Benjamin: And according to a Jaguar spokesman, who said something about this pranking, he's saying that it's one of those old traditions where people used to write things behind the seat panels of cars, and they're never discovered until somebody was in an accident, until they had to tear that seat up or apart for some reason.

Ben Bowlin: Right, okay.

Scott Benjamin: Or - because how would they ever know that that was there?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, that's just kind of trashy, though.

Scott Benjamin: I've heard it - yeah, I know it is. It really is, yeah. But he says that the practice has been around for a long, long time. In fact, this guy was an apprentice at one point. He said that he remembers it from back when he was young, and it's just Jaguar. This is everywhere, so I'm not picking on Jaguar, but this is the example in Snopes.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, we still love you guys, Jaguar.

Scott Benjamin: Exactly, yeah. He says that there are probably hundreds of makes and models of cars, not just Jaguar, of course, but that are going around with all this. He in fact himself said he hasn't had the guts to go look behind his own car to see what's there.

Ben Bowlin: That's awesome. So, there's a ring of truth.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, and the idea is that - but the thing about this rattle and the sabotaged car, it's - of course, it's an urban legend about the whisky bottle and that type of stuff, but it happens. It can happen. The idea is that the rattle demonstrates something that - you may have a guilt about doing well, which sounds kind of funny, but you may have this idea that maybe I don't know what I did to deserve this, but now I've got this brand new Cadillac, and there's got to be something wrong with it. How do the people who made this for me feel? Are they upset with me? Like you feel like you're somehow above them, but you maybe shouldn't be. I don't know if I'm describing that the right way or not.

Ben Bowlin: I get what you're saying because you're taking some of the psychological implications, some of the symbolism of the story.

Scott Benjamin: It's a guilt to your success, I guess, if you want to put it that way. If you have excessive possessions at this point, you may feel like you don't necessarily deserve them.

Ben Bowlin: That's why you gave away the jet, right?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, that's right. Yeah. Anyway, that's kind of an unusual one, but with a little bit of some truth ground into that.

Ben Bowlin: A little ring of truth.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, and you know what? There's probably a car out there with some phantom rattle that is some kind of malicious doing by the people on the line.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, gosh, man. You just drove everybody who has an undiagnosed rattle a little bit crazier.

Scott Benjamin: I know, and that's a huge percentage of people. So, I've got another couple of few that I want to just list real quick, and then we're done.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Let's see. I don't even know if we'll go through these in order or not. Did you know that peanut - well, this is one that's kind of true, but it's one of those curse stories, so you've got to kind of -

Ben Bowlin: Grain of salt.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, exactly.

Ben Bowlin: Check.

Scott Benjamin: Did you know that peanut shells are considered a curse in racing?

Ben Bowlin: I did not know peanut shells -

Scott Benjamin: Shelled peanuts.

Ben Bowlin: Shelled peanuts?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, if they're out of their shell, they're apparently okay, but it goes back to 1937. There were a couple of fatalities, some spectator deaths, things like that, take a look at this one if you're interested in that, but find out about the peanut shell curse.

Ben Bowlin: The peanut shell curse.

Scott Benjamin: And that's in racing, and you'll figure out what's going on there.

Ben Bowlin: That's awesome.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, it's kind of neat, isn't it?

Ben Bowlin: Well, I'm just really - any sport, I love the superstitions of it.

Scott Benjamin: And there's a lot of superstitions in sports, pre-game ritual, post-game rituals, that type of thing. Apparently, peanuts in shells play a big role in racing superstition.

Ben Bowlin: That explains so much. Now, you're gonna wonder what -

Scott Benjamin: I had never heard of this one.

Ben Bowlin: I hadn't heard it.

Scott Benjamin: It goes back to 1937. Another one is seatbelts. Some people believe that they're better off not wearing seatbelts, and we've talked about this. I know we have. The idea is that you're better of not wearing a seatbelt because if there's a fire in the vehicle, you're able to get out. Otherwise, you're trapped, which is not true. There's always gonna be the chance that could happen. However, the NHTSA has said that most fatalities on the highway result from impact or being thrown from the vehicle, and that's where the seatbelt comes in. They said that if you're ejected from the vehicle - which sounds horrific, by the way - if you're ejected from the vehicle, you're four times as likely to die as those that remain inside the vehicle. So, once you go through the window, you're four times more likely to die than if you were to stay inside the car.

