Could there be some sort of massive fault line running between Danbury, Conn., and Rochester and Syracuse in New York? If so, it might explain why shopping malls have been rumored to be sinking in each of these cities within the past few years.
More likely though, the sinking-mall story is just a typical urban legend working its way westward. So look out, Buffalo, if any new malls are under construction there.I first heard about rumors that the new Danbury Fair Mall in Connecticut was sinking in February 1987. Reporter Nancy P. Serrell of the Danbury News-Times called to ask me if this was a common theme of urban legends.
Serrell had interviewed local people who'd heard that the mall was sinking "because it was built on swampland" or because "there's an old reservoir under it . . . or something."
Another Danbury rumor was that design flaws in the mall required that eventually it would have to be demolished and rebuilt.
I told Serrell that although legends about threats and crimes carried out in malls, like "The Attempted Abduction," are standard stories, I hadn't heard of sinking malls.
Shortly afterward, Andy Duncan of the Greensboro, N.C., News & Record called to tell me that rumors were flying there that the Four Seasons Town Centre mall was being renovated because psychic Jeane Dixon had predicted its collapse. Moreover, Duncan found that the same rumors had circulated in his area some 12 years earlier.
Both reporters debunked the latest stories, and eventually the rumors subsided as the local shopping malls stood firm.
Last March similar rumors surfaced in Rochester when the Irondequoit Mall opened there. One month later, Wilmorite Inc., developers of the mall, ran full-page advertisements in local newspapers thanking shoppers for their "superb reception" of the shopping center.
But the real message of the ads was obvious in their reference to "unpleasant rumors about `sinking.' " The ads declared very firmly, if redundantly, that "Rumors about sinking are not only totally incorrect but have no basis in fact."
And if that wasn't clear enough, a company representative was also quoted as saying, "The town's engineers and the Wilmorite engineering consultants have done a complete assessment of the mall's condition and find it is in perfect condition, and there is absolutely no need for concern."
The latest sinking-mall rumors are coming out of Syracuse, where the new $250 million Carousel Center shopping mall opened last October on the banks of Onondaga Lake. Two months later the rumors were still alive, and on Dec. 30 the Syracuse Herald American gave front-page coverage to debunking the stories.
The news story summed up the situation like this:
"The rumors: The mall is sinking. It's going to close in January. The mall is swaying. Water pipes are bursting. Dozens of windows are blowing out. Toxic waste is oozing in the basement. Floors and tiles are cracking apart.
"Rumors, rumors, rumors. All untrue."
I'd like to add a few variations of the rumor that were sent straight to me by Syracuse readers: People also say there's been ptomaine poisoning at the mall's restaurants, that the mall's water supply is undrinkable, that green toxic fluids are seeping into the parking garage and that cars have sunk into gunk lying under the paving of a parking lot.
I'm assured by Syracuse sources that all these stories are untrue as well.
One tipoff is that in Danbury, too, cars were said to have sunk into the mall's parking lot, but none did. Same rumor, different time and place.
There may be another connection between the two New York state stories. The Irondequoit ad mentioned the mall's "custom-made, Italian carousel," which is located in the Food Court, and described it as "stage center in this gathering area of the mall."
Maybe Syracuse's Carousel Center borrowed the idea for their theme and their name from Rochester, and they got the sinking-mall rumor to boot.
Nah! Probably it's just that these stories keep going 'round and 'round, keeping mall managers on their toes and giving folklorists something to think about.- "Curses! Broiled Again," Jan Harold Brunvand's fourth collection of urban legends, is now available in paperback from Norton. Send your questions and urban legends to him in care of the Deseret News.