Survival of the Silliest

From the Urban Legends Mailbag

Lightning strikes
David McNew/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Dear Urban Legends:

What truth is there behind these "Darwin Award" winners? I never seem to read anywhere else about these awards for human stupidity except via email. In particular, the 1998 round has an especially troublesome story (see below). Seems to me that there are a lot of clues to its possible fictitious origins. Either way, I'd love to know if you have heard anything about this or other "Darwin Award" winner stories.

Truth may be stranger than fiction, but some things are just too strange:

FLAGSTAFF, AZ: A pre-med student from the University of Arizona was looking to score big with his date on a Friday night. Determined to put the girl in the mood, he drove her up to a spot on Mount Lemmon which overlooked the city of Tucson. They walked to an open knoll where they could see the city lights.

Overcome by the romantic locale, she succumbed to his pleas and they stripped down, made a bed of their clothes, and passionately began making love. The heavy storm clouds rolling overhead and the low rumble of thunder inside them excited the lovers even more. At the first few flashes of lightning, they never looked up to see the charred remains of once great trees.

Their idyllic clearing was a hotbed of electrical activity during the warm desert nights. With a blinding light, a bolt of lightning struck the high point on the knoll, which happened to be the pre-med student's ass, and sought the path of least resistance --- straight down! Incredibly, he survived, but was in excruciating pain. The heat of the lightning had fused together flesh and latex so that the lovers were now stuck together like a pair of dogs. The girl, unfortunately, did NOT survive the lightning strike!

When the student looked down into the vacant eyes of his girlfriend and realized she was dead, his immediate repulsion caused him to jerk away from her, which of course, he couldn't! A wave of pain and nausea made him vomit into the girl's face and open mouth! Heaving only caused more pain and repeated vomiting until he finally passed out.

Attracted by the smell of "food," a bear found its way to the Siamese lovers and began to lick semi-digested pizza and buffalo wings from the dead girl's face. The student came to, but when he saw the bear, there was little he could do but lay there silently in fear. To his horror, the bear became dissatisfied with just a lick and started to eat the girl, loudly crunching her facial bones only inches from his ear. The bear also tasted the student, scraping the back of his skull with its teeth, before moving on.

Around mid-morning a group of junior girl scouts, up for a fun weekend camp-out, arrived at the campsite where the pre-med student's car was parked. It was only a matter of minutes before three screaming girls discovered the student, who had regained consciousness several times in the night and had managed to drag himself and the partially-eaten girl about 20-feet.

Doctors managed to "successfully" separate the student from the corpse, but Mr. Happy looked like a small piece of cauliflower in its flaccid state. The first hint of arousal resulted in so much pain, that the student was unable-- -and unwilling- --to achieve an erection. Future surgeries may produce a reasonably functioning penis, but the student's family jewels, referred to by the doctors as the "scrotum mass," are irreparable.

Although most Darwin Awards are supposed to be won posthumously, we think this guy deserves consideration since he successfully removed himself from the gene pool.


Dear Reader:

From a storytelling point of view, I must say that if the discoverers of these lightning-fused lovers hadn't turned out to be a troop of girl scouts, the tale would have sucked me in long enough to bother researching it. But this and other details are just too clever, too perfect, too good to be true.

I give it a thumbs-up for humor and a thumbs-down for credibility.

For those who don't know what the Darwin Awards are, they're yearly prizes given out posthumously (by definition) to "individuals who have given their all in an effort to improve our gene pool ... who have made the ultimate sacrifice of killing themselves by the most extraordinarily stupid means."

The joy of the Darwin Awards (and their only real point) lies in the hilarity of the nominated stories. It hardly matters who wins the actual prize. In fact, the yearly announcement is always somewhat anticlimactic.

As to their general credibility, it's a mixed bag. The Awards first surfaced years ago as a sort of spontaneous creation of the internet and were highly unreliable then, with no single body, self-appointed or otherwise, to authenticate the stories or officially crown the winners. Eventually, two "official" Darwin Awards sites appeared on the web, one at darwinawards.com and the other (now defunct) at officialdarwinawards.com.

As you might surmise, there ensued domain name bickering and skirmishes over ownership of material between the two, but one service both sites have tried earnestly to provide is the sorting out of the false stories from the true.

The surviving site still does a reasonably good job of it.

Even so, the internet being what it is, it remains the case that anyone can make up a story, declare it a Darwin Awards nominee (or even a winner) and circulate it to their heart's content, regardless of whether it meets the agreed-upon criteria or any standards of authenticity.

Such is the case with the present example, which achieved the honor of being posted on darwinawards.com in 1998 — but as an "urban legend," not a Darwin Award winner.