Ben Bowlin: Which to me totally makes sense because where are you gonna be launched? Into traffic? Into a pole?

Scott Benjamin: Exactly. In front of your own vehicle!

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Into the accident that just happened.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: So, that's bad news.

Ben Bowlin: I've got one.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: Okay, so this - I'm gonna take it - I'm taking it up a little. All right. Have you heard of the urban legend that says a former military officer got a hold of a jet engine and strapped it to his car to do a jet assisted take off?

Scott Benjamin: Is this a JATO?

Ben Bowlin: The JATO.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: The JATO cliff.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I think everybody's heard this one.

Ben Bowlin: Okay, so we've got this guy who is somehow smart enough to strap a jet engine onto his car, but still just not quite smart enough to put a couple extra numbers together and realize that it's suicide. So, the story goes that he takes off. He's doing well for about 20 seconds, and then he tries to apply the breaks. Then, boom, the brakes melt, the wheels melt. The car careens and goes airborne somehow and knocks a crater into a cliff face. Now, people try to rationalize this by saying, "Well, he did go out to Arizona and Utah where we conduct all the land speed record attempts, so the idea is that he really did do this." He didn't, man. You can call the Arizona Highway Patrol folks. I'm sure they hear about it all the time. Anyone who has - you don't even have to be an engineer. I'm not an engineer, but just looking at the numbers and the technology involved, there's just no way, man.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, this guy didn't just bolt it to his car in a shop somewhere.

Ben Bowlin: Which is great, because it means he didn't die.

Scott Benjamin: I guess you could do it, but it would take - you're right. You'd have to be a mechanical engineer, and also there's just no way that you would expect that vehicle to stand up underneath the weight. And I've heard versions of this where it's an old Chevy Celebrity or something like that, or just some car that - any car that you pick, he's bolted this engine to, and they often thought even - I've heard that this was a - they couldn't determine if it was a low flying aircraft is what they thought because of the remnants of the engine, and they couldn't even - it was so smashed t hat they couldn't tell it was a car, even.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, and they couldn't find the guy's body or anything.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: But here we go. Ring of truth because in 1957, apparently Dodge took a car and removed the gas tank and put a JATO unit in its place.

Scott Benjamin: Really?

Ben Bowlin: And the car went 140-something miles an hour.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, cool.

Ben Bowlin: So, apparently, really -

Scott Benjamin: And this is not the turbine car, is it, we talked about? This is a different car because that was an official program.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. I don't think that's it.

Ben Bowlin: I don't think it could be, but just so everybody knows, if you are strapping that - if you are somehow in the garage putting that thing on now, please stop. Don't let any more innocent people die, especially if they're real and not fictional like guy.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, yeah. That seems - that one's always has kind of - I don't know. I've never, ever believed that one, even right from the very first time I heard it.

Ben Bowlin: What about that guy who got a vanity plate that said No Plate. Did you hear about this guy?

Scott Benjamin: No, I didn't hear about this one.

Ben Bowlin: Well, the legend goes that when people get smart aleck vanity plates like No Plate or just a bunch of Xs or something, that they get more tickets.

Scott Benjamin: Really?

Ben Bowlin: They get a lot of tickets. It's absolutely true.

Scott Benjamin: No plate?

Ben Bowlin: That guy - there was a guy who put - who was filling out his vanity plate form, and his first choice was Sailing, or his second choice was Boating or something like that because he was a sailing enthusiast, and then his third choice, he just wrote, "No plate," and that's what they gave him. So, he had literally, Scott, thousands of notices.

Scott Benjamin: Thousands?

Ben Bowlin: Thousands, man.

Scott Benjamin: Thousands, really?

Ben Bowlin: Well, like 2,000.

Scott Benjamin: And this is real?

Ben Bowlin: Just enough to say thousands.

Scott Benjamin: Wow.

