Date: Tue, 2 Jun 1998 09:31:33 -0400
From: Jesse T Sheidlower
Subject: Re: bogus anecdotes

> Bethany Dumas wrote:
> >Someone questioned the veracity of the RH elevator narrative. (Sorry, I
> >deleted before I noted who wrote it.) Certainly, some of the
> >Metropolitan Diary entries are bogus. Recently, I read there the old urban
> >legend about the nun who bought the package of cookies, encountered a man
> >who helped himself, etc. -- she, of course, later finds her package of
> >cookies in her bag and realizes that she was the one who helped herself
> >to somebody else's cookies. My point: I do not recall reading any
> >published research about the hallmarks of bogus narratives, about what it
> >is I know that lets me know that a narrative is bogus. Is there
> >something? Is someone working on this?

Greg Downing replied:
> A very common "authentifying" feature of such folklore is either "I was
> there" or "I heard it from someone who was there." I imagine that, as
> journalists, NYTimes writers are more likely to say that they themselves
> have obtained the information at first hand.

Two points:

(1) The "Metropolitan Diary" section isn't written by Times journalists; it
is a section of anecdotes sent in by readers, some of whom (though not
this one) choose to remain unidentified. If anyone was really interested
in the voracity [tm a.f.u.] of this story, they [sic] could probably
get in touch with the contributor.

(2) As someone who has been taking the elevators at RH at least four times
a day for the past eight years or so, I can say that this anecdote is
staggeringly unlikely to have really occurred.

Jesse Sheidlower