Tuesday, January 31


From Golden Legend to Urban Legend?

I was just perusing the Wikipedia entry (whether it's accurate or not, it is rather interesting) chronicling the modern-day folklore surrounding the so-called "Vanishing Hitchhiker," and it notes, among other things, that the story has its ultimate origin in a 1602 pro-Protestant tract entitled Om the tekn och widunder som föregingo thet liturgiske owäsendet (On the Signs and Wonders Preceding the Liturgical Broil). (I suppose, if one splits hairs, St. Philip the Deacon was the first one, what with the Ethiopian eunuch and all--though we have this on rather better authority). More interesting is that some of the strangely numerous versions of this popular urban legend seem to circle around "vanishing nuns (a surprisingly common variant), some of whom foretell the future." In fact
1975 saw a rash of reports of a prophetic nun vanishing from cars after hitching lifts near the Austrian-German border. On 13 April that year, after a 43-year-old businessman drove his car off the road in fright at the disappearance of his passenger, Austrian police threatened a fine equivalent to £200 (1975 value) to anyone reporting similar stories.

In early 1977, nearly a dozen motorists in and around Milan reported giving lifts to another vanishing nun, who (prior to her unexpected disappearance) forewarned her benefactors of the impending destruction of Milan by earthquake on 27 February (this disaster did not happen) (La Stampa, 25 and 26 February, 1 March, 1977; Dallas Morning News 25 February 1977).
While urban legends about vanishing nuns have also appeared up in the Pacific Northwest, probably the most unusual variant (chronicled by a brace of folklorists, Beardsley and Hankey, rather than a proper miracle detective) deals with, of all people, Mother Cabrini, who apparently got picked up by a motorist in Kingston, New York in the year 1941, before disappearing.


Well, I suppose there have been stranger modes of private revelation. I wonder how Mary's Fiat fits into all this?

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