Example: [Flynn, 1999]
Origins: This legend about an adulterous affair revealed on a radio broadcast plays upon one of our deepest anxieties, that no matter how rosy everything seems in our primary relationships, those we hold dearest may be keeping terrible secrets from us. In this tale of adultery revealed, that which was being kept hidden from an unsuspecting husband is provoked to the surface via a cruel prank, either the shock of the caller's message causing the faithless woman to blurt an embarrassing admission she otherwise would have kept to herself, or a sudden desire for revenge prompting her to counter news of her husband's perfidy with a confession of her own two-timing. Compounding the betrayal, her amour is not just some random man, but the husband's brother. To top it off, news of her hanky-panky is broadcast to all of Texas, making the husband's humiliation complete.
As a cautionary tale, the story serves up a troubling question: How well do we really know our partners? While we would like to think we know them very well, the sad fact is spouses have cheated on spouses throughout history. Is it therefore not possible that our own marriages or long-term pairings might harbor similar dark truths?
As to whether the yarn is truth or invention, while this anecdote does appear in a 1999 collection of "true" tales, our hunting around through a variety of media sources has failed to turn up the story and so confirm that it had indeed happened. A prank phone call from the late 1990s engineered by Oregon radio DJs K.C. and Ron reproduces the legend, though. Interestingly, so does a slightly different clip
Ron Alvarez (of KC and Ron) was kind enough to explain the origin of their clip. "The bit came to us via email from a radio producer friend. I edited and produced it with our voices under the mistaken notion it was originally from an audio bit service." (That's far from unheard of: radio sometimes uses "open-ended interviews" in which individual stations' DJs pose questions from a prompt sheet to celebrities who are not actually in the studio but who have provided a set of pre-recorded answers; a technique used, for example. by hundreds of radio stations across the U.S. which conducted the very same "interview" with the Fab Four during the first flush of Beatlemania in early 1964, the questions read by each DJ, but the answers voiced by the Beatles themselves.) Alvarez was chagrined to afterwards realize the clip was actually a bit produced by another (as yet unknown) radio jock, and thus wasn't something the show would have reworked for its audience. "Unfortunately, someone recorded it and it's been floating around the web for years," said Alvarez. "Everytime someone contacts us about it, we always tell them we can't take credit."
So for now, we'll regard this story about a pranked wife admitting on air to adultery as a sister legend to the tale about a lad who'd been tricked into thinking he'd won the lottery, which prompted him to tell his wife he was divorcing her and oh, by the way, had been having an affair with her sister for years. Both stories, after all, feature the same structure of a practical joke prompting an admission of adultery committed with the spouse's sibling.
Barbara "sibling rivalry" Mikkelson
Originally published: 29 August 2007
Last updated: 12 January 2016
Flynn, Mike. The Best Book of Bizarre But True Stories Ever. London: Carlton, 1999. ISBN 1-85868-558-3. (p. 298).