Polish Urban Legends

10 Mar

Every country has its own urban legends. (Usually scary) stories told from a person to a person in the course of time become part of nation’s spoken culture and by many tend to be perceived as true. The most famous are of course American urban legends, quite fairly since the term originated in the United States. Poland’s urban legends are not nearly as popular. There are hardly any movies talking about the subject, and the number of net sites dedicated to the topic is quite limited as well (and even if there are any, they usually don’t offer an English language version). That is why, bearing in mind my patriotic duty Puszczam oczko I decided today to introduce some of the urban legends from Poland.

Handle your exotic plants with caution.

Along with the end of the communist reign, Poland became much more open to the outside world in the early 1990. What followed was people’s growing interest in buying things they previously couldn’t obtain. From this time originates a legend about a scorpio (or a tarantula) inside a flowerpot. Supposedly, a lady who was affected by the current fashion, decided to order an exotic plant from abroad. When the flower arrived, she forgot to examine the pot carefully and later on when she was watering the plant, a scorpio came out of the pot and bit the woman. Unfortunately, despite her immediate call for an ambulance, the lady was dead before the paramedics arrived. What’s interesting about this tale is the obvious fear of foreign products that permeates the story. It’s a nice, indirect picture of the society’s attitudes during the transformation period and a good example of antropological significance of urban legends.

Beware of the black cars.

One of the most famous and at the same time oldest Polish urban legends is a tale of Black Volga (Polish: Czarna Wołga). The story about Russian limousine driving around towns kidnapping children has been terrifying Polish people since 1960’ (apparently the same story has been circulating in all of the Eastern Europe for the similar legends are known in Belarus or Russia). The aim of the kidnappings as well as the identity of the driver remain unclear, depending on the version. Some people claimed it was Satanists, others that quite the contrary – the priests and nuns. There were also those who blamed KGB or supernatural creatures like vampires. The car was believed to hount the streets of Polish cities after the sunset and a way to recognize it was to look for white curtains in its windows and white tyres. There were a couple of scenarios regarding what happened to you once you were kidnapped. Most likely your blood would be taken away and used as an odd cure for rich Germans suffering from leukemia. The other option was the loss of your internal organs, while the most mysterious version simply included one’s permanent disapperance.

The tale was reinvented at the end of the XX century as a story of a black BMW with dark windows and the very devil behind the wheel (some sources mention a Porsche or Mercedes – either way, Satan can afford a good car). In this version however, the victims were not kidnapped but simply asked what time it was. Although the question itself is not even remotely scary, after answering it the person would hear a morbid sentence: “Tomorrow at this time you will be dead”. And supposedly, people were indeed dying a suicidal death or of a heart attack.

According to one particular report, in the October of 1999 two teenage girls were coming back home from a party. Suddenly, a car pulled over next to them and a man came out. He walked towards one of the girls and whispered something into her ear. After that, he just left. Nevertheless, the next day the girl to whom he spoke died by hanging herself. In this variation of the tale no question or answer were required for the girl to die. Yet another version mention a possibility of escaping the death if you answered “godzina wieczna” (English: “eternal hour”).

Never buy a previously worn wedding dress.

Once upon a time there was a young bride who died unexpectedly a week after her wedding. As the authopsy and further investigation determined, the girl in question was killed by her wedding dress. Apparently, the unfortunate thing bought a previously-worn dress (quite common among brides to be, because of both economics and the unique character of old clothes). The dress was supposedly stolen from a cemetary and soaked with something called in Polish “trupi jad” (English. “corpse venom”). The substance entered the girl’s blood system when she cut herself with a zipper and caused her death days later.

As crazy as it sounds, something like “corpse venom” really exists. Its scientific name is Cadaverine, it’s produced as an effect of putrefaction processes and in high doses it CAN be toxic (damages blood circulation). However, there are no documented cases of such poisoning, and the key word here is “high” doses. Thus, most likely it’s just another urban legend (who knows, maybe started once by an owner of a wedding dress shop?Puszczam oczko)

Better do your shopping at the local private shops.

  Several years ago internet forums and net communities for mothers were full of scared moms exchanging supposedly credible reports (as in “my friend’s friend heard that her cousin’s son”) about kids’ kidnappings taking place in shopping malls. Despite Police’s denial and reassurance that no such cases had happened, there was a mass panic amongst parents concerned about their children’s safety.  Similar incidents seemed to be happening all over the country in many different Polish cities. Reports were so numerous that at some point a hypothesis about organized mafia was introduced.

Kids were supposed to be notoriously kidnapped from shopping centers with no one able to find them until a couple of hours (sometimes days) later, when they were delivered back to their parents. In each case, the returned kid was in a bad physical state, often unconscious, at times with an attatched sheet of paper saying: “Take your child to the hospital” or more direct one: “I don’t have a kidney”. Upon taking their kid to a hospital, terrified parents would find out that their child had indeed underwent a surgical procedure of removing one kidney. Despite lack of any news of such events in the media, many people believed in the authencity of the stories, feeding each other’s paranoias on the net.

http://atrapa.net/legendy – A very comphrehensive base of Polish urban legends, tracking their development and evolution. Unfortunately, it’s available only in Polish.

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Komentarze 3 to “Polish Urban Legends”

  1. tartarsandteacups Marzec 11, 2012 @ 2:30 am #

    I love this post! I study Polish language/lit/culture etc. but am not native of Poland. So this kind of stuff is so great to read for me! Dziękuję bardzo!!! ~Lara

    • according2anna Marzec 11, 2012 @ 8:16 am #

      Proszę bardzo 🙂

      I’m glad you enjoyet it. I plan to put more stuff connected with Poland in the future.

      (thank you for being my blog’s 1st visitor!;))

      • tartarsandteacups Marzec 11, 2012 @ 12:11 pm #

        🙂 Nie widziałam, że ja byłam pierwsza! Będę czytać dalej!

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