Claim: A woman becomes suspicious of the contents of a letter a blind man asks her to deliver when she sees him scurry away without the aid of his cane.
Example:[Collected on the Internet, 1996]
In Berlin, after World War II, money was short, supplies were tight, and it seemed like everyone was hungry. At that time, people were telling the tale of a young woman who saw a blind man picking his way through a crowd. The two started to talk. The man asked her for a favor: could she deliver the letter to the address on the envelope? Well, it was on her way home, so she agreed.
She started out to deliver the message, when she turned around to see if there was anything else the blind man needed. But she spotted him hurrying through the crowd without his smoked glasses or white cane. She went to the police, who raided the address on the envelope, where they found heaps of human flesh for sale.
And what was in the envelope? "This is the last one I am sending you today."
Origins: It's possible this chilling legend grew out of a particular branch of "blood simple" rumors rampant at the end of World War II. In the spring of 1946, occupation troops in Germany encountered the spurious tale about Polish Jews slaughtering 17-year-old German girls and selling their flesh on the black market. The age-old slander about Jews killing Christian youngsters to obtain flesh or blood for use in rituals (blood libel rumors) had been twisted by the reality of the times into Jews murdering for profit in a war-torn shortage-ridden
Whatever the hardships endured in post-war Berlin, there's no record of fresh-slaughtered fraulein being marketed nor of girls being rounded up by organized gangs of butchers.
The themes of this tale run through other murdering madmen legends. Like the almost victims in the Hairy-Armed Hitchhiker (woman who stops to pick up an "old lady" stranded on a dark country road or who is asked by one in a mall parking lot for a ride barely escapes the clutches of a murderer) and the Mall Grab warning (woman is lured into a van by way of a ruse involving a sick baby), the heroine in this story is almost undone by her desire to help someone she perceives as both harmless and in need of assistance. Such legends impart a caution about never relaxing one's guard around even the innocuous-appearing. Stay alert and stay alive, say these legends.
In common with the horror classic Aren't You Glad You Didn't Turn On The Light? (coed awakens to discover both a murdered roommate and a blood-curdling message scrawled on the wall), the focus of this tale remains on the one that got away, not on the one(s) murdered. Her close call becomes our close call, further underscoring the lesson of fear legends such as these are used to instill.
Barbara "fear of frying" Mikkelson
Last updated: 22 January 2011
Botting, Douglas. In the Ruins of the Reich.
London: George Allen & Unwin, 1985. ISBN 0-04-943-036 (p. 113).
Fussell, Paul. Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-19-503797-9 (pp. 42-43).
David Mikkelson founded snopes.com in 1994, and under his guidance the company has pioneered a number of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone, the light bulb, beer pong, and a vaccine for a disease that has not yet been discovered. He is currently seeking political asylum in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
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