Bristol urban myths
This is kind of by way of an appeal. I’m currently working on a project concerning tall tales and urban legends in and around Bristol. I’m not altogether sure where this is headed; book, articles, something electronic, whatever … But the point for now is to gather together as many stories as possible.
Urban myths are different from the normal round of research. Older stories obviously can be sourced from newspaper reports, books, public records and private papers, but the more recent living-memory stuff is far more nebulous. Basically, if someone tells you a story in the pub, or you read it on the internet, then it qualifies. The interesting thing about urban myths isn’t just about how true they are, but in trying to figure out why each story gets spread around.
Urban myths come in two basic varieties. The first are those that travel the world. The Bristol Zoo car park attendant story is a classic example. It did the rounds a couple of years back; oh, you know, it turned out that he didn’t work for the Council or the Zoo and had been collecting parking fees off people for 25 years and nobody figured it out until he disappeared into comfortable retirement. Not a grain of truth in it, and the same story has been applied to several other places around the world.
The other kind of myth, and much more interesting, is the one that only applies to a particular place. These are the ones I’m really after, and I’ve collected quite a lot from distant past to present day. But there’s always room for more!
Some of my favourites from recent decades include:
– Princess Diana was murdered, and the killing was masterminded by a sinister secret organisation based in Bristol.
– Concorde was taken out of service by Air France and British Airways at the behest of the US Government after 9/11 because if a supersonic airliner got hijacked it’d be a lot harder for the US Air Force to stop.
– At some point in the 1960s? 70s? there was a ghost at the Spillers mill in Avonmouth. But it only haunted members of the Transport & General Workers Union.
– A member of the Wills tobacco dynasty, while serving in the army in WW2, was captured by the Germans, but released in return for a ransom of several million cigarettes.
– The architect of the Council House positioned one of the golden unicorns on the roof so that its arse would be directly facing the front door of someone he didn’t like.
– Back in the days of videotape, Bristol was one of the last places where people abandoned the Betamax format, because either Betamax tapes or players, or both, were mostly imported via Avonmouth, where light-fingered dockers liberated them for family and friends.
If anyone knows owt about any of these stories, or has any other local yarns (let’s leave the feral chickens thing for now), then leave a comment or mail me.
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