A true hit and myth affair

A NASTY thing happened to Lisa Burnett in a supermarket car park – and her story has since been entertaining thousands through the medium of the internet. But is this "true story" everything it seems to be?

A NASTY thing happened to Lisa Burnett in a supermarket car park – and her story has since been entertaining thousands through the medium of the internet.

Several people noticed her sitting at the wheel of her car with her hands behind her head. She was not asleep – her eyes were open.

Finally someone went to her aid. He asked her if she was OK, and Lisa replied that she had been shot in the back of the head, and had been holding her brains in for over an hour.

When paramedics got into the car, they found that Lisa had a wad of dough on the back of her head.

Apparently, a tin full of biscuit mix had exploded in the heat, making a noise like a gunshot. Feeling the dough with her hands, she thought it was her brains.

Poor Lisa. She should be legendary. In fact she is.

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Her story, headlined Killer Biscuits Wanted For Attempted Murder, has been copied countless times from a cutting from the San Diego Times.

Or so many of the people who have passed it on probably believe. The trouble is, San Diego's papers are the Union-Tribune and the Daily Transcript. The San Diego Times was a short-lived magazine that went out of business before the days of supermarkets, car parks or ready-made biscuit dough.

But hey – why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

You could even – as several versions do – add the gratuitous line: "Lisa is blonde". That way you can insult a great mass of the population without quite transgressing anti-discrimination laws.

When it comes to cheap jokes, it seems blonde is the new black.

In fact, with various minor variations, the biscuit-dough-for-brains story has been circulating on the internet almost as long as there's been an internet.

At least one stand-up comedian has told it as a "funny thing happened to my sister" story. Several newspaper columnists have told it as "fact" to illustrate various aspects of the times we live in.

It has appeared in at least one book of "true stories".

All makes you wonder what you can believe, doesn't it?

I've met a few hitchers who claim to have been given a lift by a woman driver with suspiciously large, hairy hands. In some versions an axe is spotted in the car.

Two others have told me of getting a lift in an ordinary Volkswagen from someone who turned out to be the Duke of Kent.

And two different people have told me, as something that happened to them, a tale involving headphones, pornography, their mother and a cup of tea. Hilarious, but too vulgar to be told in detail here.

I don't believe a word of it, or of any of these stories. But I want to – and that's the point.

Wherever these so-called urban myths come from, they live on because people want to believe them.

I particularly enjoyed the "actual transcript" of an exchange in the fog between a ship and another radio-user over which would give way to the other.

No matter how big and bullying the ship and its captain, the other won't budge. Because it's a lighthouse.

A great tale, often told to mock the arrogance and pomposity of the US military, which makes it all the sweeter.

It too has been around, which minor variations, at least as long as the internet.

The clue that it's a load of nonsense is that word "actual". In net use, it usually means the opposite of what it says.

But you can't blame the net for this stuff. The yarn-spinning habit is as old as humanity – email just makes the yarn stretch further and faster.

My all-time favourite is the one about the stinky revenge of a woman dumped by her husband.

He tries everything to get rid of the awful smell in his house. Finally he gives up and sells the house – at a huge loss, of course.

On the day he moves, the vengeful ex gleefully watches him put the curtain-poles into the removal van. The same hollow poles she stuffed with frozen prawns.

I suppose it may really have happened. If so, I bet the woman who did it wasn't the one I heard claim it was her.

It's amazing the things people will do for revenge. And the fibs they will tell to get a laugh.

I first heard that one – and passed it on, of course – about 15 years ago.

So is it on the net? It is now.