“Ok, this one: on the 13th floor, there is a room—said to be haunted—they can never rent it out to anyone, because anyone who does rent it out… dies. One day, a very rich man, well dressed, comes up to the counter and says, ‘I need a room for the night.’ And he says, ‘I’m sorry sir, we’re all booked up, the only room we have is room 13 and it’s haunted.’ The rich man says, ‘pfftttt, I’m not afraid of ghosts.’ Rents the room and, uh, goes up to get ready for bed. He goes up and changes his jacket and pajamas, and he hears: ‘if the log rolls over we will all be dead!’ The man is petrified, and he jumps out the window, lands in the street and dies.”
“A couple weeks later, a very rich woman comes to the hotel and says ‘I need to rent a room.’ The man behind the counter says, ‘I’m sorry ma’am, we have no rooms to rent except room 13 and it’s haunted. One man died in that room a couple weeks ago.’ The woman says, ‘Pffftt, I’m not afraid.’ And she goes and rents the room. She’s just about to go to the bathroom and rent a shower and she hears: ‘If the log rolls over we will al be dead!’ She is so scared, she runs out the door, down the stairs, and out the lobby and into the street and she gets hit by a taxi and dies.
“A couple week later… a rather common man comes to the hotel… shabby dress, not a lot of money… he very well may have been living off the street. He goes to the counter and says, ‘I’d like to rent a room.’ The man says, ‘I’m sorry sir, we’re all booked up except for room 13 and it’s haunted. Two people have died there in the last month.’ The man says, ‘I’m not afraid.’ He goes and rents the room. He’s about to take a shower, and he hears: ‘If the log rolls over we will al be dead!’ Instead of being scared, he thinks, ‘that sounds like it came from the bathroom.’ He goes to the shower: nothing there. He hears it again: ‘If the log rolls over we will al be dead!’ He thinks, ‘is that coming from the taps?’ He goes to the sink: nothing there. He hears it again: ‘If the log rolls over we will al be dead!’ And he thinks, ‘That couldn’t be coming from the toilet?’ And he goes to the toilet: nothing there. He looks into the tank of the toilet: nothing there. Finally, he opens the lid. He sees a huge log of shit just floating in the water, and about a dozen ants perched on that log of shit, and every so often, the ants perch their heads up and chant: ‘If the log rolls over we will al be dead!’”
The informant is not sure where it comes from, but thinks his sister, who was around ten at the time they began making a ritual of telling this story around campfires (the informant was around six) learned it from her Girl Scout troop. At least once every camping trip since the first it’s retold. He likes it because they thought it to be hilarious, and they could also recite it from memory after the first time they heard it. He finds humor the fact that the rich people and the poor man just distract from the joke. He also likes the visual produced by the final scene (the informant says he imagines it as a single frame comic strip with the ants on a log and a speech bubble).
The structure of this story is so memorable it makes it extremely easy to retell. The groups of three (the right man, rich woman, and poor man; the three recitations of the “log rolls over…”), which occur frequently in folklore originating in Europe may be a result of their being so memorable. The repetition that occurs in the dialogue also makes it easier to remember, but perhaps what makes it so sticky is that the real joke of the story has almost nothing to do with the lengthy set up (which in itself is funny because it’s completely unexpected).