Fact Check

The Shanghai'd Bride

Bride kidnapped on honeymoon turns up years later as a mutilated sex show captive.

Published Aug 9, 1998

Legend:   A bride kidnapped on her honeymoon turns up years later as a mutilated freak in a sex show.

Example:   [Brunvand, 1988]

A Japanese newlywed couple went to Europe for their honeymoon. In Paris, the wife spent hours shopping for clothes. At one trendy boutique, she decided to try on several dresses. So the husband waited outside the dressing

Cartoon of the legend


A long while passed and the wife didn't come out. So the husband began to wonder what was keeping her. He inquired of one of the shop girls; she checked, then told him, to his surprise, that the dressing room was empty.

His initial reaction was that his wife was playing a practical joke on him. So he went back to their hotel. But she was not there. Still thinking it was a joke, he sat down to wait for her.

As the hours passed, he became more and more anxious. And when she had not returned by the following morning, he was distraught. He called the police, the boutique and all the Paris hospitals. There was no trace of her anywhere.

The police did what they could, but after three weeks, there wasn't a single clue. Exhausted and in despair, the husband returned to Japan.

Five years passed. And then the husband, finally having gotten over the loss of his wife, received a phone call from a friend who had just returned from a trip to the Philippines. The friend told him that he had seen the wife in Manila — as the featured attraction of a freak show.

With great sadness the friend explained that the wife's arms and legs had been horribly mutilated.

Origins:   You have to admit this is a showstopper of a horror legend. Other legends specific to the Japanese include elements of this form of abduction: for instance, young women are routinely cautioned by their friends against shopping in particular stores as "they have trapdoors in the dressing rooms; they kidnap young girls and sell them as


White slavery legends pop up all over the world, usually presented as this one especially good-looking woman becoming separated from the rest of her tour group in some far off exotic locale and never being seen again. (In some versions, her clothes are later discovered, but she's no longer in them.) Mid-East harems are said to be populated with blondes and redheads who were brought there against their will and are ever after kept as captives.

Though charges of out-and-out kidnapping have yet to be supported, it does appear women are lured into overseas prostitution by way of incredible job offers. A recent case in the news bears this out. In 1997, Shannon Marketic, a former Miss U.S.A., filed a $90 million lawsuit against Prince Jefri Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei's brother. She claimed she and other women were held captive in Brunei for 32 days to act as sex slaves. (Her attempt to go after the Sultan himself failed when a U.S. judge ruled he could not be sued as immunity is afforded a head of state.)

Marketic claimed she accepted a deal from a Los Angeles talent corporation for promotional work in the oil-rich kingdom but was instead held a virtual prisoner with six other women. She'd signed a contract for $21,000 a week for a term of six weeks which, in part, specified duties of attending evening parties dressed sexily. (One has to wonder what she thought she'd be doing for that kind of money.) She was sent home early as she failed to comply with what was expected of her, and she wasn't paid for her time on the job.

Barbara "Mom always said to beware of sheiks baring stiffs" Mikkelson

Last updated:   26 August 2005

  Sources Sources:

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   "It's the Old Disappearing-Wife-on-Her-Honeymoon Yarn."

    The San Diego Union-Tribune.   10 March 1988   (p. E2).

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