Flushing out the truth about travel legends

From getting stuck-by-suction on an airplane toilet seat to discovering that your credit card number is stored on your hotel key car or that the strange smell in a motel room is a dead body entombed under your box spring, there are some strange and spooky stories circulating in the world of travel.

Are they true? Some are.  But which ones?

In Travel legends: Separating fact from fiction, my column on msnbc.com this week, experts help flush out the truth.

For example:

Is it possible to get stuck to the seat of an airline toilet if you flush while seated?

This one has been swirling around for years, fueled by a widely distributed “news” story involving an SAS incident that turned out to be a hoax.

Regardless, we asked Paul DeYoung, a physics professor who runs the online “Ask a Physicist” column at Hope College in Holland, Mich., if it could happen. “While an airplane toilet really does use vacuum to suck the material out,” he doesn’t believe that anyone’s bottom would make a perfect seal and “if there is any gap at all, you don’t get stuck.”

But it’s possible. “Technically, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes spokesperson Tom Brabant. “It has happened in rare cases.”

Bottom line: DeYoung and Brabant encourage travelers to play it safe by making sure to stand up before flushing the toilet in an airplane lavatory. In fact, when Boeing’s new Dreamliner 787 jets start flying, flushing while standing will be your only option: lavatories on these planes have touchless flush mechanisms that automatically put down the lid before flushing the toilet.

TOO MANY BEDMATES

What they say:

Guests staying in foul-smelling hotel rooms have discovered dead bodies underneath the bed or hidden inside the bed frame.

The truth?

Sadly, it’s true. In March, police in Memphis, Tenn., found the body of a woman missing for two months stuffed inside a motel bed frame. The woman had stayed in the room when she was alive, but it was cleaned and rented out several times after her disappearance.

Snopes.com, the go-to site for getting the skinny on “urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors and misinformation,” has long list of documented incidents like this reaching back to the 1980s.

Want to find out the truth about personal information stored on hotel room keys and other travel legends going around?  Read the full column – Travel legends: Separating fact from fiction – on msnbc.com.

And if you’re curious about the veracity of other travel legends, send them along; we’ll ask the experts for advice and let you know.