ATLANTA (CBS46) -- Why do we always listen when someone starts a story with this: “Did you hear the one about?” Urban Legends compel attention, if only to make sure they have not happened to us, or someone we know and care about. But just because we call them legends does not mean they’re not true.

CBS46’s Sally Sears spent some time roaming the area hunting the origin of some famous legends. And what she found was enough to fill a fiction book with tales. For example:

  • There’s the one about the guy who wakes up in a bathtub full of ice, missing a kidney?
  • The couple on the country road, and Hook Man. Could it be true?
  • The gang initiation for people who flash their lights at oncoming cars?

While the urban legends are fun, to get to the truth of an urban legend, it helps to go where the story began. In Georgia, the story is often a variation of the oldest, most popular tales of Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Fox. That’s where we found Akbar Imhotep.

He sits in the faded splendor of Joel Chandler Harris’ parlor. Harris wrote down the African folk tales using Uncle Remus as a narrator. The tales were as popular in 1890 as Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling have been today. The house named The Wren’s Nest in West End has wide plank floorboards, arts & crafts wallpaper and books everywhere.

A lifetime of telling stories gives him a solid perspective. He thinks we see ourselves and understand each other by telling tales. Sears asked him why we want to believe stories that are so unbelievable.

“There’s a whole lot of bad. And those grim stories capture some of that,” Imhotep said.

Mr. Imhotep said his audiences compare their own lives to the story they are hearing.

“We crave a beginning, middle and end. And unlike our own lives; we want to know how it turns out,” Imhotep said. “But our lives can’t predict an end. We just live to get there or to see it one day.”

Unlike a story, he said, “life just sort of unfolds. We can’t apply a formula? No, it unfolds on its own.”

He chuckles over the tales listed above that CBS46 asked him about. Does he believe them? He parried our question.

“Belief? What is belief? True, literally true, or true enough?” Imhotep posited.

And then he was good enough to tell the story he says he always includes. It’s about a rude rabbit and a fox. You may know it as the Tar Baby tale. Does this tale ring true to you?

Listen for yourself

Copyright 2019 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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