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Old 25 January 2011, 05:59 PM
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Fright The origin of "apple a day keeps the doctor away"

Hai snopes, this is my very first time posting in the "Horrors" thread. I recently was e-mailed this story, claiming to be from an old American newpaper. Apparently this is where the phraseology: "An Apple A Day keeps The Doctor Away" comes from;

"Have you ever heard the expression "an apple a day keeps the Doctor away?" Most assume, with no reason to think otherwise, that it is simply an easy-to-remember rhyme that stresses the importance of eating healthily to young children. But the saying did not originate as a harmless reminder. It was born in a frontier town in the early years of the gold rush, where food was scarce and money even scarcer.

One August, when a bad drought had struck the region, a series of bloody killings swept through the town. Every night, a single house would be broken into, and anyone who saw the invader would be swiftly, brutally slain. Nothing was ever stolen, save for a few scraps of food.

After two weeks of this, the local grocer set out a few apples and a glass of milk in the town square overnight. He then hid in the tower of the church, hoping to catch a glimpse of anyone who came by.

Fighting fatigue, the grocer waited for any sign of life below. Just after midnight, he was rewarded by a chilling sight; a man, carrying a black bag stuffed with dully shining metal tools and covered from head to foot in cloth bandages, staggered into view. He paused at the sight of the apples and milk, then whipped his head around, as if looking for the one who dared to patronize him. Seized with fear, the grocer ducked out of sight, staying hidden 'til sunrise.

The strange man had only taken one of the apples, and didn't even touch the glass of milk. No houses were broken into, and no one was killed. For decades, the town continued to place out an apple or two every night, even long after a single apple stopped dissapearing."

This was taken from a clipping allegedly from an 18th century newpaper. Can any of you confirm to me that this is indeed folklore?? My friend- who e-mailed this to me- insists that it's true. ANY help in disproving this would be much obliged.
Thank you in advance.
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Old 01 February 2011, 06:37 PM
Gutter Monkey's Avatar
Gutter Monkey Gutter Monkey is offline
Join Date: 13 December 2010
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 3,868

Many sources say that the first known use of this proverb was from Pembrokeshire (Wales) in 1866:
Eat an apple on going to bed
And you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread.
(It seems like in this early version of this proverb stressed that you actually had to eat the apple yourself.)

Other sources attribute the proverb to Benjamin Franklin, claiming he included it in "Poor Richard’s Almanack" (published from 1732 to 1758).

The book Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés claims that versions of this saying date from the seventeenth century or earlier, appearing in John Ray’s proverb collection of 1670 and elsewhere.

Yet another source claims that the saying goes as far back as ancient Rome.

The story about the serial killer seems unlikely, especially since it doesn't account for why the saying claims that apples keep "the doctor" away. It's also interesting that the story has many small details ("a man, carrying a black bag stuffed with dully shining metal tools and covered from head to foot in cloth bandages, staggered into view") but leaves out other details such as the year, the town where all this happened, the name of the grocer, the name of any of the murdered people, etc etc etc.
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Old 01 February 2011, 07:01 PM
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llewtrah llewtrah is offline
Join Date: 13 December 2001
Location: Chelmsford, UK
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The one I heard was that you press an iron nail into an apple and leave it for a couple of days then eat the apple, complete with the discoloured patch where the iron reacted with the apple. Though it wasn't understood at the time, it combatted anaemia.
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Old 02 February 2011, 01:39 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
Join Date: 05 September 2005
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Posts: 23,488

"He that would an old wife wed, Must eat an apple before he goes to bed.
Which by reason of it's flatulency is apt to excite lust." - John Ray, 1737
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Old 02 February 2011, 01:45 AM
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Chloe Chloe is offline
Join Date: 13 September 2004
Location: Kentucky
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Originally Posted by Gutter Monkey View Post
Many sources say that the first known use of this proverb was from Pembrokeshire (Wales) in 1866:
I'm sorry; the only thing less credible than the story in the OP is the idea that anything happened in Pembrokeshire that didn't happen somewhere else at least a decade earlier.
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