Urban legends are fascinating; they say so much about our society and the stories that it runs on.
Scott Wood certainly loves urban legends. Scott ran the Southeast London Folklore Society, and it shows in this absorbing book. He doesn’t only write about those common urban legends that have been circulating for years—though they have their space here—but he has also dug deep and found some obscure items, including those that were a flash-in-the-pan in years ago. But what lifts this book above all those other volumes that merely list urban legends is that Scott Wood investigates and analyses each one himself, in person. He looks at the history and origins of each legend and how, many times, they were printed as the truth in newspapers. He also questions the sexism of some of the stories and why it is always a woman in peril in them.
This book also works as an alternative history of London because so many of these legends are rooted in the history of the city. They are intensely wrapped up in the urban life of London, and many of them are unique to London life.
Scott Wood’s writing style is very readable; for example, it was perfect reading for my daily commute to and from work on the London Tube. He does not talk down to the reader or try to be over-friendly. His aim is to inform us and discuss the urban legends with his audience.
The only downside of this book, for me, was that it ended too soon. Scott Wood knows his subject and took a refreshingly cynical look at these urban legends. I can always hope for a sequel.
Edited by Drew Payne