The other day, I was having a conversation when the topic shifted to penguins. I told an entertaining story about how the cousin or nephew of one of my friends (I couldn't remember which friend had told me the story, much less the exact relation of the protagonist) had stolen a penguin from a zoo when his parents were not watching him. While I thought the story was humorous, my conversationalist was not amused, considering the true moral of the tale to be one of bad parenting.
Fast-forward to this morning, when I run across a comic involving the attempted theft of several penguins from a zoo. Since I was sure that I had seen this specific comic before, I began to wonder if my memory had somehow transformed the comic into the tale told by a friend. This disturbed me.
Even more troubling was when I found a Snopes page which described the penguin tale. Was it possible I read the Snopes page, and somehow subconsciously turned into a memory of a humorous story, complete with ancillary details (like remembering that the story was told while my friend and I were on the escalators at the Harvard T station)? Or was I actually told the story by someone who had been forwarded it by email?
The concern that this raised in my mind dissipated when I read about Toga, a baby African penguin that disappeared from an English zoo almost exactly 2 years ago. Unlike the penguin in the urban legend, Toga was not returned unharmed. From the news page of the zoo where he lived:
Unfortunately we have never discovered what happened to TOGA our stolen Penguin however he is always still very much in our thoughts and we are so grateful for all the support and well wishes the public have given us.