Analysis Of College Urban Legends
Whereas many people would argue that one’s college years are the most enjoyable moments of one’s youth, those who know better would argue against this saying that college also represents some of the most scary and vulnerable times of one’s life as well, especially for women. Although crime has decreased on campuses in the last two decades, offenses like “sexual offenses [still] make up 32 percent of campus crimes]” with abductions being nearly half that number (Government Records, School and Campus Crimes 2). These records are crucial to understanding campus culture, since many of these crimes, usually against women, slowly make their way into urban legends that tell of missing individuals who went jogging or parties alone, without telling anyone where they were going or who they were with. Urban legends could be defined as “a specific type of folklore that centers on an event involving ordinary people in recent times; circulates widely and purports to be true, whether or not the events described in the tale actually occurred” (Nathaniel Bray 238).
These urban legends or legends for short un-proportionately speak about girls, like those hearing the stories in dorm rooms, as a way to spread awareness and relate to those who are most vulnerable on school campuses. Two popular themes in college dorms could be that of never going out alone for afternoon runs and never going on single dates with people you know very little about. Sometime the truths behind crimes surface, but countless times the crimes cannot be solved easily which in the first story about Miss King leads to the theme of not going out for an afternoon run alone. The first urban legend about Miss King speaks of a girl who went missing for several days after she had left to go on a 6-mile run around Lake Hodges in San Diego. Unfortunately, her parents and family would later hear of her turning up dead at the bottom of a 10-foot hole in the side of a hill. Miss King who was a college student from San Diego University went missing one spring afternoon in 2010 when family had become worried of her disappearance. Being a young American girl in her first year of college, the night likely began as nothing out of the norm. However, a few hours after she left, many family members became worried.
Eventually the girl would turn up a week later at the bottom of a ditch with only two suspects in mind, although the news report only mentions one. The news report by journalist Russell Goldman of ABC News states, “The discovery came six days after King went missing on Feb. 25 and two days after police arrested John Albert Gardner III, a convicted sex offender whose DNA they said was found on King’s clothing near where police believe she was abducted” (Russell Goldman 2). The news reported story speaks of only Gardner III who was a sexual predator, illustrating a very different view than the urban legend that claims there could have been two suspects. Furthermore, in turning to the urban legend side of the story that can be heard down the college dorm rooms near San Diego, there have been two versions of the story that each ultimately led to the early death of young Miss King. Either one, the news report is true, and King was attacked by a sexual predator by the name of John Albert Gardner III who eventually killed her; or two, the incident stemmed from a deep love triangle of an under-aged girl, her boyfriend, and an older man that leads with two suspects. In either case, she went out running alone with no cell-phone nor anyone knowing she had left the house, resulting in her death by either the boyfriend who may have thought she was cheating on him or the older man who lashed out due to rejection (Staff Writers 9). Each story goes back to build on a theme of not going out for late night jogs alone as this relates to many college girls in southern California today.
One author by the name of Logan Jenkins comments, “Should women, especially young women and girls, ever venture out on trails alone? Is the spiritual reward worth the bodily risk? To be perfectly safe, no … they must be warriors” (Logan Jenkins 6). Here, it reflects the theme of how young women in the college age should not go out running alone, especially if they are not ready to fight. A second story tells a similar story, although it focuses more on the theme of being careful when going on first dates with potential psychopaths or the psychopath friends of guys you might like in college. Early summer of 2017, young Miss Nguyen from Cal State Fullerton would plan a Joshua Tree hiking trip with a young male she had a crush on, but due to him being busy that week, she went with a friend of his who she knew very little about. The man would later be identified as Mister Orbeso. Further in the story, it would be clear that bad reception and poor guidance through Joshua Tree National forest would play a role in them being loss together in the Joshua Tree National forest (desert) amongst its many canyons. The canyons, branching off many miles in several directions, descended deep in the earth with no escape that has been labeled as the cause of their death along with other factors like extreme temperatures, limited water supply, and several physical injuries to young Miss Nguyen after a fall she supposedly endured before her death (Anh Ho 3). Months later it would be found out that Mister Orbeso brought a gun with him that was thought to be for “protection,” since he was a “security guard” at the time which led to this belief of why he brought it to Joshua Tree (Anh Ho 3).
The same gun was the tool that he used to take his and her life later in their hike. The news report by journalist Anh Ho from the LA Times states, “Investigators, according to Nguyen’s family, have offered clues to suggest the killing was an act of compassion after a desperate attempt to survive” (Anh Do 3). While news goes on to suggest that the couple must have wondered into the canyon soon after an injury inflicted by Nguyen, urban legends tells a different story with deeper knowledge of the relationship of the two (legend 1) and the interesting fact that she went with someone she may have not known very well at all (legend 2). The urban legends that has already begun to spread across southern California campuses tells of how Orbeso may have pushed Nguyen, leading to her getting injured, and later murdering her later on the trail; furthermore, showing the theme of not going on long trips with people you do not know very well. This urban legend version of the story shows signs that Orbeso had always been a very quiet and distant person in society, even amongst his friends that points to him fighting in a struggle with Nguyen that led to physical injuries (reddit).
However, the legend goes on speaking of how due to difficulty getting out of the canyon himself resulted in him killing himself next to Nguyen’s dead body. Other versions of the story speak of how the couple had been dating, unknown to friends and family as well as unknown to her other male crush at Cal State Fullerton (Tiffany White 6). The number of dates the two had been on is unclear, but the legend puts the blame on the girl for being too trusting of a man she had only known for a few weeks. After a few dates, the couple decided to go on a multiple day trip to Joshua Tree National forest that eventually would end in many questions unanswered. What is known is that they traveled to a distant location in Joshua Tree, Nguyen sustained many injuries, the two wondered into a deep canyon, and two-gun shots were used to kill them, leaving them to be found months later by other hikers in the area (reddit).
The theme expressed in this urban legend of the tale shows that a girl, especially a young girl, should not go alone on a date or any kind of trip with someone she does not know, since this could lead to getting an unstable or even psychopath man coming after you. In analysis of the two urban legends and the official news reports surrounding them, it is evident that the urban legends generally are reconstructed with many facts changed in order to teach individuals certain life lessons. Many times, these lessons are rephrased as themes just like a typical story that also has a theme for the reader to glean from. In this way, college students use oral story telling as well as posting online to change stories to teach others certain life lessons. The two stories of Miss King and Miss Nguyen now serve many college students in the form of urban legends to teach the two themes of never going out running alone and to never be too trusting on dates or on events with friends you may not know so well. Each tells of a seemingly innocent event going terribly wrong for both victims. The large scope of the several versions of each urban legend illustrates how college students, among many others, can easily become vulnerable during their college experience.
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