"Of course there's a backward-building story in the U.S.," writes Karen Whorrall of Shoals, Ind., which is between Loogootee and Paoli on U.S. 150, down around French Lick.
She reads Urban Legends in the Bloomington (Ind.) Herald-Telephone.Trust me, I'm not making up any of these names. As an alum of Indiana University in Bloomington, I know these Hoosier appellations well.
But backward buildings?
Whorrall was responding to my column about buildings that were supposedly constructed back to front, and whose architects allegedly committed suicide when they saw what the builders had done.
I asked you readers whether you had heard any such stories in the United States that resembled the backward-building legend - which is usually told about the Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum in Glasgow or the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay. Both buildings are said to have been constructed backward, leading their architects to kill themselves. Both stories are fictional.
The backward building that Whorrall heard about is right on the Indiana University campus, though I missed hearing the story when I studied there.
"The Tulip Tree married-students' apartment building was supposed to have been curved the other way," Whorrall says, "to be more in harmony with the shape of the hill. The architect was very disappointed when he came to Bloomington and saw what they had done."
Whorrall's story follows the same pattern as other backward-building legends, lacking only the suicide. But the Indiana variation of the legend is just as spurious as all the other stories, although it is true that the Tulip Tree apartment building is laid out in a long smooth curve along a hilltop.
Rose McIlveen of the Indiana University News Bureau checked the history of the building for me in the IU Archives. The archivist produced the original site plan and blueprints for Tulip Tree, confirming that the building was constructed according to its design, and that it faces in the direction called for by the architect.
So now I have one American backward-building legend. Any more?
I've also got a pair of backward-statue stories, which you could say are cousins to the backward-building ones.
The first concerns the statue of Brigham Young that stands on a pedestal at the intersection of South Temple and Main streets in downtown Salt Lake City. This figure of Brother Brigham, the 19th-century leader of the Mormons, is positioned "with his back to the Temple, and his hand outstretched to Zion's First National Bank."
There is even a rhyme about the statue: "There stands Brigham, like a bird on a perch / His hand to the bank, and his back to the church." The implication, of course, is that Young was more interested in the church's economic success than in its spirituality, and that the statue probably should have been placed so he would be facing the Salt Lake Temple.
Apparently the legend linked to Young's statue is not just a local, or Mormon, quip - it has at least one parallel elsewhere.
I heard this variant last winter in Dunedin, New Zealand. There a statue of Scottish poet Robert Burns stands in the Octagon - the plaza in the center of the city. Burns is represented as seated, pen in hand, eyes gazing skyward.
But Dunedin residents have noticed that Burns "has his back to St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral and is facing across the Octagon toward the commercial section of the city."
I expect that there are further legends of this kind around, so don't be backward in sending them to me.