Ben Bowlin: And then, the guy who had just Xs on his plate also got in trouble.

Scott Benjamin: That's kind of ridiculous.

Ben Bowlin: See, I'm torn. I kind of want a vanity plate.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, no, you don't.

Ben Bowlin: I'm just not that person.

Scott Benjamin: You don't want a vanity plate. Don't get a vanity plate.

Ben Bowlin: It costs extra. It makes me look kind of like a jerk.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, don't get one.

Ben Bowlin: I don't know. Somebody probably already has Ben.

Scott Benjamin: Don't get it.

Ben Bowlin: Should I get Scott?

Scott Benjamin: No.

Ben Bowlin: That would be weird.

Scott Benjamin: No, that would be weird.

Ben Bowlin: That would be kind of weird.

Scott Benjamin: Strange.

Ben Bowlin: Then, the very last one I have, and this is just my favorite. A guy got caught - this is when they started putting out the cameras that automatically catch you, and they send you a picture of yourself.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, yeah.

Ben Bowlin: You heard about this, right?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I think I know which way you're going with this.

Ben Bowlin: This is where the guy gets the picture, and he says, "Okay, well, I'll pay with a picture of $45.00," or $50.00 or whatever the fine was.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, he sends them a picture of money.

Ben Bowlin: That really happened.

Scott Benjamin: Really?

Ben Bowlin: Yes. And do you know what happened afterwards?

Scott Benjamin: I do.

Ben Bowlin: Go ahead. You say it . You say it.

Scott Benjamin: The police chief sent him back a picture of handcuffs and told him that that would be his future if he didn't cough up the real cash.

Ben Bowlin: And that was Police Chief James A. Koss. Congratulations, sir. You both have a sense of humor and a heck of a work ethic. I almost want to meet this guy.

Scott Benjamin: I know, yeah. It's an interesting story. It's amazing that that's true.

Ben Bowlin: So, yeah, I just wanted to end on a true. That's all I got. You gonna close us out with one?

Scott Benjamin: I've got a couple that maybe - three here, and maybe two - I'll start with two that probably everybody's heard. Of course, there's the cruise control driver, and this is back - I don't know, 20 years ago, maybe.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, the cruise control Cinderella.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, yeah.

Ben Bowlin: That's what I call him.

Scott Benjamin: Is that what you call it? Really?

Ben Bowlin: No, I made that up.

Scott Benjamin: This is a guy - what are you talking about?

Ben Bowlin: I'm the Sleeping Beauty. Ah.

Scott Benjamin: Let's see. Okay, the family's on vacation. They're headed out in the family RV. They just got this brand new RV, and driving along, the family's in the back. Dad's up in the front driving, and about midway through the first state or whatever, the Dad comes strolling back into the back part of the cabin while the car is still moving - the RV is still moving. They say, "What are you doing up here? Who's driving?" He said, "Oh, I just set the cruise control. Don't worry about it," and that's when they went off the road.

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: Okay, totally false, of course.

Ben Bowlin: Okay.

Scott Benjamin: Anyway, that has a lot of variations as well. People that set the cruise control and then fall asleep in the seats, that type of thing.

Ben Bowlin: Which is weird because I could totally see someone doing that when cruise control first came out?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I guess I could too.

Ben Bowlin: That's why they didn't call it autopilot.

Scott Benjamin: It's humorous, anyways.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: It makes people think. The other one is - and this is one that I'm sure everybody's heard of - the $50.00 Porsche. This is where I guess the estranged wife -

Ben Bowlin: The jilted lover.

Scott Benjamin: Exactly. She says, "I'm gonna -" Oh, the husband, I guess. We should start it with this. The husband that has recently left his wife writes a note back that says, "I'm enjoying my new life here in Palm Beach," or wherever it is, "with my new wife," or my new girlfriend. "Please sell the sports car, and send me the money." She says, "Fine, I'll send the car and send you the money," and she sells it for $50.00 - his prized possession, his Corvette or Porsche or whatever. I think this one's false too.

Ben Bowlin: There is no car salesman like a woman scorned.

