Biscuits for Brains

An Urban Legend

Killer Biscuits Wanted for Attempted Murder

Also known as "The Brain Drain," "The Killer Biscuits," "Killer Biscuits Wanted for Attempted Murder," etc.

As told by reader Vanessa Berger...

There was a sweet older lady who would often do grocery shopping for the infirm and elderly in her church. One hot, summer day a lady asked her to pick up a few things and bring them by her house in a dangerous part of Baltimore City. The sweet old lady was wary but felt that she couldn't say no, even though she was terrified of driving in the part of the city that often had shoot-outs and other drug violence. Anyway, the woman went on her way, picked up the groceries and proceeded to the lady's house.

As she entered the lady's neighborhood she noticed young hoodlums gathering on every street corner. Although she had no air conditioning in the car, she rolled the windows up tightly (as a safety precaution) and suffered in the 90+ degree heat.

She drove ahead until suddenly she heard a loud "POP!" and felt a jolt to the back of her head. She reached to feel the back of her head and came back with a wet oozing mess that she was sure was part of her brain! Knowing that she had been shot, the woman turned around and raced to a local hospital.

Somehow she made it to the emergency room and had the strength to walk right in. She told the attendant that she had been shot. Immediately she was rushed back to an exam room. Doctors whirled around and asked where she had been shot (since they saw no blood.) She said "my head," and the doctors found a mass of the oozing white substance the woman had first noticed.

Upon inspection the doctors realized that the white substance wasn't part of her brain but was instead a lump of biscuit dough (the kind in a can) that had exploded from the heat of her car!

Analysis: Vanessa's marvelous retelling of this popular tale (which has also been circulating as a viral email since around 1998) has all the vivacity and attention to detail of an old-fashioned, word-of-mouth urban legend. Her uncle swears it really happened to a "sweet old lady" in his church. In all likelihood, of course, it did not.

As folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand reported in his 1999 book Too Good to Be True, the story he calls "The Brain Drain" first began showing up in newspaper columns, stand-up comedy routines, and Internet discussions during the mid-1990s. A Usenet forum posting dated July 18, 1995 attributes it to comedienne Brett Butler:

Sue, have you ever heard Brett Butler's story about her sister-in-law (or some such relative): driving home from the grocery store with a bag of groceries in the seat behind her; it was unbelievably hot weather; she stopped at a convenience store to get a soda or something and started toward home again. All of a sudden she heard this really loud explosion and felt something hit her in the back of the head. She put her hand up (but not too close) and felt something mushy. She was convinced she had been shot and her brains were falling out!
When she finally pulled into her driveway and started screaming/honking for someone to come out and help her, they discovered a can of biscuits in the grocery bag had exploded and hit her in the head. Ha ha ha.

In August 1995 the story was retold by a paramedic as follows:

One of our trucks recently were toned to respond to the GSW to the head. The victim called 911 via her cellular phone. She told the operator that she just sat down in her car and someone shot her in the back of the head. She told the dispatched that she was afraid to move because she could feel brain tissue hanging out the back of her head.
When the crew arrived, they found the woman sitting in the front seat. Her groceries were in the back seat. The Medics found dough where the woman thought that she felt brain tissue. A can of biscuit dough in the shopping bag exploded and hit her in the back of the head. Needless to say, the woman was greatly relieved to find that out.

"Funny but true," the author went on to write — and in that three-word statement is encapsulated the critical distinction between a joke and an urban legend.

Embarrassing moments:
Always Wear Underwear in Public
The Glitter Spray Mistake
The Package of Cookies
• The Halloween Surprise

Last updated 04/15/13