Informant: “Norwich, Vermont. My great-great grandfather was going for a swim in Leech Pond. Um, which is like a local watering hole in Norwich, Vermont. And he dove off the dock, head-first into the pond and he broke his neck. And then none of his kids had necks after that.”
Interviewer: “What do you mean no necks?
Informant: “You know when you jam your finger and it’s fucked up. That happened to his neck. Apparently that’s why many of my family has short necks.”
The informant is a 19-year-old female from St. Paul, Minnesota who currently lives in Los Angeles, CA and attends the University of Southern California. She heard of this family legend from her second cousin, who told her this was the cause for the family’s short necks, but as time has gone on, she has become more skeptical of this explanation. She was told at a very young age when she lived in Maine and vacationed in Norwich, Vermont where she herself swam at Leech Lake.
Informant is one of my roommates and related the story upon being asked if she knew had any folk tales or knowledge to relate.
I think that this story is a great example of a family legend passed down through generations. It’s almost an identity that she has inherited, being a member of the Bartlett family by blood. It almost appears to be slightly mythic as it explains the origin of something: short necks in her family but also has elements consistent with a legend due to the questionable nature of the story and its setting in the real world. The story is slightly ironic though because the informant herself does not have a short neck and is in fact rather tall. The story makes me wonder if a certain generation of the family had particularly short necks that called for some sort of explanation for the phenomenon.