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The Fatal Tan

An Urban Legend

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Tanning Bed
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As told by Kayla Pruett...

This one was told to me by a former co-worker. And who knows -- here in the south, home of fake tans and big hair, it might have happened!

A young woman was approaching her wedding day. She decided that she'd look better in her wedding dress if she had a little color, so a week before the wedding she went to a tanning salon. The salon staff, however, told her that for her own safety, she could only tan for thirty minutes a day. After she'd tanned for her thirty minutes, she decided it wasn't enough, so she went to another tanning salon the same day to tan. They told her the same thing. She still wasn't tan enough after that thirty minutes, so she went to a third tanning salon, and a fourth.

She did this for the next four days. Even though she was getting a little bit red, she kept thinking how good she'd look in her wedding dress.

The day before her wedding, she was found dead. Her internal organs had all burnt up from the tanning beds.


Analysis: This well-traveled story, delightfully retold by reader Kayla Pruett, inspired the title of Jan Harold Brunvand's third collection of urban legends, Curses, Broiled Again! There are many versions out there, but this is the classic one — a bride-to-be who is so intent on looking great at her wedding that she ignores every safety warning and winds up cooked to death on a tanning bed.

The moral here is the same as that of "Spiders in the Hairdo" — vanity kills. Interestingly, it's not enough in either story that the victim dies for her "sins" in the end; she must die a particularly gruesome, painful death. It's the horrific details, in part, that keep these old legends alive.

Nothing like what's described in this legend ever happened, of course. No one has ever had their internal organs "cooked" or "broiled" or "burnt up" in a tanning booth, because it's physically impossible. The ultraviolet rays emitted by these contraptions can seriously burn your skin if you overdo it — so don't — but unlike, say, a massive, prolonged dose of microwave radiation, they could not possibly cook you "from the inside out."

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