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Friday, 12 May 2017

Urban Uber Myths

The story of Rudolph Fentz is a really great example of urban legends at work. I came across it being perpetuated on a website as recently 23/07/2015, and being attributed as sourced from: TheGuardian.com. However I could find nothing for the story. In fact all they seemed worried about was whether The X Files was islamophobic and transphobic ..... which is about par for the course, for that particular neo-liberal news organ.

Source Of the Urban Legend ...

The basic story, although there are versions that differ slightly, is that in 1950 in Times Square, New York, a man dressed in Victoria-era clothes and with mutton-chop sideburns, suddenly appears out of nowhere. Before he can speak to anybody he is hit by a car and instantly killed. The police search his pockets, and find various antique objects. Some mint condition currency from the 1870s (or old banknotes - depending which version you read), a business card for an address on Fifth Avenue, a copper beer token, and a letter dated June 1876 from Philadelphia. All the documents looked fresh and un-aged, and showed his name was Rudolph Fentz.

The police found that his name wasn’t listed in any address books, and the owners of the business address on Fifth Avenue had never heard of him. His fingerprints weren’t on record. However the NYPD Missing Persons Department finally managed to trace a Rudolph Fentz Jr, who had worked in a local bank. However the man had died, but his widow lived in Florida. They visited the widow, who told them that her husband’s father had left his home for an evening stroll in 1876, aged 29. He was never seen again – it was, said the widow, 'as if he had simply disappeared into thin air'.

Mystery eh? ..... Well not as soon as anyone tried to check the story ..... its just another urban myth.

..... The Rest Of The Original Story.

The original source was either a 1952 Robert Heinlein science fiction anthology, entitled Tomorrow, the Stars, or the Collier's magazine from 15 September 1951. In either case, the true author was the science fiction writer Jack Finney as part of the short story I'm Scared, which was published in Collier's first. The story uses Captain Hubert V. Rihm, who describes a character called Rudolph Fentz behaving as described in the urban legend.

But despite the fact that this has been known for years, and is very easily obtainable information, the legend of Rudolph Fentz lives on .... well at least in urban legend circles.

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