Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Page 200: The "VW Bug smash" urban legend

When two semi trucks collide so hard that they are hopelessly stuck together, they are towed to the junk yard in one piece. Only later, when the cabs are separated for salvage, is a Volkswagen Beetle found crushed between them, its passengers also gruesomely flattened. This urban legend was popular in the 1970s, a time when the Volkswagen Beetle was also a popular car (remember Disney's 1968 film The Love Bug?).

In some versions of this legend, a bad stench emanating from the conjoined cabs is what prompts the salvage workers to separate them, thus leading to a horrible discovery. In a slightly different variation, a semi truck hits a VW Beetle but, because the car is so small, the truck driver doesn’t even notice it stuck to his grille until hours later.

Playing on fears surrounding the disproportionate size difference between vehicles on the road, a modern-day equivalent might pit an eighteen-wheeler against a Smart FortwoAs someone who was T-boned and pushed across the road by a big rig (curiously enough during the time I was working on The Billionth Monkey), I can assure you the fear is not unfounded. And I was driving a car considerably larger than a Beetle!

The Smart Fortwo would be the modern-day equivalentin the "VW Bug Smash" urban legend.
[Image from pointy-haired-dilbert’s photobucket page, where it is available as prints, cards, etc.]
Neither of these two variations on the urban legend has eve actually happened, although there have been instances of apparently abandoned vehicles being towed away with the body of the driver still inside. See, for example, this North Carolina news story from April 2, 2013.

Such is the urban legend that is referenced on page 200 of The Billionth Monkey.

FOR FURTHER READING

Jan Harold Brunvand. “The Smashed VW Bug.” In Encyclopedia of Urban Legends (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2001), 391.

Jan Harold Brunvand. “Big rigs can squash cars like a Bug.” Spokane Chronicle, July 22, 1987, C1.

Anonymous. “Crushin’ Roulette.” January 28, 2009. Snopes.com.

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