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Urban Legends Still Creep Me Out

How exactly do you trace the origin of an urban legend?

Perhaps a better question: why bother?

Urban legends still give me the chills, well into my seemingly rational adulthood years. Oftentimes what makes for a good story is a healthy dose of malarkey and embellishment, the perfect recipe for untold thousands of creepy urban legends.

My hometown has its share of urban legends, some of them more believable than others.

The first example is a doozy. Drive a few miles down a specific gravel road until you cross the railroad tracks, at which point you’ll make a U-turn, parking a few feet from the tracks. Turn off your lights and wait patiently in silence for a ghostly milk truck to appear in your mirrors. Don’t glance out the back window. Doing so will discourage the milk truck from recreating its impending doom: a t-bone collision with a train, over and over again. You’ll see the crossing gate engage, both headlights rush towards you closer and closer; you’ll hear the train whistle, the screeching of metal, the explosions, the screaming;  And then…BAM! You’ve just witnessed a ghost train wreck.

Believers of another local urban legend report sightings of a nude female apparition wandering aimlessly on a stretch of country road, the exact site where years ago a woman was murdered, her body left to decay in a ditch. Or so the story goes. The woman is said to never look up as she stumbles, placing one clumsy foot in front of the other, perhaps eternally searching for help. Or revenge.

The third – and possibly the silliest – urban legend from my hometown involves another country road. This time you’ll slowly crest a hill with your headlights shining directly at a particular headstone in a long-forgotten graveyard. The headstone will glow mysteriously in the night, as if awakening haunted spirits from their slumber!

But the glowing headstone is not even the creepiest aspect of this legend! Look to your left, far up the hill, to a small, dilapidated farmhouse nobody has occupied in 50 years. So you think, until out comes a man with a mushroom shaped head, pointing a sawed-off shotgun at your car. You better step on the gas, man!

In reality, an old farmer is probably tired of dumb kids flashing their bright lights on his property every other night. He really should get that mushroom head thing checked out, though.

Anyway, I could go on about the adventures of a group of bored teenagers cruising country roads, making stories up and creeping each other out. Because I didn’t even tell you about the other farmhouse where a man who murdered his entire family 100 years ago waits patiently for his next victim to enter his residence (which we did, and nothing happened). I’ll save that for another time.

Because I’d rather hear about your local urban legends. I could use some fresh stories to pursue.

Note: I’m reposting this at the request of an awesome blogging buddy. It originally ran Aug. 31, 2011.

eric murtaugh

Yeah, yeah, I’ll admit it. Once upon a time, I ran with a bunch of Hare Krishna monks. You know, the weirdos in orange robes who smell like Nag Champa harassing you to “donate” money for their religious books? The guys with shaved heads and odd pony tails? Those guys.

It all started when my buddy Hip (yes, short for Hippie) in Ft. Collins, Colorado got into the whole Krishna movement. Let’s just say Hip was (obviously) a big dope smoker who was fascinated with the occult and strange stuff in general. Great guy. Always a trip to hang with.

So he’d be preaching on and on about Krishna and his radical conquests in the Bhagavad Gita while I’d be knocking back a few 90 Shillings, when it occurred to me that I was partially interested in what he had to say.

“I’m headed to the Krishna temple tomorrow…

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Game day, Part II

Packers. Saints.  It wasn’t on. Literally.

Why?  Because of an “unprecedented outage” in San Diego County that “left millions in the dark,” including me.

The power went out around 3:38 p.m. The game was on at 5:30. Normally a power outage isn’t a big deal to me. It’s fun. But when 5:30 rolled around, then 6, 6:15, I knew I was screwed. I have a strong feeling that a Bears fan is behind all of this.

Wife: “Eric, it’s just a game.” Chicks.

I said in my last post that my family was “still in this together.” Thanks to my old man, I was able to “watch” the game on the phone, as he provided the play by play. I have to say he could use a little improvement as a sportscaster, but he did OK.

Moments after I built a campfire in the yard, the power came back on to hoots and hollers throughout the neighborhood. Powergeddon 2011 was over. And so was the game.

Game day

Packers. Saints. Tonight. It’s on.

