Last update: 06-Dec-2013 9:17 pm
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Never buy hair from a corpse
Did you hear the story of the fatal hair do? Yeah, it’s all over the news. A woman in Kenya paid a bunch of money for a human hair weave of the very best quality. After a few days, she began having crushing headaches, like her head was caught in a vice or something. She also developed a fever, so she went to a doctor who gave her loads of pills which did not help. Frustrated and, a little worried, the doctor held her head under a lamp and began to examine her scalp.
You will never guess what he found—worms! The hair had been harvested from a corpse because those types of worms are associated with decaying flesh. And another woman in a neighbouring town was actually killed by spiders in her weave because she was violently allergic to spider bites. But if you think that’s bad, wait till you hear about…aha, gotcha!
The reason urban legends gather so much traction is because there is something faintly believable about the story and there is also a kind of moral to the tale, like Aesop’s Fables, only spookier.
The Fatal Hairdo story has been circling the globe for decades, just improved to suit the times. Back in the Fifties when beehives were the latest thing, there were scary stories about vainglorious women who coated their hair in sugar paste or used dough moulds to create the tower of hair, only to be eaten, head first, by rats or spiders or cockroaches while they slept. The fiction was, no doubt, grown by some frigid Puritan who wanted to warn women of the sin of vanity, or maybe to spare them the ignominy of The Cringe when they look back at their photo albums.
There is even a religious version of the Fatal Hairdo, which was investigated by researcher Shirley Machalonis in her 1976 paper on medieval tales and their modern analogues. The cautionary tale for narcissists had to do with a certain lady of Eynesham, in Oxfordshire, “who took so long over the adornment of her hair that she used to arrive at church barely before the end of Mass.’’ One day “the devil descended upon her head in the form of a spider, gripping with its legs, until she well-nigh died of fright. Nothing would remove the offending insect, neither prayer, nor exorcism, nor holy water, until the local abbot displayed the holy sacrament before it.’’
The Fatal Hairdo urban legend has also been told about dreadlocks being infested with vermin—although there really was a Trinidadian vagrant back in the Seventies with huge clumps of matted hair who died from a scorpion sting to the scalp. Or so I heard.
The Fatal Hairdo is akin to the Poisoned Dress legend in which a woman buys a vintage dress at a “second spring’’ boutique to wear to a party or wedding and as she begins to dance and perspire, she becomes dizzy and nauseous and barely makes it home where she collapses on the bed. Next morning, she is dead because the dress had been stolen off a corpse by a funeral home director and the formaldehyde used to embalm the body leached into the dress, and into her skin.
Many of these cleverly-crafted urban legends are meant to warn us of the evils of such deadly sins as pride, envy, gluttony, and sloth. Others are a kind of catharsis for universal fears, say being slaughtered in our sleep by some stalker.
It’s easy to mistake a real account for an urban legend, though, because truth has a way of resembling fiction. The story I am about to tell you is absolutely authentic because I heard it church and my dad, who was a detective, actually worked on the case.
Once, there was a prisoner who was going to be hanged for murder and his last wish was to see his mother. So the prison arranged for Mum to visit her son but he had to be handcuffed for security reasons. They sat down facing each other at a table, and he whispered to her to lean in closer because he wanted to tell her a secret. As she drew closer to him, he lunged and bit off her ear. Then he said, “If you used to discipline me as boy, I would never have ended up here.’’ My dad also told me that…aha!
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