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Wednesday, 24 October 2018 22:19

The Death Car: Urban Legends Surrounding 'Haunted' Cars Difficult to Explain

Written by Domagoj Valjak, The Vintage News


The term “urban legend” became widespread in the 1980s after Jan Harold Brunvand, an English professor at the University of Utah, published a series of popular books named "The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meaning."


But we didn’t really need Professor Brunvard to tell us we love scary stories and adore passing them on as “This one is true; you’ve got to believe me!”


With the emergence of Gothic literature in the late 18th century, horror stories became a favorite mode of entertainment. They revolved around haunted houses, ghost ships and mysterious beings of unknown origin, and these tales heavily influenced the creation of the urban legends of the 20th century.


In the last century we’ve seen a rapid development of technology, and that technology became a key part of urban legends. For example: the car.


Since the 1910s, a number of urban legends have included supposedly haunted or cursed cars. The first such legend arose from the tragedy that officially started World War I: the murder of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. At the moment when Ferdinand was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, he was traveling through Sarajevo in a grandiose 1910 Double Phaeton, a car manufactured by a company called Graf & Stift.


After the shooting of Ferdinand, the car exchanged 15 owners over a 12 year period---and was, shockingly, involved in accidents that resulted in the deaths of 13 people. The car’s final accident happened when its last owner, a Romanian baron, swerved off the road while traveling to a wedding with his five friends. The Baron and his friends all perished in the horrific accident and the car earned the nickname “Death Car.” According to the legend, the poor car became cursed because it possessed a soul and, traumatized by the assassination of Ferdinand, it went mad and wished to murder all of its future passengers.


Yet another popular urban legend surrounds a famous car connected to Hollywood: James Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder, nicknamed “Little Bastard.” In early 1954, Dean purchased several powerful cars and wanted to develop a career in auto racing. He competed in several high-profile races in California and amazed spectators with his driving skills, but in May 1955, the Warner Brothers production company barred him from racing during the production of the film Giant.

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