Scott Benjamin: Good point. No, I think this is one everybody's heard, and there's variation of what type of car it is and how much money it is. It just doesn't exist.

Ben Bowlin: It's sort of hard to believe, man.

Scott Benjamin: It really is. It really is.

Ben Bowlin: Is it just that we like cars too much?

Scott Benjamin: I think - well, I don't know. Maybe. Maybe.

Ben Bowlin: Maybe it is.

Scott Benjamin: Maybe. I have people that - well, there's also another one where people don't know - someone doesn't know the value of the car.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: And they sell it unknowing, and this one - it's another urban legend, but it often focuses on - let's say that someone's gone off to war, and they were killed - a son or the husband - and the wife or mother sells the person's - again, this is their prized possession. I think the example I saw as a '63 split back Corvette.

Ben Bowlin: Okay.

Scott Benjamin: And she had no idea of the value of it, sold it for a couple hundred bucks to the first person that came along. They found the greatest deal of the century. If someone just doesn't know the value of something, that's another urban legend that someone receives something for a very low cost.

Ben Bowlin: And that has likely happened.

Scott Benjamin: That probably has happened.

Ben Bowlin: That probably - just statistically, that probably has happened.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. The very last one I've got here, Ben.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah?

Scott Benjamin: This is the last one. You might have heard this one too.

Ben Bowlin: Make it crazy.

Scott Benjamin: This is crazy. This one is always associated with - and I'm doing air quotes here, but "hillbillies" or "rednecks" in a pickup truck, usually. You probably know this one, right? This is the -

Ben Bowlin: I'm from Tennessee, bro.

Scott Benjamin: This is the bullet fuse.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: You've heard of this one, right?

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: Okay, a couple of guys out for a drive. They blow a fuse somehow, some kind of critical fuse, apparently. It's the tube type, the glass type. Looking around for something to put in there, just a piece of wire or anything! Well, they have a .22 caliber bullet, and they put the bullet in there because it spans the gap, and it's metal, and it does the job.

Ben Bowlin: Sure.

Scott Benjamin: Well, apparently, the bullet overheats. The electricity warms it. It warms up to the point where it overheats, and the bullet discharges. And it usually - it shoots the guy, the driver, in the knee or in the testicle.

Ben Bowlin: Ouch.

Scott Benjamin: I know, I know. And then, they end up driving of the road. They both are hauled off to some emergency medical clinic where they make some outlandish statements about what happened. It's kind of a funny story to anybody else besides the two guys in the car.

Ben Bowlin: Sure.

Scott Benjamin: But, of course, that's a false one too. This has never happened, but I can almost see this one happening in real life.

Ben Bowlin: People in Tennessee will swear to you - some people will swear to you by that story, man.

Scott Benjamin: Really?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, some people believe it.

Scott Benjamin: Really? Okay.

Ben Bowlin: Well, it's just dumb enough that it could happen.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I understand. I could see it really happening, but so far, this one's false.

Ben Bowlin: So far, so good.

Scott Benjamin: Thank goodness. Thank goodness.

Ben Bowlin: So, I guess this closes out. We wanted to talk about these urban legends, first because we had such a great time with the VH1 Corvette giveaway, and we know that we have just really hit some of the big ones. Of course, we missed vanishing hitchhiker or whatever. I don't mean to burst anyone's bubble, but that one's not true.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, or the dead hitchhiker.

Ben Bowlin: The dead hitchhiker.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, the person that died years before.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, as far as we know, hasn't happened.

Scott Benjamin: I don't think so.

Ben Bowlin: But we're so sure that you guys have probably got a couple of good urban legends under your belt about cars, so if you want to give us a shout, you can write to us on Facebook at C ar Stuff.

Scott Benjamin: Or on Twitter. You can follow us on Twitter. We've got Car Stuff HWS I think is the best way to find it.

Ben Bowlin: Yep.

Scott Benjamin: We've got the blog, which we usually update with podcast material. Of course, the website! You can write to us in a variety of different ways. In fact, we've got an e-mail address you can contact us at, and if you'd like to do that, you can reach us at -

Ben Bowlin: carstuff@howstuffworks.

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