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A Tail of Two Toothbrushes

An Urban Legend


A Tail of Two Toothbrushes
David Emery

As told by Susan Waldron:

A travel agent friend of mine swore this happened to her clients, but it's got all the signs of an urban legend (not only crude, but racist to boot):

A couple from suburban California were vacationing in Jamaica when their room was broken into and everything stolen, with the exception of their camera and their toothbrushes. Considering themselves fortunate to have retained the camera with their vacation photos, they returned home where they had the film developed.

Two pictures were unidentifiable -- something like an aerial view of two mounds of dark earth with a pole in between. They later realized, to their horror, that it was a photo of their toothbrushes up someone's rear end.

As told by Helen Vanscoy:

I heard this one while waitressing in Miami ten years ago. I think part of what made it seem plausible was the fact that the folks in South Florida are so often warned about crime targeting tourists, plus they often vacation in the Caribbean.

Of course, this happened to a friend of a friend of mine!

The "friend" and his new wife went to Jamaica for their honeymoon, where they stayed in a bungalow on the beach. One day they came back to their bungalow to discover they'd been robbed. The burglars had taken everything of value, their money, binoculars, video camera, even clothes, but luckily had missed their camera and some worthless personal items, such as toiletries.

The couple decided to make the best of it, and enjoyed the rest of their honeymoon. Once back in Miami, they had the film developed from their vacation. There, along with the pictures of themselves snorkeling and hanging out on the beach, were some pictures the burglars had taken.

The robbers had taken turns shoving the couple's toothbrushes up their rectums and photographing each other doing so.

Analysis: You will also find this charming legend and its many variants discussed in Jan Harold Brunvand's The Baby Train (W.W. Norton: 1993). The chapter is aptly titled "Indecent Exposures."

As Brunvand notes, the story has been set in a variety of locales since it first began circulating in the early 1990s, most often in tropical climes, but not always. Sometimes the unfortunate vacationers are said to be on a camping trip, frequently they're said to be honeymooners, and in most cases they are said reside in the hometown of whoever happens to be telling the tale.

Most variants of the legend have racial overtones, in that the victims tend to be white and the criminals black, but the main impact of the story lies in the grossness of the photographed act and the shock of its discovery. In one of the earliest tellings I am familiar with, the anally-fixated burglars were said to be members of a white trash motorcycle gang.

I'm inclined to think of the toothbrush-in-the-rectum story as one of those adult fairy tales of suburbia in which horrid things result when ordinary middle-class folks wander from the safety of their homes and neighborhoods, encounter "people who are not like us." The legend expresses a generalized distrust of strangers and strange places -- emotional reverberations of standard childhood insecurities, I suspect.

Is there any truth to it? Has an incident like this ever really happened? Let's face it, the story's been told a gazillion times by a gazillion different people, each claiming that "it really, truly happened to a friend of a friend." What are the odds?

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