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Getting the Hang of It

Claim:   A miscreant who attempted to rip off the home of a dead man paid for the crime with his life when the shock of being kicked by the "corpse" was enough to bring on a fatal heart attack.

LEGEND

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 1999]

Hitting on the novel idea that he could end his wife's incessant nagging by giving her a good scare, Hungarian Jake Fen built an elaborate harness to make it look as if he had hanged himself. When his wife came home and saw him, she fainted. Hearing a disturbance, a neighbor came over and, finding what she thought were two corpses, seized the opportunity to loot the place. As she was leaving the room, her arms laden, the outraged and suspended Mr. Fen kicked her stoutly in the backside. This so suprised the lady that she dropped dead of a heart attack. Happily, Mr. Fen was acquitted of manslaughter, and he and his wife were reconciled.

 

Origins:   Shades of Scrooge and the bedcurtains, this is a tale to warm the cockles of any heart that has ever wondered how people would react Noose to its passing.

In addition to the above version, which came from a much-forwarded article titled "Bad Days" ("If you ever think you're having a bad day, well think again . . ."), yet another form of it can be found a 1979 book. The only noticeable difference between the two stories is the name of the man: in the 1993 Internet version he's known as Jake Fen, and in the 1979 book he's called Janos Dey.

Told as an urban myth in a 1994 paper, the story's small details blurred yet again. Now the neighbor was said to be both male and elderly. Still died of a heart attack though.

Barbara "the robber was not heartless enough, apparently" Mikkelson

Last updated:   21February 2009

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Sources:

    Bryson, Bill.   The Blook of Bunders (Bizarre World).
    Great Britain: Sphere Books Ltd., 1982.

    Flynn, Mike.   The Best Book of Bizarre But True Stories Ever.
    London: Carlton, 1999.   ISBN 1-85868-558-3   (p. 97).

    Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill.   "Urban Myths: Dope on a Rope."
    The Guardian.   30 July 1994   (p. T51).

    Priestley, Harold.   Truly Bizarre.
    New York: Topaz, 1979   (pp. 104-105).