Our ritual

The Packer flag was hung.  The lucky troll was in his place, facing north towards Green Bay. Our good neighbors down the street were always on hand.

A thousand silly rituals, each of them important to us. Our own Packer Nation.

Game day at the Murtaugh residence was a big deal.  Most of the week was spent doing what typical families do.  Work. School. Studying.

But when Sunday came around, we were together as a family.  No exceptions. It was some of the best quality time we ever had.  It became so much more than just watching a football game.

My parents went through an ugly divorce.  During that time, we lost all interest in keeping up with Packer football as a family.  We lost our bond.

Time passed, wounds healed.  I forgave my dad, and we started talking again.  Started talking Packer football.  Man, it felt great to be back.

Last season, my dad, sister, and I went to the game versus the Giants at Lambeau. The magic in that place is undeniable. It was our first official game. It would be the first of six the Packers would have to win to become Super Bowl Champs.  We were a part of that.

Our game day bond is as strong as ever now.

Today is game day.  And while we all live in different places now, I know we’re still in this together.

Go Pack Go!

LOL Lessons

In this week’s installment of LOL Lessons, we will examine what it takes to get a good laugh out of a Tico.

You will need one gringo with a huge head (literally, not figuratively), one small helmet, and gloves that would be too big on Shaq.

Now convince the unsuspecting gringo to pose for a picture.  Have him throw up a super big dual shaka, and get him to butcher your local phrase (pura vida), so as to induce an awkward toothy smile.

Take this photo back to your adventure travel office, crack open a few beers, and call in your buddies.

Boom! Instant LOLing will ensue. Your efforts will not go unnoticed.

Please don’t stop the music

Some of my most cherished memories stem from live music. Here are just a few examples.

1.  Yonder Mountain String Band I was barbacking. Rough night.  I was ready to walk out.

But then I opened the door backstage to grab a few empty glasses.  It was dark, and Yonder was gathered in a tight circle warming up while a crowd of 1,000 fans chanted “Yon-Der! Yon-Der! Yon-Der!”  I stopped dead in my tracks. Electric.

2.  Robert Randolph & the Family Band I was working stage crew.  The last piece of equipment I set up was Robert’s pedal steel.  Standing alone on stage next to the pedal steel glimmering in the spot lights, I experienced an intense “calm before the storm” moment.

Later, the Family Band absolutely killed it. I’ve never seen a room buzz like that.

3. moe. I was on stage while moe. was tearing it up. I gazed out to a rolling sea of 10,000 people. I then spilled a beer all over their equipment.  Classic party foul. The fear of being beaten by a million hippies was real.

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Hare Krishna: My adventures with the silly monks

Yeah, yeah, I’ll admit it. Once upon a time, I ran with a bunch of Hare Krishna monks. You know, the weirdos in orange robes who smell like Nag Champa harassing you to “donate” money for their religious books? The guys with shaved heads and odd pony tails? Those guys.

It all started when my buddy Hip (yes, short for Hippie) in Ft. Collins, Colorado got into the whole Krishna movement. Let’s just say Hip was (obviously) a big dope smoker who was fascinated with the occult and strange stuff in general. Great guy. Always a trip to hang with.

So he’d be preaching on and on about Krishna and his radical conquests in the Bhagavad Gita while I’d be knocking back a few 90 Shillings, when it occurred to me that I was partially interested in what he had to say.

“I’m headed to the Krishna temple tomorrow if you’re interested,” Hip said.

Next thing I know, I’m standing outside a temple on Cherry Street in Denver wondering how the hell I got there, when a little bald guy in his orange robe approaches me.

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Teamwork!

Teamwork.  Together everyone achieves more. There is no “I” in team. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. A successful team beats with one heart. The path to greatness is along with others. Individually, we are one drop.  Together, we are an ocean.

Oh, blah blah blah. Teamwork is throwing your hands high, taking in the sweet, exhilarating air of victory. This moment belongs to you. Teamwork is having the poor schmuck in the back dig in deep to keep the team’s ducky straight, while you do your best “I’m on a roller coaster!” impression.

Babe, you and I are the epitome of teamwork, as evidenced here. Go team.