What Happens Next?

Contemporary Urban Legends and Popular Culture

by Gail de Vos


Popular culture continues to be infused with references to urban legends, and with the advent of social media, these stories will live on digitally for years to come. The ability to electronically transmit these tales en masse makes the content our most familiar legends vulnerable to change, and introduces the genre to technically savvy—and skeptical—new audiences.

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Cover image for What Happens Next?

June 2012

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 242
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Children's and Young Adult Programs/Storytelling, Resources and Collections
  • Award Winner!




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This fascinating book uncovers the history behind urban legends and explains how the contemporary iterations of familiar fictional tales provide a window into the modern concerns—and digital advancements—of our society.

What do ghost hunting, legend tripping, and legendary monsters have in common with email hoaxes, chain letters, and horror movies? In this follow-up to Libraries Unlimited's Tales, Rumors, and Gossip: Exploring Contemporary Folk Literature in Grades 7–12, author Gail de Vos revisits popular urban legends, and examines the impact of media—online, social, and broadcast—on their current iterations.

What Happens Next? Contemporary Urban Legends and Popular Culture traces the evolution of contemporary legends from the tradition of oral storytelling to the sharing of stories on the Internet and TV. The author examines if the popularity of contemporary legends in the media has changed the form, role, and integrity of familiar legends. In addition to revisiting some of the legends highlighted in her first book, de Vos shares new tales in circulation which she sees as a direct result of technological advancements.


  • Extended examples of the literature and references to contemporary legends
  • Relevant, insightful comments from seasoned authors in the genre
  • A comprehensive overview of recent available research
  • A list of Internet sites that debunk or confirm urban legends


  • Explores the influence of email, blogs, YouTube, Facebook, and other social networking interfaces on legends
  • Discusses ostensive actions relevant to teens
  • Examines relevant online sites and television programs such as Mythbusters
  • Analyzes reality TV shows and the popularity of paranormal programming
Author Info

Gail de Vos is adjunct professor at the School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton. She is the author of Tales, Rumors, and Gossip: Exploring Contemporary Folk Literature in Grades 7–12; Stories from Songs: Ballads as Literary Fictions for Young Adults; and Storytelling for Young Adults: A Guide to Tales for Teens, Second Edition. de Vos has also published Libraries Unlimited's New Tales for Old: Folktales As Literary Fictions for Young Adults and Tales, Then and Now: More Folktales As Literary Fictions for Young Adults, both coauthored with Anna E. Altmann.



"While de Vos's background as a librarian, storyteller, teacher, and scholar brings a special perspective to this subject, the material covered goes beyond an application to young adults. In fact, the book comprises an ambitious survey of 'contemporary urban legends.' . . . There is material in this book to inspire a whole new generation of urban legend scholars to investigate folklore forms, once exchanged orally, as transformed into popular culture products circulated electronically or in print and images."Journal of Folklore Research

"What Happens Next? is a unique and explorative book tracing the evolution of contemporary (or urban) legends from their oral storytelling roots through today's immersion in media and technology. . . . An excellent book with creative ideas in an area lacking in research resources."ARBA


2013 Special Storytelling Resources Award Winner — Storytelling World

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