[Published in Fortean Times, no. 58, July 1991, p. 64.]

Burnt Privates Yarn Has Long Pedigree

The 'Strange Tale' about the Israeli man injured by an igniting toilet and then further injured by ambulance men who drop his stretcher [FT52 p24] appears in Jan Harold Brunvand's first urban legends collection, The Vanishing Hitchhiker (1981) on page 181, though without the stretcher incident. It appears in more detail in his book The Mexican Pet (1986) on page 13, with the stretcher incident included. In this case, the cause of the explosion is paint thinner rather than insecticide. Both of these predate the Jerusalem Post story by several years.

Jim Lippard
Tucson, Arizona

Bob Rickard replies... I remember hearing this bit of 'friend-of-a-friend lore' while working on a holiday job back in 1963 (apx.), only then it was told as a joke; and I've heard other variants over the years. No matter how ancient these stories are, sooner or later the god of circumstances arranges for it to happen just so. Then, it is reported as a factoid or seemingly true incident. Orthodox folklorists will have none of this, preferring to believe that every reported occurrence is fictitious and any documentation is part of the necessary apparatus of making it seem factual. As Forteans we are interested in these opposite currents; one making the imaginary real balanced by another mythologizing facts.