Jan Harold Brunvand

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Jan Harold Brunvand
Jan Harold Brunvand 75th bday.jpg
Jan Harold Brunvand trying on a pair of ski goggles on his 75th birthday
Born (1933-03-23) March 23, 1933 (age 81)
Cadillac, Michigan
Occupation Professor, Urban legends researcher
Nationality USA
Subject Urban legends

Jan Harold Brunvand (born in Cadillac, Michigan on March 23, 1933) is an American folklorist. A professor emeritus of the University of Utah, he is best known for spreading the concept of the urban legend, a form of modern folklore. Before his work, folk tales were associated in the popular mind with ancient times or rural cultures; Brunvand has taken concepts developed in the academic study of traditional folktales and applied them to stories circulating in the modern world. He popularized the term "urban legend", as opposed to the term "contemporary legend" preferred by most other scholars of folklore.[1] "His bestselling books, newspaper columns, and talk show appearances made him the legend scholar with the greatest influence on twentieth-century media."[2]

Brunvand is the author of several popular books on the topic of urban legends, starting with The Vanishing Hitchhiker in 1981. This book and his syndicated newspaper column brought urban legends to popular attention in the United States. Follow-up works include The Choking Doberman (1984), The Mexican Pet (1988), Curses! Broiled Again! (1990), The Baby Train (1993), The Encyclopedia of Urban Legends (2001), and others. He also edited the one-volume American Folklore: An Encyclopedia (1996), as well as several textbooks. He served as editor of the Journal of American Folklore (1976–80) and was president of the American Folklore Society (1985).

Brunvand received B.A. (1955) and M.A. (1957) degrees from Michigan State University and was a Fulbright Scholar in Norway (1956–57). He was awarded a Ph.D. in folklore from Indiana University in 1961. His dissertation was on "The Taming of the Shrew tale".[3] He taught at several U.S. universities before joining the University of Utah in 1966. He retired in 1996, but remains a Professor Emeritus.

He gave the keynote address at the 2003 meeting of the Missouri Folklore Society, of which he is a longtime member. He was a speaker at the World Skeptics Congress in Italy in 2004.[3]



  1. ^ Hobbs, Sandy, Book review: Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, Business Library, August 2003
  2. ^ Lindahl, Carl, "Some Legendary Takes on Hurricane Katrina", American Folklore Society, March 7, 2012
  3. ^ a b Biography at CICAP congress, World Skeptics Congress, 2004

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