In The Wall Street Journal about the...


September 27, 1993

A RECENT FEATURE in The Wall Street Journal about the debunking of urban myths included this passage:

"Folklorists define urban legends as rumors or stories that are spread informally and widely accepted as truth. Often, such lore dwells on freakish disasters or ghoulish behavior. Take, for example, the Baltimore lawyer who put a kitten in a microwave, or the New York car thief who stole a laboratory delivery of cadaver heads (both true). . . ."

Hold it right there. The case of Bel Air attorney Stanley E. Protokowicz Jr., who was convicted in 1992 of killing a cat by putting it in a microwave, occurred in Harford County, not Baltimore. In that case, Mr. Protokowicz, who has since been suspended from practicing law in Maryland, and a friend broke into the home of the friend's estranged wife to search for papers that were part of a divorce case.

In the ensuing trial, Mr. Protokowicz told a judge that after entering the house, he put the cat in the microwave for safekeeping and meant to turn on a kitchen light but mistakenly activated the microwave instead. It remains the world's most pathetic alibi; had he put the animal in the VCR and hit the wrong switch, that we might have believed since no one knows how to operate those things.

In the meantime, however, poor Baltimore gets tarred with a piece of freaky urban folklore for which it isn't responsible. We can only be thankful that the story appeared on the front page of a respected national publication after city reps met with the National Football League to request a football franchise.

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