cars


cars
   Fine examples of living beliefs about good and bad luck. Some owners hang all sorts of *charms and *mascots from the driving mirror or from their key-rings; *green cars are rarely seen, because this colour is widely feared - yet, oddly, British racing cars were traditionally green. *Red, on the other hand, is safe and lucky. Beliefs about *numbers are readily applied to cars; recently there have been press items about a supposedly unlucky Ford Capri with the 'Satanic' *number 666 in its registration (Telegraph (15 Feb. 1997); Mirror (31 July 1998)). If a car persistently gives trouble, some say 'it must have been made on a *Friday'.
   A good many *contemporary legends involve cars. Two of the earliest to be identified are the famous *Vanishing Hitchhiker (a pathetic ghost story), and 'The Stolen Corpse', a macabre joke about holiday-makers who try to smuggle the body of an elderly relative home on the roof-rack, only to have both car and corpse stolen. There are others about cars in which a suicide occurred, where bloodstains or a stench of death remain permanently; about maniacs and murderers either lurking inside one's car or trying to enter it when parked; about ghost cars haunting roads where they crashed; about ghostly hands gripping the steering-wheel. Old tales about witches immobilizing horse-drawn vehicles are echoed by modern ones where a car is inexplicably halted by a UFO.
   There are innumerable anecdotes about drivers and driving, and about particular makes of car; some are mocking, while others, especially about the Rolls Royce, express awed admiration (Sanderson, 1969: 246-7). Back window stickers are a good medium for jokes, either against oneself ('When I grow up, I'm going to be a Porsche', seen on a Mini), or against other drivers ('This may be small, but it's mine, it's paid for, and it's ahead of yours').
   ■ Stewart Sanderson, Folklore 80 (1969), 241-52. For discussion based on American versions, see Jan Brunvand, The Vanishing Hitchhiker (1981), and The Choking Doberman (1984).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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