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Jan Harold Brunvand


Born 1933 in Cadillac, Michigan. Married 1956; four children, five grandchildren. Studied at Michigan State University: B.A. in Journalism (1955), M.A. in English (1957); and at Indiana University: Ph.D. in Folklore (1961). Dissertation The Taming of the Shrew Tale (Aarne-Thompson Type 901) in Folklore and Literature (published in 1990).
Taught at University of Idaho (1961-65), Southern Illinois University (1965-66), and from 1966-1996 at The University of Utah. Professor of English since 1971, specializing in Folklore. Retired June 1996 at age 63.
Editor Journal of American Folklore (1976-80), President of American Folklore Society, 1985, and Fellow of the American Folklore Society since 1974.
Fulbright Scholar in Norway (1956-57), Fulbright Research Grant in Romania (1970-71); Guggenheim Fellow (1970-71); IREX Fellowships in Romania (1973-74 and 1981). Publications, including 100+ articles, notes and reviews, and a textbook, The Study of American Folklore (Norton, 1968, 4th edn. 1998). General editor of American Folklore: An Encyclopedia published by Garland Publishing company in 1996.
Six books with W. W. Norton on modern urban legends: The Vanishing Hitchhiker (1981), The Choking Doberman (1984), The Mexican Pet (1986), Curses! Broiled Again! (1989), The Baby Train (1993), and Too Good to be True (1999). Translations of some of these books have appeared in Italian and Japanese. Twice-weekly newspaper column “Urban Legends” distributed by United Feature Syndicate from January 1987 through June 1992. Numerous appearances in the national media discussing urban legends. Profiled in Smithsonian magazine, November 1992.
Published in 2000 The Truth Never Stands in the Way of a Good Story (University of Illinois Press), in 2001 Encyclopedia of Urban Legends (ABC-CLIO; in paperback by W. W. Norton in 2002), and in 2003 Casa Frumoasa: The House Beautiful in Rural Romania (Columbia University Press, East European Monographs #630).

Synopsis of Talk
"Urban Legends: Too Good to be True"
While urban legends seem too good to be true - and, by definition, are apocryphal modern folk stories - many people do believe them, or at least admit the possibility that they may be true. Paraphrasing Michael Shermer "Why do people believe these weird stories?" What is the future of urban legends in the electronic age?


Sponsored by CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
and by CICAP, the Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal