Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | January 12, 2010

Where do urban legends come from? Here’s an example…

Urban Legends.The Bristol Zoo Parking Attendant
Netlore Archive
By David Emery, Guide
.Email tale about ‘a very pleasant attendant’ who, for 25 years running, showed up every day at Bristol Zoo and collected parking fees from visitors, then one day simply vanished with all the cash. Turns out the zoo had never hired a car park attendant. The man now lives in a villa in Spain.

Description: Email joke / Urban legend
Circulating since: April 2007
Status: False

Email example contributed by Kenneth D., July 6, 2009:

Fw: A well-planned retirement

From The London Times:

Outside the Bristol Zoo, in England, there is a parking lot for 150 cars and 8 coaches, or buses.

It was manned by a very pleasant attendant with a ticket machine charging cars 1 pound (about $1.40) and coaches 5 (about $7).

This parking attendant worked there solid for all of 25 years. Then, one day, he just didn’t turn up for work.

“Oh well”, said Bristol Zoo Management – “we’d better phone up the City Council and get them to send a new parking attendant…”

“Err … no”, said the Council, “that parking lot is your responsibility.”

“Err … no”, said Bristol Zoo Management, “the attendant was employed by the City Council, wasn’t he?”

“Err … NO!” insisted the Council.

Sitting in his villa somewhere on the coast of Spain, is a bloke who had been taking the parking lot fees, estimated at 400 pounds (about $560) per day at Bristol Zoo for the last 25 years. Assuming 7 days a week, this amounts to just over 3.6 million pounds ($7 million).

And no one even knows his name.

Analysis: If ever there was a story too good to be true, this is it. Not only have reporters at the Bristol Evening Post investigated and found the tale of the phantom car park attendant to be “nothing more than an urban myth,” they have also pinned down its point of origin: the Bristol Evening Post!

“A version of the story did appear in the Evening Post two years ago,” explains an article in the June 13, 2009 edition of the paper, “in a feature on urban myths published to coincide with April Fools’ Day.”

So it’s a two-year-old April Fools prank gone viral, nothing more to it than that. For the record, the article further states that Bristol Zoo actually has several car parks — none of which are open to coaches — with a number of duly-hired attendants on duty.

Email This Article1

Sources and further reading:

Urban Myth of the Bristol Zoo Parking Attendant2
Bristol Evening Post, 13 June 2009

Last updated 07/21/09

©2010, Inc., a part of The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.

And you? What do you think of urban legends??

posted by Fanny



  1. Myths, according to the French anthropologist Levis-Strauss (now deceased), are mankind’s musings on the contradictions in life and trying to resolve them.
    Contradiction is certainly evident in the urban myth recounted in this Bristol zoo article.

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